Category Archives: Sermons

SoulCare for YOUR church

SoulCare for the Church
1 Peter 5:10b

† Iesou, Huios, Soter †

Deacon Charles Zetzman from the Concordia was laid to rest on September 17. Despite battling type 1 Diabetes for over 70 years and dementia for at least 15,  he went through the deacon program in order to help his crazy pastor. This was while he was fighting health problems and dementia. Miraculously, he could handle the courses… struggled with them, but he handled them

He became a spectacular practical theologian; he boiled down everything to two simple thoughts. He thought if we “got these things” we would find that God has and is restoring, supporting, and strengthening you, as our key verse said He would.

Sing Chuck’s first profound theological statement with me.

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”

Hey, wait, you guys kept going—and those words weren’t on the slide! Sigh… just like Monday night—where you all were on autopilot during confession and absolution! I did that, by the way—so you would think through the rest of the service before assuming what would be said!

Chuck’s second theological statement, which would change the world, is on the next slide.

The Lord is with you!

Just curious. Did anyone notice the difference between my version?

Instead of the Lord BE with you, I have there the LORD Is with you and periods are replaced with proper exclamation points! Think on that later.

For Chuck, Jesus is the answer. Simple

Jesus loved Chuck and spent a lot of time with Chuck.

He got that—through all the darkness of dementia, through all the challenges… and he wanted to help me tell others about it.
——–

I want you to this to these words from Tozer,

In what I have to say I may not be joined by any ground swell of public opinion, but I have a charge to make against the church. We are not consciously aware of God in our midst. We do not seem to sense the tragedy of having almost completely lost the awareness of His presence.…

Those words come from 1986, but are still relevant today.

Sorry guys, our worship isn’t doing what its supposed to do…

WORSHIP MUST REVEAL CHRIST’S PRESENCE!

And if we are going to care for the souls of our church, then we must change how we do what we do–we have to help our people to realize that they live in the presence of God.

Helping them experience the loving presence of God begins on Sunday morning, or Saturday night when your people gather to hear you…and maybe sing some songs or listen to them, and maybe suffer through the liturgy.

You want to make their lives easier, reveal Jesus to them in those 75 minutes. You have a portion of their attention, and realize everything you do in that service reveals Jesus in an incarnation way in your life first, and then you can help them see Him in theirs

Worship needs to reveal this – every part of it.

I don’t care if you wear robes and do DS4 from LSB or page 15 from TLH ( I might have a problem if you do page 5 – your people need the Lord’s Supper!)  I don’t care if you do contemporary music wrapped around baptism, absolution, the reading of the Word and the Lord’s Supper.

What I care about is this – did you realize that every part of worship is a revelation of the presence of Jesus. Everything!

Those words you say… you need to know they reveal Christ, His presence and His love.

——–

In the stead and by the command – you are forgiven!

The Lord is with you!

Some of you may notice I replaced the Period there with an exclamation point, If you read that… blah… proclaim it!

Your reading of the gospel

The Lord is with you!

The peace of the Lord is with you!

What have you said to them?

That’s why I moved the Lord’s prayer in our service – to end the general prayer with it. With words like these:

And for all the things we don’t know how to pray for, for those things that burden us, stress us out, and keep us awake all night; for the prayers where we don’t even have the words to say, hear those prayers as we pray as the Lord Jesus taught us…

How does that change how we say/sing the Lord’s prayer?

What about the things you do?

For example–what is in your hand on Sunday mornings?

Is it just water, or bread and wine? Or “just” the theological body and blood.

Or is it really Christ, broken and given for them?

It all reveals Jesus, and therefore, it needs to be savored and said with the weight and joy of what you are giving them! Believe those words you are saying, be confident in what you are doing and the sacraments you administer!

If the church is to revive—it must be because we realize our lives are lived on ground as holy as that Moses stood upon.

By the way, this has always been the purpose of every part of the Liturgy – going back to the patristic age, through Luther’s reformation, an Walther’s time. The purpose after all – of all worship is to teach people what they need to know about Jesus Christ.

Every era of the church saw worship as this, if you don’t believe me – there is a dissertation about Liturgical Worship and Soul Care presently be written with 180 quotes out of those time periods to this very concept of worship being the foundation of soul care.

Quotes like this:

“The people are also reminded about the dignity and use of the sacrament—how it offers great consolation to anxious consciences—so that they may learn to believe in God and expect and ask for all that is good from God.” (article XXIV, Augsburg Confession

Change consolation to comfort.

But we’ve forgotten it – and we’ve forgotten the tie between what we do on Sunday morning, and what happens at the dying person’s bedside, or with the couple working toward divorce, or the youth struggling with the gender issues, or the person wanting to grow in their faith – and they are looking for somewhere to “start?”

Dr. Meier started this week by stating that he had some dissonance with the Easter Acclimation  You know it well

Alleluia! He is Risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Let me share what the real Concordia adds to this liturgical gem.

Alleluia! He is Risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

And Therefore

WE are risen indeed! Alleluia!

The Lord, who reigns over the world and the church, has drawn us into His death, and we have been raised with Him.

That fact is where all healing of the soul begins, it nurtured as we pour water over heads, as we proclaim forgiveness

Since we are talking about Petrine literature – I would say this – The reason, the apologia that you have hope, the reason you are supposed to be always ready to share is this…

The Lord is with you!

Let’s pray!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What has meaning in my life? A sermon on Ecclesiastes, 1-2 from Concordia

An Inventory Our Blessings
What Means Something
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12–14, 2:18–26

 

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus demonstrate to you that your life, in Christ, has meaning!

