Category Archives: Sermon

“Baptized into Temptation With Christ” – Mark 9:1-15

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Lent 1, (February 22, 2015)

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

(Mark 1:9-15)

TITLE: “Baptized Into Temptation with Christ”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Mark chapter one, as well as the sacrifice of Isaac from Genesis chapter 22.

The episode of Abraham and Isaac is one of the strangest and hardest for us to understand in the Old Testament. God had called Abraham to a new land, had made him the Father of many nations. He had attached His promises to Abraham and had given him land, a beautiful wife, and more than he could ever want or need. And after many, many years, God had also given Abraham a son. His only son, Isaac, whose name means something like laughter or God laughs. Isaac, whom Abraham had as a son when he was a hundred years old, and Sarah was ninety. Isaac, who brought laughter and joy to Abraham in his old age.

And now here is God, asking Abraham to sacrifice his son on Mt. Moriah. Unthinkable! Impossible! First of all, is it murder? Secondly, how can God keep all of his promises if Abraham kills his only son, Isaac, whom he loves. Would God be able to care for them after asking such an impossible thing of Abraham?

Sometimes when it comes to God’s demands, we cannot see past them and believe God will take care of things. Give to the church! How will I feed my family? Be honest on my taxes? Protect my neighbor even when he’s a jerk? Speak well of my co-workers? How can I even keep from desiring what isn’t mine? God’s Law at times appears impossible to keep, and what makes it worse, we may not even see how it is helpful or good at all.

This is where the relationship between faith and the Law comes into place. Adam and Eve understood the perfect will of God. They knew and recognized that God’s will for them was good, always good. God never desired their harm, but only wanted life for them, and for them to have it abundantly. And so, when God asked something of them, they knew and understood that it was for their good, and for the good of the whole world. But that is what was robbed from them by the Fall into sin. Now they could no longer see God as good, and because they cannot see God as good, they cannot see His Law as good, either.

This is why when it comes to the Law, there is always one part of us that questions the basic point of it. Why must I do what God commands? Does He really have my best interests at heart? How many of you have questioned whether this or that Law of God really applies to you or really matters? Would you have done as well as Abraham, far less our Lord in His temptation in the wilderness?

So Abraham goes up the mountain with his son carrying the fire and the knife. There is no way that this command of God made sense, and yet Abraham trusted that God would do what He promised, even though it was folly to his human eyes. We read the following in the book of Hebrews about Abraham:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11:17–19 ESV)

Fast forward now to our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness. He is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. And so He goes, a stranger in the desert, like the scape goats of old tossed out with the sins of the people on His back. We heard on Ash Wednesday from 2 Corinthians 5 that “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV) He became sin for us, took on the burden of our iniquity, because we could not bear it ourselves.

And like Abraham, His father, Jesus does not shirk from the temptations. He does not turn aside from God’s promises, no matter where they may lead. Where you fail, Jesus succeeds. He succeeds in keeping God’s Law, but He also succeeds in bearing your sins and failures with Him into the wilderness.

The Spirit drives Him into the wilderness, because you cannot bear the wilderness yourself. Left to your own devices, you will fail, every single time. But He trusts in God’s promises, and so does what God commands.

So what does this mean for you today and now, beloved? It means this. It means that Jesus recognizes your failures, the lure of sin that calls out to you every day. He knows the passions that drive you, the callousness of your heart and the slothfulness of your spirit. He knows. He is tempted by the same things that you are. The devil, the world, your own fearful nature. He knows all of these weaknesses, because He has taken on your very humanity. And He loves you more than life itself.

For Abraham, God provided a ram so that he did not have to sacrifice his son. But God Himself did sacrifice His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so that you might live even though He dies.

The lure of temptation continues, but the strength of God’s Spirit dwells within you by Holy Baptism. You were baptized into Christ, so that when He goes into the wilderness, you go with Him. And because He resists the temptations of the devil, you, too, will have victory by the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son.

So come this day to the feast of God in His Supper. Be strengthened in your struggles against sin and the devil and your own sinful nature. Recognize that in Christ you have a champion who will not fail. Even if it costs Him His very life. Live in the grace of Jesus Christ, the true son of Abraham, and trust in His mercy all the days of your life. You are blessed, because you are in Him.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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

The Way, The Truth, and The Life (Funeral Sermon for George L. Wirts, February 20, 2015)

Friday after Ash Wednesday, (February 20, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Funeral Service for George L. Wirts
(John 14:1–6) 

TITLE: “The Way, the Truth, and the Life”

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 fourteen.

