Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sermon for 1/15/17: Second Sunday After the Epiphany

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Power and Mercy


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


So often we focus on the power of the miracle our Lord performed at the wedding in Cana. But there’s another aspect: the great mercy our Lord shows for the people He has come to save, even in dealing with something so simple as a wine shortage at a wedding. We must take both the power and the mercy into account as we examine this text.
Jesus came to fulfill the Law. He began that fulfillment with His circumcision in the Temple and His baptism in the Jordan River. Then He continued that work with His first miracle of changing water into wine. Notice what He uses: the purification jars of the Jews—water pots of the law. He has them filled with water, and from them He produces the finest wine. Here we are reminded that the Law was given to be fulfilled by our Lord Jesus Christ because we could not keep it. Just as Mary could not make things better for the bridal party by herself, we cannot do ourselves any good by our attempts to keep the Commandments.
But some people seem to think that we can keep the Law. There are preachers who say, “God wouldn't have given us His commandments if we couldn't keep them.” But that contradicts St. Paul who says in Galatians chapter three that the Law was given to show us our sin. When Jesus has those jars filled with ordinary water and turns that water into wine, He's teaching us that He has come to do what we could not: He has come to keep the Law. He has come to perfectly love God. He has come to perfectly love His neighbor. And He did both…perfectly.
And what is the result of His perfect fulfillment of the Law? The wedding guests drank and were merry! They found themselves at the best ever open bar at a wedding! This miracle is a picture of what our Lord really does for us by dying for our sins: He fulfills the Law. He perfectly loves the Father by being obedient even unto death on the cross. He perfectly loves His neighbor by bearing our sins to His own death: a death He did not deserve, a death He died for us. And we drink in that perfect love, that perfect salvation, in the holy Sacrament, where in the wine we drink the very blood of Christ.
The miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine is also a reminder that what Christ has done on the cross of Calvary is also about how He treats His holy Bride, the One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church. Just as Cana’s wedding reception took the bridal party from ordinary water to the finest wine in celebration of their marriage, so Christ's church is made alive in the waters of Holy Baptism, and then she celebrates that He has redeemed her through His body and blood in the Holy Supper. Remember this: you are the Bride of Christ. You are the ones for whom He gave His life. You are the ones for whom He turned the jars of God's Law into a saving and refreshing drink of grace, even as He Himself fulfilled that Law.
This is the first of the signs that Jesus did, and it points to Him as the true Savior and Bridegroom of the Church. And just as this miracle pointed forward to the institution of the Lord’s Supper where we receive the finest wine of Christ’s blood along with His body, both the miracle and the Holy Supper are a foretaste of the eternal wedding feast prepared for all those who approach the Lord with faith in His Word, His works, and His promises. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sermon for 1/8/17: The Baptism of Our Lord

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Soaked in Sin


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.


John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, baptizes Jesus and the Spirit Himself descends upon Him while the Father expresses His pleasure. It is the anointing of the Lord. In the watery boundary that separates the wilderness from the Promised Land, Jesus is chosen and marked as the Messiah, the Anointed One. There He takes the sins of the world upon Himself. On the cross He will overcome them. The Father is well pleased in Him because the sacrifice is work of the Messiah, the will of the Father, the fruit of the Spirit.
The baptism, and indeed the entire identity of the Christian, flows out of this. By baptism the believer is joined to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the significant thing. Do you not know that you were baptized into Christ’s death? Although these things are important, the central thing is not faith, ritual, the water, the Word, or the believer. The central thing is always the grace of God that steps in and rescues man out of death through the Messiah. When you were baptized into this faith, you put on Christ. You have been forever joined to His death and resurrection. You are anointed, marked and named by Him. Christ is the key thing.
“Repent and be baptized,” says John. To repent means to acknowledge that God is right and confess that His judgment is true when He says that we are all sinners worthy of death. Repent: confess that God is right and you are wrong. Then be baptized. Receive the forgiveness of sins. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will dwell in you. Faith is certainly part of the equation, but the emphasis is on work God does in baptism and the promised presence of the Holy Trinity for the believer. The faith which receives these gracious gifts is itself a gift. It is not as though we come before God with an empty sack and then He fills it. We come empty handed. He gives us the sack. Then He fills it.
When Christ was drowned in baptism, heaven opened. When He died on the cross, graves were opened and dead men lived. The Father is pleased because satisfaction has been made. The sins of a thousand worlds have been drowned and destroyed in Christ’s baptism. Baptism is a washing, but more than that, it is a drowning, and a death. Our sin and rebellion are a deadly problem. They destroy life. They kill families. They murder innocence and purity. They require an extreme solution. And so great is God’s love, so great His desire to forgive, that He sacrifices His own Son in our place. Nothing will stop Him. Satan will not win. God will rejoin humanity to Himself without violating His own Law. He will intervene and make us His. So pleased is the Father with the Son that He and the Spirit promise to be present with all who are baptized into Christ.
And Christ Himself is the baptizer. Although this glorious revelation does not now occur visibly, as it did at that time on the Jordan, nonetheless it is what occurs. That is the promise. Christ is the baptizer whether He is seen or not. The Father blesses with His Word. The Spirit makes the heart His temple. And that is why St. Paul can’t even remember who he baptized, because he never really baptized anyone. Christ did it all.
All of this means that the Baptism of Our Lord is the beginning of the great exchange. Christ is not washed clean; He soaks in our sins. He takes all our filth upon Himself and leaves the water sparkling clean for us. Our sins wash off of us and onto Him. His holiness covers us and we are clean. The Father will not forsake us. He will not send us to a cross. We will not pay for our sins. Heaven is opened. The Father is well-pleased with us. We are made children and heirs by grace. His Name is upon us. Our graves will open. We will follow the Lord Jesus out of death and to Our Father’s home. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Sermon for 1/1/17: The Sunday After Christmas

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Promised and Fulfilled


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple to be circumcised and named. While there, they encountered Simeon and Anna. Jesus was brought to the temple in fulfillment of the Law of Moses. God prescribed in His Law that the firstborn is to be consecrated to Him, so His people would remember that He has saved them. He delivered them in a mighty way from their bondage to the Egyptians. And what’s more, He will deliver all His people of all time from the bondage of sin and into His promised heaven.
Jesus certainly didn't need to be purified; He's without sin. But Joseph and Mary obeyed the Law of God nonetheless, bringing Jesus into the temple. As He did with everything else, Jesus perfectly obeyed the Law of God, something we have not done and cannot do. In this way Jesus came to be our Savior, and even as an infant, He was doing the work of saving us. Because of His righteousness before the Father, we are made holy and acceptable in His sight.
While they were at the temple, the Holy Family encountered Simeon. A prophecy had been given to Simeon. “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.” And when Simeon held Jesus in his arms, he sang a song of thankfulness to God for revealing the salvation of the world to him in the person of the Christ child. The words he spoke were preserved by the Holy Spirit for the sake of the Church. Simeon spoke for us, and we will join our voices to his this very day when, like Simeon, we hold the Savior of the world—Simeon in his arms, and us in our mouths as we receive the very body and blood of Christ. After all, this promise given to Simeon is also God's promise to us. We too may depart in peace according the Word of the Lord, for in receiving the bread and wine combined with Christ's very Word, our eyes have seen His salvation. He breaks the bonds which sin and guilt hold on us. He strikes down our enemy, Satan, in the body and blood that was given and shed at Calvary—a gift He offers you today.
What does this mean for us? It means that, as we begin this new year, we can see what lies ahead of us—not only for this new year, but what God has prepared for us eternally. We see the love God has shown us in sending His Son for our salvation. Sinners that we are, we need that continual reminder that God loves us in Christ, because the old Adam within us is God’s enemy. We need to return here constantly: this year and in the years to come. We need to return to our Baptism, where that Old Adam is drowned and dies, and where the new man, the child of God and heir of heaven, emerges to new life. We need to continue to receive God's love as He delivers it to us in the Supper Christ prepares for us.
At the last hour of our life we will say with Simeon, “Let your servant depart in peace.” God always fulfills His Word. We don't know when our last hour will be. It may come in this new year; it may be far off. But whatever His holy will is, we will depart in peace. The Sacraments, the gifts of God, have touched our lips. His Word has filled our ears. And because of those gifts, praises to God spring forth from our lips.
We don't know who we will run across in the new year—many old faces are likely, and we will also probably encounter some new ones. All people need to hear. All people need to know what caused Simeon to rejoice, what caused Mary and Joseph to marvel, what Anna delighted to share with others. God grant us all the joy in receiving the consolation of sins forgiven as we receive the Christ, and joy as we tell everyone what He has done. In the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
            