  • A man at the end of his wits!

Solomon, the wisest man in the world’s history, had a severe problem. He is the Teacher of all of Israel, as well as the ruler of that country at its absolute greatest point.

He has riches; he has power; he has a level of wisdom that is beyond anything anyone has ever imagined. The leaders from all over the world come to him for advice.

And He is exhausted, mentally, physically and, most the critical—spiritually.

He is at the ends of his wits, hear His own words from our Old Testament reading:

So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world. Ecclesiastes 2:20 New Living Translation

I am not anywhere near Solomon’s intellect, nor do I run a nation. But I’ve known the despair he is discussing. I’ve known it when I was in the administration at Pepperdine. I’ve known it pursuing my Ph.D., and during and after covid, as I look at the church at large, and at Concordia, I’ve known it.

And I’ve been delivered from that despair, time after time.

  • Does Devotion to a cause mean anything?

There are two different issues that cause Solomon to fall into this deep despair.

The first he described in verses 13-14 of chapter 1,

13 I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. 14 I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.

I don’t care how smart someone is, or they think they are, there are limits to a person’s intellect, and to the point of which they can apply that intellect.

We hate that we are limited, but it is what it is. We are now different than Adam and Eve, wanting to know it all, and why!

When we let that frustrate us, when we let pride mix with curiosity, it drives us to know as much as God knows, rather than trusting Him.

The effect when it becomes an issue of pride is devastating, for it is sinful, a lack of trust in God. And when we declare it is not worth it, when we declare it meaningless, we dive into despair!

  • Does Hard Work mean anything?

The second issue Solomon has is with his hard work. He hated it, for He could not see a long-range benefit. He wrote,

18 I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. 19 And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! Ecclesiastes 2:18-19

Have you ever felt like that?

It is as if Solomon knew his heir would shatter the Kingdom by listening to foolish advisors! That is exactly what happened!

Solomon’s son would shatter the promise given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. That those actions would lead to captivity.

Something you worked hard on, invested your life in, wanted to see come to fruition, only to realize that you won’t be able to make it continue after you are gone…

That insight can cause great despair, and as often as Solomon says life is meaningless, he complains about the difficulty of the job even more than He complains about how meaningless it all is!

And there are days like that—maybe it isn’t because you are about to retire, or move on, maybe it is that things at work, or at home aren’t working the way you thought they would, and you wonder if anything will ever change…

And it doesn’t.

Without God’s presence, everything we do, everything we think and ponder, is meaningless. With Solomon, we move from despair to hating where we are in life.

For our attempts to understand leave us without knowing what matters, and our work only makes a difference for a moment, if that.

  • Recognize What God is doing and will do!

Two weeks ago, we heard the gospel story about Martha and Mary, and that Mary was drawn to listen to Jesus, and it was good, what had meaning.

Martha was moving towards Solomon’s despair. Whereas Mary was content, receiving the grace that Jesus poured out with every word.

Solomon comes to that conclusion in verses 24 and 25.

24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?”  Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

He figured it out!

You can’t enjoy anything apart from God.

You cannot find joy or meaning In life, without Christ in your life!

This means that the answer to finding life’s meaning, and joy in that life is revealed

14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT2)

In that same way, Jesus promises this at the end of Matthew’s gospel. I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NLT2)

Jesus came and lived and died and rose for one purpose, to live with us, both now and for eternity!

As we sit in His presence, he gives our minds something to think, to dwell on that means something—we are loved.

We are cared for…

Jesus does so much for us! From cleansing us of sin and its companions of guilt and shame. That includes our times where we forget to trust Him and enter seasons of despair. Or when our pride crashes our lives spectacularly. God cleans us up.

But that is only the beginning.

God makes every part of our lives holy. That means He sets it all aside for a purpose. He gives it meaning. And that meaning is the key—to walk with Him.

That is when our thoughts have meaning, because God is involved in them with us, sharing the moments, sharing the time.

HE makes it all happen; He gives us all the meaning and the joy that goes with it.

That is what the Christian faith is all about, helping us realize what God has done to become an intimate part of our life.

For that makes our life have all the meaning there is in our lives.

And then that life has meaning and incredible joy, and a peace that passes all understanding, even as Jesus guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!

Inventory of Blessings: Presence – A sermon based on Psalm 41

Inventory of Blessings
Presence!
Psalm 41

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ keep you aware of the Spirit’s comforting, cleansing, empowering and guiding presence in your life!

Inventory Management Systems

Thirty-five years ago, I was the night shift manager at McDonalds. There was a lesson I learned there. A lesson I think we need to learn regarding our relationship with God.

And that lesson is the backbone of this sermon series, which I’ve titled “Inventory of Blessings”

We have to keep track of our assets. We have to know what we have to work with each day. At McDonalds, it was burger patties, bread, French fries and all the stuff that went with them. If you didn’t take inventory, you could have too much on hand, and it could go bad and cost the company money. If you don’t know you need to restock, and you run out of French fries—you lose not only sales—you lose your customer base.

While we can never have too many or too few blessings from God, we need to take inventory of them often, so we know what we have to depend on as we go through life. This is far more important than having enough burgers or filet-o-fish in the freezer!

We see King David doing such an inventory in Psalm 41 this morning. And it wasn’t as easy—but that is a good lesson for us to live as well.

  • Look how great God Is!

He starts out well in verse 1, taking inventory of God’s work!

The Lord gives joy to those who help the poor
The Lord rescues those in trouble
The Lord protects them and keeps them alive.
The Lord gives removes all obstacles. (gives them prosperity)
The Lord rescues them from enemies
The Lord Nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health!

