“The Games People Play”

The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“The Games People Play”
October 22, 2017

Sermon Text:  Matthew 22:15-22

Peace be unto you from our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

Oh, the games people play. I am not talking about sports, although some certainly make a sport out of it. I am not talking about board games, although one would think the person playing games would get bored doing it and just stop it… “cease and desist” if you will.

It gets old and… as is often said… life is too short to play games with people, be it at work, school, home, wherever and whenever. Just come out with it. Just tell it like it is. Just let your thoughts and opinions… your desires and intentions be known in a straightforward and matter of fact way.

But it is not that easy to do when one’s thoughts and opinions, desires and intentions are not good… are not right… are, in fact, downright sinister and evil… wicked even.

Then “playing games” becomes a handy tool to ensnare someone… to entangle them in one’s plot of deceit. St. Matthew tells us, “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle [Jesus] in his talk.” (Matthew 22:15)

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“A Dress Code”

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“A Dress Code”
October 15, 2017

Sermon Text: Matthew 22:1-14

Peace be unto you from our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed,

The Lord our God does not depict it one way, but rather in several ways to help us, His beloved children, understand His relationship to us. That which is of His own doing and making… and this out of pure Fatherly love shown toward us. We are the object of His affection… the “apple of His eye.” He who is the creator of this vast universe, this earth and everything in it. It is all for us… made for us… for which we give unceasing thanks and adoration.

What we have before us this morning in our Gospel text is truly one of the most wonderful ways in which the Almighty explains the divine relationship between Himself and us… one that has us seeing the Father, God our Father, as a king who gives a wedding feast for his son. His Son, the Bridegroom. His Son, Jesus Christ.

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“Very Perceptive”

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“Very Perceptive”
October 8, 2017

Sermon Text: Matthew 21:33-46

Peace be unto you from our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

In last week’s Adult Bible Class, we reviewed the glorious Creation account as recorded in Genesis, chapter one. What an amazing world God created. And in regard to all that He made, He saw and it was good.

Today, in our Gospel lesson, Jesus says to the chief priests and the elders, “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. (Matthew 21:33)

The “vineyard,” my friends, is the world and the people of the world that the Lord our God created. And you and I know that a vineyard is planted, managed and maintained for one reason… to bear fruit, produce fruit. Fruit that will then go to the winepress which the “master of the house” also includes on site.

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“By What Authority?”

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“By What Authority?”
October 1, 2017

Sermon Text:  Matthew 21:23-27

Peace be unto you from our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

One of the great mistakes that we make in our everyday lives is taking things out of context. We hate it when someone does this to us, in regard to what we have said or done and the same holds true if the shoe is on the other foot.

We can also take events and incidents out of context and especially historical ones, whether it is related to our family, our country or the world. This can be very costly as we are now seeing and reaping relative to many things happening in the United States.

Too many people are ignorant of historical facts and yet will speak about them as if with authority and take action based upon them in what they believe is a righteous way.

Or… they will take a historical fact and, again, remove it from the entire context in which it happened, leaving them with a jaundiced view and vision from which to act or react.

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“One Spirit, One Mind, Striving Side-by-Side”

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“One Spirit, One Mind, Striving Side-by-Side”
September 24, 2017

Sermon Text:  Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30

 Peace be unto you from our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” (Philippians 1:12,13)

So writes the Apostle Paul, who with great determination and drive takes the glorious Gospel message from one place to another around the northern Mediterranean Sea ports and surrounding cities, towns and villages.

He has one goal, one mission, one objective now in his life… to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And he does it well. Some might say too well because of what the message of Christ will always result in… namely opposition and persecution. Due to Paul’s relentless pointing to Jesus and the cross, he will endure countless beatings, countless blows landed upon him and more than once, it will land him in prison… in chains.

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“If You Have to Ask”

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“If You Have to Ask”
September 17, 2017

Sermon Text:   Matthew 18:21-35

Peace be unto you from our Triune God – Father, X Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

In the church, all that a person need do is mention that they are in the process of using “Matthew 18” and little more needs to be said. They are referring to what Christ our Lord says should be the loving course of action in regard to a brother or sister who has sinned against you. This is all recorded in the verses just prior to today’s Gospel text.

And it is interesting to note that just ignoring the sin, overlooking the sin or “sweeping it under the rug” is not one of the options given by our Lord. It never is. And yet it is the way of most people today… the way of many Christians and the way of many Christian congregations.

Nobody wants to confront the sin or the sinner and do you know what?  Satan is loving it. He is having a field day with many congregations, many individuals, many marriages and families where sin is simply overlooked Make no mistake about it. Satan is the one pushing the whole “Don’t get involved” movement. Just let it alone – the sin, that is. Just leave him or her alone – the sinner, in regard to their transgressions.

And this my friends, although expedient… although the simplest way out with no muss or fuss, with no confrontation, no angst, no energy or time expended… is nevertheless the cowardly way out, the most unloving and uncaring way out.  Most importantly, it goes right up against God’s Word, God’s will.