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Sermon for 12/25/16: The Nativity of Our Lord

My apologies for the late posting. I'm aftaid I made rather merry over the past week. RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.



Light in the Darkness

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


In the beginning of his Gospel, St. John gives us all the high religious talk about the Word. The Word is there in the beginning. Through the Word all things were made. Nothing that is made was made apart from the Word. In the Word is light. The Word’s light is the life of men. Can you get any more obscure and lofty than that? St. John was a fisherman, and usually the language in his Gospel is simple. But he goes all philosophical in this text, describing Jesus as would the wisest scholar.
He saves all the low talk for you and me. After all, we, the people for whom He came, reject the Word. We, the people for whom He came, love the darkness. We don’t know the Word. We do not receive Him. The Word is way up there: lofty, eternal, luminescent, with all of God’s glory and majesty. And we are way down on the earth in the sludge of our sins, our darkness, and our death. If that is how your Christmas ends—with high-sounding religious talk about God and low-sounding talk about you—then you will remain lost in your sins. There’s no “Joy to the World” for you!
But John continues. He keeps unwrapping the Word for us. The true Light was in the world. Wait a second! How could the Word, with all its heavenly glory, be in the world? That’s incomprehensible! No, that’s Christmas! The Word becomes flesh! He makes His dwelling place, He pitches His tent, among us. God who is eternal, infinite, from the beginning, and has no end, takes on our flesh to save us. He lives the life the Law requires of us. He suffers and is crucified for our rejection of His Word and Law. He takes on our flesh to redeem our flesh.
His Light shines in our darkness. Darkness is a formidable enemy for us. Though we find it terrifying, we love the darkness. We love those things that go bump in the night, those things that make us scream like little girls. We love the monster under the bed. Even if it means our death, we love the darkness so much that we let it overcome us. But unlike us, our Lord Jesus Christ is not overcome. He overcomes the darkness by His death! This is the glory of God, which John knew so well, having seen our transfigured Lord in blinding glory upon the mountaintop. It is the glory of incarnate Lord Jesus who sheds His blood for us. The Word is not far away in the clouds of heaven. No, He is near to us—indeed, He is here with us, for He has come and taken on our flesh! He’s resting in the arms of the Virgin. He’s enthroned in the manger. He grew up, and He was God even on the Cross.
This morning, the same Word, Emmanuel, God in the flesh, is making His dwelling place among us here on the altar, giving us His Supper. Take and eat His Body; take and drink His Blood. He is present in and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. Whoever eats the flesh of the Son of Man has life, and you, too, shall see His glory. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sermon for 12/24/16: The Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord

No audio. My apologies. A blessed and merry Christmas to you and yours from me and mine.



"Unto You"


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


The words of our text may be the greatest good news ever delivered by angels to men. Those words, unto you, help us to understand both who Jesus is and why He came to earth. So who is Jesus? He is none other that the Son of God. He is the perfect image of His heavenly Father. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is the name above every name. And as the angel says to the shepherds and to us, this Jesus, this Son of God, this co-creator of the world and judge of all the earth, is born unto you.
What an amazing gift from God! It is a gift beyond price. Some of you have had children. Others have not, but might some day. Any of you who are parents know that there is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing that this is your child. This is your son in your arms; this is your daughter sitting on your lap: your very own flesh and blood, born into your family. Now take all the wonder, all of the glory and majesty of birth and family and life in your own arms, and look to the manger in Bethlehem. In that manger is born a Child. Isaiah put it so well: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
This child, this Son of God and Son of Mary, is born unto you. This child comes into our family, the family of the human race. This One comes to give what no other child can give. For no matter how wonderful human birth is, no matter how great a gift is family, we are all born into sin and death and heartache. But not This One. This one is born the Savior, Christ the Lord. He is God and Man. He is without sin and full of the Love of the Father for you. He is your peace and hope in this dark world. He is your life, He is your forgiveness, and He takes upon Himself all of your sin.
“For unto you is born this day…a Saviour.” Have there ever been more beautiful words spoken of in all the world? This perfect Son of God is born unto you. He is born in the darkness of our sin, but He brings light and life and salvation to all who trust in Him. He comes in silence, but the angels of heaven cannot help but sing out, Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
The almighty Word of God descends from His royal throne on high, and takes the lowliest form of all: He takes on your form, your likeness. He does this so that you by faith may take on His nature: a child of God and an heir of eternal life. For Christ has entered into your family. He sits at your table; He rests in your bed. He is one of us as much as every other member of your family. Yet this new member of the human family comes to give us gifts like no other. For by entering into your flesh, by taking on your family, Jesus Christ has also adopted you into God’s family. You now bear God’s name as much as He bears your name. And through this Son, God and sinners are reconciled.
It is indeed no wonder that the angels in heaven sing, Glory to God!” But no matter how joyfully the angels sing, their joy this night cannot match ours. For this Jesus has made peace with God for all mankind. We are not separated from God anymore. He is one of us, and He is Immanuel, “God with us.” Rejoice in the mystery of God made flesh, for He comes to save you. And so we pray, “O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sermon for 12/18/16: Fourth Sunday in Advent

No audio file today. Sorry! Some pastor who will remain nameless forgot to hit the "record" button.

                                   
What Really Matters

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


“Repent!” That’s the message John has for the people awaiting the coming of the Messiah. It is a tough, thankless message to preach. After all, how many illicit affairs took place last night? How many children were neglected? How many families charged up their credit cards to create the image of a perfect Christmas with a false appearance of abundance? How many try to buy or drink or sleep or cheat their way out of despair? How many words were wielded as weapons? And how many of you laid awake last night, lonely or afraid or angry or jealous, full of regret or scheming for the future? The enemy is all around us and even within us.
More than ever, St. John the Baptist is the man for our times. He has comfort for our broken-heartedness, an answer for our uncertainties. He is the voice crying in the wilderness, and we live in the wilderness. We walk in danger. We fight, flee, and die. We abandon our young, betray our friends, forget our spouses. We are not as civilized or sophisticated as we pretend. If we were, we would not have among us the homeless, the drug addicted, the criminal, the untended victim, or the adulterer. We would not lock our doors for fear of our neighbors. Our marriages would be stable. Our children would be safe. Our churches would be full.
John beckons us to open our eyes and acknowledge the wilderness around us and within us. John urges us to come out of our make-belief worlds, to face reality. Despite your pride in your strength, you are vulnerable and weak. You cannot stop a bullet. You cannot police your own streets. You have no safety in yourself or in man-made contraptions. These things only offer false comfort. Your life is fragile. Yet you sell your soul cheaply for things that rust and corrode and crumble and fade. You are obsessed with your own desires and dreams. You turn in on yourself, away from God. Wake up! Repent! You are in danger of losing everything. Repent before it is too late. Repent, for there is hope.
There is One whose sandals we are all unworthy to untie. He is not infected like we are. He is pure, clean, and righteous. He is God in human flesh. He gives Himself for and to you, to make you safe and whole and free and alive again. He baptizes with the fire of the Holy Spirit in waters filled with His Name. He bestows righteousness. He forgives and restores without an investigation of your credit history, without a payment schedule, without cost or demand or restriction! He forgives. He loves. He is the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He can overcome your lust, your anger, your past. He can give you a future again. And that is what matters. It’s not important who your pastor is, even if it’s John the Baptist himself. It doesn’t even matter who you are. What matters is that He is the Christ! He is the long-expected Savior, the One who loves you and restores you to the kingdom, who calls you to be His beloved Bride.
Here in the wilderness, it is hard to believe that is what matters. It seems at times like what matters is impressing your boss or getting the respect you crave from your neighbor. It seems like what matters is instant gratification. It even seems at times like what matter is justice: that life would be fair, that you and your loved ones would never be shorted or suffer in any way. But that stuff doesn’t matter on the Last Day. What matters on the Last Day is that the virgin’s Son went to the cross to redeem you, body and soul. He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven. He comes to you in the preaching of His Word and in His body and blood. He is the Christ. He is the One anointed to be your Savior. He loves you even when no one else does or can. Jesus is the Christ, and that’s what matters for you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sermon for 12/11/16: Third Sunday in Advent