Wow—look at all the things David saw God doing for others! What an amazing thing it is, to see God at work in the lives of people around you! To see the God whose given His name (which we replace with Lord) as how His people are to know Him, at work in the lives of people, is a truly amazing thing.

What an amazing thing to know God in this way!

The more he considers, the closer he gets to praying a prayer that God desires to answer.

4  “O LORD,” I prayed, “have mercy on me. Heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

David reaches out and confesses his sin…he’s taken a huge step, trusting God to heal him of the damage sin causes. David entrusts his very life, and all its brokenness to God…

And at that moment… all hell breaks loose.

  • Wait—my confession wasn’t supposed to be used against me!

David goes right from pleading for forgiveness to overwhelming paranoia.

But my enemies say nothing but evil about me. “How soon will he die and be forgotten?” they ask. 6  They visit me as if they were my friends, but all the while they gather gossip, and when they leave, they spread it everywhere. 7  All who hate me whisper about me, imagining the worst. 8  “He has some fatal disease,” they say. “He will never get out of that bed!” 9  Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me.

One problem that happens when we are entrusting our lives, including sin, to God, is demonic interference.

Satan and his demon horde would do anything to stop us from realizing how present and compassionate God our Father is! There are many games that can be played! One of the greatest is to get us to look at how the world condemns us for the sin that we just confessed!

David thinks, “How people would gossip about me!” They would meet out in the parking lot, or at the coffee shop and mock me. I can hear the exaggerations now!

It is not beyond reason to picture shame and guilt as demons, fighting to keep their claws hooked in our heart and soul, trying to convince us that the world hates us, not because of who we are, but because of what we thought, what we said, what we did.

Everything we saw God doing disappears in this fight!

Sometimes, that paranoia is right on!

That little line about those who are closest, those who eat with you, betraying you, is something most of us know, and deal with, as the deep wounds caused by loved ones turning against us…

Even Jesus felt those wounds, as all 12 of the apostles abandoned him at the cross. Two of the closest, Peter and Judas, abandoned him as clearly as King Saul and David’s son, Absalom, betrayed David.

And in the middle of dealing with all this, we sin again, having taken our eyes off of God. forgotten that we had cried out, and we miss His answer…

  • It doesn’t matter He is here!

This is when we need to take inventory of God’s blessings the most.

That is when we need someone to say something we respond to with, “and also with you!”

We need to take inventory and remember our great asset is the presence of God Almighty in our lives. The God who brings us peace and comfort, whose presence gladdens our heart, who cares and protects us so well that we can sleep the night in true peace…

He is here!!

Remember all the things David saw do for others? He again asks God for mercy, and then they all come true for David.

Here how the psalm declares these praises:

10  LORD, have mercy on me. Make me well again, so I can pay them back! 11  I know you are pleased with me, for you have not let my enemies triumph over me. 12  You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever. 13  Praise the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and amen!

David gets back to business. He cries out for God’s mercy and healing!

Look at verse 12 one more time: “12  You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever.”

David said this, and we can and should say it as well,

God, You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever.

That is the work of Jesus at the cross… because of His death, where our sin was nailed to the cross, we have entered, not will enter, have entered the presence of God—where we will dwell forever!
1  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT2)

That is the day we are looking for, this day when our life in Christ is revealed to the whole world. When we see God, in whose presence we dwell….

Until then—take inventory often, realizing that you already dwell in His presence. He has cleansed you of sin, comforted and healed you! For this He has promised you…and promised you can help others realize these blessings… and praise God with them.

For you dwell in His presence and know His peace! AMEN!

 

An Inventory of Blessings: Peace and Comfort! A sermon on Isaiah 66:10-14

An Inventory of Our Blessings
Peace and Comfort!
Isaiah 66:10-14

† In Jesus’ Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you realize God’s desire that you come close to Him, and let Him give you life!

  • This is what the Lord Says!

Often, I have people, mostly unbelievers or agnostics, tell me that they picture God in two different ways.

The Old Testament God is a God of wrath, who condemns people to hell as he smites them with fire and brimstone.

Then they see a different God in the New Testament, one that is, if anything, too merciful and tolerant.

When they hear the words that we did today, “This is what the LORD says, it is with a deep dark voice, almost like Darth Vader, or James Earl Jones, with every word punctuated and emphasized, rolling out like thunder. They anticipate what follows will be a harsh lesson, a caustic disciplinary correction or worse.

THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS…..

And while hearing God’s voice may get a little uncomfortable, it is not because it is strong and harsh and demanding.

Rather, I think that is it too comforting, too intimate, and it reveals us needy as it pictures us drinking in God’s glorious love, much as an infant would be content and filled…

  • Why does this make us uncomfortable?

There is a part of us I think likes to picture God as the mean and distant authority figure, of whom it is said, “just wait until your Father gets home!”

We aren’t as comfortable with God being the nurturing, comforting God that He is compared to in these words He gave to Isaiah. Just studying the passage is Hebrew, which is far more blunt and descriptive, was overwhelming, never mind projecting that level of care and intimacy on my relationship with God! Knowing God is that close, that aware of our needs, and that willing to provide for them–no matter the mess we make, is astonishing.

More than that, it is frightening to think we can be that dependent on God.

The same God who sees the mess we make of life, which is nowhere near as nice as that baby’s diaper.

It amazes me, and to be honest, I struggle with the idea that God knows us that intimately. He knows when we have messed up our lives. He even warned us about it, told us not to do it, but assured us He would be there to clean up the mess.

