Category Archives: Sermon

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Come to the Feast (Proper 23a, October 12, 2014)

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Proper 23a (October 12, 2014)

Matthew 22:1-14

TITLE: “Come to the Feast”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  Our text for this morning is the Gospel lesson just read, with focus on Jesus’ words from the parable: For many are called, but few are chosen.

God loves weddings.  He loves weddings so much that he created a special Garden for the very first wedding in Eden.  Adam and Eve.  Truly the perfect couple.  God loves weddings, families and children so much that He even uses this image as a picture of Christ and His love for His Holy Bride, the Christian Church.  A wedding is the union of a man and a woman in love and faithfulness for life.  It is a mark and sign of hope in the world.  It is a sign that there is life and a future, no matter what may come.  Marriage involves children, and children are the work of God in our midst.

So because God loves weddings, it shouldn’t surprise us that they appear so often in the Scriptures. It seems like marriage and weddings are all over the place in the Bible.  The Garden of Eden.  Ruth and Boaz. The wedding at Cana.  All of these parables about banquets and feasts.  Most all of them are not just about a group of people getting together to eat.  No, they are almost without exception wedding banquets.  And these banquet parables usually begin with something like “the kingdom of heaven is like a marriage feast that the king had for his son….”  The feast is for the marriage of the Son, and we are guests of honor.

The marriage feasts happens on top of a mountain, of all places.  This great feast that God throws for His bride.  It happens on a mountain, not in a Garden like the first marriage.  Isaiah talks about it in chapter twenty-five of his prophecy:

And in this mountain

      The LORD of hosts will make for all people

      A feast of choice pieces,

      A feast of wines on the lees,

      Of fat things full of marrow,

      Of well-refined wines on the lees.

       7 And He will destroy on this mountain

      The surface of the covering cast over all people,

      And the veil that is spread over all nations.

       8 He will swallow up death forever,

      And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces;

      The rebuke of His people

      He will take away from all the earth;

      For the LORD has spoken.

       9 And it will be said in that day:

      “ Behold, this is our God;

      We have waited for Him, and He will save us.

      This is the LORD;

      We have waited for Him;

      We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

On this mountain of the Lord, this marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom which has no end, the Son destroyed death forever.  That was the wedding present.  It was the gift He gave to His Holy Bride, the Church.  Death is swallowed up in victory.  Life reigned where death once ruled.

Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that a three-fold strand is not easily broken.  The earthly marriages that we see all around us, or that we may even be blessed to receive ourselves, they are held together by the cord of the Word of God.  They point us to this great Marriage of the Lamb and His Bride.

Like most marriages, this great wedding produces children.  Only the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride, the Church, produces children not by the will of the flesh, but by the will of God, borne out in Holy Baptism.   In a sense, you could even say that Baptism is the garment that we now wear.  In ancient times a child was baptized naked and then received a white garment, to show the white robe of righteousness given in Baptism.  We don’t do that anymore, but it is a good picture.

So who comes to the wedding?  Who is invited?  Who receives this gift of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation given by these holy waters and won by blood on the mountain?  Everyone is invited.  As our hymn put so eloquently:

A multitude comes from the east and

To sit at the feast of salvation

With Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

Obeying the Lord’s invitation.

Have mercy upon us, O Jesus! (LSB 514:1)

Everyone is invited.  But even more, everyone is offered the garment of salvation in Holy Baptism.  God plays no favorites.  He is not unfair or mean.  He invites one and all, and He gives what is required.  God’s Son, Jesus, paid the price on the mountain so that you could sit at this feast of salvation.  If some refuse God’s gracious invitation, then that is their own doing, not His.

But this day the feast is before us!  God has come into our midst.  He loves a wedding, and He wants you as the honored guest at the feast.  Come to the waters, you who are weary.  Come to the Table, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Come to the mountain, you who long for what only God can give.  Come to the wedding.  Everything is prepared.  Come to the Feast!

