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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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Recent Sermon Texts

God Has A Plan - Pastor John Roekle

John 9:1-7,13-17,34-39

Dear Friends in Christ,

This past Friday was St. Patrick’s Day. One of the things we may associate with this day or is the concept of luck. Maybe more specifically we associate it with the Irish. Consider the expression: “luck of the Irish.” It is said that this expression originated in the United States somewhere in the late 1800s. There were a number of famous miners of Irish and Irish-American descent. The success that the many Irishmen had with mining led to the expression “luck of the Irish.” But it wasn’t meant to be an endearing term. A professor at Holy Cross College, Edward T. O’Donnell wrote that this expression “carried with it a certain tone of derision, as if to say, only by sheer luck, as opposed to brains, could these fools succeed.” (taken from “1001 Things Everyone Should Know about Irish-American History”)

When we think of luck today, perhaps we have that idea in mind, but more often, I believe, we think of luck in positive terms. Good luck on your game. You’re a pretty lucky person to have the things you do. Although we may not always think about this way, the idea behind luck is that things happen by chance. That there is no rhyme or reason to things happening, but that things just happen accidentally or by coincidence.

Is that the way that you look at your life? As a series of chances or a string of coincidences? Are the people in your life there simply because of coincidence? Is it just by chance that you came to this church and are now worshipping? When it comes to God’s world, there is really no such thing as chance or luck. God is a God of order. Think back to creation. Did God just create all the materials for the world, and then let it evolve into what it is today? No. God created things in an orderly fashion throughout the 6 days of creation.

As far as you are concerned too, realize that God has a plan for you too. Things in your life don’t happen just by chance. They are all a part of God’s grand plan in which he does what is best for you and your salvation. Let’s see how that was true of the blind man that Jesus came across one day.

We’re not told specifically where Jesus was, but at this time he was somewhere in the vicinity of Jerusalem when he came across this man who was blind from birth. In giving him eyesight, Jesus did something unusual. He spit in the dirt and made some mud which he put over the man’s eyes. He then told the man to wash in the pool of Siloam. When the man did, he could see for the very first time in his life. He was miraculously healed by Jesus.

At first glance, it might seem as if Jesus just happened to bump into this blind man during his travels. In fact, the disciples seemed to be convinced of that. You could hear it in their question about why this man was blind: was it a specific sin of his or his parents?

Jesus told them that they were missing the point. He hadn’t done anything specifically to bring on this blindness. Neither had his parents. But rather, Jesus said, “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

How true is that of you? God has allowed something to enter into your life. Sickness. The loss of a job. Damage is done to your house or vehicle. You lose a loved one. When those things happen, the world around you looks at you and wonders what you did to deserve that. Instead, God tells you that those things have happened so that he might display his power in your life. When you go through those things and you turn to God, that is exactly what he has in mind. He wants you to turn to him and receive strength and comfort. He promises that he will always be there for you.

He certainly was persistently in the life of this man that he healed of blindness. In fact, Jesus’ purpose for this man was more than make it so that now he had the ability to see the world and the people around him. Jesus’ ultimate plan for this man was to give him spiritual eyesight.

When Jesus healed him, the man knew that Jesus was no ordinary man. When questioned about this by the Pharisees, the formerly blind man called Jesus a ‘prophet.’ He knew that he was somehow connected with God. It was Jesus then who would help him understand the connection. Listen again to this exchange where Jesus did this: “when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

If you haven’t seen it already in your life, Jesus’ plan for you should be evident. The whole fact that you are here today worshipping is evidence of the fact that God has been busy carrying out his plan in your life. The Pharisees accused the formerly blind man of being “steeped in sin at birth.” They were using this to explain the man’s blindness. As we mentioned before, the disciples also thought that this might be the case with the man. But there was some truth in the statement of being “steeped in sin at birth.” That describes each of us! By nature, we are in the same place as that blind man. Not that we were physically blind, but that we were blinded to the love of God in Christ.

But then God gave you sight. Through the miracle of Baptism; through the miracle of his Word, the Holy Spirit enabled you to see something that you couldn’t see before. You were then able to see that God loves the world, including you. You were then able to see that God sent his son Jesus into the world in order to save you from the sin that was inherent in you. You were then able to see why Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death was necessary…so that you might be called a child of God. And now that you see that, the natural reaction we have to this news is to worship him. To worship him in our everyday lives. To worship him here together. It is a part of God’s plan that you are here today!