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“Serious Business”

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“Serious Business”
September 10, 2017

Sermon Text:  Ezekiel 33:7-9

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

Dear Fellow Redeemed,

There are many things in our lives which we would consider to be “serious business.” Wouldn’t you agree? Things that are important, critical and essential even. Things which we do not take lightly because this or that can certainly have a significant impact.

But for whom? Ourselves? That is usually what comes to mind… what is often front and center, first and foremost, in our thoughts. Ourselves.

For us, our health is serious business… our livelihood and financial future are serious business. Our welfare… our being comfortable… without want… being safe and secure… is serious business.

And for many people, enjoying every minute of life, having fun throughout life, going from one great moment to the next… is serious business.

We will get back to the “me, myself and I” in just a bit and consider now the fact that there is a lot of “serious business” out there which may or may not have a direct impact on our lives and too often is of secondary concern if of any concern at all.

Hurricane Irma is serious business. As was and still is Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. The forest fires out West are serious business. The earthquake in Mexico… serious business. The situation with North Korea… serious business. Racism in our country is serious business (and yes, that is a plug for our first Sunday Adult Bible Class discussion which begins today).

It is all serious business. But how much of it is our business, our concern, personally and individually? We invest so much of ourselves in ourselves and our concern for ourselves and maybe our own family members and some close friends… that there is little or nothing left for us to invest in that which is beyond the self.

We have become, in many ways, an island to ourselves… in and of ourselves, with our own interests and possessions at heart. We have tried to make it our own tropical paradise, filled with wonderful things… “a little bit of heaven” if you will, for us here on earth.

And this, totally forgetting where and only where a little bit of heaven here on earth can be found… the only place it is found. And it is right here in divine worship. Heaven is where God is… the very same Lord our God who comes to us here, is present with us here in the divine service. It is not just a nice thought… it is reality!

Indeed, for a few precious minutes we are in the presence of the Alpha and Omega to Whom it is only good, right and proper that we bow and kneel before the same.

For a few precious minutes, we join with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven… all of the saints who are in glory… in together giving glory to God right here, right now, in this place.

THIS… is serious business! And yet, amazingly, tragically and sadly, you have those who do not come every week and at every opportunity. You have those who can’t wait until the service is over… “Pastor would you please just wrap up your sermon!” or “O my goodness, do you see how many verses this hymn has!”… so that they can get to that which is most important for themselves… for the me, myself and I.

Funny thing about being an island to yourself… being on an island… especially when the beautiful sun, the gentle breezes and calm seas give way in a blink of an eye to thick darkness and billowing clouds, to hurricane force winds and a storm surge so high and formidable that it wipes away everything in its path.

You have seen pictures of the aftermath… of all the devastation. But nothing like that which is to come. And I am not talking about Hurricane Irma hitting land. I am talking about the storm to come… the storm that is already upon us… the storm that will only grow in intensity and will leave in its wake, death and destruction the likes of which this world has never known.

It is serious business, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to the vast majority of people here and around the world. How is it with you?

We have an aunt who lives near St. Petersburg, Florida, and she was saying yesterday that she was out and about in the morning, picking up supplies (at age 92 no less) and remarked what a delightful day they were having weather wise. The sun was shining and there were only a few wispy clouds in the sky.  But she knows what is coming and is prepared. The ironic thing is, she has been evacuated from her apartment complex and is staying at her church which is more inland. She has fled to the church. Think about that!

The irony is… the church… the Holy Christian Church… is the only viable shelter, true shelter from the spiritual storm that is, in many ways, already here, but is yet to come in full force and will soon be upon all of the inhabitants of the world with a divine vengeance and righteous fury that one can hardly imagine because there is nothing to compare it to.

The destruction of those outside of the Church… outside of the true Body of Christ… will be full and complete… to those who live in sin, remain in sin… who continue with their sinful lifestyle… to those who refuse to bend the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord… to those who do not see Him as their Savior and their only salvation.

“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.

But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

My friends, consider yourself duly warned by God… and this, from the lips of a fellow brother, a poor miserable sinner just like you. Consider yourself duly warned by one whom God has called and ordained to be His “watchman.” One who watches over your souls. A “seelsorger” in the German.

Hear the call to repentance as this could not be for you or me more important. It is serious business and at the top of the list.

Hear also the wonderful Gospel message that in Christ Jesus you and I truly have complete forgiveness for all of our sinful, selfish, wicked ways. Let that sink in… settle into your hearts and minds… truly bringing you the peace that surpasses all worldly understanding.

Your sins… my sins… they have all been washed away in the crimson flood of Jesus blood. They are no more and we have now… today… this minute… a fresh start… a new beginning… here in the Lord… here in His Holy Church where together we will ride out each and every worldly storm…

… here, together, where we reach out to so many who are right now spiritually adrift, in great peril and danger…

… here together, where we have the great joy and privilege of attending to the needs of those who have been affected by worldly storms, earthquakes, fires or whatever.

Serious business?  Yes… indeed. Help us O Lord to truly, faithfully, be about the same… now and every day of our lives… all to Your glory! Amen.

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

“Serious Business” 9/10/17  The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL