“How Do You Know Me?”

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
“How Do You Know Me?”
January 14, 2018

Sermon Text: John 1:43-51

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

If you live with a person for a while, work with a person for a while… spend any real time with a person… be it quality time or a sheer quantity of time with them… you cannot help but get to know them… know things about them.

In fact, spend enough time with someone and you may know that person better than he or she knows himself… or herself.

In our Gospel text for today, however, we see how one Person knew someone, but their knowledge of the same really has nothing to do with spending time with them. In fact, this Person never met the other individual before… at least, not in a conventional way. But certainly, in a divine one… for you see,  the Person we are talking about is none other than our Savior, Jesus, God in the flesh.

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“On Good Authority”

The Baptism of Our Lord (B)
“On Good Authority”
January 7, 2018

Sermon Text: Mark 1:4-11

Peace be unto you from our Savior, Lord and King, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

Seriously? Is anyone going to believe this stuff – the account of our Lord’s baptism as recorded and reported by St. Mark… or that which is found in the other two readings for today… or actually anything and everything found in Holy Scripture?

Life makes us skeptical. This world and our experiences in it make us skeptical. What to believe? What is true and what is not? Who can we trust?

Whether you buy into the whole “Fake News” issue of today and what is happening in the news media – print and electronic… even on their best days when the cardinal rules of journalism are being adhered to regarding only reporting substantiated facts while diligently seeking to eliminate all bias and leaving editorialization to the editorial page, one still needs to take what they read, hear and see with a grain a salt. That is to say, it seems that one must be very careful as to what amount of credence, weight and import is placed on information received from various sources.

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The Message of Comfort at the Christian Funeral of Frank W. Thompson

The Message of Comfort at the Christian Funeral of Frank W. Thompson

Delivered by the Rev. Mark H. Hein, Pastor of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lockport, Illinois, on Wednesday, January 3, 2018

 Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from the One who is the Lord of Life, our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dear Family Members and Friends,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

We are! Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses… those who point us to Jesus and show us what the Christian faith and life is all about. It includes the witness of the Prophets of old and that of the Apostles. It includes the Early Church Fathers and countless men, women and children down through the ages. It includes, yes, Frank Walter Thompson.

He is in good company… the best of company… and we are as well… for knowing Frank and having whatever length of time the Lord graciously gave us with him here on earth.

For you see, our dear brother taught us about laying aside every worldly weight… physical and spiritual.

He taught us about dealing with sin which clung to him and still does to us so closely.

He taught us about running the race set before us… the race from birth to death and all the years in between… all of our time here on earth.

But of far greater importance, and what is his true legacy to you dear family members and all of us, is what Frank taught us about the race of faith… our coming to faith, living in the faith through thick and thin… through all of the ups and downs of one’s life… keeping the faith regardless of what comes our way… regardless of what we face… to never lose hope, but to remain confident, always trusting in Jesus “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.”

Frank’s life was a full life, a simple life and he, a simple man, who just happened to be among the wisest I know… the steadiest I know… among the most grounded I know.  He was like a rock… and a rock to many. But you need to know it is all about the Rock that Frank faithfully stood on. And that Rock is Jesus.

Frank Thompson kept it simple. He kept his priorities straight. He kept His eyes on Jesus and lived his life under the shadow of the cross. He was all about loving the Lord, first and foremost, and loving one’s neighbor as one’s self, starting with the love that he had for his family, his brothers and sisters in the faith, his friends, acquaintances and everyone.  As you know, this is the sum of the Commandments. It is also the sum of Frank’s life.

Talk about being a great Christian witness. At the top of the list of examples would be his faithful worship of our Lord, his coming to the house of the Lord, right here, Sunday after Sunday… and this in spite of the fact that Frank was many times in pain, serious pain. He could hardly walk. He made his way to St. Paul’s, parked many times on the eastside… who knows why… meaning, he needed to navigate the steps. He slowly made his way into the narthex, took off his signature hat, gave me and anyone in the narthex a firm handshake that one would expect from a person half his age, always asked you how YOU were doing and then made his way into the sanctuary of the Lord. Oh, how Frank loved this place, this holy ground.

