Category Archives: Sermon

Hearing the Voice of the Good Shepherd (Sermon for Brenda Grinager, January 23, 2015)

Memorial Service for Brenda Grinager, (January 23, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(John 10:27–30)

TITLE: “Hearing the Voice of the Good Shepherd”

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 ten as follows: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Brenda Alice (neé Southam) Grinager was born in England on March 19, 1939 and was baptized on April 23rd of that same year. She was confirmed in the Lutheran faith in 1964, the year after marrying her husband, Bruce. She died in Christ on January 17, 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)

The image of a sheep with its shepherd is one of the most common pictures in the Bible. Certainly it is one of the most familiar. It evokes a picture of someone who will go after the lost, no matter what. It is a picture of love and attention, even to the most wounded among us.

Now I can’t tell you a lot about Brenda, because I didn’t know her very well. I think I met her perhaps once or twice. But I can tell you this. She, like all of us, is a wounded sinner in need of redemption. Her various sicknesses left her isolated sometimes, unable to interact with the outside would quite like we would like or expect her to. In the midst of such hardships and sorrow, it is difficult, even impossible for those of us on the outside to really understand what was going on. I’m sure the closest to understanding her was her dear husband, Bruce, who stood by her side for over fifty years of marriage.

So I can’t tell you a lot about Brenda, but I will tell you about Brenda’s God, the Good Shepherd. Brenda’s body and mind sometimes made it hard to get out, but God is merciful and compassion, full of gracious love toward all His wounded sheep. And that includes Brenda. And that includes you and me. That is who God is, He is the God of hope, who will not let his lost ones stay lost.

Things were not always right with Brenda, nor with you or me. But there will come a time when everything will be made right. Job reminds us of this, as he is in the midst of profound suffering and death. Hear again those words from Job:

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!” (John 19:25–27 ESV)

There will come a time, beloved, when God will call Brenda from the grave. She is a baptized child of God, and God does not back out of His promises. He will call to her, and just as on that day in 1939 when she was baptized at Holy Trinity Church, Southall, Middlesex, England, even so there will be a time when God will call upon her and, by His grace, she will answer with the Amen of faith.

In the meantime, we grieve and wait. We grieve at the loss of a wife and mother and friend. And we wait until the day we are reunited in Christ, who draws all things to Himself.

So rest well, Brenda. Be at peace, for Christ is at peace with you.

Believe it or Jesus’ ake. Amen.

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

The House that God Built (Luke 1:26-38, Advent 4b, December 21, 2014)

Advent 4b, (December 21, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(Luke 1:26-38)

Annunciation CHAMPAIGNE Philippe de c 1644

Sermon 12-21-14.mp3

TITLE: “The House that God Built”

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.

King David had it all. His enemies were dust under his feet. He had a beautiful wife, Michal. He had a grand city, Jerusalem. He had a palace that was the envy of kings for hundreds of miles. King David had everything. And it was then that a thought occurred to him: I should build a house for God!, for he is still traveling in a tabernacle. God deserves better than that, so he thought. So David set about to build a better house for God. A temple made with hands, that would be beautiful beyond all imagination, that would put that lowly tent of a tabernacle completely to shame. God will come down and dwell with us even more if we make everything just right for Him down here.

Isn’t that how it goes so often? We believe, instinctively, that in order for God to come down and dwell among us, we have to set things up just right. Our house must be in order. Things must be just so. We can’t let anyone or anything be out of place, or God may not want to really be with us.

Do you live with that mindset? Now I know that we don’t consciously think this way, but underneath it all, I suspect that for us all there is a sense that in order for things to be right with God, we have to, well we have to clean house. Maybe even build a new house for God. I shudder to think of how many people never darken the door of a church because they fear that they have to get their act together in order for God to accept them.

God had an answer for his servant, David. He said through the prophet, Nathan:

“have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”” (2 Samuel 7:9–11, 16 ESV)

This is where Mary comes in, and the angel Gabriel. David wanted to do something for God, but he was too weighed down by his sins and transgressions to have anything to offer. For centuries humanity had been weighed down by sin and shame. Death has ruled over us all.

But no more.

The archangel Gabriel came to Mary, a peasant girl from the house of David. His greeting sets the stage for the most amazing story of all time. ““Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”” (Luke 1:28 ESV) That term “O favored one,” is one of the richest in the whole Bible. It literally means “graced one” or something like that. It means that God looks upon you with eyes of kindness. As we say in the benediction, God shines upon you, lifts up his countenance upon you, and gives you peace.

That is how God looks at this young girl from the backwards city of Nazareth. God would give her a child by the Holy Spirit, and that child would be the very Word of God made flesh. Mary’s womb became the tabernacle through which God Himself came into the world.

By entering into the womb of Mary, he made the womb the most holy place of all. It is here that life itself begins. And not just any life. It is here that Life, real and true and eternal begins, not just for Jesus, or for Mary, but for the entire world. I don’t think we can overestimate how amazing a gift that is to us all.

This child, this little, helpless babe, is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This is is the heir to the throne of David. He is your king and mine, but His rule is not in power and show. Rather, His rule is much like His coming into the world. Lowly, through the unexpected, the marginalized, the least of His people, at least to the eyes of the world.

