Posted by: Johnold Strey | November 28, 2015

Sermon on Hebrews 12:18-24 by Kurt Eggert

Almost two years ago, I was back in Wisconsin for the first face-to-face meeting of the Rites Committee of the WELS Hymnal Project. After the meetings were done, I caught up with a former member of The Lutheran Chorale of Milwaukee, a volunteer choir of WELS members that I had the pleasure of singing during three different segments of time between fall of 1992 and spring of 2001. For a while, I had been looking for someone who had a copy of the cassette tape of the Lutheran Chorale’s concert from spring of 1993, which was the last concert that Pastor Kurt Eggert directed before the Lord called him home that June.

Kurt Eggert

As it turned out, not only did this person have a copy of that concert, but she also had cassette recordings of several other events involving Pastor Eggert. I was able to take these cassettes home and convert them to MP3 files. Some of the recordings included sermons that Pastor Eggert preached during his time at Atonement Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. While most of the sermons in that group of tapes were preached in connection with special events, there was one that was a “regular service” sermon. The sermon was based on Hebrews 12:18-24. The exact date is not certain, but it seems that it was preached in or close to 1980. The sermon theme (from what I can tell) was, “Almost Home.”

With its End Time emphasis, I thought I’d post that particular sermon now that we’re leaving the End Time emphasis of the end of the church year and entering the similar-but-different End Time emphasis found at the beginning of the new church year.

Click this link to listen to the sermon.


Posted by: Johnold Strey | November 17, 2015

Sermon on Matthew 25:14-30


  1. God gives different talents to different people
  2. God looks at the same criterion for everyone—faithfulness

 Text: Matthew 25:14-30

Service Video (sermon starts at 27:40)



Fall Leaves in Wisconsin

What does late fall mean for you? When I traveled to Wisconsin last week for hymnal committee meetings, I couldn’t help but be reminded that for many people, fall is the time of year to rake the leaves off your front yard! Since we hope that winter rains come in good measure over the next few months, fall might be a good time to clean out your rain gutters! With Thanksgiving just a week and a half away, fall might be your time to clean your house in preparation for the company that you’re expecting; or it might be the time to tune up your car if you’re traveling somewhere for Thanksgiving. We could say this about any time of year, but the activities that take place in different seasons often dictate what is on our personal agendas.

At St. Mark’s, fall means Oktoberfest, a school-sponsored chili cook off, and planning for Thanksgiving and Advent. But at St. Mark’s, fall also means the annual stewardship program. The timing makes sense. As you think about your personal budgets for the New Year, it’s wise for us to have our stewardship program and to encourage you to plan your giving to the church as you think about the rest of your own spending. That helps the church to also plan a responsible budget. And that’s an important part of stewardship.

But stewardship is more than just spreadsheets, offering envelopes, and finances. This year’s St. Mark’s stewardship program intends to get us to think about the bigger picture of stewardship—the “time and talents” aspects of stewardship. And Jesus’ parable of the talents in today’s Gospel will highlight the emphasis of our stewardship program as we take some time for a lesson on talents.


In Matthew 25, Jesus has three back-to-back discourses that all deal with the end of time and his final return. The first is the parable of the ten virgins, then there is the parable of the talents in today’s Gospel, and finally there is Jesus’ description of the final judgment as the separation of the sheep and the goats. It’s helpful for us to remember the larger context of today’s Gospel: It is not merely an isolated story about stewardship, but it is part of a larger discussion about being prepared for the return of Jesus at the end of time.  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold Strey | November 2, 2015

Sermon on Revelation 7:9-17


  1. Their number is great and growing
  2. Their clothes are white and clean
  3. Their future is perfect and permanent

 Text: Revelation 7:9-17

Service Video (sermon starts at 22:50)


What does it mean to be a “saint”? In common language, I suppose it refers to a really nice person, or perhaps a kind loved one who has died. In Roman Catholic theology, it means a person who has done so many good things in this life that their good works more than balances out their sin. In American sports, it means a football team in New Orleans. In the language of the New Testament, it literally means “holy ones”—in fact, in the NIV’s 2011 updated translation, the English word “saint” no longer appears, but the original word is usually translated something like, “God’s holy people.”