George Lee Wirts was born on, March 8, 1923. He was Baptized into Christ in 1936. He married his dear bride, Ruby, on March 19, 1944. They have four children. He was confirmed in the Lutheran faith in 1956, and he died in Christ on February 14, in the year of our Lord, 2015. “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)

Jesus’ disciples in our Gospel for today were confused. That’s not too surprising; they were often confused. But this time, their confusion stemmed from the fact that Jesus said He was going away. He was going away and they didn’t know where He was going.

Our friend, George, was a man on the move. Oh, I know, he didn’t go very far physically for the last dozen years or more. His health, and the loss of his wife, both led to his being pretty much homebound for many years. I know that my predecessor, Pastor Jordan, would take out George for lunch just about every month. And reading his obituary in the bulletin here will give you a picture of how much George had been on the move his whole life long. He served in the Pacific Theater in World War Two, and was even General Douglas MacArthur’s pilot for a time. And this does not even include all of his reading. He may not had been able to leave his room physically, but his imagination took him to far away places every single day. He always had something to tell about what he was reading.

There was one destination that was certain for George, in the midst of all of the chances and changes of his life. George is a Christian. He was baptized many, many years ago, heard the Word of God faithful, and received Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins for many, many years. That was and is George’s identity. He is in Christ. And because of that, there is no doubt about the journey for him, just as there was no doubt for his dear bride, Ruby.

When Jesus’ disciples expressed their fear and dismay that he was leaving, Jesus comforted them with the simple words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) The only way to go to God is through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son. And God gives that faith freely for the sake of His Son. It is a gift, not a work. It isn’t a matter of feeling right or even thinking right. It is a matter of trusting that God forgives you for Jesus’ sake.

And because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, George’s life does not end in the grave. He is at rest and at peace, but at the last day, Jesus Christ will raise up George and all the dead, and give etrenal life to him and all believers in Christ. So today is not a final journey or a last resting place. It is a stop on the way, but only a temporary stop. For Jesus Christ alone will raise him from the dead.

And on that Last Day George will stand up in his flesh and cry out with Job and all the saints of old,

“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. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25–27 ESV)

Until that day, George, rest well. Rest well in Christ, and we will see you in the resurrection.

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.

Our Father (Ash Wednesday Sermon – 2015)

Ash Wednesday, (February 18, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn 
(Matthew 6:1–6, 16–20)
Part One of a Nine Part Series on the Lord’s Prayer

TITLE: “Our Father”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter six. We are also looking at the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven”.

Today/tonight we begin the Holy Season of Lent, where repentance and faith are foremost in the mind, where turning away from the things of this world and turning toward the things of God are in the front of our minds. It is a time of identity, for it is a time of remembering who we are as God’s holy children.

But that is not something we do by nature. We tend to treat God more like our butler than Our Father. God is the one who comes when I need Him, who fixes problems when I have them, and who will dutifully fade into the background when, well, when I have more important things to do. In other words, we have forgotten our relationship with our heavenly Father entirely. We have sold the birthright of being children of the Heavenly Father for something less, much, much less.

Prayer is a conversation God starts in His Word, but you can hardly tell it by how we treat it. We tend to treat prayer as the afterthought, like the college student who only calls home when he needs money or a ride. We hardly treat prayer like the very heartbeat of our relationship to Him, the essence of our place as God’s children.

God invites you to believe that He is your Father, the one of loves you above all and who gives Himself completely, utterly to you. He wants to be your Father, not your butler, not your maid, or your judge, or your policeman. He wants to comfort you and give you Himself. Remember again St. John’s words, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1 ESV)

But you cannot receive Him as your Father. Not on your own. Your relationship to Him is broken. God tenderly invites you to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true Children. But that belief, that faith does not come from you. He gives it to you. And in order for you to fully understand that, to fully grasp the depth of His mercy toward you, He sends His only-begotten Son to you to be your Brother, so He may teach us all what it means to call out, “Our Father who art in heaven”.

In a way, Ash Wednesday and Lent is really about restoration. It is about restoring our relationship to God by hearing from Him and receiving His gifts. We put ashes on our foreheads to point to the reality of death and how broken our relationship to God really is. But God is rich in mercy and love to you and all His fallen children. He restores you, washes off the ashes of death and makes you new in Him by His own Son’s death and resurrection.

You have a place at the Father’s Table, and you are now a part of the holy conversation of God. Repent of your sins, remember who you are in Christ Jesus, and receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Come to Him with boldness and confidence as dear children come to their dear Father. Come, speak with Him, listen to Him, and join in the holy conversation of heaven.

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.

2015-02-01 – Sermon: “Cleansed by the Authority of Jesus” – Mark 1:21-28


Epiphany 4b, (February 2, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(Mark 1:21–28)

TITLE: “Cleansed by the Authority of Jesus”

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

Spiritual warfare is something we don’t talk about much as Lutherans. Images tend to come up of either some weird movie about exorcisms, or some charismatic TV preacher wacking someone on the head, or of something else that I can’t even imagine.