But we struggle with God being that close, that aware… We can be like the 2-3-year-old who’s done wrong and tried to hide it. Go all the way back to the garden, and you see men and women trying to hide their sin, trying to hide their brokenness. And so rather going with God when He calls us to spend time with Him, we hide out, thinking we can delay our getting in trouble, and maybe even escape getting in trouble.

As if any kid could fool their parents at that age…

Yet we still try, and we still mess up our lives, sometimes in spectacular ways.

And during cleaning us up, God gives us what we need, just as He taught us to pray for it, as we pray the Lord’s prayer. Just like the momma in Isaiah.

  • The closeness we need!

That is what we really need! For God to be that close! For Him to care for us.

The joy that comes from realizing not only can we depend on God that much, but that He desires us to, is amazing.

One pastor I was reading said it this way, this week.

Before our response to his invitation — well before! — there is his desire for us. We may not even be aware of it, but every time we go to Mass, the first reason is that we are drawn there by his desire for us.”  (Pope Francis)

The think that I still try to grasp, that I want each one of you to realize, is that God wants us to be there with Him. He loves caring for us, just as much as a mom loves caring for her baby.

He knew we would sin, prepared well to clean us up and make us perfect, and comforts us even as we grieve.

This was what the cross was all about, proving to us that God cared this much for us, that He desires for us to dwell in His presence.

And by us, I don’t just mean those of us in this room, but all of those whom He created, and calls to be changed, and then changes them. People we help by sharing this understanding that God told Isaiah to record for all the people of God.

This is something we need to count on, and make sure we understand is always ours, this comfort and peace given to us through Jesus Christ. AMEN!

May You Experience this Love of Christ! A Message Delivered at the PSD District 2022 Convention

May YOU Experience the Love of Christ
Ephesians 3:19-20

I.H.S
May the mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so profound in your life that you realize — you have learned by experience that you are loved!

Broken
If you have ever seen the television show Broken, you may tear up at the picture on this slide. We’ll get to the profound story it tells in a moment. But it is one I know everyone of us needs to experience.

I don’t care which political side of the synod you sit on; I don’t care whether you use LSB (though I still prefer TLH), or have contemporary worship. I don’t care if you serve a mountain congregation of 20, an urban congregation that is struggling, or Lutheran Mega-Church in Orange County or Arizona.

You all need to have the experience of the guy in the purple chasuble, to receive the forgiveness and mercy that God’s love makes so real.

Otherwise, this synod will remain broken, your church will remain broken, and you, no matter how hard you try, will be broken.

The test…

Twenty years ago, I left my non-denominational congregation to spend 3 and a half years to become part of all of you. I owe a great debt to Dr. Stephen Mueller, Bill Cwirla, Greg Seltz, and Bob Rossow.

Among the lessons I learned was one some of you might have memorized once… that’s why there is no slide for it.

I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith (Martin Luther, T

Worship isn’t worship without that call and enlightenment. I don’t care how logical your systematic theology is, how reasonable your apologetics are as you try to prove the gospel, without the Holy Spirit working in your heart, soul and mind, it is as empty as the Bills or Vikings Superbowl Trophy Case.

What happens is what happens to the priest in the show. Dealing with the normal trauma every church experiences, from death to immorality, from injustice to darkness, the priest struggles to approach the altar. He states,

“because I know, in here, , that I am not fit to be a priest. So -at the supreme moment of priesthood – the consecration, this, this, reminds me of all the dirty filthy things I’ve done in my life, and the dirty filthy things that have been done to me. And it says, how dare you think yourself worthy of this…”  Fr. Michael in Broken

When I came into the LCMS, the biggest difference I noticed was not logical. It was the acceptance of what Fr. Michael said, and yet every person in the church being drawn to the altar, anyway. It didn’t matter if it was at the page 15 service with Doctor Hendry officiating, or Mike Coppersmith preaching at a contemporary service. It could be gossip, being sexually broken, using God’s name in vain, the brokenness caused by sin was real…

People didn’t come to the altar thinking they were worthy of this…. But they came.

At the altar they found what was beyond logic, beyond reason. They found that they were loved. That’s what Fr. Mike in the show found out, even as he was communing someone he sinned against…who let him know he was a wonderful pastor. He knew God’s love far more clearly at that point…

Loved by God who was willing to die for them, and have them share in the death sacramentally, that they would rise with Him.

There, at the altar, broken people and broken pastors found something that Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus to experience…the prayer I read earlier…

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

I saw this at both churches, as people came forward, their bodies betraying the conviction that they were stressed-out, overwhelmed, wounded by their own sin and sins of their community. They knelt there and received the body and blood of Christ again, and you saw them physically transform. Their bodies relaxed, their eyes bright, a smile breaking out on their face.

Greg Seltz used to call that incarnational and sacramental.

I have a better phrase, in that moment, we realize the intimate relationship God has drawn us into with Him.

In the picture, the lady had been betrayed, the relationship with her pastor destroyed. Not just because he wasn’t there when she needed him, but because he lied about it, and her son was killed. The grief and shame overwhelmed him and there, on the day he was planning to leave the ministry, as he gave out the Body and Blood of Christ, she and the church brought him back from the edge.

If we are going to be abundantly more, if we are going to accomplish infinite more than we might ask or think, where it will happen is at baptismal fonts and at the altar, in coffee shops and business meetings, where we plead with people, “Come back to God.” and they do…

And they experience what we have, the call and enlightenment that comes as the Holy Spirit opened our eyes through word and sacrament, and we begin “to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

Let’s pray….

