Thursday, December 18, 2014

January 2015


The earliest version of this sermon was preached in 1979 at my vicarage church in Lincoln Park, Michigan.

Let us consider again the message from the angels to the shepherds. If you were one of them you would surely never have forgotten. You would have heard a message that would have been seared onto your memory forever. Because the grand proclamation made to those Judean shepherds was made by a multitude of angels. What sort of message could require all those angels? If on this one occasion, God sends not one, not two or three, but a multitude of angels, He must have something of utmost importance to say. In fact, it must be the most important thing He ever said to men, because nothing else ever required the presence of so many angels. What was the message of the unanimous and glorious chorus of heavenly messengers? Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men; or, to put it another way: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men, with whom He is pleased. The message from that multitude of the heavenly host of angels was clear and simple: There is peace on earth, dear shepherds, because God is pleased with men.
For thousands of years after this grand proclamation, men would go on supposing that peace on earth is something accomplished by the ending of all global conflict, when at last all weapons are laid down. If only they had heard and understood the message of the angels, they would have known that peace on earth has already been accomplished. It isn’t something to be hoped for, it is something that is. For the message of the angels was clear: God is pleased with men.
But at this point the objections of reason will sound forth at once. This can’t be right. Some men are wicked, heinous, tyrannical, cruel. Some are murderers, thieves, adulterers. How can anyone say that God is pleased with men, or that there is peace on earth? There must be some mistake. But even if one considers the absurd impossibility of an angel being mistaken, the message didn’t come from just one angel; it came from a multitude of angels. Could a whole countryside full of angels all bellowing out one unanimous message be mistaken? Listen to the angels, o shepherd in the field: God is pleased with men.
But Satan must also raise an objection to this: How can this be? I have done my work well, I have caused many to fall deeply into sin, I have made them all sons of hell; I have filled them with all manner of wickedness, so that their thoughts are only evil continually. I have trapped them in pride and self-worship; I have made them sell me their souls. This message can’t be right! It’s far off the mark! It’s foolishness! Don't listen to it! It must have come from the mouth of a lunatic!
But it didn’t. It came from the mouths of angels.
And thank God for those angels. For if there are some men with whom God is not please, then surely we are among them! And if you were one of those shepherds, you might easily find yourself wondering—in fact you might be wondering right now—whether these objections may have a point. What about me? I am not worthy of God’s good pleasure, am I? Conscience pricks, and I know I have sinned. I know I am guilty, foul, and unclean. A thousand years of tears would not suffice for once worthily lamenting my wretchedness. How much more am I poor wretched man, who daily sin, continue without amendment, and approach God in sin. And the truth is that if God is not pleased with all men, he could never be pleased with me!
O thank God for those angels! And thank God for all the lights and tinsel of Christmas, and all the carols and cheer, and all the bells which ring out the news which every sinner needs so badly to hear: Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled! Here we see the reason there is peace on earth, and why God is pleased with men. It isn’t because of what kind of men they are that God is pleased. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with the nature of man. The reason is this: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord. And He didn’t come to be Savior of part of the world; he came to save it all. And if He is Savior of the world, then it makes all the sense in the world to say that God is pleased with men.
Those Bethlehem shepherds undoubtedly never forgot the angelic message on that first Christmas Eve. Would that we might remember it as they must have; that it might be seared into our memories, our hearts, and our  consciences, that we too might never forget the grandest angelic proclamation ever heard on earth: Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among men, with whom He is pleased!
+  Pastor Eckardt

'Tis the nights before Christmas, in Kewanee town
Soon the fam’ will be stirring, with nary a frown;
The gifts will be opened in most of a day,
Though longer, perhaps, and the reason I’ll say:
Where once there were children all snug in their beds;
Their children have children: we count thirteen heads;
And mamma wears no 'kerchief, nor I any cap,
We can’t get to bed, there’s a dog in our lap.
Where out on the lawn there was once such a clatter,
Of sons throwing footballs, or pitcher and batter,
Away they all live, but come home in a flash,
At this time of year for a great Christmas bash.
The lights on the tree and the wrappings below
Give a luster of warmth to the people who’ve grown.
More rapid than eagles my coursers they came,
Always happy they’re here, I can call them by name:
"Now, Burnie, Amanda! (with Bevy and Millie!)
Now Andy and Kristy! (with Sarah and David!)
And Pete! John, Alissa! and Joey and Michael!
Now dash back home! dash back home! dash back home all!"
Their eyes—how they twinkle! Their dimples, how merry!
Their cheeks are like roses, their noses like cherries!
They sing when at church of the Word become flesh
And at home they’ll all smile in the glow of the crèche.
While giving their presents, their joy will increase
In Him who is heaven’s great Gift, heaven’s Peace.
Then spring to their cars, to their kin give a whistle,
And away they’ll all fly like the down of a thistle.
But they’ll hear me exclaim, ere they drive out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

