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Growing and Going with the Word and Sacraments

We would be pleased to have you come worship with us.

Our Mission

It is our sincere prayer that the Lord Jesus will bless you through the hearing of his word. First Evangelical Lutheran is a Bible-Based, Christ-Centered Church. Since 1849, First Evangelical Lutheran Church has proclaimed great news of free salvation. Our mission is to use this Gospel, found in God's inerrant Word, Baptism, and Holy Communion, to bring Christ's forgiveness to sinners. Learn more about what we offer by clicking the buttons below.

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Location

First Evangelical Lutheran Church is located in downtown Racine, Wisconsin, at 728 Villa Street.

Learning

If you are interested in joining our church or simply would like to know more about what we teach and preach, we offer a Bible Information Class. The class is held at various times throughout the year, lasting 13-15 weeks. For more information or to sign up, contact Pastor Roekle using this form. You can also sign up here.

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Worship Times

Sunday morning worship services take place at 8:00am and 10:45am.  We also have Monday night services at 7:00 pm (except during Lent)

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Recent Sermon Texts

Being Your Brothers Keeper - Pastor John Roekle

[Pentecost 16] Matthew 18:15-20 J.D. Roekle

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Being Your Brother’s Keeper

Dear friends in Christ,

A man is casually watering his front lawn. His neighbor comes by and points out to him: “Roy, is that smoke coming out of your house.” “Oh that?” he answers, “That’s just a little fire.” The woman persists: “Aren’t you going to do something?” “Nah,” says Roy, “I’m just going to wait and see what happens.” The woman then gets more forceful: “Roy, your house is on fire! Dial 911.” “I don’t want to bother anyone. It will just cause a big commotion.” As the woman runs off, she says frantically “I gotta get some help!”

The illustration may seem a little absurd, but the main point of it is that sometimes people tend to ignore the obvious. They ignore the signs that something is seriously wrong. When they do that, how do you react? Do you ignore it along with them, or do you warn them? If you see a car barreling down the road approaching an intersection just as a person is crossing the road, unaware of the car, what do you do? Do you say: I don’t want to get involved. I would hope that you would call out to the person crossing the road and warn him of the impending danger.

God’s work for you in the Church is really no different than that. When you see a fellow Christian in spiritual danger, you are to warn that person about it. In his Church, God has made you your brother’s keeper. Let’s take some time here to understand what that means for you.

When Jesus uses the term ‘brother’ in the opening verse of this text, he isn’t speaking about a natural relationship you have at birth. He is talking about the relationship that you have with other people who are now a part of the family of God. People who are also God’s children. People who are your brothers and sisters by faith in Christ. This relationship with fellow Christians is special, and you want to treat it as such.

As in all your relationships, there are things that tend to get between you and a fellow believer. Something that interferes with the relationship you have as a brother or sister in Christ with someone else. The specific interfering culprit is sin.

Sometimes a fellow Christian may sin against you in some way. Or they may have committed a sin in general and they don’t think it’s a big deal. Jesus teaches you here how you are to deal with that person and his sin.

You could choose to ignore it. Maybe it will just go away. Is that a good idea? You don’t think it’s your business, so you could choose to wait for that person to come to you. Is that what you should do? That’s not what Jesus says. He commands you: GO!

“Go and show him his fault.” Now don’t misunderstand what Jesus is saying here. We all have faults. We all have shortcomings. Jesus isn’t saying that you should go to every Christian you know and point those things out. Jesus is speaking about sin. A specific sin that was committed against you either directly or indirectly, and that your brother or sister has not repented of. He doesn’t look on it as a sin, and hasn’t sought Jesus’ forgiveness. That person may still be blatantly in that sin, not turning away from it. If that sin isn’t addressed, just think what could potentially happen to that person’s soul! Think about how that sin will eat at and erode that person’s faith. If you’re the only fellow believer who knows about it, then God makes you responsible to go.

And as you go, Jesus has special instructions for you. Show him his sin “just between the two of you.” Jesus wants this to be a private matter. At least at first. And yet, what often times is your first reaction when you feel you have been wronged by someone? Talk to everyone about it and let them know! Everyone, that is, except for the person who offended you. But Jesus wants you to swallow your pride. He wants you to practice humility and keep it just between two people: you AND the person who offended you.

Not many of you like confrontation. In fact, many back away from it. When approaching a brother or sister about their sin, you want to approach them without being confrontational. Don’t approach them in anger, but in love. Let your heart be evident as you let them know that you are approaching them by the Savior’s command and with the heart of the Savior in mind.

And doing this with the love of Christ in mind should remind you to be persistent. We each sin often. Daily. With everything that we are. And yet, God is persistently there, reminding us of our sin, and then reminding us of his love in Christ for us. He reminds us that Christ never did sin against anyone. He reminds us too, that his death signified that all our sins against everyone else, in fact all our sins period, have been forgiven. Wiped away. You need a constant reminder of that.

In view of the persistence of your loving God, be encouraged to do the difficult work of approaching a Christian brother or sister when they have sinned. When you point out their sin, and they refuse to repent, don’t give up! Keep at it. Go back again. When it becomes clear that they won’t listen to you alone, Jesus outlines further steps to take. He talks about taking 2 or 3 witnesses along to be with you as you approach the person about their sin. And if that doesn’t work, at some point you may need to get the church involved. You can do that by talking to the pastor, or one of the elders or other leaders.

We certainly all pray that it doesn’t have to go that far. But if it does, the church must be ready to deal with the sinner as Jesus said: “if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” That’s the very hard but necessary work that is called excommunication.

And why does the church have that practice? Well, because Jesus commands it as a necessary thing. But why does he do that? Are there some people that he just doesn’t really like? That’s not what the Bible tells us. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Remember that everything he does in relation to us is out of love for us. And this is no different. His object in cutting off the sinner from the Church is to serve as a wakeup call for the sinner. And how sweet it is when a sinner repents so that the Church can announce forgiveness and welcome the sinner back into her family.

Now, this is difficult work. Whether the Church is involved or not, it is hard. But the work starts with each of you being a brother or sister to each other. It isn’t that you should go looking for someone else’s sin. But sometimes, you can’t miss it. That’s when you need to listen to Jesus’ command and go.

But because it’s difficult work, the excuses in your mind will come. “I don’t want to push them away.” If you don’t address the sin now, then keep in mind what can potentially happen. You could remain close here, bet then separated for eternity.

Who am I to judge?” Remember who the real judge is. It is God. And remember that we confess that Jesus is returning to judge the living and the dead. You don’t want that person to be on the wrong side of God’s judgment!

It’s not that bad. God will understand and forgive them.” Do you realize that this is the same rationalization that this person is using? Remember that you aren’t addressing a bad habit. You are addressing sin. Never minimize sin. Keep in mind that sin that is left unaddressed can eat away at a person’s faith until their faith in Christ is gone.

Whenever the excuses come, wipe them away with a focus on why Jesus gave the command to ‘go’ in the first place. His goal is to allow you to be able to tell that person that they are forgiven and restored to his family.

Will you always be successful? You know that you won’t. Will you sometimes fail to go? Yes, you probably already have. Remember that you live under God’s grace. Keep in mind the love that God has for you in Christ. You too are forgiven for any lack of love you have shown for a fellow Christian when you’ve failed to address their sin. You too are forgiven of every transgression you have committed against the Law of God.

But don’t let the knowledge and comfort of that forgiveness be an excuse not to go. God will forgive me if I don’t talk to my brother or sister about the problem. Instead, let the knowledge and comfort of that forgiveness be the motivating factor to go. You have peace with God because of it. Don’t you want the same for your brother or sister in Christ? Amen.

Get A New Heart! - Pastor John Roekle

[Pentecost 19] Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32 J.D.Roekle

The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:

“ ‘The fathers eat sour grapes,

and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

3 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 26 If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. 27 But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. 28 Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?

30 “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

Get A New Heart!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Each year, thousands of people receive a heart transplant. They receive a new heart because they were in severe heart failure. They needed the heart transplant in order to survive. Even while there are many, many people who receive a new heart, there are many on a waiting list that do not receive one. There are various factors and reasons for that, but the fact remains that each of those are on the waiting list for a reason. Each have are in severe heart failure. Without a new heart, their chance of survival is not good.

In order to survive before God, the same thing is true: we need a new heart. It really doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or where you grew up, or who raised you. In every case, our hearts are bad. Our hearts are failing. With only a bad heart before God, we don’t stand a chance. So the Lord tells us today Get a new heart!

Get a new heart is what God spoke to the people of Judah through the prophet Ezekiel. They had been held captive in Babylon since they had been carried into exile by the Babylonians. They were in a foreign land. And not only that, Ezekiel relayed to them that their precious city of Jerusalem would be destroyed along with its crown jewel, the temple. He told them that this was happening because of their rebelliousness.

The people didn’t take Ezekiel’s message very well. In fact, they retorted that they didn’t deserve this. They shouldn’t have had this coming. Why? They relayed their frustration in the form of a proverb: “The fathers eat sour grapes,

and the children’s teeth are set on edge’”

In other words, they were blaming their forefathers for what they were going through now. They’re the ones who did all the terrible things wrong, and now this generation is paying for it, they reasoned. They argued that their sins were not all that bad in comparison to the past sins their ancestors did.

There’s nothing new here, is there?! This goes all the way back to our first parents. Adam and Eve sinned, and what did they do? It wasn’t my fault! It was the woman you gave me…It was the serpent’s fault, they said. Think about how easy it is for you to deflect responsibility from yourself. He hit me first. But she started it. Everybody else is doing it. Taking personal responsibility for something we have done wrong does not come naturally. We want to think better of ourselves. We want to think that it wasn’t that bad. It was just a little sin. Or I just made a mistake.

What does God say? “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” God is serious about sin. He tells us that it doesn’t help matters to try to deflect it away from yourself. When you sin – no matter what that sin may be – you deserve to die. Your soul deserves to die. A reality of life is that one day we will die. But when the Lord talks about the soul dying, he’s talking about eternal death. A separation from God in the fires of hell. That’s how seriously God takes sin. Any sin!

So what’s the remedy? He tells us to get a new heart. How do we go about that? The Lord says: “Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.” Repentance. That’s the key. Repentance begins with contrition. Contrition is the recognition of sin and the desire to turn away from the sin that has offended the holy God. True contrition makes no excuses. It makes no comparisons. It doesn’t say: “I may have sinned, but I’ve never committed a whopper that that guy did.” True contrition comes to the recognition and understanding that the soul that sins is the one who will die.

But a new heart never stops there. Otherwise we’d fall into despair. What would be the use of going on if we knew we’d only be separated from God in the end anyway? Or if we stopped there, we could also go to another extreme. We could try to justify ourselves and say, I’m really not all that bad. In fact, I’m a pretty good person. I do some good things. I avoid many bad things. Neither extreme is healthy. Instead, the new heart knows that there is a second part of repentance. A second turn.

What is that turn? “But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. 28 Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die.”

How is it that someone is able to do what is just and right? Is God just simply setting us up for failure? After all, he tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and “no one is righteous, not even one.” And he even reminds us: “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” Is God just setting us up for failure?

The Lord does not take pleasure in the death of anyone. He does not want to see anyone separated from him. He is not setting us up for failure. We are enabled to do what is just and right as we make the second turn in repentance by turning to our Savior. You see, it is there that we see how our sins are taken care of. It is there that our Lord shows us that our sins are taken care of by Christ and his cross. How thoroughly are our sins wiped out? The prophet Micah (7:19) says: “you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Our sins are banished from God’s sight. We are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. And now through faith, we are covered in the righteousness of Christ like a robe covers our body. Treasure that gift!

After all, it is this gift which enables you to get a new heart and a new spirit. Without forgiveness in Christ, there would be no restoration. There would be no possibility of a good relationship with God. But with Christ, things are changed. You are God’s own.

But the temptation to sin remains. And we often fall. Let’s not make excuses when we do, but let’s practice repentance. You see, repentance wasn’t meant to be a one and done thing. It’s not even meant to be a once in a while thing. It isn’t meant to take place only after you committed a big sin. In fact, Martin Luther, when he wrote the 95 Theses, he put this as the very first one: ““Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in saying, ‘Repent,’ wanted the entire life of the believer to be one of repentance.” In order to have a new heart and a new spirit, repentance is the key. Repentance that is to take as an everyday occurrence.

In fact, when we think about this, we should remember to go back to our baptism. For it is there that Christ first enabled us to practice repentance. And it is there that we are encouraged to continue to practice it. Luther in his Small Catechism reminds us: “Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

Daily contrition and repentance. As you practice it, God works through His Gospel to create a new heart in you. A new heart that is ready and willing to serve Him and others. Amen.

DRESS CODE FOR LIFE - Pastor John Roekle

[Pentecost 20] Matthew 22:1-14 J.D.Roekle

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. 13 "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

DRESS CODE FOR LIFE

Dear Fellow Guests of our Heavenly King,

Would you agree that one of the least popular things at a school is the dress code? The teachers and school administrators don’t like to have to deal with it. Students often times think it is too restrictive. Parents may struggle sometimes to find clothes that will fit into the dress code. But it is a necessary thing, isn’t it?! Without a dress code, it would be a free for all, and that wouldn’t be good.

There was a dress code at the wedding in the parable that Jesus told. In fact, it came to light because a man showed up at the wedding celebration without the proper clothes on.

You see, in Bible times, it was customary for royalty or the wealthy who were hosting a wedding celebration, to provide their guests with special garments for the wedding. In fact, since the wedding feasts usually lasted several days, the host would supply the guests with several robes, so that they could change garments as the feast wore on. In doing this, the host was honoring his guests. At the same time, the wearing of the garments was meant to honor the host as well.

There was a man in attendance at the wedding in the parable that didn’t have those special clothes on. He didn’t follow the dress code. With this parable, Jesus is teaching us a very valuable lesson. In order for anyone to be a part of the kingdom of God, we need to follow the dress code. The dress code for life. We need to wear the clothes that Jesus alone can provide.

Jesus paints a marvelous picture of a wedding feast here. All the preparations are made. The feast is ready! He describes the feast, saying “Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready.”

The king voices the fact that he has spared no expense in preparing for this joyous occasion. The guests can expect a grand feast.

And this feast comes at no expense to guests. All is provided for them. And everything is READY. There is nothing the guests must do in order to enjoy the banquet. It is all prepared for them. And again, they don’t even have to worry about what they need to wear, since he provides them with even that! Since all is done for them and provided for them, all they need to do is come and enjoy it!

As we take a closer look at this parable, it does not take us long to realize who the king is – it is God the Father. God the Father has prepared a banquet of blessings in his kingdom. His blessings include peace, security, and eternal well-being. He provides the greatest and happiest of feasts!

And why does God provide such a feast? On account of his Son, Jesus Christ, in whose honor he has prepared the feast. The heavenly Father has spared no expense in providing this feast. In order to make the feast possible God made the greatest sacrifice ever. He sacrificed the life of his Son, Jesus, so that sinners like us would have the blessings of forgiveness, new life and salvation.

And our God comes to us with his special invitation. This is very important for us to keep in mind: We do not solicit the Lord’s invitation; we don’t go out looking for it. The Lord’s comes to US and tells us that he wants us to be a part of his kingdom. Now that is GRACE: God’s loving and saving invitation to utterly sinful human beings.

And that marvelous invitation applies to us NOW. While the culmination of the invitation will be in heaven, we also have an invitation to feast on the Lord’s blessings now! The feast is now! The hymn writer declares this invitation:

The feast is ready; come to the feast.

The good and the bad; come and be glad.

Greatest and least; come to the feast.

