“The Church Upstairs”

“The Church Upstairs”
All Saints’ Day
November 4, 2018
Text: Ephesians 2:19-22

When I was on my Vicarage I spent a lot of time in the church basement, because that’s where our confirmation class was on Wednesday nights and that’s where a lot of our youth activities were.  Most of the basement was a large room, a little smaller than the sanctuary upstairs, and it was divided up into different areas by old partitions.  There was an area that the ladies used for making quilts, and another area where items were collected that were to be given away.  It was nice, but it was a little beat-up.  You know how church basements can get after 100 years.  It had served its purpose, but it had seen better days, and it was never anything fancy even when it was brand-new.

Of course, what was upstairs, that you couldn’t see from the basement, was beautiful.  The congregation had been very faithful in renovating and updating the sanctuary every 25 years or so from the time the church had first been built not too long after the Civil War.  And it was a beautiful sanctuary, with lovely stained-glass windows and an ornate altar and a large baptismal font and great pews and wonderful combinations of colors on the walls.  It was everything that you would want a Lutheran church to be.  But none of that was visible from the basement.  If you lived in the basement, if you never saw the upstairs but were only told about it, all that you could do was believe what someone else told you about it, try to imagine what it was like, and hope for the day that you could see it for yourself.

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“Who Then Can Be Saved?”

The Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost (B)
“Who Then Can Be Saved?”
October 21, 2018
Sermon Text: Mark 10:23-31

 St. Paul writes in his 2nd Epistle to Corinth, chapter 5, verse 7, that we walk by faith, not by sight.  Which may cause us to ponder the alternative: what would it mean to walk by sight, not by faith?

If we walked only by sight, then all that would matter would be what we could lay our hands on and enjoy right here and now.  We struggle with the implications of this in many different ways almost every day.  We could trade in our car for a nice shiny new one now, or we could have a little more in the retirement account for later.  We could take the really great vacation now, or we could have a little more money saved up in Junior’s college fund for later.  We could have that great-looking burger and its 60 grams of fat now, or we could weigh a little less later on.  Every day we make choices between what we want now and what we hope for later on.

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“The Choices We Make”

The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost (B)
“The Choices We Make”
October 14, 2018
Sermon Text: Mark 10:17-22

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 a world where it is so easy to gloss over something… where we are trained to skim through and fast forward to what might be considered salient points… much can be missed… overlooked.

There is no greater example of this than in how people read Holy Scripture… if this is even taking place. For some, believe it or not, their only exposure to Scripture is what they hear read, briefly read, on Sunday mornings.

Lest anyone think otherwise, that is not being in the Word. That is not being connected to the Word… the living Word which God would have us carefully consider and take to heart for it is His divine message of love to each and every one of us where nothing is fluff or filler… nothing is of little or no importance. Rather it is all crucial… all critical to know and be reminded of.

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“Trusting Instead of Testing”

“Trusting Instead of Testing”  Mark 10:2-16
The 20th Sunday after Pentecost (B)
October 7, 2018

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Testing Jesus. Testing the Lord God Almighty, He who is the Alpha and the Omega. Not a good idea on several fronts, wouldn’t you say?

And yet it happens… constantly. We know that it is far more prevalent than just what the Pharisees were doing in today’s Gospel text.

For sure… it is a quality, a characteristic of sinful man down throughout time to test God… to test His Word… to test His resolve… to test His holy will.

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“Eldad, Medad and Me”

“Eldad, Medad and Me”  Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
The 19th Sunday after Pentecost (B)  9/30/18
Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:13-14)

In none of this does St. James say, if you face this or that… if you are dealing with this issue or that issue… complain… grumble and gripe. In fact, follow the example of the children of Israel recorded in today’s Old Testament text as well as other times in their journey through the wilderness to the promised land.

Let us keep in mind that the whole depiction of this journey is factual as well as prophetic and symbolic. Prophetic and symbolic in that this account in a most striking way, describes our journey… yours and mine… through this, our mortal journey here on earth.

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“Set Free for Love and Service”

“Set Free for Love and Service” Mark 9:30-37
The 18th Sunday after Pentecost (B) 9/23/2018
Rev. Richard Bellas, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

 

The great Leo Tolstoy novel Anna Karenina is really a story about two women whose lives go in opposite directions.  The first is Anna, a member of the wealthy Russian elite with all the advantages except for one thing – she is stuck in an unhappy marriage.  She begins an affair with Count Vronsky, an affair that is at first a secret, but becomes more and more obvious as time goes one.  Before long, she has been cast off by her husband and ostracized by society because of the scandal.  She is even kept away from her young son by her vengeful husband.  Left with no one and nothing except her lover, Anna runs off with him to Europe to follow her sinful heart and indulge her passions for him.  Turned in upon herself, living only for her own pleasures and passions, Anna becomes more and more miserable, becomes addicted to drugs, and eventually kills herself in a fit of hopelessness by throwing herself under a train.

And then there is Kitty, a young girl who begins the novel with a deep crush on this same Vronsky and is destroyed when he shows no interest in her.  Kitty is heartbroken to the point of becoming physically sick, almost to the point of death.  Her family cares for her and their doctor does the best he can for her, but eventually he admits that there is nothing that he can do for her.  There is nothing physical about her problem that he can treat.  Her soul is broken, and her body has followed.  He suggests that they take her to Europe to see what cures they may find there, because nothing in Russia can save her.

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“Be Strong and Let Your Heart Take Courage”

“Be Strong and Let Your Heart Take Courage”  Psalm 31:24
The 17th Sunday after Pentecost (B)  9/16/18
Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

As I was preparing this sermon, our nation had just taken time to remember one of the greatest tragedies to take place on our soil, in our land… the events of 9-11.  And on the horizon… literally… was Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut.

One, man-made… the others, acts of nature. When you think about it though, it doesn’t really matter how they come about for both types spell disaster, damage and devastation, loss of life, injury, headaches and heartaches.

We know the pattern… the drill… all too well. Indeed, we look back on the past at what has been… the present and what is… the future and what will be, assuredly… and it could all lead to despair.

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