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Doubt and Comfort


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


Jesus calls John the greatest person ever of those born of women. In truth, John is a man obsessed with the Lord. But at the moment, John is a prisoner on death row. He would not bend like a reed in the wind. He dared to speak against the king's immorality. He is more than a prophet. He is a martyr. He will lose his head rather than play along and pretend sin is okay. It is this focus and desire, this single-minded zeal, which has made him the greatest of those born of women. Yet, even he, great though he is, knows some fear, some uncertainty. He is not perfect.
On this side of glory, inside every man of faith, inside every zealous preacher, there abides doubt fueled by sin. John asks: “Are you the coming One, or should we expect another?” Do not be scandalized by John's question. It doesn’t matter if he asked for his own sake or the for the sake of his disciples. Faith that waits is not yet perfect. It coexists with sin. It is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For a time, faith lives with doubt. In the kingdom of heaven there is no doubt. Yet here on earth we believe and we confess those things we cannot see, those things we cannot prove, yet know to be true, even while a part of us doubts them. And so frail are we that it seems we only use the language of faith to describe and confess those things we doubt.
Faith goes where God promises to be and, like a child asking to hear the same bedtime story once again, or a wife wanting to hear once more that her husband still loves her, faith asks again: “Are You the Coming One?” And Our Lord is quick to reply: “The blind see and the lame walk. The lepers are cleansed and deaf hear. The dead are raised up and the poor have the Gospel preached unto them.”
John stood as a man outside of time. He was both the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New Testament prophets. Like Abraham, he lived by faith; like Jacob, he wrestled with God; like Elijah, he embodied repentance in his body and garments; and like Isaiah, he pointed to the One who came to redeem us. He preached his fiery sermons for his own hearing as much as for ours. He needed to bear fruits of repentance. He needed the Lamb of God and the forgiveness of sins. He heard the Father's voice. He pointed to the end of his father's office and his own office. Finally he was relieved and his burdens removed. Faith got what it waited for.
In the same way, we also straddle two worlds: the kingdom of heaven and the new man on the one side, and the kingdom of the flesh and the old man on the other. We believe those things we doubt, those things we cannot see, those things we cannot prove. We hope. We pray. We wait. And with the father of the demon-possessed child we confess: “Lord, I believe.” And then we add our prayer to his: “Help my unbelief.” And so He does. Jesus gave His life for yours. He died and He rose again to set you free. Soon your burdens will also be removed. In the meantime the fruit of the vine is for you, the Cup of the New Testament in His blood, for the forgiveness of your sins, and the kingdom of heaven is poured into you. “The poor have the Gospel preached unto them” says Jesus. And so it is. This is the comfort John proclaimed, and it is my privilege to preach that same comfort to you. The blind see and the lame walk. The lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear. The dead in sin are raised up in the waters of Holy Baptism. Your warfare is ended. Your iniquity is pardoned. You have received double from the Lord’s hand for all your sins. And the Word of our God stands forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Called and Installed: A New Adventure

For my 700th blog post(!!!), I decided I'd go bigso big, in fact, that it takes a second church building and congregation for me to make it happen. Earlier in 2016, Pastor Mark Buetow, who had been serving at Bethel Lutheran Church in Du Quoin, Illinois, received a Call to serve a congregation a little ways outside Chicago. His acceptance of that call (the traitor! *wink*) led the members of the Bethel congregation to consider their future. And after much consideration, they decided to contact my congregation, St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois. The members of Bethel asked the members of St. Peter to consider joining them in a dual parish arrangement. This meant, among other things, that they would share me as their pastor.

