August 14, 2016

Rev. Mark Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Historic Lesson; Acts 2:37-41

Sermon Text; John 21:15-17

Installation sermon for:

Interim Principal, Chris Poetter

Teacher, Joel Koschnitzke

Teacher, Katherine Larsen

The theme for today's sermon is “Feed My Lambs”. That is what you are called to do, at Holy Cross. I want to read the context that comes from. It is taken from John, chapter 21, verses 15 through 17. In our dear Savior's name:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


Some years ago, I knew this older gentleman. His name was Gig Soley. He was up in Mankato, Minnesota. He was a grandfatherly age. He was pretty small in stature. And, he was one of the most gentle, kind, friendly, humble person I had ever met in my life. He always had this humble smile on his face. He always had his head kind of down, just a little bit, as if he was deferring to you. Super, super nice, kind, gentle man.

Well, it just so happens when I got here to Holy Cross as pastor, I found out his son-in-law, Pastor Steve Petersen was the other pastor here at Holy Cross, at the time. When we started talking about Steve Petersen's father-in-law, Gig Soley, I said, “Steve, he is one of the kindest, gentlest, man I have ever met in life.”

Steve said, “Ya, I agree.”

Then, I asked him, “Steve, have you ever seen, Gig, when he was worked up about anything?”

Steve got real serious, and said, “I just saw it happen one time. He was totally out of character. We were watching the news together at Gig's house. All of a sudden, a report came on the news about some little child that had been abused. The man who had abused this child was still on the loose.” Steve said, “Gig put his hands on his chair, stood up, and tears were streaming down his face. He was shaking, as he said, 'I hope they catch him, and put him in jail.'” Steve said, “That man had such a love for little children, and the protection of little children!”

It reminded me of our Savior, Jesus. Jesus is such a gentle, loving, kind Man. But, the times in scripture, when we really see Jesus' emotions rise to the surface is when it comes to the spiritual safety of children. One of the strongest things Jesus ever, ever said, (when you think about this, it is really a strong statement about the spiritual safety of little children),

“If anyone causes one of these little ones of mine to sin, it would be better for that man if a milestone (that is a big, giant stone) a milestone were tied around his neck, and he were tossed into the depths of the sea, and drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Talk about a powerful statement, showing the emotion Jesus has, and the love and protection of children!

We see Jesus' emotions rise to the surface regarding little children, when parents were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Jesus touch them. The Bible says the disciples were rebuking the parents, and sending them away. Then, the Bible says this about Jesus.

“He was indignant.”

Talk about emotions rising from His heart. He was indignant. He said,

“Let the little children come to me.

Don't hinder them!”

Jesus loves little children! We see that in His loving heart. In fact, Jesus even held children up as spiritual examples. He said,

“Let the little children come to me.

Don't hinder them.

The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

It was Jesus who said to His disciples,

“See to it, see to it that you

don't look down on one of these little ones,

because their angels always behold the face of their

Father in Heaven.”

It was Jesus who raised three people from the dead, and two of them were youth. One was a little, twelve year old girl. The other was a young man of Nain, probably a teenage boy. Jesus loves children!

And so, Chris, Joel, and Katherine, when the Lord turns over to you, here in the public ministry at Holy Cross, the care of little children, that is a huge privilege. He loves the little children, dearly. He loves children, and they are precious to Him. They are His children. In fact, He purchased them at a massive price. Think about it.

Katherine, Jesus loves little children so much that God left His throne in Heaven. God was once the age of a little kindergartner. God had little kindergartner friends. God played Hide and Seek, with His little, kindergartner friends. That is how much He loves the little children. He became one of them.

Joel and Chris, God took on human flesh, and He was the age of a seventh and eighth grade boy. He had seventh and eighth grade buddies. They did seventh and eighth grade things. He probably had sleepovers at their homes, and they probably had sleepovers at His house. God loves seventh and eighth graders so much that He became one of them.

The Bible says we have what we call 'The Sins of Youth'. Jesus lived a perfect kindergartner life. He lived a perfect seventh and eighth grade life, as a substitute, because He loved them so dearly, just like He loves the rest of us.

When Jesus went to the cross, it wasn't just for grown ups. Jesus was dying for the little kindergartners, and dying for the seventh and eighth graders. They are dear and precious to Him. Precious!

And so, now here you are today, about to be installed into the teaching ministry at Holy Cross Lutheran School. We, as a congregation, are entrusting into your care, these precious, precious, precious lambs of Jesus. He said,

“Feed my lambs”.

Well, how in the world, given such a huge responsibility and huge task, do we go about that?

       -First of all, I want to talk about the motivation. What in the world would motivate you to properly take care of these lambs who are committed to your care?

I want to talk about the difference between something called 'mercy', and something called 'grace'.

There was a pastor once, who was giving a conference on the difference between 'mercy' and 'grace'. We are saved by God's 'mercy', and we are saved by God's 'grace'. They are like different parts of a diamond. Here is how he explained the difference between mercy and grace. He told two stories. The first one is a story about mercy.

When he was a little kid, he and his little sister were not getting along, one day. So, he pulled out a spray can of something called DDT. (You older people here know what that is. It is a very poisonous chemical farmers used. It was an insecticide, pesticide, herbicide.) He pulled out this can of DDT, and sprayed it right into his sister's mouth.

When his mom saw what had happened, she grabbed his little sister, ran out of the house, and started trying to flag down a car, because she knew she had to get her little daughter to the hospital, as soon as possible.

After the little girl left for the hospital with his mom, this pastor who at this time was a little boy, all of a sudden realized, “I have really, really messed up. I am in huge trouble. When Dad gets home, I can only imagine what's going to happen to me.”

So, he sat in his bedroom, waiting for his dad to get home. Pretty soon, he heard the door open to the house. He could hear Dad's footsteps walking up the stairs. This little boy was sitting on the edge of his bed, sobbing, because he realized how badly he had messed up. He could only imagine what Dad was going to do.

Dad walked into the room, looked at his little boy, walked over to the bed, sat down, and put his arm around him. He said, “I love you. I forgive you.” And then, he hugged him.

The pastor who was giving the seminar said, “That's 'mercy'. That is 'mercy'! That is the nail scarred hands of Jesus hugging us, and not giving us what we deserve. That is 'mercy'!

Then, he said, “'Grace' goes above, and beyond that, in a way.”

Here is the story he told about grace.

When this pastor got to be a little older, and was sixteen years old, he got his driver's license. One night, he and some buddies went out. Unfortunately, they were drinking, and got drunk.

This pastor, at the time, had borrowed his dad's car, and as he was driving, he had an accident. He totally destroyed the car. As soon as it happened, he knew he was in huge, huge trouble. Even though it was late at night, he picked up the phone, and called his dad. He told him, “Dad, I had a car accident, and the car is totally destroyed.”
The dad asked his son, “Well, are you OK? Did anyone get hurt?”

The son answered him, “No, we are all OK. Nobody got hurt.”

This accident didn't happen too far from home, so his dad asked him, “Can you all walk to our house?”

The boy said, “Well, Dad, I got some bad news. The police won't let us go, because we are drunk.”

The dad said, “Oh, alright. I will be down there to pick you guys up.”
So, the dad drove down in a different car, to pick up all of the boys. They all got in his car, and he drove them home, dropping them off, one by one, until it was just the dad, and son who had the accident in the car. They drive all the way home, together, silently.

When they walked through the front door, Mom was there to meet them. Dad said to Mom, “I will take care of this.”

Dad and Son go to the bedroom, and the dad looked at his son. The son realized, “I am in such bad trouble, here.”

The dad said to his son, “How are you doing?”

The boy said, “Dad, I can't stop shaking.”

Then the dad told him, “You are in shock, right now. Son, we are going to need a different car. Tomorrow, let's go look for one.”

Then, he turned around, walked out of the room, and that was it.

The pastor said, “That is 'grace'. 'Grace' is when we are given what we don't deserve, in any way. 'Mercy' is when God doesn't give us what we deserve, and 'grace' is when He gives us what we don't deserve.”

This is what happens to Peter in today's scripture reading – 'mercy' and 'grace'. Peter was the first one to hear that phrase,

“Feed my lambs”.

I want you to think about the context in which it happened. I want to talk about two words in the Bible, two Greek words, that are both translated 'love'. In English, we have one word for 'love'. In Greek, there are at least two.

       -One of them is the Greek verb, 'agapao'. 'Agapao' is this unconditional, no strings attached, “I will 'love' you no matter what. No matter what you say, what you do, no matter how you act, no matter how you look, nothing can ever stop me from loving you. I will sacrifice whatever it takes to meet your needs, no matter what it is.” That is this 'agapao love'. It is the kind of 'love' God has for us. Unconditional love.

       -Then there is another type of 'love', called 'phileo'. We translate that, 'brotherly love'. It is 'love' on a lower standard. It is an affection you have for someone. It can fluctuate, come, and go, depending upon your emotions.

So, there are two different types of 'love'. Keep that in mind, as we look at what happened prior to our text. Peter had really messed up. He hadn't just sprayed DDT in his sister's mouth. He hadn't just crashed his dad's car. Peter had denied the Savior of the world, three times. He said, “I don't know the Man.” He did it with curses, the Bible tells us. That means he had called down curses on himself, like, “I hope I go to Hell, if I know who Jesus is”.

The Bible also says he swore. So, he said something like, “I swear by God's Name, I don't know who Jesus is. I am not one of His followers.”

If you rank sins, wow, I suppose that is about as bad, as you can get. I can only imagine being Peter, after Jesus rose from the dead. Can you imagine being Peter, and having Jesus in your presence, knowing you had denied the Savior of the world three times? I would have thought, “Jesus must think I am an absolute creep. He must think I am an absolute loser. I can't imagine He would even want to be in my presence. I can't imagine what He might want to do to me, because I denied Him three times.”

And so, here, in a very merciful way we see our Lord Jesus, what we call, “reinstate Peter”. Because Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus now asks Peter three times the question:

“Peter do you love me?”

I want you to see what happens. It is a little different each time. The first time Jesus asks this of Peter. “Simon, son of John, do you 'agapao' (that is that unconditional, no bars, absolute, unstoppable love) Peter do you 'agapao' me more than these?”

Remember, Peter was the one who, when Jesus said, “You are all going to deny me. You are all going to flee from me”, Peter said, “They all might, but not me. I will never deny you.” Well, that is what Peter said. So now, Jesus asks him, “Peter, do you unconditionally love me more than all of the other disciples?”

Listen to Peter's answer. Peter now, wasn't the 'braggart Peter', anymore. He wasn't this, “I am so great Peter”, anymore. This is a humble, repentant Peter who says to Jesus, “Lord; you know I (he uses the word 'phileo', which is this lesser love), you know I have this affectionate love for you.” Peter knew his love wasn't perfect. He knew he was a sinner. He knew he had failed the Lord. He says, “Yes, Lord; you know I love you.”

The second time, Jesus asks the question, again. This time He leaves something out. The first time He said, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” Now, Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Do you 'agapao' me? Do you have this unconditional love for me?”

Again, the second time, Peter just humbly says, “Yes, Lord; you know I (and he uses the word 'phileo', which is the lower form of love) love you.” He knew, “I am a sinner. I have failed. I don't love you perfectly, Jesus, the way I ought to.”
The third time, Jesus asks the question, He changes it, again. In Greek, Jesus now this time says, “Peter, do you (and instead of asking, 'Do you 'agapao', the unconditional love, He says), “Peter, do you 'phileo' me?” That is the lower type of love.

The Bible says Peter was grieved, because the Lord asked him the third time, with this lower type of love. Again, Peter gives this humble response.

“Lord you know all things. You know I 'phileo', I love you.” A repentant Peter, admitting he didn't love Jesus perfectly, the way he should.

What does Jesus do through all of this? We see Jesus like this loving father, sitting on the edge of the bed, putting His arms around His son who had gone astray, and with absolute mercy He is forgiving Peter of all of his sins. In grace, in grace (that means He gives you something you don't deserve), what does He say to Peter? He says, “Peter, feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep.”
That is stunning. It is stunning that Jesus looks at the man who had denied Him three times, and in grace, in grace, He gives Peter His most precious treasure to take care of. Peter, take care of these little lambs that I have purchased at the most massive price with my own blood. I have redeemed them and forgiven them all of their sins. Talk about grace! When He says, Peter I am going to trust you to take care of my little lambs. Do you think Peter took care of Jesus' little lambs as best he could? I am sure Peter, threw his heart, because he knew the mercy and grace of Jesus to him, I am sure he threw his heart into loving the little children who were in his ministry. It was his way of showing his love to Jesus. Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?”

Peter said, “You know I love you.”

So, Chris, Joel and Katherine, the same question Jesus asks you.
“Do you love me?”

Like Peter, and all of the rest of us in this room, we know that by every right Jesus could look at us and say, “What a looser. What a creep.”

For all of the sins we have committed, we don't have any right to even have Jesus be our friend.

       -We know the thoughts we have had, and would be embarrassed if anybody else knew about.

       -We know the words we said, and are sure glad nobody else, here in this congregation, heard us say them.

       -We know the actions we have committed that we are ashamed of.

But, we know, we know Jesus is so merciful, and gracious to us that He left His throne in Heaven. He took on flesh.

       -Jesus, when He was spit on for all of the words we have said with our mouths, He took the spit from people's mouths on Him, to pay for every one of your sins. What mercy!

       -For all of the thoughts we have had in our heads that were wrong, He took a crown of thorns, and it was beat onto His head. He suffered to pay for all of your sins, and all of our sins. What mercy!

       -For all of the evil deeds we have done, He had those nails driven through His hands and feet. He was whipped, suffered, and died to pay for all of your sins. That is mercy. Absolute mercy! You know, for Christ's sake, all of your sins are forgiven, as are all of ours.

It is real grace today, Katherine, Chris, and Joel, when Jesus says to you, “Feed my lambs”. That is stunning that Jesus would privilege you, privilege you, with something you don't deserve. You don't deserve to take care of these precious souls that Jesus bought at a huge price. They are His, and He is placing them into your care. Wow! The grace of God!

Peter, I am sure, threw his heart into taking care, and feeding those lambs. And I know, by God's grace and mercy, you will too. It is a great way to show your love to Jesus.

I want to close with this thought. So, how do you feed Jesus' lambs, because that is what Jesus calls you to do?

“Feed my lambs.”

You probably have flown on an airplane. You have seen the stewardess tell you what to do in case of an emergency. It is always interesting, when the stewardess says, “If there is an emergency, the oxygen masks fall down. If you have a child, take the oxygen mask, first, and put it on your own face, and then put it on the child's face.” The implication is, if you don't take care of yourself, and you are not safe, there is no way you are going to be able to keep a child safe.

We had a professor at the seminary, before I went to seminary. His name was Dean Madson, Norman A. Madson. He was the Dean of the Seminary. And, he happens to be Miss Dashcund's grandfather. When he talked to seminary students, he would tell them how important it was for them to 'eat' God's Word, first, to 'feed' from God's Word, before they 'feed the flock'. He would put it this way. “When you go to visit the home of a pastor, ask to see his study. When you walk into his study, if the carpet in front of his mirror is worn threadbare, pray for that pastor. But, if the carpet underneath his desk is threadbare, ask that pastor to pray for you.” His point to the seminary students was “Study the Word of God. 'Feed' yourself, with the Word of God, so you can 'feed the flock'.”
So, Joel, Chris, and Katherine, 'feed yourselves on the Word of God', so that you can turn around, and 'feed the precious flock of Jesus'. 'Feed' the children. 'Feed' them with that awesome Gospel Message, the Gospel Message you cling to, that you know is so dear, the Gospel Message that they are forgiven, for the sake of Christ. God is gracious to them, for Jesus' sake. 'Feed' them with the precious Word of God, that enables them, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live transformed lives where they can see what it means to love other people, to use their skills and abilities to serve God, and to use their intellect to serve the LORD. 'Feed Jesus' lambs'. 'Feed Jesus' lambs' so that they see the world through the 'lens' of the almighty, gracious, truthful Word of God.

Peter was asked by Jesus, “Do you love me?”
The great way Peter got to show that was he got to 'feed Christ's lambs'.

Joel, Chris, Katherine, Jesus asks you that same question, “Do you love me?”

I know your answer to Him is, “Lord; you know, you know we love you.”

So, He privileges you with the great task of showing that by 'feeding Christ's lambs', here at Holy Cross Lutheran School.