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting.  Amen

The Suffering of Jesus (Matthew 16:21-28) Proper 17a

Pentecost 12, Proper 17a, (August 31, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(Matthew 16:21–28)

TITLE: “The Suffering 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. Matthew chapter sixteen.

Peter is at it again. It is right after his great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” For one, shining moment, it seemed as though he got it. Peter is the rock! Peter is the Man!

Then Jesus tells him the rest of the story.

Betrayal, suffering, death and THEN resurrection? I don’t think so! “May it never happen to you,” Peter declares. And in one fell swoop, Simon Peter demonstrates that he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand what is going on with all this talk of suffering and death. HE doesn’t understand the relationship between Jesus the Messiah and Jesus the Suffering Servant.

Neither do you. Christians shouldn’t suffer, or so the worldly church would tell you. Christians should be positive and upbeat! Christians should never fear death or hurt in any way.

Tell that to the 100,000 Christians who have lost their homes in Iraq and Syria this year. Tell it to the widows and orphans of those who have been murdered by a religion of “convert to Allah or die.”

Suffering for the Christian faith isn’t an option; it is a gift. A gift, you say? How can suffering be considered a gift? Peter learned this, eventually. He wrote of it in his First Epistle:

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6–7 ESV)

let’s be honest here. Most of us have never suffered for being a Christian. Not like Jesus and Peter are talking about. Oh we suffer. We suffer for being human. We suffer because we are broken and frail and we suffer because of our sin, and the sins of others. We are more like the thief on the cross than we are the modern day martyrs:

“But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”” (Luke 23:40–43 ESV)

Here’s the thing which Peter forgot and we forget ever day. Anything that gets between you and Jesus’ death and resurrection, anything, is from Satan. Or is being used by Satan, if you prefer. What suffering does is strips away all of the bravado and false piety, all of the stuff that would get in the way of eternal life in His name. St. Peter tells us to rejoice when such opportunities present.

So what does this all mean for you and me as Western Christians at the dawn of the 21st Century?

The answer is simple: repent. Repent of the notion than you are better than Peter. You’re not. You are as guilty as he was of wanting a different Jesus. Repent of your self-righteousness and your desire to have a sanitized and safe Jesus. Repent of thinking that the suffering, real suffering of Christians around the world couldn’t happen to you, or that you are somehow above their sorrows.

Peter wept bitter tears at his own betrayal of our Lord. And you know what? God restored him. He lifted Peter up, fed him and gave Peter a place at the table with the Twelve. He didn’t deserve it. But God is about mercy, not keeping score.

And so it is for you. Our Lord did not shy away from the cross. He did it for you. He still does. His wounds still plead before God on your behalf. And now he bids you to follow him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once ssaid,

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

But remember that to die with Jesus means you are raised with Jesus. Remember Romans Six?

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:2–4 ESV)

Death and resurrection. That is your life under the cross. And while it may not always appear so today, one day, beloved, one day you will shine like stars, and God will give to you the thrones of the Kingdom, and you will be lifted up and honored far above your station, and mine. One day, by God’s grace, it will happen.

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.

 

Looking to Jesus (Funeral Sermon for Bob Browner, August 19, 2014)

Tuesday of Pentecost 10, (August 19, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
John 11:20–27

TITLE: “Looking to Jesus”

Friends and family of Bob, especially Gloria: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter eleven. We focus on the words from St. Paul, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52 ESV)

Robert Gene (a.k.a. “Bob”) Browner was born the son of Cecil and Nannie Mae Browner in San Jacinto, California, on February 20, 1933. He was baptized the same year. He was confirmed in the Lutheran faith at First Lutheran Church in Concord, California, in 1965. Bob died in Christ, surrounded by his daughters and especially his wife, Gloria, on August 12 in the year of our Lord, two-thousand fourteen. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”” (Rev. 14:13 ESV)

IMG 7163In a twinkle of an eye. There was something about Bob that always made you feel like there was more going on than meets the eye. In these latter years of his life, as I came to know him, he moved slowly. He didn’t always speak, and when he did, they were usually short bursts or quips about something or another. But you could tell, you could see it in his eyes. There was more going on. And frankly, you kind of wanted to know what was going on in there.

That is a pretty good picture of the Christian life under the cross, if you think about it. Bob spent his life working, taking care of his wife and family, especially his grandchildren. We could talk about trains, or building, or golf, or one of the manner of things that made Bob tick. I’m sure I don’t know the half of them. And He was not one for big speeches, at least not in these latter years. But there was and is one thing that makes Bob who he is. Bob is baptized.

Notice what I said there. I didn’t say that Bob was baptized, like this was something that happened long ago and doesn’t matter anymore. No, Bob is baptized. For there is the key, beloved. Bob’s identity was shaped as a child of God when he was baptized. That identity means he is a child of God, an heir of the kingdom of heaven, and that a time is coming, a twinkling of an eye, a time is coming when he will be raised again from the dead.

This is what we call the Gospel, dear friends. The Gospel is that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for Bob’s sins, and yours. Bob was not perfect. Far from it. Neither are you, or me. Bob was a sinner who needed God’s forgiveness. Bob was a sinner, but he is baptized, a child of God and an heir of eternal life. For when Jesus died on the cross, He died for you, and me, and Bob, and indeed, for the whole world. But three days later He rose again from the dead.

Job, even in the midst of all his suffering, Job recognized what God promises in the Messiah. Here again those great words from the prophet:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:25–27 ESV)

On the Last Day, Bob will rise again from the dead. And there will be no more stoop in his back. No more Parkinson’s disease. No more sin or sorrow. No more fear. There will only be joy in the presence of God Himself.

Today, though, we grieve. We miss Bob, and so there is sorrow and pain at our loss. Jesus Himself wept at the death of His friend, Lazarus, and so it is okay for you to weep as well. But remember again those words Jesus spoke to His friend, Martha, who also grieved the death of her brother. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25).

That is God’s promise to Bob and to all of you. Death is but a sleep, and at the sound of the trumpet on the Last Day, you, and me, and Bob, and all the saints of God will rise again, whole and undefiled. And that, beloved, is really, really good news indeed.

So until then, Bob, rest well in Jesus. Rest well, until we are reunited with saints and angels and all the company of heaven. I look forward to seeing the twinkle in your eye on that day, for it will be a sight to behold. God is faithful. He will do it.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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

Ordination Sermon for Rev. Troy W. Peperkorn (July 6, 2014)

PeperkornTroy07 06 2014

4th Sunday after Pentecost, (July 6, 2014)
St. John Lutheran Church, Reinbeck, Iowa
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
(Luke 24:44–49, Romans 10:14–17)
The Ordination of Rev. Troy W. Peperkorn

TITLE: “I Will Be With You”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter twenty four, as well as the epistle from Romans ten.

Today is a great day in the Christian Church, and especially for you, the saints gathered here at St. John’s Lutheran Church, and for you, Troy. Today Christ’s promises are kept once again. Today the words He spoke to His disciples so many years ago continue to be fulfilled in your very ears. Today is the culmination of years of prayer and careful study on the part of soon-to-be Pastor Peperkorn. It is the culmination of years of sacrifice on the part of many to come to this point, when he is ordained as the pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church. What a great day! We are all blessed to be here and rejoice in God’s mercy this day.

When God came to Moses in the burning bush, Moses was not exactly excited about being a prophet and deliverer to the people. He had one objection after another. They won’t listen, they don’t trust me, they don’t know God’s name, I can’t speak well. To the last one, the Lord said, “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”” (Exodus 4:12 ESV)

When God called Jeremiah the prophet, Jeremiah was not exactly excited about his calling as a prophet. Hear this little exchange between the Jeremiah and the Lord:

“Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.”” (Jeremiah 1:6–8 ESV)

Later in our Old Testament reading, God said to Jeremiah, “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth.” (Jeremiah 15:19 ESV)

Your vocation, your calling, Pastor Peperkorn, is to be God’s mouthpiece to these, His people. God cares deeply for His people. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and rise again from the dead for their sins. As Jesus Himself said,

““Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46–47 ESV)

That is the content of your preaching, teaching, and indeed your very life in this place. Repentance and forgiveness. Law and Gospel. Sin and Grace. Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen from the dead. You are here to teach people who God is by proclaiming His saving Word to them.

But God cares enough that He is not satisfied to only send a book to them. God does not text His people with the greatest news of all time. He doesn’t Facebook them. He doesn’t even call them on the phone. St. Paul does not say, “so then, faith comes by reading.” In this place, God has called and sent you as His mouth. He does this because of His great love for these, His sheep, His bride, His people.

But for you, this day, God speaks a word of promise, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:20 ESV) Now this isn’t a pie-in-the-sky promise. This is not mere wordplay. This is not God saying “I will be in your heart, so that every time you think sad thoughts, I will remind you that I’m really here.” No, this is God delivering the same promise to you that you will now deliver to His people. I will be with you.

But how is God with you? For every beautiful sunset there is a tornado. For every birth there seems to be a death. For every joy there is sadness. God’s promises, His enduring presence for you, are not bound to your experience. Experiences change. Emotions come and go. Feelings are just that, feelings. God does not bind His promises to you in how you feel about Him. He binds Himself to you in His Word.

God’s Word is the great, precious jewel of the Lutheran Church. It is what will sustain you when you don’t know what to do. Now God’s Word does this not by answering every tickling tricky question that your confirmation students will throw at you, or your Bible classes. God’s Word sustains you be grounding you in who you are as a Baptized child of God, and in who you are as the called pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church.

If there is one thing that I have learned as a pastor, one piece of advice that I would give, it is that you get really, really comfortable with the words, “I don’t know.” If our Lord’s Word speaks to it, well and good. But if the Scriptures don’t give you an answer, resist the urge to make up answers. I know, it sounds a little silly. But your people will learn to trust you, and you will want to be there for them, to answer all of their questions, especially the hard “why” questions that come in times of sorrow. It is at that time that you will be tempted to make up answers. But those words, “I don’t know,” free you from being God, and keep you being a pastor. You aren’t Buddah sitting upon a hill doling out advice to all who come and seek your great wisdom. You are the pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church, here to proclaim good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. And that is a far, far greater thing than having the answers to all of life’s questions. This also means that when you say “Thus says the Lord,” they will know that it is from the Lord and not from your own heart.

Okay, back on task. God promises to be with you by sending you His Holy Spirit through the Word. It’s why we wear red on this ordination day. As God’s man in this place, it is your gift and your privilege to release people from their sins, to comfort them with that same Word of promise which sustains you, to exhort them and call them to repentance when they sin, and to bring Christ’s saving love to bear on this community. Our Lutheran forebearers in the faith put it this way:

1 So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. 2 Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. 3 This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake. (AC V)

So that we may obtain this faith. Today, dear people of God, the Lord’s promises to you are fulfilled once again. Today God places His man in your midst to give you His Son, Jesus Christ. His lips will speak Law and Gospel to you. His hands will baptize your children and grandchildren, and will give you the precious body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. He is not perfect. He’s a sinner. I’m sure you’ll learn that soon enough. But God is merciful, and knows what He’s doing, and has delivered Pastor Peperkorn to you so that you mayhear and delare the praises of Him who calls us out to darkness into His marvelous light. Receive him as Christ’s man in your midst, love him and his family, for they are here for you. God will see it done, and will draw you up into Him on the Last Day.

So now, Pastor and congregation, come to the Altar of God with prayer and thanksgiving for all His mercies. come and receive Him who receives sinners and eats with them. Come and kneel before the Lord, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Come, for all things are now ready.

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.

Benedictus (farewell sermon for Pr. Marcus Zill)

Nativity of St. John the Baptist, transferred (June 22, 2014)
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church
Laramie, Wyoming
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(Luke 1:57–80)
Farewell Service for Pastor Marcus Zill

TITLE: “Benedictus”

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

In 1998, Bill Clinton was president of the United States. A.L. Barry was president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and there was this crazy fad hitting the country call the Internet. This past fall’s freshmen were right around 3 or 4 years old at the time. Sterling was but a wee pup, and Grant was a twinkle in his father’s eye. Bethany, Pastor Zill tells me, is as beautiful today as she was then. There was no Barack Obama in the White House. There wasn’t even a Bush or a Cheney in the White House! There was no 9/11, there was no second Iraq War, there was no Afganistan. In 1998, most of us hadn’t heard of this upstart rebel named Osama bin Laden. Matthew Shepherd was murdered in October of 1998, just a couple months before Pastor Zill arrived here. Pastor Zill’s favorite movie of the time wasn’t Godzilla, it was The Big Lebowski. (Okay, I just made that up, but it might be true…)

In just shy of sixteen years, Pastor Zill has done countless Baptisms and Weddings, a few funerals I expect, and by my reckoning, about 930 sermons. I leave it up to Pastor Zill to tell you whether he just repeated the sermons every four years or so. Maybe we can get that out of him later.

So in those years and time, Pastor Zill has carried out his duties here at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church. While I suppose we could talk about Higher THings, Christ on Campus, and this little project of his called LCMS-U, all of those really serve the ministry of the Gospel in this place. This is where things matter and find their purpose as a Lutheran pastor: pulpit, font, altar. This place, after all, is about God delivering His gifts ot His people in season and out of season. This place is about the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name, by water and Word, meal and the living voice of the Gospel. God creates faith in Jesus Christ here, has done so for generations, and will continue to do so long after Pastor Zill is gone. Our Lutheran forebearers put it this way:

1 So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. 2 Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. 3 This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake. (AC V)

What this means in plain English, Pastor Zill, is that it’s not about you. It’s about Christ, and what He does for His people through sinners like you and me and all these vested Knights of the clerical table here. It means that St. Andrew’s will go on, because of Christ’s promise to continue to bless and visit His people.

And as for you, dear flock at St. Andrew’s, there is life after Pastor Zill. I know, crazy to think of, isn’t it? Losing a beloved pastor, well, it really stinks. Some of you probably feel betrayed. Most are grieving. A few of you may be rejoicing. Change does that to all of us. It is what this campus church goes through every spring and fall, only this time, it is your pastor who is leaving over the summer. What a strange thing!

But God has a remarkable way of giving His Church just what she needs at just the right time. In our text for this afternoon, we hear the story of how God provided a son, John, for Zechariah and Elizabeth.

God showed mercy on Elizabeth and gave her a son. God will provide a son for you, too, that he may be a father and an undershepherd for you. I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing what great things God has in store for you here.

One other thing is worth nothing. This is not a “move up” for Pastor Zill. I hope you know that. He is giving up his pulpit, font and altar because he believes so strongly in the ministry of the Gospel on our nation’s college and university campuses. He’s giving up the things he loves for do the most, so that many more may come into Christ’s kingdom. Frankly, I think he’s crazy. But you probably already knew that. He’s always looking on the bright side of life, even when they are more than a little crazy.

Zechariah confessed his faith in the God who keeps His promises. Hear the words again, for they are the heart of who we are as God’s people:

““Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Luke 1:68–75 ESV)

Beloved of God, let us rejoice in His great mercies in sending us His Son, in sending faithful pastors and undershepherds, and in knowing that God will always give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Your future is secure, whether it be in Laramie, or Alburquerque, or wherever the Lord may lead. God is faithful. He will do it.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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