Sermon: 12-27-2015

December 27, 2015                                                               Text:  Matthew 2:13-18

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Christmas in the U.S. wears two faces.  How many Christmas letters that you received talked about the family’s sin or heartache that was experienced.  We sing “Joy to the World” yet read of murder, violence and rape online or in the paper.  We proclaim peace on earth while world leaders try to implement it in hot spots around the world.  Merchants are figuring out how “good” a Christmas it was as they figure out their sales.

Perhaps those of us who know the “Reason for the Season” are partly guilty for the fake Christmas around us.  We present neighbors and friends with holiday joy on our faces without first proclaiming why baby Jesus was born.  We know the good news sung by the angels, but how many sermons have you heard on weeping Rachel?  Rachel is an important person in Matthew’s Christmas story.  Listen to this – it is the rest of the Christmas story.

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’  And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.  This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:  ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’”

Who is Rachel?  Why is she weeping?  And why do we usually ignore her?

“WHY ARE YOU WEEPING, RACHEL?”

Perhaps you remember Rachel’s story from Sunday School.  She met Jacob who wanted to marry her, but first Laban, Rachel’s father, tricked him.  He was to work seven years to “earn” Rachel, but on the wedding day he found out he had married her sister, Leah.  He then had to work seven more years for Rachel.  Rachel must have wept over that.

Rachel must have wept when she could not have children and the she had to watch as Leah and Jacob’s “second wives” gave Jacob 10 sons and a daughter.  Finally Rachel’s womb opened and she gave birth to Joseph.  She then died weeping giving birth to Benjamin.  Jacob buried her near Bethlehem.

Matthew does a remarkable thing in our text, inspired by the Holy Spirit.  He takes a historical event from 600 years before Jesus’ birth and applies it to the children of Rachel who died soon after Jesus was born.  The Holy Innocents – the two year old boys and younger died.  Rachel wept.

This is the rest of the Christmas story.  Jesus came into a world of sin.  Satan tries to kill baby Jesus before he would grow up and defeat him at the cross.  The devil still seeks those he can devour.  Innocent babies still die at the hands of medical professionals.  Listen!  Do you hear Rachel weeping?  I do.

Matthew’s Gospel story is how God came to conquer sin – your sin and mine.  Jesus came into a world that threatened his life just as it threatens yours.  Matthew tells of Herod’s bloody swords so he can also tell us how God the Father sent an angel to protect, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary so that Jesus could carry out his mission of dying for the sins of the world.

The world does not want to hear about sin and maybe we don’t either on this Sunday after Christmas, but there is no Christmas without Good Friday.  We perpetuate people’s walk to hell when we permit them to have a pretend Christmas.  A Christmas without Rachel weeping may as well be built on rooty-toot toots and rummy-tum-tums.

Our world is one that needs Jesus in the manger and on the cross and at the empty tomb.  Our world needs Jesus raised from the dead.  Our world needs Jesus because Rachel still weeps.  Rachel weeps and so do you, don’t you?  I know I do and I just experienced it recently with an incident.   Spouse abuse is real.  Cancer is real.  Abuse of drugs and alcohol is real.  Adultery is real.  Lack of thankfulness to our Lord is real.  Slander and theft and greed are real.  Death is real.

Jesus was born to deal with our real world.  Jesus was born to dry Rachel’s tears.  Jesus lived and died and rose again to dry your tears.  On our Christmas tree we have a spike hanging on there.  It reminds us that Christmas is real at our house because Good Friday and Easter are real.

Christmas can be a sham to make people feel good without reminding them of their basic problem – sin.  This morning you and I are at Rachel’s tomb.  We hear her weeping.  We remember our weeping.  So today we ask the Lord to “wipe away every tear from eye.”  We rejoice with the hymn writer, “Then when You will come again As the glorious king to reign, I with joy will see your face, Freely ransomed by your grace.”  Amen.

Bulletin Announcements – December 27, 2015

 Bulletin Announcements  

December 27, 2015

THOUGHTS ON STEWARDSHIP:  “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38 ESV) Notice here how giving thanks to God leads to good works (speaking about Jesus, in this case). Thankfulness toward God for all He has done for us is the foundation of a Christian life lived in godliness. For if we know all that the Lord has done for us, how can we not strive to honor Him with what we think, say, and do?

THE ADULT BIBLE CLASS, led by Pastor Lueck and meeting in the church basement at 9:15 a.m. is studying “Lutheran Doctrine and Practice Today”.

