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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.

Worship Times

Sunday morning worship services take place at 8:00 am and 10:45 am. Please join us for our Family Bible Hour between services at 9:15 am. We also have Monday night services at 7:00 pm (except during Lent).  Lent services are held at 7:00 pm on Wednesdays during Lent.

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 Dolan using this form. You can also sign up here.

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View a Recent Sermon

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Recent Sermon Texts

Hidden With Christ In God - Pastor John Roekle

Colossians 3:1-4

If your family has had the tradition of having an Easter egg hunt or have hidden Easter baskets, you know what it is like to when those the eggs or baskets are hidden. There’s anticipation and excitement as the participants wonder look for them. Where are they hidden? Then when the time of discovery comes, there’s joy that fills the heart.

Today is a day on which we seek out the hidden Christ. You will remember that just two days ago, he was hidden from our sight. On Good Friday, after giving up his spirit on the cross, he was laid in a tomb that had never been used before. And a stone was rolled over the entrance to that tomb. Jesus was hidden from the world.

That’s what much of the world would prefer. That Jesus stay hidden. They don’t see much use for Jesus. But not the women. The faithful women knew Jesus was someone special. They had come early at Easter dawn to properly prepare Jesus’ body for burial. But by doing this, Jesus was still somewhat hidden from them. They didn’t fully understand what had just happened to Jesus and why.

But when they arrived at the tomb, they made a discovery. The Roman guards that were posted at the tomb were not there, nor was the large stone in front of the tomb. And most surprising of all, Jesus wasn’t there either. Jesus was still hidden from their sight.

An angel of the Lord was there to share with them some extraordinary news. Jesus is no longer hidden in this grave, he said. Jesus is alive! He rose from the grave just as he said he would. The angel then directed the women to go and tell his disciples. As they were on their way to do what the angel told them to do, something unexpected happened, perhaps even more unexpected than the events that had just taken place. Jesus appeared to them before their very eyes. The hidden Jesus was standing in front of them, alive! What joy that brought them!

The news of the resurrected Christ should also be striking to you. This news reveals a very important truth to you. Christ is no longer hidden from you. Instead, you are hidden with Christ in God.

Paul starts out by telling us that we have been raised with Christ. In order for that to happen, a death must have occurred. And that death occurred for you in Baptism. It was there that you died to sin. It was there that you also came to life. The Holy Spirit worked faith into your heart. And your faith grasps hold of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Faith knows and trusts that what Jesus did in his sufferings and death was to release you from the hold that sin had on you. Faith knows and trusts that Jesus’ resurrection proves that he didn’t die for nothing.

And so what died in Baptism was your desire to save yourself. Faith grasps on to the fact that Christ alone can and did save you. Christ alone can and did take on the punishment for you.

This means that a resurrection has already occurred for you. You have been brought to life in Christ. Dead in your trespasses and sins, the Holy Spirit made you alive in Christ.

And now that you are alive in Christ, Paul pictures this as being hidden with Christ in God. Hidden with Christ. Just as Christ was once hidden, now you are hidden with Christ in God. There’s a beautiful picture here. Remember that your relationship with God was at one time non-existent. You were on the outs with God because of sin. Now, God has hidden you. He has tucked you away.

A short time ago I discovered a female rabbit in the landscaping just outside our back door. When I went to shoo her away from there, she was resistant until I got much closer. What I discovered as she started to reluctantly move away, her babies were exposed. She had been hiding them. Think about what that meant for those baby rabbits. It meant safety from predators. The mother was there protecting them. It meant identity. The mother identified with them. They were her own. And also their needs were being taken care of. She made sure they had the nourishment they needed to grow up. Being hidden underneath their mother meant many things for these baby rabbits.

Being hidden with Christ in God means similar but even greater things for you. Being hidden means that God has tucked you away as one of his elect, as one of his chosen ones. He provides you with safety. Your soul is safe with him. Being hidden in him means that none of your enemies can get to you. Not even the devil himself can reach you.

Being hidden with Christ in God also gives you your true and lasting identity. You don’t have to go around wondering who you are and what life is all about. You identify with Christ as your Savior. Christ is your brother. God is your Father. This is a relationship that will never end. What a comfort that is even as our earthly families come and go.

Being hidden with Christ in God also means that all our needs are taken care of. He especially makes sure that the faith he planted in you at Baptism is nurtured. God gives you a steady supply of his grace through his Word and through his Sacrament when he gives you Jesus’ very own body and blood, so that your hearts are focused in on the forgiveness and eternal life he supplies.