God rest ye merry, this Christmas 2014 and always – the Eckardt family

We welcome Millie (born in August) and congratulate Peter, M.Div. (graduated in May, now grad student) and Alissa, R.N. (graduated in December)!

Epiphany Vespers Day and Time Changed; Retreat the Next Day

For the first time, our annual winter Vespers is scheduled for a Monday night, January 5th, 2015, and at the new and earlier time of 5 pm. This is the Eve of Epiphany. The move is offered in hopes of attracting more attention to the event.

It will be followed by our traditional wine-and-cheese reception, another annual tradition.  Then on Tuesday, January 6th (Epiphany Day) we’ll have a Day of Theological Reflection, beginning with Epiphany Mass at 9:00 a.m.  This will be our sixteenth retreat in the Theological Reflection series, and is entitled,


We have been considering this to some extent already in the Sunday classes this fall; at this retreat, a more in-depth study will take us into a careful consideration of this concept, its Christological meaning, and its restoration in us. This retreat on Tuesday, January 6th, will focus not only on the creation account, but on several passages throughout the Scriptures that deal with the image of God.
January Birthdays
1/1       Chris Erickson
1/4       Lucille Kemerling
1/13     James Hornback

January Ushers
Steve Peart, Grant Andresen, Larry Campbell

Mary Hamilton at home; Ann Baker (temporarily at Peggy Young’s, 116 S. Vine Street); Dale Baker (temporarily at St. Luke’s hospital, soon to be convalescing at home); Emmy Wear at Williamsfield Retirement Center

January Anniversaries None

Annual Voters’ Meeting
Our Annual Voters’ Meeting is scheduled for Sunday, January 4th, at 10:00 a.m. (in the time slot normally reserved for Bible Class).

2015 Envelopes

The offering envelopes have been in your mailboxes for several days.

Altar Guild Notes

Altar color is white for the entire month of January.  Epiphany Day mass will be held on Tuesday, January 6th, at 9 a.m. (followed by a Day of Theological Reflection). 

Our next meeting is Tuesday, January 13th (second Tuesday this month)

First Tuesday meetings and Vespers on Second Tuesday this month

Our First Tuesday meetings are moved to Tuesday, January 13th, beginning with Altar Guild at 6 pm, Vespers at 6:45, and Elders at 7:15.  Anyone is welcome to join us for vespers. This change in schedule is due to the day of reflection scheduled for Epiphany Day, January 6th.

Alms for the Needy

Please remember those less fortunate during this season.  The alms box is in the back of the church, and the offerings will be distributed during the holidays.

The Lighter Side

A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store, but couldn't find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, "Do these turkeys get any bigger?" The stock boy replied, "No ma'am, they're dead."

In Our Prayers

In addition to our shut-ins, our current list of prayer intentions at mass includes the names on the lists here following.  Anyone wishing to update the lest by addition or subtraction, please inform the pastor.

Sick or infirm:
in our parish:
Jean Russell, Emilie Ricknell, Linda Rowe, John Sovanski
Ann Baker, Dale Baker

And all of our shut-ins.

