Category Archives: Sermon

The New Scheme of Things (Sermon on 1 Cor. 7:25-40)

Friday of Proper 14b, (August 14, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(1 Corinthians 7:25-40)

TITLE: “The New Scheme of Things”


What I appreciate about St. Paul here in 1 Corinthians seven is that he is not afraid of addressing the conflicts and anxieties that the Corinthians are facing in their day. They are faced with the real and frankly scary question of whether or not it is even right to marry, given the temptations and persecutions that are coming upon them all too quickly. In the midst of such trials, is it right to engage in the very earthly and human estate of marriage? And in the same way we may ask the question, is the celibate life superior to the married life, is it more spiritual, more able to focus upon God and service to him? These are some of the questions the Corinthians face.

In our own day, we are barely waking up to the fact that such questions exist. Throughout the world the persecution of the Church is on the rise. While we lament and moan about whether the ten commandments can be displayed in a courtroom, in other parts of the world baring the name “Christian” may mean lost of family and property, or even loss of life itself. In some respects, I think you could almost argue that we in the West aren’t even grown up enough to worry about the questions of married versus single in the face of persecution and distress. But God, who is merciful and gracious, will teach us in His own time and way when we are ready to receive such trials.

So what St. Paul does for us here is outline how the Christian is to look at the estates of marriage and celibacy or virginity. Notice how Paul puts the emphasis on how each person is to make such decisions. What is going to promote good order? What will restrain the passions? What will keep you free from worry or anxiety? The answers will be different for each person, and learning how to answer those questions is a matter of wisdom, and takes time and work, with much prayer.

But look at what St. Paul does not do. Paul does not urge the Corinthians to judge each other on whether to marry or remain single. If our focus is on judging the spiritual estate of one another, of trying to measure our levels of holiness based upon the relationships and things of this world, then, well, we really will be caught like a child in the midst of a very adult war when the persecutions come.

In a war it is in your best interest that the soldiers next to you are strong, of good mind and will and body. You want them to be ready and well trained. You need them just as much as they need you. And so St. Paul recognizes that the Church will have the single and the married in the persecution to come. We are to look out for each other, to build one another up, to help the body to grow up into what our Heavenly Father has in store for us all along.

In this way, we look to our Lord, Jesus Christ, who did not turn aside when the trials faced Him. He did not shrink away when asked the question, He did not run and hide or let the things of this world distract Him from His divine work of the salvation and restoration of the world. He is stretched out toward His beloved even now, always preparing her and keeping her for the world which is to come.

Do not be afraid of the trials and hardships which are to come. Whether married or single, unburdened or full or sorrow and hardships, Christ our Lord is all in all for you, and you are in Him by Word and Spirit, water and meal. He will see you through, for the scheme of this world is passing away. And thanks be to God for that!

In the name of Jesus. Amen.


You Laid Aside Your Glory

Sermon for Higher Things – Las Vegas
Rev. Todd Peperkorn
July 15, 2015
Is. 7:14
Matt. 1:18–25

TITLE: “You laid aside your glory”


Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

I love origin stories. You know, the stories about how the superhero became the superhero. Stuck in a vat of radioactive goo, bit by an alien cockroach, coming in from the planet Zeldon. Whatever the origin story, what it tells is how so-and-so can do all the amazing things they can do. They tell how it is that our hero is more than he appears, can do more than it looks like he can, and is able to save the world from whoever the bad guy is today.

All of us would like a better origin story, don’t you think? All of us secretly harbor the feeling that I want to be more than I appear. I want to do more, have more powers, have abilities that no one would suspect, and at just the right moment, POW, out comes my special power-up, to get me out of my bind for the day. We are never satisfied that what God has made is very good, and so the search continues. Maybe someday I’ll find out I’m actually adopted, and that my parents were aliens. Admit it, you wish your parents were aliens. Or they wish you were.

