Tag Archives: Sermon

Pentecost 19 – Sermon: “What God Has Joined Together” – Mark 10:2-16 (October 4, 2015)

Proper 22b, (October 4, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Mark 10:2–16; Genesis 2:18–25

Sermon 10-4-15.mp3

TITLE: “What God Has Joined Together”

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 ten. We focus on the words of our Lord: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Mark 10:9 ESV)

I think it is fair to say that there has been a lot of talk this year about marriage. With the decision of the Supreme Court this past June, so-called same-sex marriage is now the Law of the land, at least according to many. In order for Christians to get with the times and become the tolerant members of society that everyone wants, we need to change our views on marriage, on human sexuality, and perhaps even on how we look at questions about how we come to understand truth itself.

Now I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like it when society forces us to examine our practices. My instinct in the face of that pressure is always going to be to push back, to become defensive, and even to get angry. Maybe it is the same with you. But our Lord holds up something for us today about what it means to be human that no court, no poll, and no amount of cajoling or pleading or shaming on the part of our culture can change. So the question of the day is, what does God have to say about marriage in HIs Word?

But before we answer this question, I have to make one more thing really clear. This sermon isn’t written to married couples. It’s not written to singles, divorcées, or to children, or to widows or widowers. It’s not a how-to sermon or targeting anybody. The purpose of this sermon is to get at the basic question of what it means to be human and how is it that God puts us into family.

When we hear how God created man and woman in Genesis chapter two, a couple of things really stand out. First of all is who is doing the work. God creates Adam. God puts Him in the Garden of Eden and gives it to him to work it and keep it. And God sees, from the very beginning, that man cannot do this work alone. Caring for the earth, guarding it and tending it, well, that is not the job of one person. It requires many hands to make light work. Furthermore, the commission to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, that is impossible to do alone. God Himself recognizes that Adam needs help, he needs someone who can complete him and finish the work. So the God who formed Adam from the dust of the ground, forms Adam’s wife from his side. Adam himself recognizes this, that his relationship to Eve is fundamentally different than it is to anything else on earth. Adam exclaims:

““This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”” (Genesis 2:23 ESV)

The man and the woman are one, because they come from the One who created them for each other.

Now fast forward to Jesus. The Pharisees come to Jesus with a dicey question: ““Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”” (Mark 10:2 ESV) I don’t know anybody that likes to talk about divorce, least of all pastors. People who have suffered through a divorce are wounded and shamed when you talk about it; and people who haven’t gone through a divorce tend to act self-righteous and holy because they haven’t been “lowered” to such problems.

Jesus answers the Pharisees that the reason that they have divorce at all is because of the hardness of their hearts. In other words, the reason divorce is real is because of sin. We are broken and fallen, and that is true for relationships as much as it is for the sin that lurks within the heart.

Now Jesus knows all this, and so while He answers them according to the Law, He really does get to the heart of the matter. Who is it that makes two people into one? It is God. Only God. The God who created us is the self-same God who draws us to each other. He is the one who joins two people together into one through holy matrimony.

But who cares? Why does this matters? It matters because this holds up a great and wonderful mystery. The mystery is that two people with two very different ways of looking at the world, with their own sins and sorrows and hardships, that these two people become one flesh why? Because God is the one who makes it so by His Word. You can’t do it. I can’t do it. Only God our Father can make this into a reality. It is, I would argue, one of the fundamental things that make us different than the animals. God makes us as one flesh because He chooses to do so in love, not because we are just like the wolves or beavers or gorillas or whatever other monogamous animals there are in nature.

This is one of the very simple and obvious reason why we as Christians care about marriage between a man and a woman for life. If marriage becomes whatever two people or things want to make it be, then we’re no longer talking about how God created the world. We’re talking about how we can make up anything we want to because we feel like it.

But there is an even more fundamental reason why this matters to us as children of Adam and Eve. As St. Paul puts it, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32 ESV) You see, beloved, all of this man and woman one-flesh talk is about marriage, but it is really about the marriage of Christ and His Church. Jesus Christ leaves His Father, clings to His bride, the Church, and they become one flesh. And it is through that marriage, that life-long union, that you and me and the whole world is redeemed.

Jesus Christ lays down His life for His Bride. He sacrifices Himself for a bride that is not worthy, and makes her worthy by the blood of His death. She is, that is, you are spotless and holy because of this Bridegroom, the One one who comes to seek and to save the lost.

Marriage is about the life-long union of a man and woman here on earth, where they submit to each other and sacrifice for one another and for their children in ways that frankly make no sense. Our marriages today are imperfect, even broken sometimes. But the God who created us uses that union to point to the great reality that He loves this world, that He longs to be with her every day, and that we feast together in Him in the Lord’s Supper each and every Sunday.

