St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm, Kewanee, Illinois 61443
Volume 35 January 2023 No. 1
God Is Pleased with MenThe earliest version of this sermon was preached in 1979 at my vicarage church in Lincoln Park, Michigan. It employs the alternate rendering of the angels’ message. The majority reading is “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The alternate reading is a translation of some Greek manuscripts in which a single letter is added, thus rendering the reading, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” The two versions essentially say the same thing, but this sermon explains the second version. I have been adapting and reusing it from time to time ever since.
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 you might remember it as they must have; that it might be seared into your memory, your heart, and your conscience, that you 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
Christmas Cards from the Eckardts
This year the Eckardt family Christmas card has not been included in this newsletter. Instead, members will find the Christmas card itself at your mailbox in the narthex. Merry Christmas!
First Tuesday events
Our First Tuesday events are scheduled as usual. On Tuesday, January 3rd, First Tuesday Vespers is scheduled for 6:45 p.m., and is followed by Elders at 7:15 pm.
January Anniversaries None
Altar Guild Notes
Altar color is white throughout January, and doesn’t change until Septuagesima Sunday, when the color will change to violet.
Annual Voters’ MeetingOur Annual Voters’ Meeting is scheduled for Sunday, January 29th at 10:30 a.m. (in the time slot normally reserved for Bible Class).
An Epiphany Celebration
Epiphany, January 6th, falls on a Friday this year. Our observance of this important feast day is scheduled for the following day, Saturday, January 7th, with Holy Mass and our 21st Day of Theological Reflection, continuing a long tradition here of such days. Here is the schedule:
9:00 a.m. Epiphany Mass
10:00 a.m. - noon Seminar (day of reflection):
The twenty-first retreat in the Theological Reflection series is entitled,
“TO FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS”
A consideration of the Baptism of Our Lord
This seminar will consider the Gospel according to St. Matthew, where we left off at our Saturday class a few weeks ago. After a brief review of the second chapter with its account of the visit of the wise men and the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, we will continue with a consideration of the Baptism of our Lord, which is the substance of the fourth chapter of Matthew. Join us for what is sure to be an edifying morning!
Plans are up in the air for after the seminar. Perhaps we all have lunch together.
The Bell Tolls
On the last Sunday of the year, which in 2022 is Christmas Day, we remember the members who fell asleep in Christ during the year, with a tolling of the bell after each is named in the prayers These blessed dead are
In Our Prayers
Our current list of prayer intentions at mass includes the names on the lists here following. Anyone wishing to update the list by addition or subtraction, please inform the pastor.in our parish:
Don and Sue Murphy, Linda Rowe, Sharon Hartz, John Sovanski, Sandra VerPlaetse, Bea Harris, Grant Andreson, Jewneel Walker, and Emmy Wear, Kris Harden, Jim Watson, John Ricknell
and beyond our parish:
Anna, Katy, and Jody Rutowicz [Harris relations]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter]
Elizabeth Godke [Sharon Field’s mother]
Oneida Hendrickson [Ricknell relative]
Janice Hart [Judy Thompson’s sister]
Caleb Cleaver [Ricknells’ grandson]
Tim Newman [Shreck relation]
Theresa Moore [Ricknells’ niece]
Kathy Boeger [re Harrises]
Allison Leezer [relative of the Kraklows]
Shannon Watson [Jim’s daughter]
Richard Heiden [Carol Eckardt’s father]
Jeff Lewis [Carol Eckardt’s brother in law]
Pastor Jacob Sutton, and Pastor Justin Kane
in the military:
Donny Appleman [at request of the Ricknells]
Richard Heiden [at request of the Eckardts]
Eli Wetzel, Traven Wetzel
Eric Verplaetse [Sandra’s grandson]
Jake Mahaffey, Trevor Shimmin, Shad Draminski
James and Ann Lee Armstrong
Marcus Prentice [son of Felicia Baker]
any unborn children in danger of abortion
those suffering from unrest, persecution, and imprisonment in Nigeria, Algeria, Sudan, Madagascar, Iran, Iraq, Syria, India, China, Vietnam, North Korea, and elsewhere.
Caroling and Party a Great Success!
Our caroling on Wednesday, December 15th went well! We visited the residents at Kewanee Care, Liberty Village, and briefly at Parkside Apartments, before stopping in at the Murphys’ new digs, and ending up at the church for mass. Afterwards we enjoyed one another’s company at our annual Christmas party at the Eckardts. A good time was had by all!
Emmy Wear is at Williamsfield Retirement Center, 112 IL-180, Williamsfield, IL 61489; and Jewneel Walker is at Kewanee Care, 144 South Junior Ave, Kewanee, IL 61443. Grant Andreson is at Friendship Manor, 1209 21st Ave, Rock Island, IL 61201.
1/1 Chris Erickson
1/13 James Hornback
1/15 Breann Dooley
Jim Hornback, Tom Wells, Steve Kraklow
If you purchased a poinsettia, you may pick it up and take it to your own home any time after Christmas Day.
Christmas Play Performed Again; Written and Composed by Pastor in 1988
Now in its second year of performance, again under the direction of Cantor Peter Eckardt, the first-to-third-graders at St. John Lutheran School in Mattoon, Illinois, presented a Christmas play on December 19th that was first sung in 1988 by the grade schoolers at St. John Lutheran Church in Berlin, Wisconsin, as part of a musical play “The Christmas Nobody Noticed,” entirely written, composed, and directed by Pastor in 1988 in Berlin, Wisconsin, where he served as Associate Pastor at St. John Lutheran Church and School. The play was performed there also in 1990 under his direction, when his son Peter participated as a preschooler, and again at Our Father Lutheran School in Greenfield, Wisconsin a few years after that. After a 31-year dormancy, last year the music from that play was discovered in the Eckardt basement and dusted off for use in the program. The play itself was not performed, but only the music was sung by the school children for their Christmas program. This year the program was expanded to include also the parts of the play as originally conceived. The play was held at Doudna Hall on the campus of Eastern University at Charleston, Illinois, on December 19th. The performance may be viewed at https://fb.watch/hyYJDUtirE/
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443
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