Your life without Jesus may have been only a matter hours or days, or it may have lasted many years. Either way, through faith you have life with him now. Life that brings with it many hidden blessings as we’ve just pointed out.

And that changes our mindset. What was once important is not all that important any more. What is most important is living a life that is geared toward God. What is most important is nurturing our relationship with Christ on a daily basis. What is most important is to daily receive God’s forgiveness in Christ. What is most important to assure others of the blessings they have through being hidden with Christ in God. What is most important is to tell others who don’t know about them what they’re missing.

When you think about it, Christians are somewhat of a mystery to the unbelieving world. And that shouldn’t surprise us. People wonder why we do what we do as Christians. It makes no sense. They see nothing beneficial here. God is invisible. The spiritual blessings he brings can’t be seen. What’s so great about being a Christian anyway?...they may wonder. There’s no power there. There’s no prestige. There isn’t any glory that can be seen. In fact, it’s just the opposite sometimes as we witnessed Christians in Egypt being killed on Palm Sunday.

But while your life in a sense is now hidden, it won’t always be. Job knew that to be true, that’s why he confessed “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

One day, Christ’s full glory will be revealed. When it is, then the full glory of being a Christian will be revealed too. All believers will rise from the grave and Christ will give us perfect bodies, to be with him forever.

Until then, we live by faith and not by sight. Our God-given faith is sure because it stands on the one once crucified who now is alive living and ruling forever, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lord Enters In Unlikely Ways - Pastor Aaron Dolan

Matthew 21:1-9

God is a God of surprises. He doesn’t do what we would expect. He doesn’t go about things the way we would. Try approaching the Bible this way. When you are reading it or hearing it, consider, “What should have happened here?” Or “What would I have expected to happen?” Or “What would I have done if I were God?” Forget that you know how the stories end, and you’ll discover that God is a God of surprises. For example, Adam and Eve ruined God’s perfect creation with their disobedience. They hid from him, blamed each other, and brought death into the world. And God responded by…promising his own death in their place. Surprising. When a humble, faithful woman in need came to Jesus to plead for her daughter, our compassionate and caring Savior reacted by…ignoring her completely, until he finally opened his mouth and called her a dog. Surprising. Not what we would have expected. God is a God of surprises. But there’s always a reason for those surprises.

Let’s look at Palm Sunday that way. The Lord Enters Jerusalem. That’s simple enough. He begins the week of his crucifixion and resurrection—the week of our salvation—by entering the city to the shouts and cheers of the crowds. Forget that you know how the day and the week unfold, and see that The Lord Enters in the unlikeliest of ways and for the unlikeliest of people.

How should Jesus, the Son of God, have entered his capital city? After thousands of years of waiting, God became man, entered his creation, and kept The Promise. He entered creation to do one thing, to die for humankind, and now, after thirty-three years of leading up to that moment, the week had arrived. How should the Son of God have entered his capital city for the central moment of human existence? He could have ridden on the clouds of a thunderstorm, really, with a division of angels escorting him while nature itself sang out its welcome and praise. That really could have happened. And isn’t that the kind of pomp such an important moment deserves?

Yes, the day will come when this King will approach with blinding splendor to judge his enemies. But that was not this day. This day he rode not on clouds, not even on a chariot or horse, but on a donkey. Not escorted by angels, or even by religious all-stars, but by fishermen with a spotty record of faith. Not accompanied by the sound of nature singing, but to the shouts of children and of hypocritical bystanders who cheered him when it was popular on Sunday but would desert him when it was convenient on Friday. He came not flashing miracles. In fact the only miracle he did was seen only by a few disciples, who witnessed Jesus’ omniscience when he told them exactly where, when, and how they would find a donkey and colt. Then after entering the city among adoring crowds, Jesus didn’t take advantage of his popularity to leverage their support. He simply turned in for the night, and the crowds dissipated, and the week went on as usual, with Jesus teaching the Word of God.

For such an important entry into such an important week, it didn’t go as we probably would have expected or planned. Jesus, the Son of the Almighty God, entered humbly. This unlikely way says something about him, about God. He came not to rule us, but to save us. He came, not to command us, but to invite us. He came not to demand anything from us, but to give everything for us. He didn’t need the power and the glory at this point, because his purpose was to die in our place, and he needed to humble himself to do that. This day he rode in all humility and gentleness. He was determined to carry out his Father’s eternal plan to save.