Beloved, the world does not look at Mary as God does. And in the same way, the world does not look at you the same way God does. To the world, you are nothing. A statistic, one of billions, and your life has no purpose, no meaning. It doesn’t go anywhere. You live and then you die.

But that is not how God looks at you. God looks at you with the eyes of grace, the eyes which gazed upon the Mother of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. His graceful eyes now turn to you, and in you He sees eternity. This mystery was kept secret for many ages, but is now revealed in Jesus Christ. By coming into your flesh and blood through the womb of the Virgin, God becomes man so that we may receive all of His blessings and gifts.

And you receive that same Son, those same blessings, today in the Sacrament of the Altar. Like Mary you do not deserve to receive Him, but He comes to you nonetheless. He comes to you now, hidden under bread and wine, and He gives you His very body and blood for life and salvation.

So come, worship the Christ-child by receiving His flesh and blood in this most Holy Sacrament. Eternal life is yours. You are holy by His flesh and blood. God looks upon you with favor, and He lifts you out of your sins and sets you up as His family, for that is who you are in Christ.

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.

Two Parades into Jerusalem (Advent 1b, 2014)

Advent 1b, (November 30, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(Mark 11:1–11)

Sermon 11-30-14.mp3

TITLE: “Two Parades Into Jerusalem”

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 eleven.

Two parades took place that week, the beginning of what we call Holy Week. The first was a parade from the west, where the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, entered into Jerusalem, the conquered city. He came from Caesarea, the center of the Roman government. He had to be present in Jerusalem for this Jewish feast that everyone was talking about. Passover, it was called. Well, he wasn’t there to worship. As the governor, he was also in charge of crowd control. The Jewish people of his day had a tendency to get testy at Roman rule, and they were known to riot if just the right, or wrong circumstances happened. Now Pilate was a soldier, and so he entered into God’s city with all the pomp and bravado that the military could muster. Rows of infantry and cavalry, and Pilate himself on a large stallion, as befit his rank. But there was no cheering to this crowd. Only silence. Pilate was the representative of Caesar, the one known as the “lord of all” and “savior of the world”, and even “a son of the gods”. He was power and control. Pilate was everything about how to world really worked in his day, and in ours.

Now contrast that with another procession, coming in from the east. A preacher and miracle worker was entering into this thronging city. But his entrance could not be more ironic. One rides a stallion, the other an untamed colt of a donkey. One has soldiers and protectors who will guard him with their lives. The other has a group of disciples who half the time don’t seem to get what he’s doing, and when they do actually get it, they try to stop him from doing it! One has the backing of the greatest power on earth, the might of Rome. The other has the backing of the creator of the universe, but that “backing”, so-called, is hard to see at times. The people hate Pilate and seem to love Jesus. But in a few short days, the crowd of worshippers will turn into a riot and call for Jesus’ crucifixion. It seems that hatred run pretty deep in some places.

So where do you fit in this topsy-turvy world? Do you fit with Pilate, with power and authority? Are you ready to riot when things are unfair or unjust? Or are you ready to sit in judgment of those people, safe behind closed doors and gated communities, glad that you don’t have to associate with such people. The fact is that whether we are silent watching Pilate, or releasing our “hosannas” and “save me now” cries to the preacher/miracle worker, in either case, we sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are fickle. We want to have our own way. We don’t want anyone telling us what to do. Not the government. Not any preacher. And least of all God. We want what we want when we want it, and we will not be denied. While there are riots in St. Louis and around the country of one sort, we also saw the riots of Black Friday as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s justice, or stuff, or my team to win, we are more like lost sheep or stubborn mules than we are anyone else. Repent.

What our Lord does in our text today is invite you to another way. The way that He goes is not the way of the world, it is not the way of Pilate. Remember again the words from our Old Testament reading this morning:

“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.” (Isaiah 64:1–3 ESV)

When God comes down, it is not what the world expects. God enters into our world, which is really His world all along. He enters into this world that is so far gone, and His entry is violent. But it is not violent because He is violent. No, it is violent because the enemies of Christ know that their time is short. Christ our Lord has come down to lead us home to be with Him, and the devil, the world, and our own sinful hearts, well they want nothing to do with a king of peace.

And yet He comes. Remember again those words from the hymn:

“Sin’s dreadful doom upon us lies; Grim death looms fierce before our eyes. O come, lead us with mighty hand From exile to our promised land. (LSB 355:6)

And yet He comes. He in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, as a child small and helpless. He comes as a lowly carpenter-turned-preacher. He comes into His city as the king of irony, the Word of God incarnate, riding atop an untamed colt. He comes to die for you and for me. He comes to life again, for you and for me. He comes through simple water, and calls Gabriel (Mitchell) to be His own. He comes to you now, hidden under bread and wine which is His body and blood. And He will come again in glory, to lead us with a mighty hand to our home with Him, a new heavens and a new earth.

And today He calls you by the Gospel. He calls you out of darkness into His light. He calls you to turn away from the love of self, from the false gods of this world. He calls you to live as a child of God, and heir of the kingdom of heaven. He calls you to live as free men and women, free to love your neighbor as yourself, free to sacrifice because He has made the greatest sacrifice. He calls you to all this and more, and it is a great and mighty calling.

Trust in your King to save you, for He will. Follow Him, for He will lead you through death to everlasting life 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.

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.