 

God is Making You… His People. A sermon for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper

God is Making you… His People
Jeremiah 31:31-33

† In Jesus’ Name †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that you are the people of God!

  • Missing at the Feast…

It was a card table, probably purchased back in the 1950s. It came out for every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, with 4 folding chairs that were far sturdier than they looked.

At 18 to 19, just starting to date Kay, I understood that I would be sitting there with her 5 and 7-year-old nephews, Kay’s 14-year-old niece, and Kay.

It was the kiddie table, and we were the younger folk there.

I did think that there would be a time when I could move to the adult table; I just didn’t think it would take until I was in my fifties.

As we share in the Lord’s Supper, we are in the present moment, and yet we are also part of that great feast when Jesus returns. It is what we are looking towards, yet we are a part of it as well, as with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven, we praise God, our heavenly Father.

There is no kiddie table at that feast, for we all have matured and become complete in Christ.

And we see that promise in the passage read earlier from Jeremiah. 

  • The Difference Between the Covenants

Jeremiah describes how people related to God in the reading. “I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them…

It sounds more like Israel acted like a toddler rather than a partner of God’s. I picture Israel as a toddler having to be brought to the table, seated, then getting up to see what’s happening everywhere else. What’s on their plate? Is their chair better than mine? And, of course, causing all sorts of spills and breakage, left behind as something else catches their eye.

The world is not different today, and neither are many of us in the church. We want what we want when we want it! We often “unintentionally” redesign Christianity to be more consistent with what we wish… rather than allowing God to conform us to the image of Jesus.

It’s easy to throw a tantrum against God, demand what we want…that we cry and howl and tell Him to get lost. Heck, even at the last supper, the disciples fought over who was better…

And Jesus bows down… and takes a towel and washes their feet….

  • Preparing them for the new covenant…

And in doing so, shows them a new way…

We often talk about foot-washing as an example – this is how we should serve others. But Peter had to learn something first – to let Jesus wash his feet, for boy, they needed to be cleaned….

We need to be drawn into this relationship, this covenant with God. We need God to do what He’s promised to do, the promises we’ve been looking at – God’s work.

And that is seen easily this night. Everything about the Passover points to his sacrifice in the morning – a sacrifice he looked forward to – because of the joy of Jeremiahs’s promise being fulfilled.

  • How God puts His instructions inside us…

Here it again…

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

That is why Jesus says this is His blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. The Body and Blood shed for you that all your sins, including those tantrums, are forgiven.

This is why we are here… this is what it is all about… God with us.

A new relationship that goes beyond anything we can think or imagine.

A relationship where God comes to us feeds us, and makes us know we are home… for we are His people. 

So let’s celebrate – with the feast that is the foretaste of the feast to come…

God is Making Your Body Change!

God is Making Your Body Change!
Phil. 3:17-4:1

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you as God transforms you!

Change –

We started last week looking at this theme of “God is making you….”  A look at the work that Paul wrote to the Philippian church, saying, “And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the day of Christ.

Last week we saw that God is making us righteous. That His masterpiece is recreating us in a way that there we are holy, that there is no sin we can be accused of, that we are innocent. So we are not just allowed to be in the presence of almighty God; we are expected there and welcomed.

This week the work is described as Jesus taking our weak and mortal bodies and changing them into glorious bodies like His own!

Imagine that – our bodies will be perfect and glorious. No more aches and pains, no more need for physical therapy, no more medicines, no more diets… no more sin affecting us, not only spiritually, but physically.

Sounds like a much better change than, say… moving your clocks ahead one hour!

We need to understand the change… and compare it to our feeble, broken down, sin-damaged bodies…. Lives that are so ugly and pathetic that even discussing them causes Paul to cry.

The Enemies of the Church – conduct

Paul describes those who aren’t changed this way, “18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction….”

No wonder Paul is crying! These people he is crying over are people he cares for, people he was raised with, and they are, in context, his people. He wrote about them to the church in Rome,

1  With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. 2  My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief 3  for my people, my Jewish brothers, and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. Romans 9:1-3 (NLT2)

Each of us has similar people in our lives, or at least we know of them. People who walk about, not knowing the love and peace of God. They reject Him because they do not know Him. But here what makes them different…

Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

Remember how we define a god. A god is what you turn to in time of trouble for help. It is who or what you depend upon to get you through life.

Which leads them to brag about whatever helps them in their time of weakness. Another way of phrasing it – they glorify that which exposes their weakness and shame. They end up defending the very things that hurt them, the same things that cause their brokenness – because they do not realize that God can save them from the brokenness… they accept it as reality and then defend it.

We aren’t just talking about sinners like Putin. We are talking about anyone who doesn’t count on Jesus and turns to other things in place of God…and these are people we know- and people we pray for…

The reason Paul would cry is simple, he was once like them, as we were. He describes us that concept this way, 3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. Titus 3:3 (NLT2)

But notice – he said once… for our transformation – God making us into glorious bodies – is already underway!

A Different Schematic – Syn-mimic

Ezekiel describes the change as getting rid of our heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh. In other places – our mind is replaced with the mind of Christ, or we are dressed with Christ.

Here, Paul describes the change with two ideas.

The first is to follow the pattern of their lives on Paul’s life. The picture words there are we get to be born and mimic from! Our new life in Christ should be that we move like Paul as he mimics Christ! Where Jesus moves, we move in reflection of His love and mercy….

The second is the word for change –the idea of changing the schema -the word and concept from which we get the idea of schematic. Or, as we would say these days, God makes a DNA level change in us. For the computer geeks – a complete reboot with a new operating system.  

That is the work God is doing in us – a complete change!

What is fantastic is both these things are God determined – and God-driven. He changes us in a way that allows us to live, mimicking Christ, for Christ lives in us. He changes the schematics in us, miraculously recreating us…

The challenge is being patient with the change in our lives and those around us! But know God is at work… and here is the amazing thing…. He makes this change with the same power by which everything is cared for by Him.

The same power that entered into the world, and healed people, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, is at work in every believer. God is drawing into a relationship every one – as He works through us….

Like the family who Marvel contacted – because they needed a minister for a memorial service. Or the people Manny and Gloria invite to the Tagalog Bible Study, or Violet inviting people to Family fun night…

Or any of you are praying for 8 people… to simply see Jesus revealed in their lives.

You see, those tears of Paul that we have for others, know that it is part of this change in us. We see their emptiness and brokenness and realize that as we find healing in Jesus… so can they… so we want to help them find it!.

This is the change He makes in us… a change that will be complete when we see Jesus face to face…

And until then – the very idea that God is at work in you – and will complete that work… should help you know His peace – which you dwell in… for the Lord is with you!

(hear a slightly different version of this sermon – at our church YouTube Page… bit.ly/concordiacerritos )

Celebrating the Transfiguration: A Sermon on Luke 9

Celebrating the Transfiguration of Jesus
Luke 9:28-36

I.H.N.

May the peace of God, our Father who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, transform you in a way others can see… and may that transfiguration cause others to worship Him.

  • Shutting Peter up!

As I read and re-read Luke’s recounting of the Transfiguration, I tried to imagine what was going through Peter’s mind. He wasn’t having the best day…

He fell asleep on Jesus’s discussion with Moses and Elijah.

Then Peter managed to put his mouth into action prior to thinking or even asking what Jesus wanted to do…

Then he was terrified by the storm cloud surrounding him after he screwed up…

In between all that – he had to deal with seeing Jesus differently than he would ever see him…. Revealed in all of His glory, revealed as God.

I get all that. I can fall asleep kind of quickly, I can get scared by storms, and I can, as most guys can, put both feet in my mouth with room to spare…

But what I didn’t understand was how one thing happened. Luke describes it in a straightforward phrase, “They didn’t tell anyone at that time what they had seen!’

Somehow Jesus got Peter to shut up about the most outrageous miracle Peter haver seen to that point.

Peter, the one who couldn’t shut up – silenced…

What he saw – was that incredible… so powerful… and the promise with it so intimately personal – it changed him.

Peter had to wait until after the resurrection to share the story. We do not; we get to celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus! We get to celebrate His being revealed in all His glory… to us.

  • Reactions to the glory of God – First – Fear

There are two reactions to God’s glory being revealed. The first is simple – it is fear.

In Adam hiding after eating the avocado and Moses at the burning bush, you see that. As described in the epistle, you also see it when the people of God saw Moses reflecting the glory of God…

They wanted no part of it; it terrified them, much as hearing God the Father’s voice terrified Peter, James, and John. Collapse in fear level terror. Solomon and the people of God knew that fear at the dedication of the temple, just as Isaiah knew.

Simple reason, without Jesus to explain the difference, all we got is that God is pure and perfect and hates sin…and we’ve sinned.

Even the reflected glory of God in Moses’ face was enough to terrify the people of God. As Paul wrote about – they cannot understand the truth – the truth that would set them free – that God loves them and would save them from everything…

And without that knowledge – collapsing in fear is pretty much what you get.

  • Reactions to the glory of God – second peace

Compare that kind of fear to the reaction of Peter, James, and John. Seeing Jesus in all His glory, along with the two of the three greatest heroes in the Old Testament, they … they fell asleep?

No terror, nor fear, no collapsing or losing control of their bodies… they rested. They had found that kind of peace in the presence of Jesus.

Imagine that – being so restful – so at peace, that you could sleep through a miracle of epic proportions?

That is the difference that Jesus makes in our lives – because of Him, we can be comfortable in having the fullness of God’s glory revealed all around us.

By the way – this isn’t just my idea – this is what Martin Luther said,

Thus it was that the three apostles who saw Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor were not afraid of them, because of the tender glory in the face of Christ [Luke 9:32]. Yet in Exodus 34[:29–35], where Christ was not present, the children of Israel could not endure the splendor and brightness in the face of Moses, so that he had to put a veil over it.[1]

I love the way Luther phrases it – they weren’t afraid – because of the tender glory in the face of Christ…

And that was before Jesus headed to the cross and died for their sin, and for ours. It was before He instituted the Lord’s Supper – the place where we weekly encounter the glory of God, the love and compassion that are demonstrated as God gives us the Body and Blood of Christ.

IN our interactions with Jesus, whether it is studying His word, prayer, or the sacraments of Baptism, Absolution, or the Lord’s Supper – we see the glory of God so different than the people of Israel do…

We see the glory of love demonstrated to us as Jesus served, healed, taught, and looked forward to the cross for the joy set before Him. (Hebrews 12:2)

Knowing this, we can rest – and even sleep.. peacefully!

  • Now, what do we do?

Now the challenge happens, as we wake up and realize we are in God’s presence…

We could be like Peter – and simply do what makes the most sense… except we don’t have to build tabernacles or temples. We have a perfectly nice one here. 

Hopefully, we don’t need the storm clouds to come out and the sky to crack open with the voice of the Father…

We just need to hear – and treasure what Jesus has to say to us…

Treasuring His love and glory enough to just do it…

Like loving enemies and praying for those who persecute and oppress us…

Or going and making disciples of nations, baptizing them and teaching them to treasure all God has established…

In both cases, the goal is the same – to help people experience the glory of God – the kind that comes as they see the tender glory of Christ’s love for them, as they enter into His presence, as they realize what the cross and empty grave mean…. as they respond to you, as you tell them…

The Lord is with you!