The Christian church has thought highly enough of its saints of the past to set aside a day to remember their examples of faith and to thank God for them since 835 A.D. But what does it mean to be a saint? And do I need to be a part of that group to be right with God? And if so, how do I become a part of that group? Those are natural questions to ask today, and the Second Lesson for today will help us to direct our discussion on this All Saints’ Day. What can we say about the saints? Saint John’s words in the Second Lesson give us three things we can say about the saints: [1] Their number is great and growing; [2] Their clothes are white and clean; [3] Their future is perfect and permanent.


Our readings comes from Revelation chapter seven. In the verses just before today’s reading, St. John saw a picture of God’s people on earth receiving a seal or mark from God that declared them to be his. If you have ever had a conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness about those verses, they will tell you that the 144,000 people who are sealed in that account reveals exactly how many people will be in heaven—144,000. But that number is a symbolic number; it symbolizes the entire church on earth. There were 12 tribes that belonged to God’s Old Testament people, the Jews; and there were 12 apostles that Jesus appointed in his New Testament church. Multiple 12 times 12 and you get 144. Then multiply that times 1,000—a number that stands for “completeness” in Revelation—and you have a symbolic number that stands for the entire church on earth.

But notice what happens to that symbolic number once the scene changes from earth to heaven in our reading. “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” The same group that numbered 144,000 is now so great that it cannot be counted. They come from every corner of the world to fill the scene in heaven with saints who now stand before the throne of God in worship.  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold Strey | October 20, 2015

Sermon on Genesis 2:18-24


Text: Genesis 2:18-24

Service Video (sermon starts at 24:30)


The guests neatly and politely filed into their seats, wearing their best suits and dresses. The church was decorated beautifully in red and gold pew bows and freshly-cut roses on the altar that filled the air with their aroma. The bells began to ring through the building and into the streets announcing the start of the ceremony. The strings began to introduce Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D as the bridesmaids slowly processed down the aisle in their red dresses, met by their corresponding groomsman halfway down the aisle. Everyone smiled and even chuckled politely as the bride’s four-year-old niece and the groom’s three-year-old nephew came down the aisle. Suddenly the crescendo in the music cued everyone to stand and turn to the back as the bride was escorted by her father, both smiling from ear to ear and holding back happy tears. They arrive at the front of the aisle, where dad gives his daughter a final kiss before placing her arm into the arm of her groom, as they make the final steps to the altar. The wedding service was stunning. Everything went off without a hitch—except the most important hitch: the couple getting married! The wedding ceremony could have been described as nothing short of divine. The day gleamed with so much beauty and the newlyweds beamed with so much happiness that it seemed like theirs was a match made in heaven.

Now fast-forward a few years. The baby cried from the nursery again—the third time so far, and the night wasn’t over. Their toddler was just getting over his cold that he brought home from preschool, and everyone else managed to get their share of it. Dad’s job had him working longer and longer hours, and neither mom nor dad felt like they could get on top of things. Mom dragged herself out of bed only to trip over some toys that had been left in the hallway on the way to the nursery. Then their toddler woke up early—the fifth time he had done that in the last week. They felt like they hadn’t slept a wink, and the exhaustion was making both mom and dad irritated at their kids, at each other, and especially at the telemarketer’s phone call that rang at quarter to seven. The day began badly before it had even started. What happened to the love and romance and excitement from their wedding day? Privately, in their own minds, each began to wonder if they were really a match made in heaven, or just another marriage mistake.