But when it comes to our Lord’s story, His story is, well, not that exciting. His origin story is that He has all the power, all the abilities, everything that you could ever want. He is the Son of the eternal God, the very image of God, an icon of God’s holiness. And His origin story is that He gave it all up. Our hymn says, “you laid aside your glory, were born of virgin’s womb”. And St. Matthew says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.”

Well that has got to be about the dumbest origin story there ever was. What kind of a story is that? Our hero had every superpower there ever was, could leap tall buildings in a single bound, solve any problem, create the world itself, and what does He do? He is born in a backwater town, lived the life of a carpenter’s son. Whoever heard of a carpenter hero? (maybe a plumber…) And then, to top it all off, He dies the death of a common criminal.

But God uses the least and the last, the strangest and yet the most ordinary things to accomplish His great and mighty purposes. And make no mistake, God’s purpose in all this is you, your salvation and life, the forgiveness of sins and an eternity in fellowship with Him. So the angel speaks to Joseph, and tells Him to take Mary as his wife, even though appearances, well, they don’t look good. But looks can be deceiving.

When this Son is born, Joseph gives Him the name Jesus. He names His Son, like every Father or Mother has named their children since the world began. But His name, Jesus, isn’t just pulled from a “best Hebrew names for the year 6 B.C.” baby booklet. This name preaches. Yahweh, God, saves. So Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God with us. And He is with us, in our very own flesh and blood. While you and your sinful nature wants to be something or someone else, with superpowers, able to escape this messed up world. Jesus Christ, well, He wants to be you. He wants to be one with you, and so He now lays aside His glory, and is born into your flesh and blood.

And now, dearly Baptized, now the glory of God which He laid aside, it is now hidden in you. “For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Immanuel, God with us, is now and forevermore God for you and with you.

You don’t need to be a superhero, or to have a superhero. God has come into your flesh and blood, into your very life. He is your life. Live in Him, and do not be afraid.


Abide (Easter 6, Confirmation Sunday, May 10, 2015)

Easter 6, (May 10, 2015)
Confirmation Sunday
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
John 15:9–17

TITLE: “Abide in My Love”

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 fifteen. We focus on the word from verse nine, Abide. I

Today is a great day in the Christian Church, for once again we get to hear three young women give their Amen to the gift of faith that God gave them in their Baptisms. While I am mostly going to address this sermon to them, it is okay if the rest of you listen in while I talk to them.

The word we’re looking at today is the word from our Lord, the word “Abide”. It’s not a word we use a lot today. Abide, remain, stay, stick with, it means something like all of that. It’s actually a military term, originally. It’s the word they would use when a troop or a legion was commanded to hold a position in a battle. Stay here, the commander would say! Hold this position, don’t give it up for anything or anyone. Our very lives depend upon you not leaving your post.

So this is the word Jesus uses to describe your relationship to Him. Last week we heard Jesus say to the disciples:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4 ESV)

All your life long the devil, the world, and even your own sinful nature will call out to you to leave the foot of the cross, where you remain as the baptized. Leave that cross, that place in the shadow of our Lord’s death for you, leave that place and everything else falls apart.

And make no mistake, young ones, you will be tempted to leave our Lord for other pastures that make look green and full of life, but are in fact death itself. It is fairly easy to come to the house of God Sunday after Sunday when you have a mother and a father beinging you here. It is pretty easy when the voices that would draw you away are still far away, or their voices don’t sound so alluring, not yet at least.

But here’s the deal, girls. This isn’t up to you. You didn’t get here, wearing white robes with a pretty flower and a cake later because you’re so awesome. I know, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Now don’t get me wrong. You are awesome, and a great gift to us and to the world. But that’s not what got you here. For you are broken, sinful, and will fail if left to yourself. You will. I will. All of us will fail if we are left to ourselves.