TODAY IN SUNDAY SCHOOL the children study “The Birth of John.” Zechariah spoke God’s Word announcing that this baby, John, would give people knowledge of salvation in the forgiveness of sins. God speaks through His holy Word to give us knowledge of salvation and forgiveness through Jesus, His Son. In your family discuss, “How does Jesus remind us of the work He has done for us?”

NEW YEAR’S EVE WORSHIP: This Thursday, December 31st, will be our New Year’s Eve Worship with Holy Communion beginning at 7:00 p.m. The sermon is titled: “The Sure Thing of Jesus”. Following worship it has been tradition to have members join together in dinner at a local restaurant. This year that will take place at CJ’s at 8:00 p.m. If you would like to join, and all are welcome, please sign-up on the table in the narthex.

INSTALLATION OF OFFICERS: One week from today, January 3rd, when we celebrate Epiphany we will also install all those who were duly elected to serve Good Shepherd in the year of our Lord 2016. We will have Installation in both of our worship services that morning.

WINTER WEATHER PLAN: If bad weather is likely, the Elders will send an email reminder to the Newsletter email list the night before services reminding you to check WJBC or email to see if church is cancelled. If you do not receive the Newsletter email and want to receive cancellation emails, subscribe to the Newsletter email at: http://www.goodshepherdblm.org/about-us/contact-us/

PORTALS OF PRAYER: The January – March 2016 Portals of Prayer are available on the book rack in the narthex. Pick up your free copy today.

FELLOWSHIP HOSTS: The sign-up for help with coffee/doughnuts is posted on the wall by the north stairwell. We need an individual/family to sign-up each week to pick up the donuts and make the coffee. If no one is signed up by Friday of each week, the order will be cancelled. We thank everybody who continues to help with this part of our church fellowship.

THE LUTHERAN HOUR: “Life In Context” is the topic for next Sunday. The sermon text will be from Ephesians 1:3-14. Life is not up for grabs or out of control. Find real life in the context of Christ’s cross and resurrection. The speaker will be Reverend Gregory Seltz. Hear this Sunday’s message on the Lutheran Hour on WGN (720) at 6:00 a.m.; WJWR (104.7 FM) and WJWR (90.3 FM) both on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Also, if you can receive Lincoln, IL radio station WLLM (1370 AM) the program is broadcast two times on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tune in! You can also listen to The Lutheran Hour on your personal computer at RealAudio, www.lhm.org.

PRAYER CHAIN: If you have a prayer request please submit them by email to Mary Anne Kirchner at makirchner@yahoo.com or you may phone a Prayer Request to Mary Anne; her home # is (309) 661-6522; her cell phone# is (309) 532-2582. The Prayer Request box is on the table in the narthex for any written requests.

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Sermon: 12-13-2015

December 13, 2015                                                              Text:  Zephaniah 3:14-20

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Baby showers and bridal showers are celebrations before the celebrations.  The actual event has not yet occurred; that is, the baby is not yet born, and the couple is not yet married.  So the real celebrations are yet to come.  Still people bring gifts in anticipation of what is coming.  Even in a sin-corrupted world, where tragedies such as miscarriages and stillbirths cut short an otherwise joyful pregnancy, and called-off engagements end hope-filled wedding plans, people nevertheless come seemingly without any thought of these possibilities.  They celebrate, believing the joy will happen and they are sure of it’s coming.

The prophet Zephaniah wrote some six centuries before the birth of Christ – and at a time of impending judgment on God’s people.   Yet already he writes as if there’s a reason to celebrate:  “Sing aloud!”  “Rejoice!”  “Exult!”  Already he writes that the Lord has taken away his judgments against the people.  Why?  Because even during those centuries of the “first Advent,” Zephaniah was certain that the baby, the Messiah, was coming.  We know what is coming so we can celebrate that . . .

“CHRIST IS OUR JOY, NO MATTER THE SORROW”

It would seem we have many reasons not to celebrate.  We have rebelled against God and His commandments just like the people of Zephaniah’s day.  We live in sin-stained world.  We fight daily against evil.  Our relationships – family and work – suffer from the brokenness of our sinful world:  marriage challenges, conflict among children and parents, power struggles between co-workers, the stress of dealing with the public.  Then comes Christmas and we have our own lists we are trying to fulfill.  Oh, it can be a struggle.

This is where the church lives.  The church is our sanctuary in the midst of the challenge.  We live in a world that wants little or nothing to do with the Triune God.  Because of that the church suffers in the midst of that!  Sorrows in the midst of that!  Cries out to God in the midst of that!

And look at what God is once again impressing upon us this season of Advent; from our text:  “On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:  ‘Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.  The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.  I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach.’” (vs. 16-18)

Jesus “is in our midst” through his Word and Sacraments to forgive your sins and “quiet you by his love.”  We are calmed from our everyday stresses by Christ’s coming and his strengthening presence.  He rejoices and exults over us.  God is celebrating with us and sharing our joy.

Then look at what God says to the church regarding that Final Moment – the Day:  “Behold at that time I will deal with all your oppressors.  And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.  At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the Lord. (vs. 19-20)

A Pastor wrote, “As God gathers us, there are joys we celebrate.  The birth of a child.  A positive response to chemotherapy.  And there are sorrows we mourn.  A divorce.  A grandmother developing dementia.”  And you are probably thinking, “Yea, that is just the beginning!”

Most of bring certain sorrows into this sanctuary on a regular basis.  An event that has disappointedly altered the course of life.  A family member in trouble.  An affliction that has no real cure.  The loss of a loved one.  The loss of meaning for life.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration the regrets that dog us; the offenses we commit over and over again even after promising we are done with them.

The world can remove Christ from the public square holiday, but it cannot remove Christ from our hearts, from our lips, from our hopes.  The fact is this – in the midst of all earthly sorrows there is joy for the child of God.  There is Jesus who has loved us all along and will continue that love into eternity.  There is joy in that even when the earthly tears roll down our cheeks.

There is that wondrous promise the Holy Spirit inscribed across the forehead of His church; the one we hang on to:  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

Thus Advent is a forward look.  And this Advent we once again look at the past to prepare for our celebration of Christ’s birth and the Day when He returns.  The world can have its holidays.  It can spend billions to celebrate.  But what?  Celebrate what?  A holiday for what?  And that’s just like the world and its wisdom.  Concocting something that leaves everyone spent – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and financially – spent with nothing left but some memories – good or bad.

But we have Jesus.  The One who promised, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)  We have Christ the Savior.  And He is our joy, no matter the sorrow.

Amen.

Sermon: 12-06-2015

Dec. 6, 2015                                                                           Text:  Philippians 1:2-11

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

The Rev. Dr. C.F.W. Walther lived from 1811 to 1887.  He was the 1st President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  Because of his faithfulness to the Word of God he has been known as the “American Luther.”  Back in 1987 Glen Reichwald wrote an essay titled, “If Walther Were Alive Today” . . . listen to a portion:

“Were Walther alive today, he would find himself addressing the same issues that he faced one hundred years ago.  The scholarly Saxon would be debating theologians who desire to be called Lutherans, although they refuse to submit to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions…He dealt with the Holy Scriptures, notably the doctrine of inerrancy; he agonized over the doctrine of Church and Ministry; he addressed the topic of Altar and Pulpit Fellowship and the liturgical life of the church.”

We are over 125 years removed from this time in the church’s life but the challenges remain the same.  They were the same during the time of Luther and they are the same as when Paul wrote to the Philippians.  Paul warned this Roman colony about people who spread the Gospel from bad motives and those who were enemies of the cross.  He encouraged them to defend and confirm the gospel and through knowledge and discernment to . . .

“APPROVE WHAT IS EXCELLENT”

What is excellent?  What counts as excellence in the long run?  Paul starts his letter by telling the Philippians how thankful he is for them.  They supported him and partnered with him in the Gospel.  They were God’s gift to him.

Did you ever stop to think that we are God’s gifts to one another?  The church isn’t like a bowling league or political organization where we get together because we like the same things.  No, God brought us together around Jesus.  He has given us to one another to support and encourage.

And we do need that, don’t we?  In our time, the devil is breaking in, bursting through the door, dropping in from the roof and doing his best to put out the gospel light.  He has made everything in our lives important except doctrine and the study of God’s Word.  He has created within our flesh a desire to make the church just like the world.  The devil works to replace the means of grace and the presence of Christ by filling us up with ourselves.

Thank God for giving us this church and the members you see around you today.  We gather in the name of Christ and are strengthened for the devil’s challenges by the inerrant Word of God.  We work together to share the gospel and we come together at the Lord’s altar to share a foretaste of the feast to come in heaven.  In my prayers I thank you for your partnership in the Gospel.

