Category Archives: Sermon

2014-03-30 – Lent 4 Sermon: “Blind To Seeing” – John 9

Lent 4a, (March 30, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(John 9)

Sermon 3-30-14.mp3

TITLE: “Blind to Seeing”

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 nine.

Who sinned, the man or his parents? That was the question they asked of Jesus. The man before Him had been blind from birth. This was no temporary illness, not injury or sudden onslaught from disease or malnourishment. He was broken to the core, from the time of his birth.

Whenever we see something terrible happening to someone else, there is one part of us that assumes he or she somehow deserved it. What sin had they committed in order to bear such a punishment? In Jesus’ day, this was even more so than now. A sickness was the sign of sin, and a sickness from birth was even a greater sin. This person was unclean from the very beginning. They could not enter into the presence of God, because of their imperfections

So it should come as no surprise that Jesus’ disciples wanted to know where He stood on such matters. Was it this man’s sin, or his parents?

Notice that Jesus doesn’t exactly answer the question. He doesn’t say whether it was this man or his parents. I am reminded of the words from Exodus chapter twenty, which we learn from our catechism:

“I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” [Ex. 20:5–6]

Now the answer that we would like to hear is that neither has sinned. The man isn’t blind, he is differently enabled. It is not that he is broken, it is that he has different gifts and abilities than other people.

While this is, of course, true in one sense, it is hard to get around the very simple reality that God created us to live, and to see, hear, touch, taste and smell. That is how God created us, and when things don’t work that way, well, clearly something is not right. We cannot let our love and compassion teach us to act as though nothing is wrong. And make no mistake about it, sickness is wrong. It is not how God intended us to live. Jesus Himself would say in the next chapter of John’s Gospel:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV)

God did not create in order to destroy. He does not delight in brokenness, or in seeing how we make such a huge mess of our lives. Far from it. He comes so that they may have life, real, full, abundant life in Him.

This is why Jesus comes to this man born blind, spits on the ground to make a divine mud-paste, and puts it on the man’s eyes. Man was made from the dust of the ground, and so it is that Jesus remakes creation from the mud of the earth. He anoints the man’s eyes with the mud. Then the man washes his eyes, baptizes them if you will, and he sees.

The Pharisees are not happy about this. Jesus isn’t playing by the rulebook. He doesn’t realize the man is ritually unclean, and that there must be some secret sin that someone did in order to get him in such a state.

Now it’s not that Jesus didn’t care; it’s just that, well, He didn’t care! Sabbath or no Sabbath, Jesus’ work of restoring creation will not follow anyone else’s schedule. Likewise, the once blind man doesn’t know where all this came from. He doesn’t understand all the fuss here. The Pharisees make accusations and point fingers, remember laws that they have made up to serve their own purposes. At one point they accuse Jesus of being a public sinner who should be condemned. The formerly blind man’s response is pretty good:

““Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”” (John 9:25 ESV)

There is something deliciously, beautifully simple about this man’s response. I don’t claim to have all the answers, he says. But this I know, Jesus is the one who healed me.

So what does all of this mean to you, dearly baptized? It means this. St. Paul tells us that “…at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8 ESV) Jesus Christ is God and man who came to earth to crush Satan underfoot, to rescue us from sin and death by His own death and resurrection. That’s who He is. That’s what He does.

Only the Son of God can do that. Only He can heal us of our sin, forgive us, and draw us up into God. He’s it. There is no one else that can do the things that He does.

Coming to Church is about receiving those gifts of God from the One who promises you all things. It is easy to give out advice. It is easy to give a motivational speech. Play the right music and you can get people into the mood for conversion. But only God can raise the dead. Only God can take poor, miserable sinners like you and me, lift us up and seat us at His heavenly table.

That is what God does for you here, in this place. He draws you here by His Word, and He heals you of your blindess. He heals you of your blind ignorance of His Word and Will. He heals you of your blindness to your neighbor and His need. And above all, He heals you so that you can look to Him for every need of body and soul.

That is what God does for you in this place. It is a place like no other, because He is a God like no other. Come, rest in the Word and Spirit of God Himself. Come and see the wonderful works of God, wrought for you on the cross and in the tomb, at the font and on this altar. Come and rejoice, for God Himself does all these things for you.

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.

At the Well (Lent 3a, 2014)

Lent 3a, (March 23, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(John 4:5–26)

TITLE: “At the Well”

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 four.

The whole incident in John chapter four is rather strange. Not long after he had his nighttime conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus goes to a town of Samaria called Sychar. While he is there he is thirsty, and is sitting by a well. A woman comes by, a Samaritan woman, and Jesus asks her for a drink.

Now to you and me, this is not a big deal. He would like a drink but doesn’t have any way to get the water. He has nothing to use to draw the water from the well. Someone comes by and He asks for water. No big deal. Right? Wrong.

In Jesus’ day this was crossing the enemy lines. Jews and Samaritans never, never talk. They just don’t. They are sworn enemies. The Samaritans were half-breeds. They only accepted some of the Old Testament Bible. Many of them were considered traitors because they went along with the Romans in conquering the land. So for Jesus to ask her for a drink would be for us like siddling up to the bar with Charles Manson or someone equally evil, or worse. You just didn’t do it.

But Jesus did. Jesus went to this woman and asked for her help. He was not full of the pride and righteous indignation that infects us all. Pride of place and people and race. Pride of income and status. This pride had no place in our Lord, and so He asks for help. God’s glory is in showing mercy. That’s what makes him tick. That is who He is.

Before we move on to their conversation, it is worthwhile for us to stop and ponder the reality that Jesus asked for help. We value self-sufficiency above all things in our world. The young can’t wait to ride a bike so they can get away. Freedom! The teen or tween (?) can’t wait for a phone. Or a car! A job! Money! All the way to the end of our lives, that concept of independence is hard-wired into us as the goal, the very purpose for living. This is why it is so hard when you are set back on your kiester. You can’t drive like you once did. You may not be able to walk, or talk, or see, or hear, or many of the others things you did when you were young. We are all on that journey, some just farther along than others.

But Jesus here asks her to help him with the simple words, “Give me a drink.” Asking for help isn’t a sign of failure. It is, quite literally, divine. Jesus asks for and receives help from all sorts of people in the Bible, from Mary His mother all the way down to the women who cared for His body as He died. Receiving care from others is a sign of our humanity, and it is a sign that we are really, truly all in this together, this thing called life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It was okay for Jesus. It is okay for you.

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled sermon. So when Jesus asks the woman for help, she is agast. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” Sometimes we learn something from God that is so startling, so strange and amazing that we just stop, sit back and wonder in amazement at what is really going on.

But things are going to get stranger for her: “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”” (John 4:10 ESV)

She doesn’t get it, not yet at least. He’s starting to talk about living water, using word-pictures to paint a glorious landscape of who God is and how He is the life-giving one. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men, as St. John said earlier.

She doesn’t seem to get it any better than Nicodemus got all of the “born again” stuff last week! Jesus is the Living Water which comes down from heaven. He is the one who provides life, not just for now, but forever. He is the source of life itself, just like everything lives today by its connection to water.

But eventually things start to get complicated for our Samaritan woman. It seems she wants to receive His teaching about the living water. So Jesus asks her to call her husband and come here. The woman says she has no husband. Which wasn’t exactly true. She had been married and divorced five times. We don’t know the cause of these divorces. What Jesus is pointing out to her is what she already knew: her life was messed up, almost beyond recognition. Nothing seemed to make sense in that world.

But here’s the thing. Jesus knew how sinful and messed up she was. And He still called out to her with the Gospel. That’s the key. Her sins were sins, but they were just sins. No more, and no less than anyone else. This woman had been shunned by her community, and certainly by the Jews already. And here comes this man who claims to be the Living Water, and what does He offer her? Life. Real life. Life in Him by Water and the Word.

Jesus knows that she is so broken, so sinful and twisted up that she didn’t even know what to ask for. Like so many others in the Scriptures, she could rightly say, “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” And He did.

So let’s bring this back to you. St. Paul reminds us in Romans chapter five that “…while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8 ESV)

Jesus knows how weak you are, like that woman, like Paul, like the whole church before and today and tomorrow. He knows. And He says to you, “come and drink.” He bids you come and learn from Him, for He is gentle and kind. He knows your every weakness, your every secret sin and shame. He knows, but He does not hold them against you. Just the opposite, in fact. He takes those sins and carries them with Him to the cross, where they are nailed.

Jesus asked for help and received it. Today He offers you the help that you need in your weakness and sorrow, confusion and hurts and pains. Come and learn from Him. Come and drink of the living water which comes down from heaven. It will refresh you in the journey, and give you hope.

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.

Under The Protection Of God (Ron Freeman Funeral Sermon 03-25-14)

Funeral for Ron Freeman, (March 25, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(Psalm 91)

TITLE: “Under the Protection of God”

Kevin, Melinda, family, colleagues and friends of Ron: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from Psalm 91 as follows: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”” (Psalm 91:1–2 ESV)

Ronald Lee Freeman was born on December 24, 1946 in Ohio. He was baptized on April 10, 1947. He was confirmed in the Christian faith in 1961. While his life was long and varied, particular notice should be made of his 23 years of service in the United States Army, his service as a police officer, and the protective care he has provided to many throughout his life. He is proceeded in death by his mother, Patricia, and his son, Brian. Ron died in Christ on March 20 in the year of our Lord, 2014. “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)

That Psalm we prayed a moment before, Psalm 91, is one that Ron and I prayed with his family several times over the past months. It is a hard thing when a man has spent his life protecting and caring for others, like Ron did, and then to be in a position of vulnerability. Alright, it isn’t hard. It really stinks. Ron did not belong in a hospital bed. He should not have been making decisions about dialysis and cancer treatments and chemotherapy and the wondering of what would happen next! As I watched Kevin keep vigil, and Melinda standing by his side, I couldn’t help but think that Ron had spent the better portion of his life watching over them, and others like them. Not the other way around.

But that is the grip which death has upon us, and upon this fallen world. The wages of sin is death, as St. Paul reminds us. And we are all dying, some sooner, some later. For Ron, it seemed like he was dying out of time. It wasn’t his turn yet. He still had things to do, places to see, people to meet. That’s the great evil of death. It is an interruption to life, it messes up the normal order of things. How is it that someone who survived two tours in Vietnam, decades in the army and police force, how is it that someone like that could die from a sick disease like cancer? It just isn’t right.

It is because death isn’t right that Jesus Christ came into the world. In the Christian Church, today is called the Annunciation of our Lord. It is nine months until Christmas, and so today is the day we remember when the angel Gabriel came to a girl named Mary, and told her that she would have a son, and would call His name Jesus, because He would save His people from their sins. Given that Ron was born on Christmas Eve, it seems appropriate that we remember this today.

If we could say anything about God, it is that He is the great protector. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the shadow of the almighty. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment of sin and death for Ron, for you and for me. He did this so that when we die, and we will all die, when we die, it will not be the end of our story, but merely the end of a chapter.

Ron was not perfect. He was broken and a sinner in need of redemption. You know this. So did He. I’m sure there are a few stories that could be told here today, but perhaps we should save those for the reception…

But that’s why God’s Word meant so much to Ron. That’s why Ron was at peace every time He received Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. He was covered with the mercy and love of God. The waters of Baptism means that even though we bury him today, that this is not the end of our brother, Ron.

You see, when Jesus rose from the dead, He didn’t just do it for Himself. Jesus rose from the dead for Ron, for me and for you. So now, Ron’s resting place is just that, a resting place. A stop in the journey. For on the last day Jesus Christ will raise Ron and all the dead, and give eternal life to Him and all believers in Christ.

Today we mourn and weep, for we miss Ron. His smile and his golf swing, his love of life and his love for his family and friends. We may weep today, but we weep knowing that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and that Ron and all believers in Christ will rise again from the dead on the last. As Job put it so well,

“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,” (Job 19:25–26 ESV)

So rest in peace, Ron. Rest in the comfort of Jesus’ death and resurrection, knowing that you are under the sheltering presence of God Himself. Rest in peace and don’t be afraid. You are under the protecting arms of God Himself, and we will be with you soon.

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.

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

Sermon 2-16-14.mp3

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

TITLE: “Life and How to Live It”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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

Hattie Kerry Funeral Sermon 02-08-2014

Funeral Service for Hattie Kerry (February 8, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Psalm 27:4

“At Home”

Kenetha, Teanna, Shamari, Rashad, Family and Friends of Hattie, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from Psalm 27 as follows: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalms 27:4 ESV)

Hattie (Taylor) Kerry was born on July 6, 1926. She was baptized in 1955. She joined Holy Cross Lutheran Church as a charter member in 1988. She married her dear husband, Paul Kerry, on August 1, 1953. He preceeded her in death by many years. She died in Christ in the year of our Lord, February 3, 2014. “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)

Hattie has been virtually one of the fixtures here at Holy Cross from the very beginning. I’m sure there are many people here who could tell us more stories than we could count about Hattie. My experience with her has only been the past couple years.

As her pastor, my experience with Hattie has been as the giver and receiver. She is the lady who sits in the back row in a wheelchair. She always has her book open and follows along with the service, more or less. She is always there when I come down with the elder to commune her. And she always said “thank you” when I was finished.

If I could put it this way, I would say that she was, well, at home here at Holy Cross. She always looked like she belonged here. And being one of the very few African American members here, that did not just happen.

But at the same time, it did. The verse from Psalm 27 above really captures what I’m talking about: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalms 27:4 ESV)

Hattie was a sinner like you and me. She made mistakes, she was broken, messed up and deeply in need, like so many of us. There were a lot of people who took care of her in different ways. This isn’t because she was bossy or excessively needy. It was because the wages of sin is death, and she was dying, like every one of us. That death comes quickly for some, and less quickly for others. But it comes to us all.

But there was a great sense with Hattie that she knew where her home was and is. Now I don’t mean sitting in that spot by the back pew, although that is true. I mean she knew that her home was in Christ. In other words, she knew she was baptized. Her identity is not bound up in places and things, or health or wealth or any of the pursuits that this world clammers after so often. Her identity was bound up in God, and in dwelling with Him forever.

I wish I could have known Hattie better. Every time I talked to her we ended up laughing about something. And for those of you who knew her better than me, I’m sure those memories go far, far deeper. That makes our hurt and sorrow all the harder to bear. But our sorrow is for a time. The book of Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for weeping and a time for joy. Our weeping comes from missing Hattie. She was a mother, a sister, and a friend to many. It is right that we weep and be sorrowful.

But do not weep as those without hope. We weep, but we weep with joy, knowing that the resurrection of the body is coming. We weep with a twinkle in the eye, knowing that our dear sister is without sorrow or pain or sadness. I think Hattie would appreicate a little twinkle in the eye, don’t you? For there will come a time, beloved, when you, too, will be raised from the dead and will be reunited with saints and angels and all the host of heaven. And that includes Hattie, and all of your other loved ones who have died in the faith.

Yes, there will come a day when the dead in Christ will rise up from their graves, and heaven and earth will be whole once again. There will come a day when all of our sorrows will be at an end, when every tear will be dried, and when everything that is wrong will be made right again. Hattie is at rest in that now, but it will be so for all of us. Hattie sees clearly what we can see but dimly, a faint trace of the beauty which is coming our way. But make no mistake about it, it is coming.

Hattie was at home here at the Altar of God, and this continues to be her home, as she is now at rest in Christ Jesus.

So until we meet again, dear sister, rest well. Rest well in the arms of your Savior, until the day we meet again in His glorious presence.

Believe it for the sake of Jesus Christ, our risen redeemer. Amen.

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