“Until the Harvest”

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“Until the Harvest”
July 23, 2017

Sermon Text:  Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43  

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

Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Two questions – How often have we heard the phrase, “In the Lord’s time?” And how often have we found ourselves wanting that time to come a little quicker, if not a lot quicker? Right now, in fact, would be good!

Again and again, though, history bears out that how we view and measure time is not how God views and measures it. His, the perfect view and measure. Ours, not so much… not at all actually… where time and time again, we grow weary and impatient oh-so easily. So often, we want to rush things. We want certain things to start and other things to end… to be over with.

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“Spiritual Audiology”

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“Spiritual Audiology”
July 16, 2017

Sermon Text:  Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23

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

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

St. Matthew tells us “great crowds” had gathered to hear our Lord there on that sea shore. It was so large, the people so many, that Jesus gets into a boat allowing more people to gather in close to hear Him speak.

All of this paints an impressive picture. Is this not what we like to see? Many people hearing the Word of God? Many people gathered around our Savior…  be it on a beach, in a church or wherever?

Yes! Certainly, but… here is the thing. Just being in close proximity to our Lord… simply having the opportunity to hear what He says… physically being able to receive into one’s ears the words coming out of Christ’s mouth does not guarantee that those words… God’s message… is really being heard, let alone understood, let alone rendering any blessing and benefit.

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“Come to Me”

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“Come to Me”
July 9, 2017

Sermon Text:  Matthew 11:25-30

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

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

What an honor and privilege it is to hear the Word of God and consider it this morning… to take it in… to have ears that spiritually hear… the ears of faith, that is, which we have been graciously given through the Holy Spirit. And to have hearts that hear as well… minds that hear… again, all by the Spirit working mightily in us.

For it is God in Christ Jesus who speaks to us today – directly, personally and passionately… including where He says to us… all of us… “Come to Me.”

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

I would be very surprised if this passage does not rank high on the list of everyone’s favorites. And to understand and appreciate the full import of this amazing invitation issued by our Savior, we would do well to consider the context of the same.

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“What Do You Think?”

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (A)

“What Do You Think?”

July 2, 2017

Sermon Text:  Matthew 10:34-42

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

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!    (Romans 11:33)

Friends in Christ, you will recognize this as the appointed gradual that we chanted just a few minutes ago in which we… again and again… acknowledge with St. Paul the majesty and mystery of the Lord our God and especially His divine omniscience… His “all-knowingness” if you will.

We have all heard from time to time in our lives bits of worldly wisdom that are quite profound. And may have even said regarding the same, “That’s deep!” But none of it comes close to the depth of God’s wisdom and knowledge. What He knows and what He does.

Indeed, His judgments are what? Unsearchable. And His ways “inscrutable” as translated in the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible. However, looking at the Greek word used here, it may be better put that God’s ways “are beyond tracing out” … they are “unfathomable.”

Here we are referring to God’s ways, but not God’s Word. His Word is, by and large, fathomable… understandable. One is able to “trace it out” because God has made it so to the degree He wants it so. This… Holy Scripture… all of Scripture… is His message to us and all mankind. And make no mistake about it, He will make sure it is faithfully delivered to us and understood by us through the work of the Holy Spirit who enlightens us to the same.

And this, through the eyes of faith with the Spirit ever moving us and helping us to dig deeper into the Word and in the process, find more, know more of what God would have us know about His message… THIS message.

It is a message of love… His love for us. It is a message of life… eternal life and how God, in Christ Jesus, has spared us from eternal death.

And so, the message couldn’t be more important including where our Lord declares, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

Whoa! Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound too loving! And there are many people… Christian and unbeliever alike… who do not think it is loving. Some go so far as to question if Jesus really said this. Some feel compelled to soften these words by either changing them or interpreting them differently to fit their own beliefs and their own picture and portrait of Jesus.

What arrogance! What gall and impertinence. The created tell the Creator what is and what is not. The created changing, twisting or downright dismissing the Word and the will of the Creator. Such is mankind.