Another point of excellence is the confidence that comes in knowing Jesus.  It’s easy to lose confidence when churches close, people tell pollsters more and more that they have no religious affiliation and going to sporting events is more important than going to worship.  But still, Paul calls us to be confident that Jesus will bring it to completion on the Last Day.  Jesus will do it.  Jesus is our confidence.  How so?  Because of how he began the good work in us.

Music is one of the few activities that involve the whole brain.  When we listen to music, both sides of the brain, its many lobes, go into action.  Listen to this music in our ears – “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  And what happens?  We welcome a new member into God’s family, a child of the heavenly Father.  Jesus began that.  On a cross, where forgiveness was won.  Leaving behind an empty tomb, Jesus lives again to live in our lives.  In Baptism, we are buried with Christ in his death and raised to new life in his resurrection.  What a wonderful good work he began in our lives.

At the end, Jesus will bring it to completion.  He will hold on to us.  He will keep us in the faith.  He will come back for us and bring our bodies out of their tombs to live forever in his glorious presence.  Paul is confident because Jesus is behind it all.

Another point of excellence is love.  Love is a verb.  Love does what benefits someone else.  Love does what God wants done.  Love seeks what is excellent, pure, honorable, just.  What does love look like for us?  Our love wipes away a tear with an embrace, a comforting word, a prayer.  Love bandages a wound with a bandage or simply being there for a person.  Love visits, sends a card, or makes a phone call to the lonely.  Love protects when it may put you in danger.  Love flows from Christ.

Paul calls for us to be faithful and to approve what is excellent.  As we give thanks for partnering in the gospel at this congregation, we can continue because of the confidence given us by a Savior who lives.  He loves us into eternal life that he will complete in his time and place.  Until then, we shine this gospel love to combat the forces of Satan.  Approve what is excellent every day of your lives.

Amen.

Bulletin Announcements – December 20, 2015

†  Bulletin Announcements  †

December 20, 2015

THOUGHTS ON STEWARDSHIP:  “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45 ESV) The Lord always fulfills what He promises. We can be certain of that, and He has proven it over and over again. This faith in the Lord’s own faithfulness is what gives us the courage to follow the Lord’s commands in the face of the world’s anger and resistance: just as it gave Mary the courage to carry on in her seemingly embarrassed circumstances.

THE ADULT BIBLE CLASS, led by Pastor Lueck and meeting in the church basement at 9:15 a.m. is studying “Lutheran Doctrine and Practice Today”.

TODAY IN SUNDAY SCHOOL, the children learn the account “Mary Visits Elizabeth.” In the presence of the Son of God growing within Mary’s womb, John the Baptist leapt inside Elizabeth’s womb. God fills us with Himself in Word and Sacrament and we, like Mary, offer our praise and worship. Consider asking, “How or when does God fill us with His presence today?”

PORTALS OF PRAYER: The January – March 2016 Portals of Prayer are available on the book rack in the narthex. Pick up your free copy today.

FELLOWSHIP HOSTS: The sign-up for help with coffee/doughnuts is posted on the wall by the north stairwell. We need an individual/family to sign-up each week to pick up the donuts and make the coffee. If no one is signed up by Friday of each week, the order will be cancelled. We thank everybody who continues to help with this part of our church fellowship.

POSITION AVAILABLE: Christ Lutheran Church at 311 N. Hershey Road in Normal is seeking to hire an Office Manager. The list of Qualifications is posted on the bulletin board. You may submit a letter of interest and resume to Christ Lutheran Church, Attention: Employment Committee; or email to: clcms@frontier.com. For additional details see http://christlutherannormal.org.

THE LUTHERAN HOUR: “No Regrets” is the topic for next Sunday. The sermon text will be from 1 Timothy 1:16. Jesus invites you to leave your burden of regret at the foot of His cross. The speaker will be Reverend Ken Klaus. Hear this Sunday’s message on the Lutheran Hour on WGN (720) at 6:00 a.m.; WJWR (104.7 FM) and WJWR (90.3 FM) both on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Also, if you can receive Lincoln, IL radio station WLLM (1370 AM) the program is broadcast two times on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tune in! You can also listen to The Lutheran Hour on your personal computer at RealAudio, www.lhm.org.

PRAYER CHAIN: If you have a prayer request please submit them by email to Mary Anne Kirchner at makirchner@yahoo.com or you may phone a Prayer Request to Mary Anne; her home # is (309) 661-6522; her cell phone# is (309) 532-2582. The Prayer Request box is on the table in the narthex for any written requests.

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