Well – that is true – but I said you would be telling others this – and hearing them respond back…

Reassuring you of the glory of God and the peace that surpasses all understanding – for you dwell in Christ… and share in His glory! AMEN!


[1] Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 35. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Rain Gear, CHECK! A 12 year old memorial service message we need to hear still!

“Rain Gear, CHECK!”     
1 Peter 1:3-9, Isaiah 43:1-3, Isaiah 48:16a

† In Jesus Name †

In the midst of these storms of life, may the grace, the mercy and the peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ clothe us, as the Holy Spirit sustains and comforts us, His people!  AMEN!

Could this be you?


There you are, hiking at 8,000 feet in the towering pines of the San Gorgonio wilderness.  Suddenly, a black cloud rolls over the ridge and within minutes a major mountain storm is upon you.

The last thing you want is to get drenched, so you take off your pack and reach for your rain gear… but you forgot where you pack it!  By the time you find your rain pants, the rain has started to soak through your clothing.  While searching for your rain jacket you begin to panic, did you pack it at all?  Finally you locate your jacket, but you are starting to chill.  Shivering you put away all your wet gear you pulled out during your frantic search, then discover the pack cover, but too late, your pack is now thoroughly soaked…

So starts Clyde’s trail chat about a critical aspect of hiking – the Rain Gear – Check!  As he told me about it, and we talked about this very sermon, this very day, it became apparent that it was to be the theme for the sermon.  Not just preparing you for storms on mountain trails, but preparing you for the storms of life, the very kind of storms we who love him, and know him, have witnessed him endure in this last year, and actually saw him thrive in, in the last weeks and months.

As we talked about this message, Clyde told me of the Rain Gear Checks that caused him to write the article.  His infamous “inspections” where he would call for the CHECK, then inspect and share how each person would have survived.  Those well prepared would be described in terms of being safe and functional.  Others would have lost food but would have been dry, and others would have suffered hypothermia and become a burden to the group of hikers, and perhaps, given the remote nature of some hikes, not survived the vicious mountain storm.  Does this lecture sound familiar to any of you?

Clyde the Pastor

I can imagine a fervor in Clyde, to see those he trained to hike, be protected and healthy and well, and to know the accomplishment of a successful hike, even through the storms. I can see that fervor translated into a pretty…. Straightforward and maybe brutal assessment – because he knew the dangers of being caught unprepared in the storm – and to make the scouts uncomfortable before they left, or in practice, was better than being unprepared and suffer on the trail.

It’s that attitude which made him a good friend, and a man I looked forward to serving beside as his “mentor” in ministry, even as he taught me much about life, and faith.  And it is the attitude that is behind this sermon.  Clyde was very concerned about those who would be here, and where you are at in life.  A pastor’s role in serving his community is the same duty as the trail boss on a hike, its ensuring the safety of the group – until it reaches its destination.  And Clyde, whether or not he was ordained, as a vicar at Concordia, as an elder and deacon in this place, or guiding a bunch of scouts in the wilderness, is a pastor at heart.  He wants you each prepared to survive the storms of life, and to do it in a way, that leaves you able to see the power and majecty, not of the storm, but the one who protects you in it.

Are you ready for the storms? Are you going to survive this storm?  It’s time for a spiritual Rain Gear Check…

The Storms of Life

As sure as mountain storms come up both unexpectedly and with a ferocity that overcomes all that is in its path, so too, do the storms of life. 

Some storms we create, through our inability to love God and realize that His plan for our life, and our inability to live at peace and love each other.  Such storms are based in sin, which can simply be defined as not loving and trusting God, and not loving our neighbors.   Sin can cause some of the most vicious of life’s storms, which literally can affect generations, and often – those but innocent victims, caught in the crossfire of others.  You can’t prepare against such storms, and often our reactions cause the storms to grow in their strength.

Other storms are not attributable to a specific sin, but are the result of living in a broken world; Illness, economic struggles, natural catastrophes.  Such storms happen to those who are right with God, and to those who turn their back on God.  These storms loom large and dominate our thoughts and lives.  

Like the unprepared person backpacking, such storms cause us to scramble, and trying to find a way to deal with them.  We look through our hearts and minds, looking for something that will protect us.  If we only scramble harder, if we only create some new way to deal with such storms, if we can only find a way to cope.  All the while, the storms are beating down us, wearing us thin, and destroying more and more of our life.

The Answer to the Storm

Clyde knew about storms in the mountains and about storms in life. He knew that surviving was found in knowing that the preparations had been made, and that there was protection and a refuge available.  That preparation was the key to the peace we saw in him, in the midst of the pain and the suffering, in the midst of the medications, and the chemo and nausea.

He relied what we see in Peter’s epistle,

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 

It is our faith, our trust, not in our preparation and our pack, but in God himself, that sees us protected from the storms of life.  Christ’s resurrection from the dead, guarantees that Clyde has been raised from the dead as well.  Peter’s comment about our new birth into a living hope is echoed throughout scripture, and in one passage in Galatians, is described in this way,


“26 for all of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, 27 since every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ. “   Galatians 3:26-27 (NJB)

HE is our rain gear, and it is in our baptism that we are dressed with all that it takes to protect us in these storms of life.  Perhaps one of the greatest myths about our faith, is that miracles are the effect of strong faith.  Yes, miracles happen, but the nature of faith is the assurance that whether it storms or not, we are ready, we will survive, shielded and comforted by God.

