Tag Archives: Sermon

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Sir, We Wish to See Jesus (Higher Things – Crucified 2014 closing service)

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TITLE: “Sir, We Wish to See Jesus”

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Many pulpits throughout the world have the words from our text plastered where only the preacher can see them: Sir, we wish to see Jesus. Jesus Christ, crucified and bloody upon the tree is the content our our preaching and faith and indeed is the shape of our very lives as His children and followers.

Sir, we wish to see Jesus. It’s who you are, beloved. If you don’t see Jesus shaping your identity and making you in His image, that what do you see? You by nature would hide in the shadows, look in all the dark places, and seek only what would be your doom. You would look at yourself in pride, look in lust upon your neighbor, with, uh, “purpling” thoughts, and you would look with longing and envy at the things and stuff of this world.

Our lives are spent searching, hunting, longing, desiring and trying to find what you can never find on your own. You search and long for what you cannot have because the one thing needful was ripped from your heart on that dark day in the Garden of Eden so long ago.

And so Jesus Christ, our Lord, He is lifted up on the cross so that the whole world will look at Him in His glory. But look where His glory is found! His glory is in the folly of the cross. God’s nature, His very character as one of love and self-giving, that nature of God is what you see in this Jesus Christ in suffering and death upon the cross.
And I’m going to let you in on a secret, dearly baptized. We say with those Greeks long ago “Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” because Jesus Christ saw you before the foundation of the world. St. Paul put it this way:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:3–4 ESV)

So it is that God saw you in Creation. He saw you in Noah and the Flood. He saw you in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that is, He saw you in Israel. He saw you when He saved Israel from Egypt. He saw you in the waters of the Red Sea, as you crossed with Israel on dry ground. He saw you, rebellious and searching, and He called you home to Him, to draw you back from Exile.

But most importantly, our Lord, Jesus Christ, saw you as He hung upon the cross. You were on His mind and in His heart as He bore your sins to the grave. So You were You were in His eyes when He hung upon the cross. You were in His eyes with a love that even death itself could not conquer.

So the Christian Church in her preaching points you “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” As you begin your journey home, be refreshed in the waters of life. Receive the Word of hope which only He can give. Be renewed and strengthened in His Holy Supper all the days of your life, so that you may look upon Him who they pierced, and stand before His throne at the Last Day, holy and blameless and with great joy. “In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.” (Isaiah 45:25 ESV)

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

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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.

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)

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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.

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.