If there’s a mistake that many couples make, it’s that they spend a lot of time preparing for their wedding, but not nearly as much time preparing for their marriage. The wedding is a day—a special and memorable day, but still, just one day. The marriage is “till death parts us.” We can spend thousands of dollars on the wedding, but very little time and energy on the marriage. And then Satan begins to convince us that maybe this wasn’t God’s good plan all along.

Today’s Bible readings put the topics of marriage and family before us. We’re going to focus especially on the First Lesson from Genesis 2, where God not only created Adam and Eve but he also created the institution of marriage. Wherever you are in life, our study of the First Lesson will help us regain an appreciation for the fact that marriage by God’s design leads to a match made in heaven.


If you are at all familiar with the creation account in the first chapter of the Bible, you know each day ends with the same basic refrain: “God saw all that he had made, and it was good.” So when God says what he does in the opening verse of our reading, it should make us sit up and take notice: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” God was not only speaking about Adam, the first male, but he was also stating a general principle that is true in this world: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” God did not create humans to be hermits. God is not excluding the single life here, but he is saying that in general, men and women desire to be married and have a companion throughout life. So God carried out his plan to “make a helper suitable for him.” It is true and taught in Scripture that God wants the husband to be the loving leader of his family, but that does not mean that the wife’s role as helper makes her inferior or unimportant. The Hebrew word translated “helper” is a complimentary word, used in the psalms to describe God’s relationship to us. And the idea behind the word “suitable” is that God was going to create someone who would correspond with Adam. This was not a clone or replica of Adam, but another person who would complement him. They would “fit together” well as a couple.  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold Strey | September 26, 2015

Sermon on Jeremiah 38:1-13


  1. Expect opposition from the world
  2. Expect apathy from the world
  3. Expect deliverance from the Lord

 Text: Jeremiah 38:1-13

Service Video (sermon starts at 26:00) 


Why were so many mothers and infants dying? That’s the question that nineteenth century Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis wanted to know after he began work as a doctor in the maternity clinic at a hospital in Vienna. The disease commonly called “childbed fever” was taking the lives of far too many mothers and babies. Semmelweis began to study and rule out possible causes. He finally came to the conclusion—a conclusion that seems like a no-brainer to us today—that doctors needed to wash their hands and their medical instruments not just with soap but with a chorine solution. And when the doctors in the hospital did this, guess what happened with the mortality rate. It dropped significantly!

You would think that a discovery like this would have been openly received and adopted by the medical community. Think again. Some doctors felt that Semmelweis’s discovery suggested that doctors were responsible for causing these deaths. Semmelweis stood his ground, not always in a tactful way, and made a few enemies along the way. His advice was by and large ignored, and he was so frustrated at the response from the medical community across nineteenth century Europe that he was eventually committed to a mental asylum.

There are many examples through the centuries of people who proclaimed the truth only to be ignored by their contemporaries, while a later generation would come to realize the truth of their words. What was said about Semmelweis the doctor could also be said about Galileo the astronomer or Luther the theologian. You might be speaking the truth, but if the world is comfortable with the misinformation it has come to know, the truth won’t be well received.

Today’s First Lesson takes us to another similar situation where a truth-teller was not received kindly in a world full of lies. The truth-proclaimer in this case was the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, and the message he proclaimed from God went over the land of Judah about as well as a lead balloon. But the lessons we can learn from this account are important as we strive to proclaim the truth in our twenty-first century world. As we focus on the First Lesson for today, God’s Word will remind us that when you speak the truth in a world full of lies, you need to remember to [1] expect rejection from the world, [2] expect apathy from the world, but [3] expect deliverance from the Lord.  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold Strey | September 12, 2015

Sermon on Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-9


Text: Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-9

Service Video (sermon begins at 25:50)


When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I remember my teacher handing out a worksheet to the entire class that taught us about following directions. The instructions at the top of the page said, “Read all the questions first before completing the worksheet.” The first ‘question’ said, “Write your name at the top of the page.” The other questions were a series of math and language questions. But the very last ‘question’ on the page said, “Now that you have read all the questions first, go back, write your name at the top, and turn in the worksheet.” In other words, if students actually read all the directions, they didn’t have to do anything other than to write their name! And of course most students kept working on all the questions until they got to the end, realized what they had done, and then spent the next couple of minutes erasing everything they had just written. Lesson learned: Read and follow the directions!