In July, after more consideration and prayer, not to mention a number of meetings full of questions and compromises to hash out details, both congregations voted overwhelmingly to join together as a dual parish. For various reasons, the agreement would not take effect until January 1, 2017. However, I would serve Bethel as their vacancy pastor until that time. I would have to be officially Installed as the pastor of the dual parish, and, having already been Installed at St. Peter in May of 2010, we made the decision to have the dual parish Installation at Bethel. I asked to have it the weekend after Thanksgiving so my parents could attend, since they had already planned to come for Thanksgiving.

So we went ahead with the Installation on the 27th of November. The Reverend President Timothy Scharr of the Southern Illinois District officiated at the Installation. Pastor Kirk Clayton of Zion Lutheran Church in Mascoutah was the preacher, and his sermon brought together the names of the two congregations. (I can't post the text of his sermon, since he preaches from an outline, but you can download the audio of his sermon here.) Pastor Peter Ill of Trinity Lutheran Church in Millstadt was the liturgist. A number of area pastors participated in the laying-on/holy-hover-of-hands. And then, after the Installation, most of us drove from Bethel to St. Peter, where the ladies of both congregations (and a few men, for that matter) put together an impressive meal.

For many of the members, this was their first interaction with members of their new sister congregation. Everything I'd hoped forlove, cooperation, and a joyful spiritcame together on that day. Campbell Hill and Du Quoin may be about 25 miles apart, but the love of Christ has a way of bringing people together, no matter how far apart they may live and worship.

This will change things for all of us. Both congregations are used to having their own pastor; they now share me. Both congregations originally met for Divine Service at 10am; St. Peter now meets at 9am and Bethel at 10:45am. Bethel was used to having the pastor at their preschool every day; now he's only there two days each week. There are others. Many others. Our task going forward together is to do our best to make the arrangement work. I don't think that will be a problem.

And things have changed for the Kornacki family, too. After leaving North Dakota, I said I'd never serve a dual parish again. After writing a book which could be seen as critical of Synod, I also said I'd never receive another Call. If you want to make the Lord laugh, tell Him your plans or say "never." I'm once again taking care of two congregations, which means I have more shut-in and hospital visits, more meetings, more responsibilities, and more time away from my family. It also means I get to work with two youth groups, two church councils, two wonderful organists, and a bunch of preschool kids. I also have a second set of bookshelves, which means I can buy more books! We were able to purchase a new vehicle, which, honestly, we needed. The Lord continues to provide for my family, just as He continues to provide for the two congregations it is now my privilege to serve.

Thank you to everyone who made the day so special! I'll leave you with the picture of the pastors at my Installation. What a seedy-looking bunch of characters!
Left to right: Rev. Timothy Scharr, Rev. Peter Ill, Rev. Kirk Clayton, me, Rev. James Leistico, Rev. Chris Agne, Rev. Timothy Landskroener (also known as OP: Old Pastor), and Rev. Timothy Sims.

Sermon for 12/4/16: Second Sunday in Advent

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Stirred Hearts, Lifted Heads