The Bible, however, has a lot to say about spiritual warfare. Probably the most familiar verses are the ones from Ephesians six:

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)

For Jesus as well as for St. Paul and the whole Church, spiritual warfare is real, very real. It is serious business.

Now for us, spiritual warfare does not normally come in the form of an obvious demon possession, like we have in our Gospel this morning. No, today I would say spiritual warfare comes more in the form of the battle of the conscience. Our conscience is that voice of the heart that God gave at creation, it is your tie to the perfect will of God. It is the barometer that senses your pressure with God and with the world around you. And it was damaged, oh so very damaged by the fall into sin. Today by nature your conscience, left to its own devices, well, it works, but a lot more like an old Ford Pinto than the perfectly tuned instrument which God created.

And so there is a battle at work, a battle for your soul. Satan seeks to overthrow you by violating and damaging your conscience. He wants control of you, because, well, because he is a liar and a murderer from the beginning. He stands condemned, and quite frankly he wants you in hell with him. It is a battle, a war, and you are the battleground.

So let’s get to our text from St. Mark, and hear how Jesus does battle for you. We are still near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, shortly after He has called the disciples. They are in Capernaum, in Galilee in the North. Not far from home for him. While they are there in Capernaum, Jesus immediately goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He goes and teaches in the synagogue. He is a Rabbi, after all.

They were astonished at Jesus, because He taught as one who had authority, not as one of the scribes. In other words, Jesus taught like He knew what He was saying. He is the Word made flesh, after all. So when the Word preaches the Word, well, He’s going to know His stuff.

But there was one person in particular who was offended, not astonished, at Jesus’ teaching. A man with an unclean spirit. In other words, he is possessed by a demon. And this unclean demon makes this man unclean, and tarnishes his conscience.

But the demon cannot bear to be in the presence of the Holy One of Israel. The holiness of God cannot bear to be with such unholiness. It is in conflict, at war. And so this demon knows what is at stake. What is at stake is the man’s very soul. The demon, who is unnamed, does not want the name of Jesus to be in his presence. That will mess up everything.

Think of it this way. Why is it that some are no comfortable being in church? Why is it that some cannot be settled here, cannot handle a place dedicated to God and His mercy? For all of us, a holy place like this highlights the war that is within us all. Your sin wants to gain mastery over you, and being in God’s presence, well, that rather messes up Satan’s plan doesn’t it.

In our episode of Jesus’ life, the demon can’t seem to keep his mouth shut. The demon-filled-man cries out, ““What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”” (Mark 1:24 ESV)

The answer, of course, is yes. Jesus comes into the world to destroy the devil, the sinful world and even our own sinful nature. He comes to do battle, and He will wage that war all the way to His own death on the cross. But Jesus does not engage in dialog with Satan. He does not argue with him or the like. satan is the enemy.

One Lutheran pastor from the twentieth century commented on this reality as follows,

“Every pastor knows, or should know, that there are cases, when a discussion is impossible and the only answer to a question can be that ‘Begone, Satan!’ which Jesus spoke not only to the devil (Matthew 4.10), but also to his faithful confessor, Simon Peter (Matthew 16.23). Not every question can be settled by means of a friendly discussion. It is necessary to remember this in an age which has a superstitious belief in dialog as the infallible means of setting everything. There are questions raised by the devil to destroy the Church of Christ.” (Hermann Sasse, On the Ordination of Women)

The result of all this is that Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, comes to save you. He comes to save you by doing battle with Satan. His weapon is Himself. And our weapon is this same battle.

The devil loves to prick your conscience. He loves to fling the Law at you and to convince you that God doesn’t love you, that you are unclean and that you deserve nothing but death and hell. And your answer, beloved, is that Christ has covered you with His own blood. The book of Hebrews puts it this way: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22 ESV)

You are clean. The devil has no power over you. You cannot be possessed of such evil spirits, because the Spirit of Christ dwells in you by the power of your Baptism. Jesus commands the unclean spirits, and they obey Him, because He is their Lord.

Today you come into the presence of the Holy God, into His holy temple, the temple of His Son’s Body and Blood. But you come into this great and mighty place with a clean conscience, whole and undefiled. This is not your doing. It is His doing, and His alone.

This is your hope, dearly baptized. Trust in His authority, for it is from God the Father alone. Trust in His Word, for it is what forgives you all your sins. Trust in His Body and Blood, for it cleanses you from all sin.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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

Sermon 2-1-15.mp3

Follow (Epiphany IIIb, January 25, 2015)

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

(Mark 1:14–20)

TITLE: “Follow”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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

Sermon 1-25-15.mp3