God has given us something far more important than a math book or English book. He has given us the Bible, the book of books. And in today’s service we see that he has certain instructions about how we handle this book and treat what it says. He wants us to grasp all that it says, not to assume what it says like my old fifth and sixth grade classmates did with that worksheet. He wants us to treat his Word properly and to proclaim his Word faithfully. We learn about those very points in the First Lesson for today’s service from Deuteronomy. This reading was Moses’ “farewell sermon” to the ancient people of Israel before God ended Moses’ life and the nation entered the land promised to their ancestors. Moses teaches the Israelites—and us today—how to handle the words and commands of God. We could summarize Moses’ points with two short phrases: Hold on, and hold out!


Listen again to the opening verse of the First Lesson. “Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” This verse sets a new direction in Moses’ farewell sermon. The three chapters before this verse include Moses’ summary of Israel’s history for the previous forty years of their desert-wandering history. Now, before they inherit the land God promised their ancestors, he moves his discussion to the “decrees and laws” God gave them. Our English ears hear “decrees” and “laws” as words describing commands, but some of the “decrees” Moses was about to speak included decrees or statements of God’s gracious actions and promises. Moses was teaching them to hold on to God’s expectations for their lives and God’s promises in their lives. In Lutheran lingo, we would call the expectations “law” and the promises “gospel.”  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold Strey | September 1, 2015

Luther on Deuteronomy 4:2

Several lectionaries appointed selected verses of Deuteronomy 4 as the First Lesson for last Sunday. The Christian Worship lectionary appoints Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8 as the First Lesson for this coming Sunday; the Christian Worship: Supplement lectionary adds verse 9 to the pericope. So this quote may be a little late for many others, but for WELS pastors planning for September 6, 2015, this applies to the upcoming Sunday. I appreciated this quote from Luther’s comments on Deuteronomy 4:2 regarding the command to neither add to or subtract from the Word of God, which then lead into Luther’s comments on free will.  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold Strey | August 20, 2015

A Voice from the Past Looking Ahead to the Holidays

The picture of Pastor Kurt Eggert near the collection of books that bears his name in the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary library.

The picture of Pastor Kurt Eggert near the collection of books that bears his name in the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary library.

Summer is a good time for future planning in the parish. One important upcoming service that gets planning attention this time of year is the children’s Christmas service. The service we’re going to use at St. Mark’s has already been selected, but it was our brief Christmas service discussion that reminded me about this article from the Spring 2001 edition of Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly. Prof. James Tiefel at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary wrote the following article in which he quoted the late Pastor Kurt Eggert’s insightful thoughts about children’s Christmas services, and then included some further related commentary. I’ve shared this with others often enough through the years that I thought I’d share the article online. Perhaps Eggert’s voice from the past will offer you some good food for thought as you make your Christmas service plans in your own local parish this summer or fall.

(As an aside, the WELS Hymnal Project has made Viva Vox — a worship journal that Kurt Eggert and Ralph Gehrke produced in the mid-1950’s — available on its resources page. Check it out for more of Eggert’s wisdom and insights from the past).


There is a certain post-Christmas relief that settles over church and school in January. The annual Christmas services are over and done. Winter may be a good time to review what took place during December.

Recently, a friend gave me a copy of a letter the sainted Pastor Kurt Eggert wrote long ago as a review of a children’s Christmas Eve service. He must have been writing to the service’s author or arranger. What Eggert wrote may be helpful as you begin planning for Christmas 2001.