Right now we can have peace, security, happiness, and the sure hope of eternal bliss in heaven. Right now we can join in on the celebration! The blessings are all there for your enjoyment. Open up your Bible and enjoy them. Listen to it being proclaimed to you here at church. Enjoy the regular supper of Christ’s body and blood for your forgiveness! The Lord doesn’t hold back. He truly gives us his matchless grace and blessings.

Yes, the Lord extends a gracious invitation. To enjoy his rich feast of blessings. And he extends it to ALL people. Yet, when the Lord extends this invitation, how is it received?

Jesus’ parable gives us an answer. When the king sent out invitations to his son’s marriage banquet, the initial reaction of his guests was that they refused to come. As the king sent out more servants to tell his invited guests what he has prepared, the reaction was the same, they refused to come!

Some reacted indifferently. They felt their regular matters of farming and business were more important. Others who were invited, acted angrily. They killed the king’s servants. The reactions varied, but the end result was the same: they spurned the invitation.

Those are indeed some of the same reactions that people have upon hearing the Lord’s Gospel invitation. Many people are indifferent or apathetic to the Gospel’s call. It doesn’t seem to faze them at all, especially when they think about all the worldly concerns in their lives. To them, the Gospel seems of no importance, next to making money and accumulated possessions and maintaining physical health. To them, the Gospel has no value.

Other people are clearly angry at the Gospel’s call. It seems ironic that such a wonderful feast could cause such outrage, and yet that’s precisely what happens. The Gospel divides. Nobody likes to be told they are helpless. But the Gospel reminds us that we need to rely solely on Jesus Christ our Savior. That angers the sinful nature, and consequently many people become enemies of the Gospel. They refuse to listen to the Gospel message, and even more than that, they persecute all those who proclaim the Good News. Just look at how this message angered the enemies of Jesus when he walked the earth. There were many times they attempted to kill him, and in the end, they did. The Jewish leaders provoked the crowd to shout “Crucify him!”…which they did.

May we be warned that these attitudes are out there! Yes, there is angry opposition to the Lord’s gracious invitation into his kingdom. Be continually prepared to combat all those who persecute you on account of what you believe. But don’t let that keep you from inviting others to the feast. Of speaking the Gospel to so many who need it.

Be alert in your own lives, to the feeling of indifference to the Gospel. Don’t be so caught up in other things that you forget to feast on the Lord’s blessings. Remember how good you’ve got it that you can feast on them regularly here, as you hear the Word and come to the Lord’s Table. Remember to feast on the Lord’s salvation every day of your life, as you meditate on his gracious Gospel invitation.

And remember, how to dress for the occasion! Remember the dress code! In our text, we again see a man who didn’t have the right clothes on for the banquet. Instead of wearing the special wedding clothes provided by the king, he tried to get away with wearing his own clothes.

And you see the consequences of this man’s actions at the wedding banquet? “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

Whoever isn’t dressed properly for the Lord’s banquet of salvation, will properly suffer the same consequences. Anyone trying to wear their own clothes to the Lord’s banquet, won’t be admitted. In other words, any persons who think they are capable of earning the Lord’s favor themselves will spend an eternity in hell.

We need to be aware of such an attitude! When talking about being in God’s kingdom, we need to realize that we are there not because we come to church; not because we pray; not because we are striving to be good spouses, good parents, or good citizens.

We are part of God’s kingdom; we are feasting on his salvation, because we are dressed right… we are honoring the dress code! We are wearing the only clothes that can give us life, now and always! These clothes didn’t come from our own closets or from our own hearts. We don’t clothe ourselves. The prophet Isaiah reminds us: (61:10) “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.”

We can rejoice, because we are wearing a robe of righteousness that the Lord has graciously provided for us. It is our Lord Jesus Christ who has made this robe of righteousness possible for us. In fact, he is the robe! Keep in mind the words of the hymn:

Jesus, your blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head.

The feast is ready. The Lord’s feast of salvation. Come to the feast. And there is nothing that can keep you from it. Dress codes might be burdensome for some. But not this dress code. It isn’t at all burdensome because Christ clothes us with his himself. He meets the dress code for us, so that we can enjoy the feast of God’s blessings here and always. Amen.

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