And also:
Anna Rutowicz [re Harrises]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter, cancer]
Caleb Cleaver [re Ricknells]
Madison Lindsay [re Andersons]
Jill Matchett [re Shrecks]
Barb Fornoff [re Russells]
Lorene Foglesong [re Kraklows]
Corbin Gonzales [re Russells]
David Wexell [re Verplaetses]
Cathy Van Wassenhove [re Verplaetses]
Carl Hepner [re Kraklow]
Duane Kraklow [brother of Allan]
Emily Corzine
Shelly DeBord [re Watsons]
Lois Hopkins [re Kemerlings]
Liam Hampton [re Murphys]
Anthony Strand [re Murphys]
Troy Kelly [re Murphys]
Cindy Davenport [re Kemerlings]
Louis Shreck [father-in-law of Diana]
Pastors  Don Chambers [Manito]
Glenn Niemann [Pekin]

In the military:
John Eckardt
Donny Appleman [re Ricknell]
Thomas Kim [re Shreck]
Michael and Katherine Creech [re Murphy]
Richard Heiden [re Eckardt]
Carter Wills
Luke Van Landigan [grandson of Dick Melchin]

in trouble:
any unborn children in danger of abortion
Those suffering persecution in Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Nigeria, North Korea, and elsewhere.

Persecution details (from The New York Post, Dec. 12, 2014)

IRAQ: Four Christian Children Martyred
Four Christian children were beheaded by ISIS militants in Iraq for refusing to denounce Jesus and convert to Islam, according to the leader of the Anglican church in Baghdad. Canon Andrew White, known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” fled Iraq in October for Israel and recounted how brutal the country has become for Christians. “ISIS turned up and said to the children, ‘You say the words that you will follow Mohammed,’” White said in video posted on the Christian Broadcasting Network website. “The children, all under 15, four of them, they said, ‘No, we love Yeshua [Jesus], we have always loved Yeshua.’ “They chopped all their heads off. How do you respond to that? You just cry.”

Remaining persecution details are from

IRAN: Islamic Revolutionary Guard's Dramatic Heart Change


Afshin was the prime example of a devoted militant Muslim. As a member of a volunteer paramilitary group, he and his companions would strictly enforce Muslim law, often resorting to inhumane methods that involved the arrest and ill-treatment of innocent Christians. Afshin was taught to be callous towards the regime's harsh political actions and participated in six executions, heartlessly mocking the helpless victims. Iran contains the largest Shi'a Islam population in the world, while Christianity comprises merely less than half a percent of the Iranian population. Religious persecution of certain minorities has intensified since 2005, while movements for greater public freedom have often been attacked by those pushing for the strict observance of Islamic law. Afshin experienced a stark turning point when Jesus Christ, the One he had been fighting against for so long, became his Saviour and Lord. Today, this former persecutor of believers is a devout Christian convert himself -- and he is now living his life for the glory of God!

COLOMBIA: Widow of Martyred Evangelist Extends Forgiveness

Pabel, a 33-year-old evangelist of the Colombia Para Cristo ministry, had mysteriously disappeared last month. In late November of 2014, eight days after his disappearance, Pabel's body was located in the mountains of the Paez Indian Territory. The two murderers responsible for committing this crime have confessed and are now in Indian custody.
Although the loss of Pabel is tragic, his widowed young wife is responding through God's amazing grace which in itself is a very powerful testimony, especially for the confessing perpetrators. Kelly was granted permission to confront her husband's murderers as she had requested. Explaining to the young men that although Pabel had always wanted to be with the Lord, the crime they committed has also caused serious harm to her family. She is now left without a provider and her two young children no longer have their father. However, as a Christian, Kelly willingly forgave the men responsible for her tremendous loss, mentioning that she would also ask God to forgive them.
"Pabel lived and died for the cause of Jesus Christ," Kelly explained during a recent conversation with our ministry contact. "Life goes on," she says with heartfelt emotion. "And here I am with the flag to continue on with the work. Pabel never preached the Gospel to make friends, but to save souls in the midst of such a place."

NIGERIA: Christmas Outreach to Victims of Vicious Attacks

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, is divided between a mainly Christian culture in the south and a radical Islamic agenda in the north -- the latter of which is characterized by massive riots, bombings and plans to create an Islamic state.
Back in 2009, the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, an al-Qaida ally, vowed to rid the north of all non-Muslim influence, including Christianity. Since then, more than 3,000 people have been tragically killed by the insurgents' target of Christian villages, churches and homes. Children were not exempt in the vicious attacks and, as a result, many have been left wounded, traumatized and/or orphaned. In another incident this year, which took place on April 14th, at least 270 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram. To date, more than 200 of the girls are still missing.

St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
   109 S. Elm Street

   Kewanee, IL 61443

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