God has plans for everyone. That is true of those people known as Pharisees too. It was no accident that Jesus healed this blind man on the Sabbath Day. When he did it, he knew exactly how the Pharisees were going to react. He knew their legalistic hearts. He knew how they had been turning their hearts away from the Good News he was offering. Jesus was in no way breaking any laws that God had set concerning the Sabbath by healing this man. He was breaking the manmade, burdensome rules of the Pharisees.

In doing so, Jesus was trying to get their attention. Jesus’ ultimate purpose in this matched the will of his heavenly Father who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. God wanted not only the blind man to be saved, but also those Pharisees.

Remember that God uses your life in various ways not only to bring you to faith and strengthen it, but so that his work in you will glorify him. God wants his glory to shine through you so that others are led to the light of Christ. He wants others to be able to confess “Lord, I believe.” He sometimes uses our lives and circumstances of our lives in order to give us the opportunity to tell others why we have the hope in Christ that we have. And remember how important it is to help make connections to Christ. Jesus said: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Remember that God’s impending judgment is coming. That means there is a limited amount of time of grace for us, but also for those who don’t yet know Christ or for those who simply reject him. May the Lord use us to communicate to others the love of God in Christ so that more will be able to see it!

God doesn’t leave things to chance. With him there aren’t coincidences. He moves and operates with a purpose and a plan. The whole incident of Jesus healing the blind man was planned. God planned to allow him to be born blind. God planned it so that Jesus would meet him and give him sight. God planned it that he would bring him to faith. Recognize that God has a plan for you too. He has been working on it way before you were even born. You aren’t lucky. You’re blessed just as he planned. As you have been blessed, he also plans to bless many, many more. Amen.

Call On Your Champion - Pastor Aaron Dolan

Matthew 4:1-11

I hope you never have to face such a difficult test. Not like the one Abraham faced. The most precious thing to him—and you can think of the most precious thing to you—not his wealth, not his health, but his son, and not just any son but his only son, the one he had waited decades and decades to have—God told Abraham to give him up. And not just say good-bye or send him away, because then he at least would know or could hope that his son was still alive, but actually watch his son die. Give up the most precious thing you could ever have. I hope you never have to face such a test.

But what made this even more of a heavy trial and even more unthinkable for Abraham was the promise. God had promised Abraham not only that he would be the father of many nations, but that those many nations would come from Isaac’s line—Isaac, his precious, only son. God had promised that all nations would be blessed by a Savior born from his descendants, from Isaac’s line. And now God said, “Put an end to that line.” What a heavy, heavy test!...Or was it a temptation?

God seemed to be contradicting himself—he was contradicting himself. The promise was all about Isaac’s descendants. Now kill Isaac, before he has children. That was the test, a test of Abraham’s trust and obedience. But then the mind starts going. How can this possibly be? Does God have something wrong? Can I trust God? Does God care about me? Has he forgotten? And now…it has become a temptation.

The line between test and temptation can be a pretty thin one. You know the tests that have come into your life, the hard times. You’ve had everything go wrong. You know what hopes have been dashed and what dreams have disappeared. You’ve wondered what in the world God is doing to you. Sometimes life dips into one of those valleys, even just for a moment. An important phone call comes as the baby is crying, just as the bathroom starts flooding from the toy flushed down the toilet. You messed up badly at work, then receive word that Mom was suddenly rushed to the hospital, and you get a flat tire trying to get home. One bad thing after another. Or just one really bad thing—cancer, heart attack, miscarriage—when reality seems to suggest something different about God than what you’ve heard in Scripture. Is God testing you? Or is Satan tempting you? Maybe both. The line can be a thin one.

When Jesus went out into the desert for forty days, he went because it was God’s will. The Spirit led him there. Being in the wilderness was not a temptation. That was the test. But Satan tempted Jesus in the middle of the test, using the test to try to get Jesus to doubt God, his Father, using his hunger to tempt him with bread. God gives these moments of testing in your life, opportunities to obey his Word, display your faith, and be strengthened through the ordeal. Satan is there in the very same moments trying to turn it into temptation, trying to turn your thoughts a different direction. God must not love me. God’s way must be wrong. God must not be paying attention. God must not care. Maybe there is no God. Maybe God is paying me back for something. And a test becomes a temptation.

