“Whether They Hear or Refuse to Hear”

“Whether They Hear or Refuse to Hear”  Ezekiel 2:1-5
The 7th Sunday after Pentecost (B)  7/15/18
Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

For a moment, let me take you back to Good Friday… to our Lord’s crucifixion where St. Matthew tells us that Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:50-54)

It was quite a revelation to them. The One who was just crucified… the One who died right there before their eyes was the very Son of God. He who openly preached and taught in their midst. He who was categorically rejected by both Jew and gentile. Jesus Christ, truly the Son of God… He who is also our ever-living Prophet, Priest and King. Indeed, the greatest of the prophets! He who spoke the Word of God and is that very Word incarnate… the very Word made flesh… the very Word betrayed, mocked, beaten and crucified.

Continue reading ““Whether They Hear or Refuse to Hear””

“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