Key to understanding the Gospel text that is before us this morning, my friends, is understanding and obeying what our Lord says right up front here – Μὴ νομίσητε – “Do not think.”

Not that we are not to think. Rather, we are not to think wrongly… with an unlightened mind, a worldly mind, fleshly mind, sinful mind… that sadly is found in many Christians and Christian churches today where it is believed that Jesus came to bring worldly peace and that in Him everything in this world will be just fine for the believer… that there will be no heartaches and headaches… no trying times… no difficulties, no pain or persecution. It is all good in Jesus… peace in Jesus … prosperity in Jesus… if we only have enough faith in Jesus… and do OUR best.

And many would say the same for the unbeliever as well… because after all, God is love and He really will not take to task or punish anyone… certainly not in hell… forever!  It is all good in Jesus… peace in Jesus regardless of anything and everything. Regardless of the complete lack of faith and engaging in that which is sinful and an abomination to the Lord our God. Regardless of what it may be, whether we are talking about abortion, homosexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism and an ever-growing list of “isms.” Be it adultery, divorce, cohabitation or sex outside of marriage… be it assisted suicide or other so-called types of “mercy killing.” Be it cheating, stealing, lying, bearing false witness… and, well, you get the point.

Again, it is all supposedly good in Jesus… peace in Jesus in spite of what Jesus actually says. Including here… in our Gospel text:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (Matthew 10:34-36)

Christ our Lord, the very Son of God, explicitly states that HE has come to do this! And, most certainly, does it. He did it then as He walked this earth and look what it cost Him… His holy, precious and innocent life. Look at where it took Him… to the cross!  For us!

And He does it now… today… and will to end of time… the dividing… the setting apart… the setting against. As then, so now, by His Word… He who is the very Word Incarnate.

That Word… His Word… IS the great divider. That Word… His Word… IS the very “sword” that He refers to here in this text.

That Word… His Word… “them’s fight’n words” for all who do not believe and they choke on it. They decry it… despise it and anyone who holds to it… God’s Word, that is, and the truth contained therein. They are opposed to it and anyone who embraces and confesses it… anyone who lives according to it. It doesn’t matter even if you are their father, mother, son, daughter or some other blood relative.

At the very least, God’s Word will cause disruption and a degree of distancing in any relationship… and especially in any marriage or family situation where one finds the true believer mixed with the unbeliever.

But that rarely is the end of it. It naturally, normally gets worse as the natural man or woman is influenced more and more by sin and Satan. And the believer will get hurt… sin will take its toll on them… on us… as it did with our dear Lord and all who have come before us and are now in glory.

To make things worse, too often, Christian men and woman, Christian fathers and mothers, sons and daughters will give into the sinful ways of loved ones and others…. and this, for the sake of peace (which is no true peace, godly peace at all). In so doing, they abandon God’s Word or turn a blind eye to it for the sake of a erring loved one.

And so to us and all believers who are tempted to condone or ignore sinful behavior, sinful actions and lifestyles of others and especially among our loved ones, we hear our Lord go on to emphatically say,

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37-38)

These are sobering words… all of it… words, His Word that the Lord would have us take to heart… take into account… and put into action… to act accordingly by the power of God the Holy Spirit in us.

These are important words… all of it… all that we find here in our Gospel text. But where is the Gospel in all of this? Where is the Good News? It is certainly here as we connect this text with all that is lovingly shared with us in Holy Scripture.

The Good News of our Lord Jesus lovingly sharing with us what is and what will be so that we are not surprised, caught off guard or blindsided by it.

The Good News that just as Jesus promised, so He has sent us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to help us through the difficult times, especially when they involve our own loved ones.

The Good News that in Christ Jesus we have forgiveness for all of the times that we have forsaken the Lord, forsaken His Word and will… and sided with the world and those of the world.

The Good News that we are given a new start, washed clean again and again through Baptism and given the opportunity and spiritual strength to do what is good, right and salutary… do what is pleasing to the Lord and in keeping with His Holy Word and will.

How blessed we are… and this in Jesus, our Savior, Lord and King. Amen.

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

“What Do You Think”  7/2/17  The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

“Have No Fear”

The Third Sunday after Pentecost (A)

“Have No Fear”

June 25, 2017

Sermon Text:  Matthew 10:5a, 21-33,

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

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

For three years now, Chapman University in Orange, California, has come out with a report on what Americans fear the most. Their most recent findings were reported in USA Today awhile back. Care to guess what was the number one fear that was expressed?

It surprised me. Not that it was a fear among Americans, but that it was at the top of the list and this, for the second straight year no less.

The number one fear among those surveyed was the corruption of government officials. Hmm. Go figure. It is no wonder that we as devout Christians and loyal citizens of this land daily remember our government leaders in our prayers to the one true God.

Second biggest fear? No surprise here. It is the fear of terrorist attacks, be they on a grand scale like 9/11 or a small one as seen this week with the stabbing of a police officer at the airport in Flint, Michigan.

Quickly going through the rest of the list in order of percentage, you have the fear of not having enough money for the future, the fear of being a victim of terror, the fear of government restrictions on firearms and ammunition, the fear of loved ones dying, the fear of economic or financial collapse, the fear of identity theft, the fear of love ones becoming seriously ill, and the fear of the Affordable Health Care Act and what used to be “Obamacare.”

So, how does all this compare with your own personal fears? What keeps you awake at night? What are the things that really concern you? Bother you? Things that either occupy your heart and mind or things that you repress, not wanting to go there… to think about this or that?

Some would try (and actually have tried) to put all of this on some sort of continuum or scale with outright deadly fear at one end and simple concern at the other with all other related emotions and feelings fitting somewhere in between. Ok…

The fact is, we are talking about emotions and feelings… human emotions and feelings that a person can have… will have to certain stimuli. Not all people will react the same way and to the same degree, but they will all… in some form or fashion… react.

It is part of being human. God wonderfully created us with emotions… with feelings. Adam and Eve had the same and this, perfectly… before the Fall into Sin, that is. Then, like everything else due to sin… our emotions… our feelings… became imperfect, faulty and corrupt.

As a pastor, I have the joy and privilege of helping people with a wide variety of issues and aspects. And yes, this includes dealing with fears and concerns that they have. In these instances, I never have said or will say to someone that they should not have such feelings, fears and concerns.

Why? Because these things will come, do come, as long as we live in this mortal body, in our corruptible flesh with an imperfect heart and mind. I am talking about the “Old Adam” in us, that which is part of us to the day we die when we shall shed the same and receive perfect and holy bodies at the resurrection of all flesh.

No. The issue is not having fears, worries and concerns. It is what we do with these things, WHEN these things (notice it is not a question of IF these things) come about. They will… and we will… respond, that is, in some form or fashion. We will act and react. The question is how?

And the answer should not be “on our own” … or “alone” … if we truly want to confront them and properly deal with… if we really, truly want to put any and all fears, worries and concerns to rest.

If you think that this is where I will share with you that our help… our only help… the only real solution that we and all people have is in the name of the Lord… that it is in Christ, through Christ and by means of His grace showered upon us in Word and Sacrament… then, you would be right.

The thing is, the vast majority of you know that… you know the answer. You know the solution. You know where your help truly comes from. But you do not apply it. You do not put it into action.

And the “it” is your faith… faith in Christ… faith in His Word… faith in His promises… faith in the Sacraments… and what they deliver and provide.

Make no mistake about it my friends, there is faith and then there is faith. There is a living faith and then there is a dead faith. Which one do you have and how do you know? How would you know?

Well, here is an idea… poke it! Does it move? Has it moved? Has it shown any signs of life in you? Is there any actions associated with it? If it is just there, lying still and breathless… I think you have your answer.

Where there is faith, true faith… a living and alive faith… there will always be the fruits of faith.

Put another way, true faith… a living and alive faith will always bear fruit … including having the ability to trust. To say that we have faith in God… faith in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit… is to unequivocally trust our Heavenly Father… trust Christ our Savior, Lord and King… trust the mighty work of the Holy Spirit.