And I have to tell you, I was so humbled and almost brought to tears more than once as I watched Frank, hurting, in pain, leave the pew and laboriously make his way to the communion rail and kneel, hurting, in pain, to receive again and again the antidote for all hurt, pain, sin and death itself, namely the precious Body and Blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Though not deliberately, our dear brother showed us how we can all, at times, be such wimps… such babies and even fools. How we can so easily forget what “this” is all about… what Almighty God offers and conveys to us in His Son, Christ Jesus… here… in His Church…in Word and Sacrament…  the greatest of treasures, namely eternal life. The greatest of treasures including forgiveness of all our sins, complete healing, restoration, a new start, a fresh start and true peace… divine things which, if we really, truly comprehended, would leave us willing to literally crawl to this place to be here, right here, where Jesus is… where Jesus comes and bestows these things, divine things, personally, oh-so graciously and lovingly to us… to ALL!

You know, I have mentioned Frank quite a bit here, holding him up as a wonderful witness to the Christian faith, the Christian life. But if you think this message was… is… all about our dear brother, you missed the point. It was… is… all about Jesus Christ working in Frank Thompson, through Frank Thompson whereby we were all blessed… so blessed with Frank Thompson in our lives… and we will continue to be blessed in the Lord, by Lord, who will comfort us in this time of mourning and will give us the strength to carry on… to finish the race which the Lord has set before us here on earth until, just as He did with Frank, He calls us to our heavenly home.

Indeed, now in life and soon in eternity, to God alone be the glory. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

“O Come Let Us Adore Him!”

The Epiphany of Our Lord
“O Come Let Us Adore Him!”
December 31, 2017

Sermon Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Peace be unto you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

So, what gives? From the title of this sermon, one would think that what follows is a “Christmas message.” After all, it is the well-known refrain to the great hymn, yes, Christmas hymn, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

Here is the thing, the adoration of our Lord did not begin and certainly did not end with the angels and all of the heavenly host as they sang out, rang out the glorious news of Christ’s birth.

It did not end with the shepherds out in the fields, watching their flocks by night. Those who heard the news and came to the Baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

It did not end with Simeon and Anna who are given the great honor of seeing, meeting and greeting the Christ Child in the temple.

It did not end with the wise men whose account we consider this morning and all who will have the great epiphany… the greatest of epiphanies… that this Jesus is truly the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior of the world… that He is Immanuel, God with us… God in the flesh.

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“What Child is This?”

The Eve of Our Savior’s Birth
“What Child is This?”
December 24, 2017

Sermon Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from the Messiah, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

Again, a blessed Christmas Eve to you all!

Mary said it. Joseph said it. They both, as told… as commanded… called His name, “Jesus,” which literally means “the Lord saves.” They knew who this Child was, so meek and mild, lying there in that manger wrapped in swaddling cloths. They knew… they believed that before them was the Christ… the Messiah… their Messiah… the world’s Messiah.

Some three decades later, our Lord will ask His disciples, “‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’  And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’” (Matthew 16:13-17)

Mary said it. Joseph said. Simon Peter said it. Who do you say that He is?

“What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the king,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary!

My friends, whatever brought you here this evening… whether it was just plain old tradition, after all, that it is what people do on Christmas Eve…

… or whether it was because one of your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews are singing in this service…

… or maybe… hopefully… it was because you truly know and understand the meaning and import of this holy night, silent night and what tomorrow will bring… and that there is no other place you would want to be.

Whatever brought you here, it isn’t as important as the fact that you are here… for it is the same as if you were in Bethlehem. It is the same as if you were there, with Mary and Joseph. It is the same as if you were there with Jesus… with the very Son of God in the flesh… with your Savior. Because you are… we all are!

He is present with us… as He has so promised… where two or three are gathered in His name here He is in the midst of us.

He is present with us in the Word spoken, He who is the Logos… the very Word of God made flesh.

He is present with us in the Sacrament that we will receive this evening, taking into our mouths the very Body and Blood of our Lord given and shed for us for the remission… for the full and complete removal… the blotting out… of all our sins. Not at the manger, but at the cross.

Whatever brought you here… isn’t as important as the fact that you are here… in God’s Holy House… hearing the very Word of God about the Baby born. Because here in this House is where faith is born and where it is renewed, nurtured and strengthened. Here is where you and I come to terms with the incredibly reality as to what Child is this.

It leaves us breathless. It sends us to our knees in humble adoration and praise. And we are filled with joy and peace in the very presence of the Prince of Peace… He who has come to earth… He who dwells among us… He who, in Holy Baptism has made our hearts His home… He who is our Savior… our Lord… our King… our everything.

There is your answer to what Child is this!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby;
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!

Amen!

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“What Child is This?”  12/24/17  The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, I

“In the Sixth Month the Angel Gabriel was Sent”

The Fourth Sunday in Advent (B)
In the Sixth Month the Angel Gabriel was Sent”
December 24, 2017

Sermon Text: Luke 1:26-38

Peace be unto you from the Messiah, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God.” (Luke 1:26)

You know, that is what angels do. They are sent… by God. They do His bidding. And Holy Scripture… both the Old and New Testament… is replete with accounts of the same… of the Lord our God sending His angels to earth… to mankind… to carry out some divine work and many times, to deliver a divine message.

St. Luke tells us this is exactly what the angel Gabriel was sent to do in the

“sixth month”… the sixth month, that is, of Elizabeth’s pregnancy… to bring a message.

No ordinary message, mind you. Which, coming from an angel, couldn’t be ordinary. It had to be extraordinary and it was… it certainly was.

It would be an understatement to say that it was a message that all the world longed to hear… all in the world, that is, who knew of the promise… who knew of the Messiah to come… and believed in the same, had faith, saving faith, that He would come. God said it. They believed it!

They counted on it. And what is more, they clung to it. They clung to the promise of a savior who was their only hope… their only hope of salvation, their only hope of being forgiven of their sins and freed from the eternal consequences of the same, namely death and damnation.

They, the faithful and all of creation, Scripture tells us, longed for the news that was, at first, only for the ears of a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” The virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:27)

On the orders, at the command of the Lord our God, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary… sweet Mary, blessed Mary… one of the Lord’s own… one of the Lord’s faithful… one who, yes, knew the promise… knew of the Messiah and believed He would come… but had no idea it would all unfold… that it would all come to be… in this miraculous and marvelous way…

… that she would be the mother of the Savior of the world, for the name she is to call Him, “Jesus,” declares this very thing.

… that she would be the mother of God now coming in the flesh… her flesh… of her own flesh and blood… of ours and all mankind. That this new Adam would have the very same flesh and blood as the first Adam and all of his descendants. That this new Adam, the Son of Man and Son of God, would be everyone’s true brother… yours and mine.

Mary had no idea that she would be the mother of the King of kings and Lord of lords, for as the angel declares to her, the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)

Mary had no idea of the shepherds who would come with haste to worship the Christ Child, her Child. And after them, awhile later, wise men, bearing gifts for the Christ Child, her Child… gifts suitable for a king. A King who eventually would wear a crown of thorns.

No… for sure… Mary had no idea what was in store for her or her Son. No idea, at that point, of the manger… no idea of the cross… no idea, not a clue, that she would witness both her Son’s birth as well as His death.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God.”

And Gabriel went, because that is what angels do. They go where God sends them, do what God commands of them.

So do the faithful… the faithful man, woman, teenager and child. Those baptized in Christ. Those upon whom the Holy Spirit is working wonderfully and mightily.

They go where God sends them, do what God commands them, dedicating their whole life to the same. As did Mary, sweet Mary, blessed Mary, who upon hearing all that Gabriel said, all that God had chosen her to do… to be… simply responded, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)  Because that is what the faithful do.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God.” And then, so was Mary. And so was the Son of God whose birth we will celebrate in a matter of hours.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son… He sent His only begotten Son… that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John. 3:16)

Because that is what the one true God does. Out of love… pure love… for you… for me and all the world. He has mercy upon us. He showers us with His grace. He saves us. He receives us unto Himself and gives us His Kingdom which knows no end.

Rejoice my friends. Be comforted and at peace with all that is yours in Mary’s Son. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“In the Sixth Month the Angel Gabriel was Sent”  12/24/17  The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

Part III: Christ – Our Savior

Midweek Advent Series – “Christ – Servant, Substitute, Savior”
Part III: Christ – Our Savior
December 20, 2017

Peace be unto you this blessed evening from our Advent King, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is your Savior, my Savior, everyone’s Savior even though the world will not acknowledge it… acknowledge Him.

It does not matter. It does not change the reality of it all… it does not change what happened… what was accomplished… what the very Son of God did, as we say, “for us men and for our salvation.”

This includes His birth, His coming to earth… His ministry while He walked this land… healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, raising the dead, performing many other miracles, and preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven to all who would listen… to all who had “ears to hear.”

And then among His accomplishments… that which is central to it all… central to our faith… central to our now having eternal life… is Christ’s suffering and crucifixion… His dying… God dying on the cross whereupon our salvation was affected. If was finished. It was done. Signed, sealed and delivered in blood!

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. We have heard it so many times that personally, individually, it may have lost its import and impact without our even knowing it, our being aware of it. How is it with you?

Do we say, if not with words, then in thought, “We know all this already! We know Jesus is our Savior! Tell us something new! Tell us something more!

Hmm… the wanting of something new… to have… to obtain… to pursue something new. The urge goes back to our first parents, Adam and Eve.

They wanted more… something new… in their case to “be like God” instead of enjoying what wonderfully was the perfect life and perfect relationship they enjoyed with the Lord their God in paradise.

You will also remember Holy Scripture’s account of the Acts of the Apostles, and how in the Book of Acts, it talks about St. Paul going to Athens, being in Athens and at the Areopagus where the learned, the scholars and the philosophers would gather. We read in Acts 17, Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” (Acts 17:21)

The new and novel may be interesting and exciting, my friends, but not at the cost of forgetting or failing to ponder the known and to understand it more, appreciate it more… and this by considering and exploring all of its many facets more… far more.

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is your Savior, my Savior, everyone’s Savior. As humbling as this may be for you… as it is for me… the truth is, we… to a person… have not even begun to scratch the surface of our understanding and appreciating the same… that which is found in God’s Word… God coming into the flesh… God dwelling with us. And this includes: (A) the very fact of the matter; and (B) the reality of what it means to you, me and the world, then, now and all of the days hereafter… for all of time and beyond time.

Because you know what? If we had a far greater understanding and appreciation of God’s Word now, right now… and what we claim to be our faith… things would be a lot different in your daily life and mine now, right now.

For example, just in terms of how we keep or fail to keep the Advent season. How we, in so many ways, jump the gun and go straight into ‘full Christmas mode”… and this, not even in regard to the true Christmas, but rather the commercialized Christmas, the glitz, the glamor, the lights, the music, the smells and the bells.

And all of this because, to varying degrees, we have convinced ourselves that yes… sure… we know that Jesus is our Savior… we know the “real reason for the season” that is, Christ’s birth… we know the nativity account… so given this, we can move beyond all of that and get about enjoying, really enjoying, the holidays from Thanksgiving on, having one highpoint after another and yes, fit in the worship of the Lord as much as we can with everything else going on in our lives… our secular lives.

Indeed, it is amazing and quite sad, tragic even, that during this time of all times, many spiritual lives are on life support with oh-so shallow and weak pulses. How is it with you?

With the help of the world, Satan and our own sinful flesh, we have convinced ourselves that we can have it both ways, when in reality one way will always dominate, predominate… and it will not be the way of the Lord. It will not be the holy and higher things. We are only kidding ourselves. The sinful flesh… the Old Adam in us… is strong and quite persuasive.

For many people, Advent is a farce… a charade… in regard to it truly being kept, properly kept as a penitential time, a time of real reflection and introspection… real soul-searching. How is it with you? How has it been for you these past three and a half weeks?

And Christmas is no better. Oh, for sure, we will stop by on our way to some family gathering or party and pay our respects to the Baby Jesus, even bemoaning the inconvenient time of the Christmas service, given everything else we have to do… want to do.

Certainly, we will give lip service to the fact that Christ is the greatest gift from highest heaven, while we focus predominantly on earthly presents, given and received.

And then, in just a month or so, we will do it all over again, this time blowing by Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week and even Good Friday to get to what? Easter Sunday. And then it is far more for secular rather than spiritual reasons. Ya, we know… Christ died on the cross for us and rose again on the third day. Tell us something new!

We can all say that we want Jesus to be the reason for the season, but words alone to not make it so. Talk is cheap! And even if it were true, guess what? It isn’t enough. For the fact of the matter is, our Lord Jesus Christ, the very Son of God… our Savior… our Messiah… is not just the reason for this or that season… He is the reason for our entire life, here in time and in eternity. Why? Because Christ is our life!

My friends, for you, for me, the truth hurts because it unceremoniously and with great speed and precision cuts through all of the crap… all of the garbage… all of our rationalizing and compromising… all of our so-called “justifying” which again and again comes up short… and it brings us to our knees in rightful contrition over the gravity of our sinful ways, selfish ways.

The truth of the Law brings us rightly and thankfully to repentance… to our making confession of our sins… to our getting the great weight of the same off of our chests… freeing our hearts, our minds, our very souls.

And here is the wonderful thing. God’s Truth also heals… wonderfully heals… completely heals. His Divine Truth in Jesus Christ heals and restores us as we hear the words of absolution sweetly spoken, confidently spoken, announcing to us… proclaiming to us… that we are fully forgiven and given a new start, a fresh start… and this, in the One whose birth we are preparing to once again celebrate… this, in the One whose glorious return… imminent return… we are making ready.

How will it be for you… from here on out? Behold, Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is your Savior and mine and we couldn’t be more thankful, appreciative and humbled by the same. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“Christ – Our Savior” 12/20/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL