Tag 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.

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.


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

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

TITLE: “Looking to Jesus”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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

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


TITLE: “Sir, We Wish to See Jesus”


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)