But you aren’t left to yourself. Christ Himself abides in you, given to you in your Baptism so many years ago. Today isn’t about you and how great your promises are. Today is about our Lord, Jesus Christ, and about how in His great mercy He chooses His young ones, delivers them from sin and death, and sets them up as His Sons and Daughters, His Brothers and Sisters in His heavenly kingdom. Psalm ninety one begins with this promise:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalms 91:1 ESV)

You are in the shelter of the Most High. You have been covered with the righteousness of Christ. Those white robes you wear aren’t because you are graduating. Sorry. They are a reminder to you and to us of the white robe of righteousness that is yours by faith in the Son of God, that same faith that He planted in you in your Baptism.

But something even more amazing happens. Not only does God pluck you up from sin and death and make you His children, He also uses you as His hands and feet in the world. He gives you good works to do, works that you may not even know that you are doing. Hear again the words of Jesus:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:10, 16 ESV)

In other words, beloved, your life matters, and you are in the palm of God’s hands, and He has great plans for you and everything you do in His Name. Today you confess the faith that God gave to you in your baptism. That is true not only for you, but for all of us gathered here today.

And perhaps most importantly, for most of you this is your first Sunday receiving Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus says “Abide in my love,” this is what He is talking about. It is His Body and Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, it is His Body and Blood that strengthens you and gives you life in His Name. God creates by His Word, and so when He says to you Abide in Me, He creates the faith to do so.

So come, sons and daughters, come and receive the gift of life everlasting in His Name. Come and rejoice that God continues to grow His Church, and give young and old new life in His name. Come and rejoice and be glad at His Table, for this is where you belong.

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.

Funeral Sermon for Ray Berkenbile (April 12, 2015)

Nancy and Susan, Carol, and all of Ray’s dear family, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is Psalm twenty-three. “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)

Ray Berkenbile is one of those people whom you don’t forget after meeting him. I’m sure that most of you know him far better than I did. I’ve only known him for about four years. I’m pretty sure that the first time I met him, he cracked a joke about not being able to get up to greet me. He always seemed to have a smile on his face, or a comment about whatever was happening in the news, or really whatever came to his mind. It was almost as if he didn’t know how difficult his life was! Now don’t get me wrong. There was a darker side to him, as there is to all of us. But he kept it pretty well hidden most of the time.

The reality is that his life was hard, both for him and for his dear wife, Carol. How many years have you been married? It’s a lot, I know. For most of his life, Ray struggled with the effects of polio, which he contracted as a fairly young man in his twenties. His life was a continual reminder of the effects of sickness and disease upon our bodies, and how sin just seems to, well, to mess everything up in our lives.

So it is in that context that we look at Psalm twenty-three, a Psalm taught to Ray by his mother when Ray was but a boy. You know the Psalm. Chances are you’ve heard it or prayed it your entire life, as did Ray. But I want you to look at this Psalm from the perspective of a man who spent most of his life in need of everything, even help breathing, at yet at the same time managed to always give to those who surrounded him.

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

This Psalm is really about Jesus Christ, and it is about Ray, and you, and me, and all of God’s sheep scattered throughout the world. it is about the fact that we are broken and in need, that our lives are ones of receiving mercy and help from those around us, and maybe in some small way, helping others along the path. At the end of the day, though, it is about Jesus Christ, who went the way of death and the grave so that He could lead Ray through the valley of the shadow of death to life on the other side.

That’s really what the Easter season is all about, isn’t it? It’ about the God who sent His Son to die on the cross for Ray’s sins and yours, and mine. But Jesus Christ did not stay dead. He lay in death’s strong bands for three days, and then rose up from the dead. And He is alive even now, body and soul together.

And you know what? Ray will rise again, too. Now I don’t mean his spirit will rise, or that he is now free from his body, or such. Now, the promise of the Christian faith is that at the Last Day, Jesus will raise us up from the dead and give us eternal life. Hear again those great words from the book of Job.

Job 19:25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

At the Last Day there will be no polio or post-polio syndrome. There will be no more breathing tubes or bed sores. There will be no more sleepless nights, trying to get comfortable in a body that just does not want to behave. Ray will rise again, and his body will be like new, perfected and purified of every sin and evil. And things will be as they should have been all along.