Read More…

Posted by: Johnold Strey | August 12, 2015

Sermon on 2 Kings 4:42-44


Text: 2 Kings 4:42-44

Service Video (sermon starts at 25:25)


It is a Lutheran social faux pas of the highest order. Under no circumstance whatsoever do you want to find yourself in the unenviable position of having to take the blame for this horrible situation. If it happens, people will be talking about it for years to come. What is this socially unacceptable behavior among Lutherans? It’s simple: Not having enough food for a church potluck dinner! Of course, that’s easier said than done. You have to guess how many people are going to be there, and you are somewhat at the mercy of the people who will be bringing food for the meal. And it doesn’t hurt to have a back-up plan just in case. (At St. Mark’s we call that back-up plan El Pollo Loco).

In the Gospel for today (John 6:1-15) we have a familiar miracle account from the ministry of Jesus. Jesus feeding the crowd of 5,000 men appears in all four Gospels, and it’s probably among the most well-known incidents from the ministry of Jesus. The lack of food to feed such a large crowd was not addressed by a fast food run or a hired caterer, but by the hand of the Son of God who proved his divine power through this memorable miracle.

In the First Lesson for today we have a much less familiar account from the ministry of the Old Testament prophet Elisha. A small amount of food is donated to the school of the prophets—a kind donation to be sure, but not enough to give a sufficient meal to 100 men. But the end result of this account is quite similar to Jesus feeding the 5,000. And while you and I may not be the beneficiaries of either of these miraculous meals, we can be beneficiaries of the lessons we can learn from them—particularly the lesson we can learn from the First Lesson, which is the basis for this morning’s sermon. And the lesson we’ll learn is simply this: When you wonder what to do, return to the Word of the Lord.  Read More…

Posted by: Johnold Strey | July 27, 2015

Sermon on Mark 6:30-34


  1. We need a time for refreshment
  2. Others need refreshment, too

Text: Mark 6:30-34

Service Video (sermon starts at 32:30)


After today, we will have just one more month in this church sanctuary before we move worship into the gym for two months while the long-promised sanctuary refresh project takes place. On Monday, August 31, the pews will be taken away, the wood repaired and refinished, the padding recovered, the ceiling repaired, and the walls repainted and redecorated with wall sconces and a few appropriate Bible passages. When we return to worshipping in the sanctuary, Lord willing on October 25, I think you’re going to be very pleased and excited with the final outcome. And if our fiftieth anniversary thank offering is able to support it, in a couple of years there could be stained glass windows along these walls, beautifying this sanctuary even more and proclaiming the gospel through art and symbolism etched in glass.

Even without the refresh project, we are blessed with a fantastic church sanctuary. Space for plenty of worshippers, good acoustics for singing, a good location—these features alone make many other congregations a little envious. But the facelift that the refresh project will give this sanctuary will undoubtedly be—well, refreshing!

It is time for a church refresh project. Notice now that I didn’t say sanctuary refresh, but church refresh. Those of you who were here last month for our fiftieth anniversary service may remember from Pastor Bill Tackmier’s sermon that he emphasized that the church really isn’t the sanctuary or the building, but the congregation or the people. Just as there is value refreshing our sanctuary with a new look, so there is great value giving the church and the people who make up the church some refreshment. That’s what we’re going to learn this morning as we take a look at the Gospel reading that is appointed for today’s service. Jesus teaches us that it is time for a church “refresh project.” We, the members of the church, need a time for refreshment, and there are many others outside the church who need that some refreshment, too.


Jesus and his disciples needed some refreshment also. Today’s Gospel occurs immediately after the account we heard last Sunday (Mark 6:7-13), when Jesus sent out the Twelve in pairs to preach and teach and even perform miracles to back up their message. And now they came back to Jesus, gave him a full report of all they had said and done and how people had responded to their gospel message. By now, quite a “buzz” has been created around Jesus. Mark said, “So many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat.”  Read More…

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