Tag Archives: Sermon

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.

Our Father (Ash Wednesday Sermon – 2015)

Ash Wednesday, (February 18, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn 
(Matthew 6:1–6, 16–20)
Part One of a Nine Part Series on the Lord’s Prayer


TITLE: “Our Father”

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 six. We are also looking at the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven”.

Today/tonight we begin the Holy Season of Lent, where repentance and faith are foremost in the mind, where turning away from the things of this world and turning toward the things of God are in the front of our minds. It is a time of identity, for it is a time of remembering who we are as God’s holy children.

But that is not something we do by nature. We tend to treat God more like our butler than Our Father. God is the one who comes when I need Him, who fixes problems when I have them, and who will dutifully fade into the background when, well, when I have more important things to do. In other words, we have forgotten our relationship with our heavenly Father entirely. We have sold the birthright of being children of the Heavenly Father for something less, much, much less.

Prayer is a conversation God starts in His Word, but you can hardly tell it by how we treat it. We tend to treat prayer as the afterthought, like the college student who only calls home when he needs money or a ride. We hardly treat prayer like the very heartbeat of our relationship to Him, the essence of our place as God’s children.

God invites you to believe that He is your Father, the one of loves you above all and who gives Himself completely, utterly to you. He wants to be your Father, not your butler, not your maid, or your judge, or your policeman. He wants to comfort you and give you Himself. Remember again St. John’s words, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1 ESV)

But you cannot receive Him as your Father. Not on your own. Your relationship to Him is broken. God tenderly invites you to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true Children. But that belief, that faith does not come from you. He gives it to you. And in order for you to fully understand that, to fully grasp the depth of His mercy toward you, He sends His only-begotten Son to you to be your Brother, so He may teach us all what it means to call out, “Our Father who art in heaven”.

In a way, Ash Wednesday and Lent is really about restoration. It is about restoring our relationship to God by hearing from Him and receiving His gifts. We put ashes on our foreheads to point to the reality of death and how broken our relationship to God really is. But God is rich in mercy and love to you and all His fallen children. He restores you, washes off the ashes of death and makes you new in Him by His own Son’s death and resurrection.

You have a place at the Father’s Table, and you are now a part of the holy conversation of God. Repent of your sins, remember who you are in Christ Jesus, and receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Come to Him with boldness and confidence as dear children come to their dear Father. Come, speak with Him, listen to Him, and join in the holy conversation of heaven.

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.

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.

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.

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.