Perhaps it is difficult to grasp, but that uniting with Christ’s resurrection is possible because we have united with His death in our baptism as well.  Suffering and even death takes on a different focus then.  It becomes proof, not just of our faith, but in the faithfulness of the God in whom we trust.  Peter said it this way

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

We begin to realize that incredible truth, that in Christ death’s sting is never permanent, it is never complete.   Our friend Clyde, who would ask us to check our faith this day; was sure of the peace that would fully encompass him in Christ.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that in Christ, Clyde lives, even more than he lived in our presence.  Freed of the cancer that entrapped his body and laid it waste, he is also freed of the sin and spiritual storms of life that had the same effect.  He is part of what we refer to in our worship service, where we hear, “with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven…

And as we sing that tomorrow at Concordia, as it is sung here at St. Paul’s, know Clyde is singing it with us, as all the saints of God gather and proclaim God’s power and holiness.

Summary of the Matter…

Here then is the Faith-gear – CHECK.   Our faith is not a matter of our own personal strength, but in realizing the power, the peace, the refuge we have in Christ, whose words were written these favorite words of Christ.

The Lord says, “I will not forget you ever, for see, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”


For those hands were pierced, so that all that would separate Clyde from God would be found without any power, and that Clyde could rest in peace, witnessing the glory of the one who made the mountains upon which Clyde so loved to hike.

Those hands were pierced for you as well.  So that “38 nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)

Clyde, one more time, today, calls us to consider where we are at.  To know that the preparations have been made for the storms of life, and to survive for eternity.  Having made the journey, he wanted to guide us, and in that, not pointing to our own efforts, but to the cross, and to the baptismal font, where God has clothed us with Christ, and assured us of sharing in His glory, for He has marked us as His…

Trust in Christ then in the midst of this storm, encouraged by our dear friend, rest in the unsurpassable, indescribable peace of God which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN?

Keep Your Enemies Close! A sermon on Genesis 45:3-15

Keep Your Enemies Closer!
Genesis 45:3-15

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ transform you into people who call people to come closer… to you… and therefore God!

Typo Alert?!?

As I was working on this sermon about Joseph and his brothers, I would type out the title. Thinking about how God was working in their lives, I would look at it, and something seemed wrong.

It was the exclamation point. Maybe it should have been a question mark. 

Keep your enemies closer?

Na… back to Keep your enemies closer!

Well, wait a minute… closer! Closer?

Which you think works better as a title might depend on who’s shoes you are wearing and what your agenda is…

But either way – make sure you repeat to those people what Joseph said to his brothers, Please come closer! And bring him here quickly!

Don’t Be Upset – Don’t Be Angry

Even though it has been a decade or more, Joseph knows his brothers all too well.

And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.!

The first reaction to sin is denial, but they cannot do that anymore. The one they sinned against is standing right in front of them! So they go to the second and third steps in the getting caught process.

Fear – pure fear. Translated here as being “upset.” To be caught by the person who you sinned against, and for that person to have all the power and authority to do whatever he wanted to, to you. The amount of fear that would create – could probably be seen and even smelt.

And so Joseph says… calm down, don’t be upset!

The third step for a sinner caught in sin is to beat themselves up over it. We are all pretty good at that, aren’t we?

“Don’t be angry with yourselves!”  he says to them – as fast as their mood is changing.

Even as God says that to us today.

Did you sin this week? Did you sell out Jesus? You thought everything would be perfect if you could get rid of God, sending Him away?

You will stand before Him, just as the brothers had to stand before Joseph.

Don’t be afraid or anxious; His desire is to draw you close….

Don’t be angry with yourselves; God the Father sent Jesus into captivity, just as God sent Joseph into Egypt. Hear Joseph’s words again,

God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you!

Hear that – as Jesus says it to you from the cross! As Jesus dies, our life would be eternally spent with God the Father!.

God has sent me ahead of you to (the cross) to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here (to the cross!), not you!

So come closer, and don’t be upset or angry with yourselves…. God is in control….

Our hope – understanding grace like Joseph… bringing enemies near to embrace us!

I can imagine that the brothers saw themselves as Joseph’s enemies when he called them to “come near.” They struggled to believe how blessed they could be in the moment the truth set them free of their past and present sins.

But there he was… just as Jesus is for each one of us today. Ready to cry with joy over us, even as Joseph did as he embraced first Benjamin, then the rest of his brothers.

It is what we need to pray for, for those people who should be our brothers and sisters but struggle as they think they are our enemies.

Even as Jesus brings his enemies closer and reveals us to His brothers and sisters, Joseph could look back at what God did, what He was doing in providing for all the people of God. As He did, he found the ability to trust in God’s plan, in what God provided.

That is how we draw people to Jesus… we fall in love with Him as we see what He is doing in our lives, and we realize “our enemies” need to see it happening to them as well.

In our prayer circle – I had you put two names – the names to pray for, that God would come to be so natural to them… that when they walk through those doors, you dance with joy. These might be the people that betrayed you in your life, the way Joseph was betrayed. Or they may be the people you sold off into slavery. Either way, these enemies are drawn into a relationship with Jesus. Are revealed to be your brothers and sisters!

Call them to come near, tell them, “please come closer!.” Describe what God is doing, how you see God using the worst challenges in life as blessings,

And when that happens, weep because you are so overwhelmed with joy!

God is with you – so calling them to come closer. Praying that they do… is simply bringing them into the presence of God. AMEN!

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