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Growing and Going with the Word and Sacraments

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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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is knowing the LOVE of Christ and sharing the abundance of that love, that God may be glorified.

Jesus is the most generous person to have ever lived. He gave his life so that we might live. As ones who follow Christ, in joyful response for all he has given us, we give him thanks and glory as we generously give of our time, talent, and finances.

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

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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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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

Jesus Is the Life - Pastor John Roekle

April 15, 2018 [Easter 3] 1 John 1:1-4 J.D.Roekle

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.

Jesus Is the Life

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the first lesson for today, we find Peter and John on trial before the Jewish authorities. They had been jailed for teaching about Jesus, especially about the resurrection of the dead. They were asked by what authority they were teaching this. ‘What gives you the right to teach this?’ was the question at hand. Peter answered that question by saying that it was by the name of Jesus they were teaching these things. And then he boldly testified: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Of course, Peter was only echoing the words of Jesus himself who said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. How is it that we sinners can have a relationship with our perfect God? Jesus is the way. The only way. Can we trust Jesus? Is he reliable? Jesus is the truth. Whatever he proclaims is truth. Absolute truth. So what does that mean for us? That’s what is found in the third name Jesus gives himself: the life. Jesus is the life.

The verses before us make reference to Jesus being the life. John says: “The life appeared.” John refers to Jesus as the life for a very good reason. There were false teachers he was combating who denied that Christ was truly human. They said that Christ actually joined the human being Jesus at the time of his baptism. And this heavenly Christ left Jesus’ body sometime before Jesus died.

Part of John’s purpose in writing this letter is to refute this error. He wanted to reinforce the truth to his readers; the truth that Jesus Christ was true God and true man throughout his stay on earth, and that Jesus’ human and divine natures are inseparable. They are both a part of who Jesus Christ is. The Athanasian Creed which we generally speak on Trinity Sunday spells this truth out: “It is furthermore necessary for eternal salvation truly to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ also took human flesh. Now this is the true Christian faith: We believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and man.

As both true God and true man, Jesus Christ is the life that is revealed to us. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.”

Jesus is, in fact, the Word of life. In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, John makes it clear that Jesus is the Word. There, John paints a beautiful picture of Jesus who was sent by God to reveal who God is, because he is God. Jesus is the Word made flesh; the Word in person.

Even more, Jesus is the Word of life. This life is from before the beginning of time. This life has existed from eternity. Even before creation, this life was with the Father in heaven. And this life will continue to exist forever.

This life was revealed to human eyes when he took on flesh in that Bethlehem stable. It was here that he took on human life unlike any other, because he lived a perfect life. This life was finally persecuted: he suffered and finally his life even ended. But this life could not be extinguished. This life came back to life on the 3rd day.

He did all this in order to redeem life, yours and mine from the terrors of sin and hell. In his death and resurrection, this life guaranteed life for us. Eternal life. Life after death. Life in heaven with Jesus Christ who is the life. Life that is ours even now!

Sound too good to be true? John can back up his words about this life he speaks of. After all, John has personal evidence. John saw Jesus Christ the life with his very own eyes. He talked with him face to face. He witnessed his miracles. He received his body and blood from Christ himself as Holy Communion was celebrated for the first time. He witnessed his cruel crucifixion. He heard his direction from the cross to take care of Jesus’ mother, Mary. On Easter morning John entered Jesus’ tomb and saw the strips of cloth lying in the otherwise empty grave. John saw this life appear to the twelve on 2 different occasions behind locked doors. John’s eyes, ears, mouth, and hands told him that this life was for real.

We all long for relationships. With a spouse. With children. Parents. Brothers or sisters. Friends. Neighbors. It is great to have others that we can see; touch; talk to; laugh and cry with.

As great as those relationships are, how much greater is it to have a relationship with the life. He provides us with the life that we need. He is the one that one day we will see face to face.

Thanks to Jesus, each one of us can say “I have a life!” It is now our privilege to proclaim the good news about this life!

In 3 out 4 verses, John uses the word proclaim. In verse 3 he says: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

John and his fellow apostles were eyewitnesses of Jesus. With this they had a special privilege and responsibility to not keep what they saw to themselves. They were to tell others about the marvelous words and works of Jesus.

Why tell others about Jesus, the life? So that their listeners could have fellowship with them. The word for fellowship here has the idea of being “partners”. When you are a partner with someone, you have something in common… you go to school together; you work together; you own a plot of land together; you have a common interest or common activity.

The kind of partners John is speaking of is partners in the gospel. John wanted to spread the news about Jesus, so that he would have Jesus in common with those to whom he spread it.

Why is this partnership so important to John and all believers? John says: “We write this to make our joy complete.” What could make John and the other apostles happier than to know that others have heard and believed the message about Jesus Christ the life, so that they now have something in common with their listeners! A common Father. And a common life in Christ the life.

Through the Holy Spirit’s work we have something in common with the apostles. We have faith in Christ. We are partnered up with the apostles and countless believers throughout the ages and today who continue to proclaim the good news about Christ.

There are plenty of people out there who don’t know about the life that Christ provides. You may know them pretty well. Maybe you live with such a person. Or next to one. Perhaps you work with one. Maybe you are a longtime friend of such a person. You may just be an acquaintance of one who needs the life Christ provides.

Have you proclaimed the truth to that person? If you haven’t or you have stopped trying, what’s keeping you from telling them about Jesus? Maybe you are thinking: “I don’t want to pressure them” or “I don’t know what to say” or “I don’t know how they are going to react to me” or “I don’t like to talk about religion with people.”

Wipe away the excuses with the realization that nothing could make you happier than to see that person in heaven with you one day. What could possibly make us happier than to have faith in Jesus Christ in common with that person?!

Jesus is the life. Let us continue to grasp on to that truth for our eternal welfare. Let’s remember that salvation is found in no one else except Jesus, who is the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus the life. Having this truth firmly in our minds will affect how we live and what we proclaim! Amen.

Jesus, Our Great High Priest - Pastor John Roekle

March 18, 2018 [Lent 5] Hebrews 5:7-9 J.D.Roekle

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Jesus, Our Great High Priest

Dear Friends in Christ,

When I traveled over to Israel and wanted to charge my cell phone, I needed to be prepared. I wasn’t able to simply plug my power charger cord into the outlet. That’s because the outlet I was plugging the power cord into is meant for a cord with circular posts on the ends, rather than the flat edge of a typical power cord here in the United States. So I needed to have along an adapter. I would plug my phone cord into the adapter and the adapter had the correct posts that I could plug into the outlet in Israel. If I didn’t have the adapter, I would have been carrying around a dead phone, since I wouldn’t have been able to charge it. The adapter was necessary for my phone to receive the necessary charge from the outlet.

An adapter is also necessary in your life. How is it that you and I can be connected to God? We have something by nature that is not at all compatible with God: sin. We’re all infected with it. We are born with it. On our own, we cannot plug into a relationship with God. We need an adapter of sorts. That adapter is Jesus. The office, which Jesus holds that explains Jesus connecting us to God, is his office of High Priest. Jesus is our great High Priest. The thing that makes Jesus our High Priest so great is his perfect obedience. He did everything that was asked of him in order to connect us with God.

The problem of our broken relationship with God has been around since the first sin in the Garden of Eden. In order to show the children of Israel their need for someone to connect them to God, the Lord established the Old Testament office of High Priest. This office was quite an exclusive club.

While there were many priests, there was only one High Priest at any given time. The High Priest was appointed by God himself with Aaron being the first one chosen. Aaron’s line would provide the High Priest through the centuries.

Because the High Priest was one of a kind, the Lord commanded the very cloths he would wear when he was doing his appointed work around the tabernacle or later the temple. While there were quite a number of garments, he was to wear, today we will simply focus on a few items that shows what his role was all about.

He wore two onyx stones on his shoulders. On them were engraved the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. In wearing these, he was showing that he represented the people before the Lord. He was also to wear a breastplate on which were 12 gemstones. On each gemstone was the name of one of the tribes of Israel. Carrying them near his heart, he was reminded of the great responsibility he had on behalf of the people. On his head, he wore a gold plate with the words inscribed on it: “Holy to the Lord.” This was worn on his head to show that he was the one appointed to do the sacrifices of atonement on behalf of the sinful people.

Now each of these articles, and all the other ones we didn’t discuss, were to be worn by the High Priest as they entered the Holy Place and Most Holy Place. If they would enter there without any of these articles properly worn, Moses says that they would “incur guilt and die.” (Exodus 28:43) They were to carefully do as God had instructed.

Jesus as our High Priest was much greater. While he didn’t wear the garb of the Old Testament High Priests, he was perfectly clothed in perfection. He did everything that God sent him to do. And what a difficult task this was. A task beyond our understanding really.

As our High Priest, he was to reconnect us to God, by being perfectly obedient in everything, including taking the very weight of our every sin on his shoulders. You and I can hardly begin to appreciate what Jesus went through.

The writer to the Hebrews says: During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

It was a regular practice of Jesus to pray. To pray both for himself and for the people he came to save: you and me. But the words here are clearly indicating a certain time in Jesus’ life when his earthly work was coming to a culmination. When you look at these words carefully, they describe Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane after he celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and just before he was arrested on Maundy Thursday. The prayers described here are more intense than we had seen Jesus give previously.

There’s good reason for that. “During the days of Jesus’ life of earth” literally mean “In the days of his flesh.” That captures much better what was going on here. Remember, that while Jesus was fully God, he was also fully man. Fully human. As Jesus reached the Garden of Gethsemane, the full realization of what was about to take place hit him. Remember Jesus’ prayer: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Now some might say that once Jesus fully realized what he was about to endure, he was changing his mind; that he was trying to get out of it. But the Hebrew writer makes it clear that this wasn’t the case. God heard his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane “because of his reverent submission.” Jesus was all along submissive to the Father’s will. He was going to do whatever was necessary to complete God’s perfect plan.

What this was on Jesus’ part was a reaction of his human nature. Think of the things Jesus would endure through his suffering and death, and even the suffering of hell. Who wouldn’t be taken aback at that! God heard his cry and answered him. He answered him not by taking the cup away from him, but by strengthening him for the task at hand. In fact, the Gospel of Luke tells us that God sent an angel to Jesus to strengthen him.

This truth about Jesus should draw you even closer to him. After all, he took on flesh. He knows what it is to be human. And while he never experienced sin, he experienced all the horrible results of sin. In other words, he knows what you’re going through. Whatever it is! You may feel alone. You may be afraid. You may not know how to face the day. Jesus knows. With every ounce of his being, Jesus understands. He’s been there too. Take comfort, then, in all that he has done for you. Take comfort in everything that he says to you.

After all, what Jesus experienced and accomplished is for your eternal welfare. “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

The phrase “once made perfect” might strike you. It is not to be understood in the sense that Jesus was not perfect and so had to become perfect. Jesus was already perfect. The idea here is actually in terms of coming to the completion of a goal.

In being perfectly obedient, Jesus completed his goal. Just as God commanded, Jesus lived the life we couldn’t. He suffered an innocent death on the cross, and then rose victoriously.

In this way, Jesus is our great High Priest. Our perfect High Priest. In being fully obedient, he completed his goal of winning eternal salvation for us. And so, he is the source, the only source in fact, of our salvation. He alone saves!

And now it is up to us to obey God. And what does he tell us to do? Believe! Believe in his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. To believe that he has done everything necessary to save us. Just so we’re clear: God gives you faith through the Gospel in his Word. Through his Gospel in Baptism. He even strengthens that faith through his Gospel in Holy Communion. But you are the one who believes. God doesn’t believe for you. So believe what God tells you through the Hebrew writer today: Jesus our great High Priest is someone you can relate to since he took on human flesh to experience everything you and I do. And Jesus our great High Priest is someone you can believe in because he became obedient to God in everything, even death on a cross in order to save us. Amen.

Christians Are A Breed Apart - Pastor John Roekle

March 11, 2018 [Lent 4] John 3:14-21

Jesus said: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Christians Are A Breed Apart

Dear Friends in Christ,

A host on a daytime talk show host recently made an offhanded remark about Christians. She was reacting to something that Vice President Mike Pence (who is a Christian) had said in respect to Jesus talking to him. She said: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus; it’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct. Hearing voices… Say what you will about Mike Pence and his religiosity, and everything else, I don’t think that he’s mentally ill even though he says he is hearing voices.” She later backed off on her comments and claimed that she didn’t mean to offend Christians and that she herself is a Christian. She claimed that it was ‘a joke.’

So what would you say about her comment? At the very least we can say that it was a joke in poor taste. But there is something that she is putting her finger on in respect to Christians even though it was most likely unintentional. Christians are different. That’s actually an understatement. Christians are a breed apart. Even though the world recognizes that fact, it often times has a hard time putting its finger on why Christians are so different. Jesus’ words here reveal that truth to us.

When someone calls 911, a network of emergency police, fire and medical responders are set in motion. These emergency responders make a lot of sacrifices. Their families do too. They often work long hours on few hours of sleep. That means they will often be away from their families. But they do it for a purpose. To help those who are in need of their services. Emergency responders have a heart to help people.

In terms of making sacrifices, no one had made a greater sacrifice than God: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

There may not be a more well-known verse in the Bible than this one. And that’s a great thing, because it speaks of God’s great sacrifice for us… for the world!

Why did God make this sacrifice? The reason is in the word LOVE. The music industry has made a living on producing songs about love. The movie makers have capitalized on it. It is an often used word.

Yet, God defines what love is here. His love. God so loved the world! Jesus uses “world” as a figure of speech here. He didn’t want to exclude anyone. Yes, God loves everyone. Think of how remarkable that is. God loves all people, even though many are murderers, adulterers, terrorists, ruthless dictators, and even atheists. He loves all people even though all people, including you and me, are by our very nature: selfish, greedy, spiteful, and unforgiving.

And God’s love is so great that he didn’t hold back. He expressed his love by sending a part of himself. He sent his one and only Son.

For what purpose did God send him? Jesus reaches back to the Old Testament lesson for today in explaining his purpose: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

The complaining Israelites were faced with a plague of poisonous snakes. Many of them got bit and were dying. They called to Moses for help. Moses, in turn, called on God. God’s solution? God provided an antidote. He told Moses to mold a snake of bronze and put in on a pole. When an Israelite was bit, he was to look up to the bronze snake and he would live.

Likewise, God sent his Son so that he would be stretched out on a pole and lifted up in full view of everyone. This was God’s antidote for sin. Anyone who looks in faith to Christ, his life and his death on the cross, is saved from the devastating effects of sin – death in hell. That is what sets us Christians apart: we look to something for salvation that looks foolish to the outside world. We look to something that looks illogical to everyone else. Just as that bronze snake may have seemed like nonsense to many of the Israelites, so also the cross of Christ seems like nonsense to those who don’t rely on it.

But just as the bronze snake gave life to people who looked in faith at it, so also trust in the cross gives us life. And that cross leads us to understand that God’s love has no limit.

As a group of college students toured the slums of a city, one of the girls, seeing a little girl playing in the dirt, asked a guide, “Why doesn’t her mother clean her up?” “Madam,” he replied, “that girl’s mother probably loves her, but she doesn’t hate dirt. You hate dirt, but you don’t love her enough to go down there and clean her up. Until hate for dirt and love for that child are in the same person, that little girl is likely to remain as she is.”

God matches that description. He hates the dirt of sin and he loves us enough to clean us up and to keep us clean. That again was the purpose of God’s Son: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

The non-Christian lives in constant uncertainty. They don’t truly know what is going to happen to them. As it is, the non-Christian stands under God’s condemnation. They are on the path to hell.

But the Christian is different. The Christian is not condemned before God. That is a great reassurance, especially because the Christian knows that he sins daily. But God isn’t going to simply take away his salvation because he sins. God through Christ’s sacrifice took away the condemning effects of that sin. God isn’t about to withdraw his forgiveness. The Christian knows that the only way he would face condemnation is if he stops believing in Christ.

But again, that’s what makes Christians different. We lean on God’s limitless love. We know that he loves us and continues to wipe away the filth that would otherwise condemn us. And knowing this truth leads us Christians to live according to God’s truth.

Jesus said: 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

Just think about how this plays out in society. How often are evil acts carried out under the guise of darkness? Or in secret? Why is that? Because people are afraid of being caught for doing something wrong. They don’t want their evil deeds to be exposed, and perhaps punished. But they also don’t want to give up doing evil.

That is what sets the Christian apart. The Christian lives by a different standard: “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Christians love the light and aren’t afraid of stepping into it. Why? Because they know the truth of God’s Word and they strive to live according to it. Christians aren’t afraid to boldly live in the light, even though their sin is exposed. The Christian knows there is forgiveness for that sin. In response to the love of God, Christians seek to live the life God wants them to. Yes, Christians are indeed a breed apart.

There were two gentlemen who were traveling on a plane and were seated next to each other. One turned to the other and asked, “What do you do?” The gentleman replied: "I am a minister." "Oh," said the first man. “I don’t believe in that religious stuff. It’s for kids, you know, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so...’” The minister politely laughed and asked the other man what he did for a living. "I am an astronomer," said the first man. "Oh, that stuff," said the minister. “I thought it was just for kids, you know, ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star...’”

You and I really shouldn’t be surprised when people are puzzled about Christians. There really is something different about us. Even though many of us have the personality that just wants to blend in wherever we go, God tells us that we are distinctive. We have something that others don’t. We are something that others aren’t. We as Christians will want to stand out so that we might be given the opportunity to communicate to non-Christians about the hope that we have in God’s one and only Son. So, dear Christian, you are a breed apart. Embrace it! Amen.

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