So rejoice, beloved! Christ your bridegroom has come to save you, to make you His own, and to present you spotless and holy before God our blessed Father. That is who you are, because that is who He is: the Groom who became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Rejoice! This is your identity, and it is a glorious one indeed.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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

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The New Scheme of Things (Sermon on 1 Cor. 7:25-40)

Friday of Proper 14b, (August 14, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(1 Corinthians 7:25-40)

TITLE: “The New Scheme of Things”


What I appreciate about St. Paul here in 1 Corinthians seven is that he is not afraid of addressing the conflicts and anxieties that the Corinthians are facing in their day. They are faced with the real and frankly scary question of whether or not it is even right to marry, given the temptations and persecutions that are coming upon them all too quickly. In the midst of such trials, is it right to engage in the very earthly and human estate of marriage? And in the same way we may ask the question, is the celibate life superior to the married life, is it more spiritual, more able to focus upon God and service to him? These are some of the questions the Corinthians face.

In our own day, we are barely waking up to the fact that such questions exist. Throughout the world the persecution of the Church is on the rise. While we lament and moan about whether the ten commandments can be displayed in a courtroom, in other parts of the world baring the name “Christian” may mean lost of family and property, or even loss of life itself. In some respects, I think you could almost argue that we in the West aren’t even grown up enough to worry about the questions of married versus single in the face of persecution and distress. But God, who is merciful and gracious, will teach us in His own time and way when we are ready to receive such trials.

So what St. Paul does for us here is outline how the Christian is to look at the estates of marriage and celibacy or virginity. Notice how Paul puts the emphasis on how each person is to make such decisions. What is going to promote good order? What will restrain the passions? What will keep you free from worry or anxiety? The answers will be different for each person, and learning how to answer those questions is a matter of wisdom, and takes time and work, with much prayer.

But look at what St. Paul does not do. Paul does not urge the Corinthians to judge each other on whether to marry or remain single. If our focus is on judging the spiritual estate of one another, of trying to measure our levels of holiness based upon the relationships and things of this world, then, well, we really will be caught like a child in the midst of a very adult war when the persecutions come.

In a war it is in your best interest that the soldiers next to you are strong, of good mind and will and body. You want them to be ready and well trained. You need them just as much as they need you. And so St. Paul recognizes that the Church will have the single and the married in the persecution to come. We are to look out for each other, to build one another up, to help the body to grow up into what our Heavenly Father has in store for us all along.

In this way, we look to our Lord, Jesus Christ, who did not turn aside when the trials faced Him. He did not shrink away when asked the question, He did not run and hide or let the things of this world distract Him from His divine work of the salvation and restoration of the world. He is stretched out toward His beloved even now, always preparing her and keeping her for the world which is to come.

Do not be afraid of the trials and hardships which are to come. Whether married or single, unburdened or full or sorrow and hardships, Christ our Lord is all in all for you, and you are in Him by Word and Spirit, water and meal. He will see you through, for the scheme of this world is passing away. And thanks be to God for that!

In the name of Jesus. Amen.


Nothing Can Separate (Wedding Sermon for Anna Lewer and Neil Dorsey)

Eve of Pentecost 5, (June 27, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Marriage of Anna Lewer and Neil Dorsey
Romans 8:31, 32, 37–39

TITLE: “Nothing Can Separate”

Family and friends, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, relatives galore, but especially you, Neil and Anna, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.

2015 06 27 neilandanna 51

It is not good for man to be alone, said God our Father in the Garden so many years ago. Man apart from his bride is a wreck, incomplete, unable to fulfill what God has given him to be and to do. That is the picture we have of Adam in the Garden.

And so our Heavenly Father said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”” (Genesis 2:18 ESV) And so began the parade of animals. You can almost picture the parade as God walked them past Adam, can’t you? “Well, God, I really like this one, but it’s not quite right for me. Let’s call it a turtle. That one’s pretty strange. Let’s call that one a cow.”

God put Adam into a deep sleep and took from him a rib, and from that rib He formed Eve. Adam took one look at her and said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23 ESV)

Thus the two became one flesh, in a unity that is a reflection of God Himself, and of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church. They were not the same, any more than a cow and a turtle are the same, and yet, somehow, they fit together. They were, as only God could create and make, made for each other.

Sin does have a way of messing things up, though. And this is as true in marriage as it is in the rest of life. God created man and woman to be wonderfully, gloriously different from each other, to complement each other so that they fit together perfect. But sin puts us at odds with each other and with ourselves. Your sin and mine, and everyone’s sin.

God, however, will not allow anything to separate you from Him. Not persecution or famine, peril or sword, enemies or friends, not sin, not even death itself. Christ’s love for His Bride, the Christian Church, has no bounds, no limits. He will do anything, anything for her. Frankly, Christ’s love is not particularly rational. It is a mystery. St. Paul writes

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”(Ephesians 5:31–32)

So what does all this talk about mysteries, separation and unity, and your favorite word of all, love, have to do with the two of you?