When faced with tests and temptations, when reality seems to contradict the promises of God’s love and truth, that’s when it’s time to Call on Your Champion. Let’s see our champion win the battle here this morning in Matthew 4.

Let’s just focus on one of the three temptations of Jesus recorded in Matthew 4, the third one. “The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’” At first glance, this doesn’t seem to be a very tempting temptation, especially for someone like Jesus. Bow down and worship Satan? But look at what the devil was promising Jesus: all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. He was promising that Jesus would have glory and power over the entire world, that he would be the king of kings and lord of lords. Does that sound familiar? God the Father promised Jesus the exact same thing, that he would put all things under Jesus’ feet and make him ruler over everything. But according to the Father’s plan, Jesus would get it a different way. He first would have to suffer and die for the world. He first would have to face opposition, ridicule, torment, suffering, and crucifixion. First there must be a cross; then he would get his glory. The devil’s temptation was this, “Jesus, God’s way is too hard! There’s an easier way. Just worship me right now. No one will even know. Just bow down to me and you can skip right to the end. I’ll let you have the power and the glory, with no cross, no suffering.” And just think, if Jesus had given in, if there had been no cross, no death, then you and I would be condemned. But he didn’t. He’s our champion. He won the battle.

The devil tempts you and me with the same temptation. “God’s ways are too hard. There’s an easier way.” When you enter those valleys in life, when tests come your way, God’s way is to rely on his love and his promises. But it’s easier to give up, to curse God or to complain about him. “I don’t want to bear up under it, to endure it.” And just like that the devil has us doubting God’s love. God’s way is to be faithful and honest in whatever work you do. The devil says, “That’s too hard. There’s an easier way. Just slack off a little, just cheat a little bit. No one will even know.” The easy thing and the right thing are not always the same.

God’s ways are hard sometimes. His tests may sometimes seem unbearable, or at least very difficult to handle. So when we are tested or tempted, God gives us someplace to turn. He said in Psalm 91, “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” God gives us a resource in Jesus. He wants us to call on him. After all, Jesus knows what it’s like. He knows what it’s like to be tested and tempted. He’s been there. He agonized over these tests and temptations. It was so difficult for him that angels came and attended to him when his time in the wilderness was over.

Pray. Call on your champion. He was tempted just like you. “Jesus, you know what this feels like! Help me!”

You and I have lost battles with temptation. Too many to count. More than we’d like to admit. Jesus did not. He was perfect. He passed every test. He overcame every temptation.

Jesus went right to the heart of it. Yes, God’s way, the way of the cross, was going to be difficult. And yes, it would have been “easier” to avoid it. But the heart of the temptation was, who would Jesus listen to—God or the devil. Jesus went right to the heart of the issue. “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” It didn’t matter how many logical excuses there might be for not listening to God in this situation. It didn’t matter that listening to God was more difficult in this situation. He simply relied on the Word of God and obeyed it. He held on to the promise that God’s commands are always right, even if we can’t see how, even if we don’t understand why. He held on to the promise that God was his Father, who loved him.

Jesus overcame these temptations. He was perfect. That’s important for us. But the lesson for us is not a lesson on how to overcome temptation. Jesus’ perfection, his perfect record in overcoming temptation, is important for another reason. His perfect obedience is important because he did it for you. He overcame temptation for you, in your place. Where you and I have failed, Jesus succeeded. And he gives you the credit for his success. When we faced tests and failed, when we gave in to temptation, Jesus covers us with his success. He gives us his obedience before God. And he proclaims to us that he did things God’s way all the way to the cross just so he could say to you now, “I forgive you. Your sins are paid for. You are at peace with God.” “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:15,16)

Jesus obeyed all the way to the cross. That is the depth of God’s love, which is at work even when difficult things come your way. It proves God does love you. He does care about you. This is why, when we face even the most difficult tests in life, even when we dip into those valleys, we have confidence that his ways are right. We can trust him. We can obey him. We can do what is right, even when it’s not the easy thing to do. And when those tests turn into temptations, it’s not necessary to know the exact, perfect Bible passage to fight off specific temptations. Just know from God’s Word who you are. Your identity is God’s baptized, adopted son or daughter. Therefore, God’s Word and promises to you can’t be wrong, even when reality seems to contradict them. The devil wants you to doubt God’s truth and his commands, and he wants you to doubt God’s love. Get to the heart of the temptation. “Away from me, Satan! My Lord and Savior has told me otherwise. And that’s all that matters.”

When facings tests and temptations, call on your champion. He was tempted like you. Call on your champion. He was victorious for you.

See Jesus' (Greater) Glory - Pastor Aaron Dolan

Matthew 17:1-9

Lutheran hymns usually preach a pretty good sermon. The sermon text for the hymn we just sang is today’s Gospel, the account of Jesus’ transfiguration. Here’s how that sermon in hymn form began. “Down from the mount of glory came Jesus Christ, our Lord. Recall the wondrous story, rich gem in sacred Word. Again your faith will view him in double glory here…” (CW 97 st.1) Double glory. Two of them. Jesus “was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” Moses and Elijah appeared with him. A cloud enveloped them. A voice spoke from the cloud. That is glory. One of them. Where’s the other? Were you paying attention to the sermon we just sang? Let’s search the Scriptures of Matthew 17 and find the double glory.

Let’s start by understanding the word “glory.” It can mean visible glory, splendor, magnificent beauty—we usually think bright or shiny or outwardly impressive, the type of glory we associate with heaven. But we also use the word “glory” to describe honor that is given to a person who is special or who accomplishes something great—a war hero won glory on the battlefield. The word “glory” can also refer to the reason for pride or admiration, for example, that soldier was the glory of his company—he was the reason for their fame, the reason people admired that group.

We’re not going to find Jesus’ double glory in a dictionary. What does Scripture say? It gives us a description of the obvious glory—the visible, bright splendor of Jesus’ appearance and the voice from heaven claiming him as the Son of God. This demonstration of glory proved to the disciples who Jesus was. This was God. Jesus is God himself. This is one lesson of the transfiguration.

So we’ve found one glory of the double glory. And even though we haven’t found the other one, it’s hard to imagine that there would be a glory greater than this one. This glory showed Jesus to be the Almighty, the eternal, the infinite God. There’s nothing greater than that, is there? I mean, notice what it did to the disciples who saw it. They “fell facedown to the ground, terrified.” We heard the same type of thing in Exodus 24, the first Scripture reading today. “The glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain,” (Exodus 24:17), and the Israelites didn’t want to come anywhere near it. When the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds on Christmas, they were sore afraid—terrified. What glory could be greater than this glory? It’s hard to imagine any.

But we still have to find the second one. Where is it? Well, what’s left in this account? “Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don't be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain…” None of this seems very glorious. They were coming down the mountain. The splendor disappeared. The great moment ended. But that hymn is called, “Down from the Mount of Glory.” Is it strange that the title and first line would call our attention to that part of the transfiguration—the end? Not the shining face, not the bright clothes, not the cloud or the voice, but the end, when everything changed back again, and all that was left was…regular, everyday Jesus. Why not “Up to the Mount of Glory”? Unless it’s purposely calling our attention to something important, perhaps the location of the second glory!

This glory is not the bright, shining kind of glory. This is called glory because it is the reason for fame, the reason for admiration. “Yet mark this glory hidden! See him the mount descend and, by the Father bidden, his willing footsteps bend to seek humiliation in deepest depths of woe.” (CW 97st.3) He left the mountain. He put away the glory that was rightfully his, the powerful glory, and he set out to achieve a different kind of glory: humiliation. Humiliation and glory seem like opposite concepts, but to Jesus they go together. He left this peak and walked into Jerusalem. He walked into opposition and condescension. He walked into capture and trial (imagine, the Almighty God on trial in a human court). He walked into being whipped, mocked, and nailed to a cross. He willingly left behind his glorious invincibility, and in lowly human form he sacrificed his life for others. That’s glorious. That type of humility and sacrifice is reason for admiration and praise and fame. The second glory is that Jesus would leave behind his first in order to suffer and die for you and me.

Double glory—one at the top of the mountain and one going down. Which glory is greater? It’s hard to top the blinding glory of the Almighty God, the transfigured Jesus who shows himself to be God. But what did that glory do to the disciples? It made them hit the ground in fear. What did the glory of God look like to the Israelites in the first Scripture reading? It was a consuming fire. They wouldn’t go near it. Why? What happens when humans are faced with God’s glory? We can’t stand it.

Because when you are up against God’s glory you can’t hide the truth. You can’t rely on comparisons with others and claim to be a pretty good person. It makes no difference if you are the most religious among your group of friends, the most faithful of your family, the most active in the congregation. When up against God’s glory, the only thing that stands out is your utter failure to keep all God’s commandments and be perfect in thoughts, words, and actions. It didn’t matter that Peter, James, and John were each chosen to be one of the twelve disciples, or that they were chosen to be the special three that got to go up the mountain with Jesus. It didn’t matter; when faced with God’s glory they fell to the ground in terror. For sinners, the fact that God is almighty, eternal, and infinite is terrifying. We don’t belong there. For sinners God’s glory is a consuming fire, and that’s where we would end up if Jesus stayed on the mount of transfiguration

But he didn’t. He came down. And that was his second glory. So which glory is greater? Look what this second glory accomplished. When Jesus came down the mountain, the disciples—sinners—could look at him again. The presence of God was no longer terrifying. Jesus, true God, with his glory hidden could reach out and touch those disciples, and they weren’t immediately destroyed! In fact, Jesus said, “Get up. Don't be afraid.” This second glory brought sinners back to God without punishing them. This second glory secured your forgiveness and allows Jesus, true God, to reach out and touch you with his sacraments, not to destroy you but to save you. This second glory, the hidden kind, allows us—sinners—to stand before God, because he took on our sin in order to give us his holiness. This second glory won for you and me a future when we will be able to stand in God’s glory without fear, as the holiness that he credits to us admits us into the glories of heaven.

Double glory. And the greater glory, the one that accomplishes the best things for us, is the one that doesn’t look that impressive. That’s a truth that is mirrored in our lives. What is the greater glory in your life of faith? It is not accomplishing big impressive feats of faith. You don’t have to achieve a mountaintop where you will receive recognition for your devotion or announce to people how blessed or faithful you are. You don’t have to fight a crusade for Christ. The greater glory is found in the mundane parts of your life; in quietly going about your everyday life, doing your job and doing it well when no one will find out about it; in keeping the commandments by loving your neighbor in the routines of daily life. What does that look like in your life? Your “job” might be making another meal or cleaning up another mess. Going to work or school and doing your work, resisting the temptation to slack off like most others. Finishing your assignments simply because they were assigned. Praying for all the individuals you can think of, because your body doesn’t allow you to do much else. Caring for your property. Taking care of your family. Honoring and obeying your authorities. You are not called to do greater things that what is in front of you each day. That’s not glorious to many people, but it is to Christ, and therefore it is for us who follow Christ. It’s glorious precisely because we are following Christ. And he will reward you one day with visible glory in heaven for your faithfulness in the mundane routines of life.

Matthew emphasized that when Jesus spoke to them and they looked up, they saw only Jesus. “They saw no one except him, Jesus, alone.” What a beautiful thing that is. Only Jesus. They didn’t see the wrath of God. They didn’t see the terrifying glory of God. And they weren’t preoccupied with themselves. They were no longer concerned about achieving something for Jesus, like building him a shelter. They weren’t dwelling on their sinfulness anymore either. They just saw Jesus, and everything was right again.

They saw only Jesus. What a beautiful thing for us as we get ready to enter Lent. Lent is not about you—what you might give up, how many times you’ll go to church, your favorite parts, your traditions. Lent is about Jesus, and Jesus alone. It’s about Jesus at the bottom of the mount of transfiguration, his willing footsteps winning the battle against sin and the devil for us, in our place. It’s about Jesus alone, climbing another mountain, Mount Calvary, taking our place under the punishment of God for sin. It’s about Jesus alone, who truly is almighty, eternal, and infinite, but who hid those qualities on the way down from the mount so that we can see him, and so that he can say to us, “Get up. Don't be afraid,” so we can now go do glorious things in the routine of life. The descent from the mount of transfiguration is for us the greater glory.

And that’s what that sermon in the form of a hymn preached to us. “Then hail the double glory of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and let the wondrous story full peace and joy afford! The holy mount acclaims him the majesty divine; Mount Calvary proclaims him Redeemer—yours and mine.” (CW 97st.5)

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