Category Archives: Sermon

Funeral Sermon for Ray Berkenbile (April 12, 2015)

Nancy and Susan, Carol, and all of Ray’s dear family, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is Psalm twenty-three. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”” (Rev. 14:13 ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

2015-04-12 Ray Berkenbile Funeral Sermon.mp3

Easter 2015 (April 5, 2015)

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

TITLE: “The Stone is Rolled Away”

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

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you have Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!

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

Deliver Us From Evil (Good Friday 2015)

Good Friday (April 3, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
John 19:30

TITLE: “Deliver Us from Evil”

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 eighteen and nineteen.

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Deliver us from evil. Those are the final words of our Lord’s Prayer that He gave to His disciples, and to us. Deliver us from evil. Deliver us from the evil one. This prayer only really makes sense if God has both the ability to save us, and the desire to save us.

We see the answer to both these questions in our Lord’s Passion and death.

Can God save us from the evil one? Yes he can. But the way He saves us is unexpected. He saves us by becoming one of us. Really He saves us by becoming us. Or even stranger, He becomes sin, takes sin into Himself, as St. Paul writes in Second Corinthians: “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) And as we well know, if you are a sinner, you die. It’s just that simple. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV)

So does God have the ability to save you? Yes, He does. The cost is, if it were even possible, higher than you could possibly imagine. The cost for your salvation is death. It will be either your eternal death, or someone has to stand in for you, act as your substitute, take your place and die your death so that you can live His life. So it is that at the end of our Lord’s life, we hear the following from St. John’s Gospel:

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30 ESV)

What is finished? Everything. Your salvation and deliverance from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation. That is the work of God (opus Dei), the great and mighty task of this world, which only He could do. And He has done it.

One ancient Good Friday liturgy puts it this way:

A dread and marvelous mystery we see come to pass this day. He whom none may touch is seized; he who looses Adam from the curse is bound. He who tries our hearts and inner thoughts is unjustly brought to trial. He who closed the abyss is shut in prison. He before whom the powers of heaven stand with trembling, stands before Pilate; the Creator is struck by the hand of a creature. He who comes to judge the living and the dead is condemned to the cross; the Destroyer of hell is enclosed in a tomb.  Byzantine liturgy; A Triduum Sourcebook 1, 83

So yes, He is able to save you, but has He done it for you? That is really the question, isn’t it? Given everything that you have done, all of your sin and guilt, all of your filthiness and unworthiness, has He really done it for you?

The answer to that question is a resounding YES. He has done it for the whole world, and He has indeed done it for you. He has done this because you are His dear child and heir. We call Him Our Father because Jesus Christ is our Brother. And this Brother is always faithful, always looking out for you, loves at all times, and will do anything, anything for you.

Now because of this, because Christ loves you and has saved you, there is nothing on this earth that you cannot face without fear. One theologian put it this way:

Jesus’ death, the ultimate horror of all history, for your sins. If you can face that, then there is nothing you cannot face, nothing you have to shut out or pretend isn’t there in all the hideous, twisted evil that we can see about us. There is no misery that goes deeper than the cross. The Crucified One is there and deeper down still. Everything that would destroy us Jesus has faced, and it did not destroy Him nor does it destroy those who are His.  Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel, pg. 231

So do not be afraid of the cross and suffering, even death itself. Jesus Christ has died for your sins, and by that death He has delivered you from all evil, from the evil one, and from hell itself. Do not shy away from the cross, as if it is a mere stopping point on to the Easter breakfast. Wait. Meditate. Listen. Remember. Hear the words again and again, for in His cross is your very life. It is here, at the cross, that He delivers you from all evil.

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.

“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.