Your marriage is and will be a picture or an icon of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church. Neil, you sacrifice everything for you dear one, Anna, and in doing so, you show all of us here a little hint of Christ’s love for us. Now you won’t be perfect at it. Sometimes you will stink at it, and Anna will learn to forgive you. But since she comes from a family of forgiven sinners, she has already had plenty of practice at forgiveness, so it’s okay. Your love for her is a picture of the one, great love of God, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Anna, your love for Neil is a picture or an image of how the Church loves Christ Jesus, her Lord. It’s a strange picture, I know, but if I know anything about you, it is that you are comfortable with…odd. You will not reflect that love of the Church for Christ always, and Neil will learn to forgive you, but Neil, too, comes from a family of forgiven sinners, so you are in good hands with both them and with him.

God, you see, loves to take the ordinary and give it life beyond all understanding. And so he will do with the two of you. Today as you begin your life together in Him, Christ our Lord makes a sure and certain promise to the two of you. He says, I will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5), and a three fold cord is not easily broken (Ecc. 4:12), and again I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). These promises and so many more mean that you life is safe and at peace in God’s hands, and that everything will turn out according to His divine purpose and direction.

So rejoice, Anna and Neil, Steve and Beth, Richard and Janis, friends, relatives, and all those who are here! Christ is present in this place, your love for each other is bound up together in Jesus’ love for His bride, and He who does all things well continues to give Adam his Eve and Eve her Adam. Rejoice, for paradise is just beginning.

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.

Abide (Easter 6, Confirmation Sunday, May 10, 2015)

Easter 6, (May 10, 2015)
Confirmation Sunday
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
John 15:9–17

TITLE: “Abide in My Love”

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 fifteen. We focus on the word from verse nine, Abide. I

Today is a great day in the Christian Church, for once again we get to hear three young women give their Amen to the gift of faith that God gave them in their Baptisms. While I am mostly going to address this sermon to them, it is okay if the rest of you listen in while I talk to them.

The word we’re looking at today is the word from our Lord, the word “Abide”. It’s not a word we use a lot today. Abide, remain, stay, stick with, it means something like all of that. It’s actually a military term, originally. It’s the word they would use when a troop or a legion was commanded to hold a position in a battle. Stay here, the commander would say! Hold this position, don’t give it up for anything or anyone. Our very lives depend upon you not leaving your post.

So this is the word Jesus uses to describe your relationship to Him. Last week we heard Jesus say to the disciples:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4 ESV)

All your life long the devil, the world, and even your own sinful nature will call out to you to leave the foot of the cross, where you remain as the baptized. Leave that cross, that place in the shadow of our Lord’s death for you, leave that place and everything else falls apart.

And make no mistake, young ones, you will be tempted to leave our Lord for other pastures that make look green and full of life, but are in fact death itself. It is fairly easy to come to the house of God Sunday after Sunday when you have a mother and a father beinging you here. It is pretty easy when the voices that would draw you away are still far away, or their voices don’t sound so alluring, not yet at least.

But here’s the deal, girls. This isn’t up to you. You didn’t get here, wearing white robes with a pretty flower and a cake later because you’re so awesome. I know, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Now don’t get me wrong. You are awesome, and a great gift to us and to the world. But that’s not what got you here. For you are broken, sinful, and will fail if left to yourself. You will. I will. All of us will fail if we are left to ourselves.

But you aren’t left to yourself. Christ Himself abides in you, given to you in your Baptism so many years ago. Today isn’t about you and how great your promises are. Today is about our Lord, Jesus Christ, and about how in His great mercy He chooses His young ones, delivers them from sin and death, and sets them up as His Sons and Daughters, His Brothers and Sisters in His heavenly kingdom. Psalm ninety one begins with this promise:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalms 91:1 ESV)

You are in the shelter of the Most High. You have been covered with the righteousness of Christ. Those white robes you wear aren’t because you are graduating. Sorry. They are a reminder to you and to us of the white robe of righteousness that is yours by faith in the Son of God, that same faith that He planted in you in your Baptism.

But something even more amazing happens. Not only does God pluck you up from sin and death and make you His children, He also uses you as His hands and feet in the world. He gives you good works to do, works that you may not even know that you are doing. Hear again the words of Jesus:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:10, 16 ESV)

In other words, beloved, your life matters, and you are in the palm of God’s hands, and He has great plans for you and everything you do in His Name. Today you confess the faith that God gave to you in your baptism. That is true not only for you, but for all of us gathered here today.

And perhaps most importantly, for most of you this is your first Sunday receiving Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus says “Abide in my love,” this is what He is talking about. It is His Body and Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, it is His Body and Blood that strengthens you and gives you life in His Name. God creates by His Word, and so when He says to you Abide in Me, He creates the faith to do so.

So come, sons and daughters, come and receive the gift of life everlasting in His Name. Come and rejoice that God continues to grow His Church, and give young and old new life in His name. Come and rejoice and be glad at His Table, for this is where you belong.

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.