But until then we wait, and we weep, and we hope. We wait for the resurrection, where we will be reunited with Ray and with all the saints who have gone before us in the faith. We weep, because we miss him, and because, well, because things are just not the same without his infectious smile and laugh. But we weep with hope, because in Christ, all things will be made new in their own time.

So until that day, Ray, rest well in Jesus Christ. Rest well, knowing that you are missed, and much loved, and that we will meet again at the Last Day. Rest well in the arms of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and we will meet again, very soon.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

2015-04-12 Ray Berkenbile Funeral Sermon.mp3

Easter 2015 (April 5, 2015)

Easter Sunday, (April 5, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Mark 16:1–8

TITLE: “The Stone is Rolled Away”

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 sixteen.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!

In the midst of grief, planning goes out the window. The women are not prepared for this stone. It probably weighed nearly two tons. There is no possible way they could move it by themselves. But in their grief, this never occurred to them. They came to the tomb, and it is only on their way to the tomb that they ask themselves the question, ““Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”” (Mark 16:3 ESV)

Death is the great interruption to life. It messes things up, changes plans, it is deeply, profoundly wrong, and no amount of pious thinking or talk can change it. Death causes problems that nothing, nothing can seem to fix. The women were weighed down with grief, that weight which it feels no one can lift. They can hardly even lift up their eyes for their sorrow.

Have you been there? Has sorrow and grief and sin and pain weighed you down? Sickness and death, sin and sorrow seem to all melt together into one big pile of gunk for us, so much so that it seems nothing can get through, things can never get better, that our sorrows and challenges will never end.

And these problems are not simply about attitude. It is not a matter of “buck up, little camper, put on a happy face and everything will get better!” Your salvation cannot come from positive attitude. One pastor put it this way,

If we or the world could be saved through human kindness or clear thinking, Jesus either would have formed a sensitivity group and urged us to share our feelings or would have founded a school and asked us to have discussions.

But knowing the ways of God, the way of the world, and the persistence of human sin, He took up the cross, called disciples, gathered the Church, and bade us follow Him down a different path of freedom. William H. Willimon

No, death is real, sin is real, the chains that weigh you down are oh so very real. You need someone to roll away the tomb. You need someone to do something beyond what you could ever do. You don’t need simply a sympathetic ear or a better ideas. You need a Savior. You need a Lord and Redeemer who will draw you back from death and the grave. You need a God who will rescue you. In a word, you need Jesus.

And you have Him.

When the women looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. Things had changed. At first they were alarmed. But the angel tried to console them: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”” (Mark 16:6–7 ESV)

Sometimes good news takes a while to sink in. They fled with astonishment and fear. Death seemed to real, the tomb and stone was so big and impossible, how is it that Jesus could rise from the dead?

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Now was, is. That reality takes time to sink in. But make no mistake, beloved, it will sink in. Your life is now one of coming to recognize the mercies of God in Jesus Christ for you. You by yourself are dead and broken, but in Him, you are alive forevermore. You were once an enemy of God, but in Him God now calls you friend. You were once lost, but now in Him you are on the path of righteousness and faith.

But it’s hard to remember who you are in Him. Left to yourself, you cannot be saved. But you are not left to yourself. In his book, The Hammer of God, Bo Giertz writes the following:

“One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one’s heart to Him. The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday gift, indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks His walking cane through it and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with him. That is how it is.” Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God, 147

A wonderful Lord has passed you by. He is risen from the dead, and taken you home with him, cleaned you up in Holy Baptism, and now sets you up at His Table to eat and drink with Him forever. Come now, and receive the crucified and risen Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for you. Come and rejoice with angels and archangels, with Mary and the women, with Peter and the disciples, and with saints gone past and saints yet to come. Sit at the banquet table of God. The stone is rolled away. Christ is alive forevermore. Do not be afraid. Your life is secure in Him.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!

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