Where there is faith there is trust and where there is trust there is faith. The two go hand in hand with faith bearing the fruit of trust.

We are talking about having faith and fully trusting our Lord in the face of what will come, has come and continues to come upon us and all who believe… upon all who confess the Christian faith and live it daily… live in it daily.

What Christ shared with the Twelve in our Gospel lesson was more than just a little disconcerting. The part about brother delivering brother over to death, the father his child, children rising up against their parents and putting them to death. The part about being hated by all for His name’s sake… for the name of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 10:21-22)

Notice that our Lord then says, “When they persecute you.” (Matthew 10:23) It is not a matter of IF they persecute you. It will happen. It will be. And Jesus goes on to share with us that as “A disciple is not above his teacher” or “a servant above his master” so we are by no means exempt from persecution, suffering, pain and loss… all for the sake of Christ… all for the sake of the Kingdom.

Yikes! But in the passages that follow, our Lord says again and again… three times… not to fear… to have no fear. That as such may come upon us, send it out, shake it off, summarily dismiss it through the power of the Holy Spirit and don’t give it a second thought.

Why. Because whatever is invoking that fear… causing us to fear… cannot harm us. The Lord, our Lord, has us in His divine hands, under His protective wings. He will guard and defend us… help us… heal us of any wounds that the Old Evil Foe and his followers may inflict upon us in this life time. They are all short lived.

No. As Christ says in our Gospel text, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Indeed, even if we die at the hands of evil, we need not fear that evil for all that can die is our mortal flesh which will rise up perfect and holy on the last day.  The question is, do we believe this… have faith in this… trust this?

If we do, there is no true fear to be had regarding anything and everything that can happen or will happen. There is no fear to be had about anything and everything in this world or beyond… anything visible or invisible… mortal or spiritual… EXCEPT… true fear, proper fear, rightful fear of the Lord our God… He who alone can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

We are talking about true fear, proper fear, rightful fear, reverence and respect of the Lord our God who loves us perfectly, who knows us perfectly… knows our situations and circumstances perfectly… who knows even the number of hairs on our heads… who know what is best for us and is seeing to it that it happens… is seeing to it that all things… ALL THINGS are working together for our good… for our good and that of all who love the Lord… who have faith in the Lord… who trust in Him regarding all things and far above all things.

And so I leave you with three words which make up one simple message. They are not mine. They are the Lord’s… “Have no fear.” Amen.

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

“Have No Fear” 6/25/17  The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

“For the Healing of the Nations”

The Second Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“For the Healing of the Nations”
June 18, 2017

Sermon Text:  Matthew 9:35-10:8, Revelation 22:1-7

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

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

In April of this year, seventy-two people including women and children where killed in a deadly chemical attack in Syria. Some four hundred others were seriously injured.

It was a terrible scene, a heart-breaking one, a very challenging one for medical personnel as they rushed to treat victims and were, some of them, injured as well by rubble that fell when the hospital was bombed shortly thereafter.

So many people needing help. So many people suffering. So many… in misery.

St. Matthew tells us that our beloved Savior, Christ Jesus, went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching… proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. We are also told that “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35-36)

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“Our Confession, Our Life”

The Holy Trinity
“Our Confession, Our Life”
June 11, 2017

Sermon Text: Matthew 28:19-20

Peace be unto you from the one true God, the Lord God Almighty – Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

Our Savior said shortly before ascending into heaven, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Do it all in the one true God. Do it all in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And to this we say “Amen” because it is highly doubtful that among those gathered here this morning, there are some who do not confess the Holy Trinity and the fact that there is but one God in three Persons.

I believe that all of us faithfully confessed the same a few minutes ago in the form of the Athanasian Creed which, along with the Nicene and Apostle’s Creed, boldly state our belief in the Holy Trinity. Such is the firm conviction of the Christian Church universal… the Christian Church catholic. Indeed, the one true Triune God confessed by the one true Church here on earth as well as that above… the Church Militant as well as the Church Triumphant.

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