God surprises us sometimes. He doesn’t usually do what we would have expected. But there’s always a reason for it. What he does may be unexpected, but it is never a mistake.

But what if God did do things the way we would have done them? What if he always did what we think he “should” do? What would that mean for us? If we’re talking about what “should” happen, we need to cover it all. You should be sinning less than you have been. In fact, you should be perfect. God has revealed his law and gospel to you—it’s no secret to you, so what is your excuse for sin? So you should be hopeless. You should have no good blessing from God and no good future ahead of you. What should God do with you?

But God doesn’t operate on the basis of “should.” We call that grace. He surprises with his grace. The condemnation that should have been yours he puts on his own Son. The condemnation that should have been yours Jesus willing rode into Jerusalem to accept. And so he entered humbly to do so. Now he does the same today. He enters heart humbly, without show or fanfare. He does it through his gospel, his Word. His purpose is not to make a big scene, but to save you for eternity. And so he does what he needs to do to make that happen.

Jesus’ entry is a surprise, not only by how he does it, but also for whom he enters. Let’s consider that part now.

Try to picture Jerusalem. It is situated on a hill, surrounded by valleys. Around the valleys are more hills. A traveler to Jerusalem can’t see the city from a distance. Only when he gets to the top of the surrounding hills is the entire city spread out before him. The week of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was a week when thousands of Jewish pilgrims were making their way to the capital city. What a breathtaking sight it must have been as they finally caught a glimpse of the holy city, all at once.

Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem from the east. They had to climb and descend the Mount of Olives first. On the top of the Mount of Olives Jesus could have seen the garden of Gethsemane down a little in the valley to his right, where in a few days he would spend hours in agonizing prayer, and where one of his own disciples would lead his enemies to arrest him. Into the city to his left Jesus could have seen the palace of the high priest, where in just a few days he would stand on trial, be mocked, spit on, hit, and sentenced to die. To his right in the city, Jesus may have seen the place where the Roman governor stood, where in a few days the crowds would shout, “Crucify him!” And if he lifted his eyes over the buildings to the horizon on the west side of the city, Jesus may have seen a hill shaped like a skull, waiting for him.

What should have happened at this point, as Jesus stood on the Mount of Olives and surveyed the city? What would you have expected? What would you have done. Many of us likely would have turned around and headed the other way. What should Jesus have been thinking? “I’m not walking into that! Those people don’t deserve me.”

Despite all that Jesus knew awaited him in Jerusalem, he rode down into the valley and entered the city. As we just sang, “In lowly pomp [he] ride[s] on to die” (CW 133:5). Nothing was going to stop this King from coming to those who needed him the most—sinners.

Imagine if Jesus could see your life the way he could see Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives—a panorama of your life, including everything you’ve even done, said, and thought. Who of us has not given him every reason to turn around and go the other way. But he doesn’t. Jesus wanted to enter Jerusalem and draw that rebellious city to himself. That’s surprising. Jesus wants to enter your heart and draw you to himself. That’s just as surprising.

And so before this King comes again in judgment, he comes to you and me with all gentleness! He comes to win us to himself, to hand us his robe of righteousness to cover our sins, the robe he was about the pay for with his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Our King comes not to interrogate us about our sins, but to save us from them, to forgive us. That is proof of his grace and another demonstration that our God is a God of surprises.

Praise God that he is—a God of surprises and a God of grace. Rejoice on this Palm Sunday that he comes to you humbly, not to condemn but to save. Hosanna in the highest!

The Lengths of God's Love - Pastor John Roekle

Numbers 21:4-9

The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum located in Independence, Missouri, contains over 1,300 handwritten letters that Pres. Truman wrote over a span of nearly 50 years to his wife, Bess. He wrote to her constantly while they were apart for any length of time, often even writing her two times a day. What’s most impressive about that is that even as President of the United States, Truman took time out from dealing with the world’s most powerful leaders to sit down and write a letter to his wife.

God has written a love letter to you. You could even say he’s written you 66 love letters. The Bible itself is God’s communication of his love for you. How impressive it is that the God of the universe would take the time to communicate his love to you. Every book or letter, every sentence, every word is evidence of God’s love for you. And that’s because the Bible is more than just words. The Bible describes God’s love in action. Today, we take just a small portion of God’s communication which will help to show us the lengths of God’s love.

How often has your patience been tested? I’m guessing that it’s too many times to count. Your patience could be tested with something as simple as waiting in line at the DMV or getting caught in traffic. It may be that your patience wears thin in your relationship with a family member, a co-worker, or a neighbor. But your patience with God is ultimately tested too, isn’t it?

The children of Israel’s patience was tested. You could say that it was being tested over a 40 year span as they wandered around in the wilderness. It isn’t as if it should have taken them 40 years to get from Egypt to the Promised Land. It was a distance of only a few hundred miles. But just as they were on the brink of finally entering the Promised Land of Canaan, they ran into another road block. This time it was the King of Edom who refused to let them cross on his land so that they could reach Canaan safely. Now they had to make the long trek around Edom.

This proved to be too much for the Israelites. They let God and Moses have it: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!

Can you see how they may have been frustrated? Probably. But were their complaints warranted? Not at all! God had kept them alive and going through all those years in the wilderness. He had given them everything they needed…included manna, quail and water. He even saw to it that their clothes and sandals didn’t wear out all those years. But their impatience tainted their thoughts and led them to speak out against God.

You have a breaking point too. When your patience wears thin, there is a point at which you begin to cast blame. And how often does it happen that God gets the blame? Undeserved blame that is. The God of love who brought you into this world and cares for you has not done anything to warrant our grumbling and complaining.

The thing is, God has a breaking point too. He did with the Israelites as they complained against him yet again. This time he sent poisonous snakes that killed many Israelites. But let’s not miss the point here. God did not send this plague in order to wipe out the people. He had a loving purpose in mind. He was sending it as loving discipline to his people who were wandering away from him again.

And isn’t that the point of God’s discipline for us too? God knows that we have a tendency to wander away from him. To grumble and complain about his ways. And so, he allows things to happen in our lives which we don’t always understand. He allows sickness, frustrations, disappointment or even death to enter our lives. When those things happen, we can react in one of two ways: either we wallow in self-pity and get angry with God, as the Israelites were doing. Or, when we see those things happening, we can look to God for the solution.

Think about how gracious God is in sending loving discipline to us. If he wouldn’t, our sin would go unchecked and we would be on a destructive path away from the Lord.

The discipline on the Israelites had the God-intended effect. When the Israelites saw people dying around them by snake bites, they turned to the LORD for help through his appointed servant, Moses. As they did, they made a confession: “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.

The people understood how they had complained against the Lord and his servant Moses. They readily confessed their sin. And they prayed for mercy. With any discipline the Lord might send our way, the Lord wants the same results. He wants you and me to confess where we have gone wrong. How we have wandered away from him with our grumbling. And how we need God’s loving forgiveness.

And what does God do? He lovingly extends that forgiveness to us undeserving sinners. He did that for the children of Israel by providing a solution to the poisonous snake problem. God instructed Moses to make a snake of bronze and to put it on a pole. The idea was that anyone who was bitten by a poisonous snake could look to this bronze snake and be saved.

Now the bronze snake didn’t have some kind of magical healing powers. The healing took place as the people looked up in faith to God who promised to send them healing. When they looked up in faith, they lived.

This solution should look very familiar to us. John in his Gospel writes: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Let’s be honest. We deserve to die for our sins. But that’s not God’s way. When we sin and cry out for mercy, God doesn’t ignore us. He responds to us. He tells us that there is forgiveness. He doesn’t say ‘be good from now on, and I’ll forgive you.’ He doesn’t say, ‘okay I’ll forgive you, if you do this or that for me.’ He doesn’t say that we have to somehow earn his forgiveness. Instead, he has us look to the Son of Man.

The Son of Man, Jesus Christ was lifted up on the cross is the solution. Just like the bronze snake didn’t have any poison in him, so also Jesus had no sin in him. He saves us, in part, by his perfect life. But then God did something extraordinary: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.” (2 Cor. 5:21) He took our sins on himself, and dying on the cross, took them to the grave with him. He took the effects of the deadly poison of sin away from us.

And God’s remedy is complete. Our sins are forgiven. They will no longer destroy us as Satan had intended when he led Adam and Eve astray. God’s remedy gives us life with God. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection is proof that Jesus’ death took the sting of death itself away. We have life with God that will never end!

As we look to Jesus in faith, we see the extent of God’s love. Be thankful God isn’t like a permissive parent who lets his child run roughshod over him. Instead, be thankful that our Lord sends us loving discipline when we need it. He does it, so that we will then turn to him to see to what great lengths God in his love will go. God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all. What wondrous love is this! Amen.

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