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


My brothers and sisters in Christ, take heed! The fig tree is thick with buds. The nations are perplexed. Men’s hearts are failing. False preachers scratch the itchy ears of men: those vain liars who hide behind their wicked vocabulary, calling debauchery and vice “victimless,” naming babies “fetuses” and the slaughter houses “clinics;” who pretend as though sodomy is wholesome, who attempt to use the Church for their own gain. They will be exposed. All will be exposed. Repent. The Kingdom draws near. Your salvation is coming. Beware. And rejoice.
Last week we begged our Lord Jesus Christ to stir up His power and come. We asked this because of His enduring promise; because He has said that He will be Our God. He will save us. We want Him to fulfill His Word. We do not merely ask for a little something to get us by until we are on our feet again. We are asking for rescue. We are in mortal danger because of our sins. We are surrounded by demonic forces. We are cold, tired, and afraid. Left on our own, we’d have no hope. Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come. Do not leave us alone, for you are our Hope and your Word is true.
Stir up our hearts, O Lord. That is our prayer this week. We pray that the Power of God in the Flesh, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, would stir us up. Stir up our hearts, O Lord…for we are in danger of growing bored and cold. Our flesh is weak. We are tempted to neglect the watch, to indulge our baser desires, to forget who we are and what we are waiting for. We need the Lord to stir up our hearts, to rouse us from selfish slumber, to prepare and make us ready for His coming: now in Word and in Sacrament and soon in glory.
The Spirit stirs us to repentance. It is like being awakened too early on a dreary December day. We’d rather roll over and bury ourselves in the covers than repent. When they were frozen, our hearts were numb. But as they thaw at the Spirit’s stirring, they shoots needles of pain into our souls. Turning from our sin and towards God is difficult, painful. Nonetheless we pray that He would stir us up, for if He doesn’t, we die an eternal death. The Word of God is a sword. It is meant for killing. It cuts us off from our old life. It exposes our shameful weaknesses. We may have fooled men, but we never fooled God. He saw the things we did in secret. He heard the black thoughts and depraved fantasies that played out in the backs of our minds. Repent. God knows what you’ve done, what you’ve dreamed, what you’ve thought. And yet, despite that, He loves you.
He became a servant. He suffered under the Law you failed to keep. He did all that it demands. He abstained from all that it forbids. He then allowed the Law to do to Him all it should have done to you. He has fulfilled the Law; it can ask no more. There is no one to accuse you. He has gone to the sacrifice willingly, as the Lamb to the slaughter. He has counted you worthy of that price. He gladly paid for you. He does not regret it. He loves you. The promise made to the fathers is that this mercy endures forever. He is your hope and your salvation.
Look up. Lift up your heads. Your redemption draws near! His Word will not pass away. It is true. It is valid. It is certain. All will happen just as He said it would. This enduring and gracious Word made flesh was placed into you in the waters of Holy Baptism. He made you His. He cannot forget you. You are His Bride. God has joined you together. No man can put you asunder. You have left your father the devil and become one flesh with the crucified and risen God of Abraham. Heaven and earth will fail, but His Word will not pass away…and because of that, you will not pass away. You will live forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sermon for 11/27/16: First Sunday in Advent

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Anticipation and Fulfillment


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


What is it that drives millions to wait for hours in the dark and the cold on the morning after Thanksgiving Day for a department store to open? What is it that possesses young men to wait in line for hours to purchase the new video game console? What is it that keeps deer hunters on their stands for hours on end? It is what happens at the end of all of that waiting. Their expectations are met; their hopes are realized. Those who waited in department store lines get their bargains. The young men get their cool new video game console. The hunters tag their bucks and does. The waiting and the hoping are over, and what has happened has made the wait worthwhile.
This is the Christian life: a life of waiting and hoping, and then realizing that all that waiting was so worthwhile! We see this in the lives of the Old Testament saints. For forty centuries, they had waited. God had promised a Savior from sin immediately after man committed the first sin. And so the people of God waited for their hope for a Savior to be realized.
During the next twenty centuries, God continued to give descriptions about the promised Savior. Jeremiah, for example, proclaimed that the Savior would be born in the line of Judah. In giving prophesies, God showed His goodness and mercy toward His people, calling us to task for being impatient with Him and His ways and renewing our hope through His Word. And so the people of God waited for their hope for a Savior to be realized.
And, finally, the day was at hand! The long-expected Savior had come into the world! Jesus revealed Himself to be the promised King when He entered the city of Jerusalem on the donkey colt. The people of God had waited for their hope for a Savior to be realized…and it was. The waiting was over. What they had anticipated with hope had now happened!
And what happened made the long wait worthwhile! For the One who was paraded into Jerusalem and lauded as the King on that Sunday was paraded out of Jerusalem the following Friday, condemned as a criminal. The Lamb of God was being led out of the city to the slaughter. His day had come. His long wait was over, too. He had waited patiently from the very beginning of eternity for this day; He had been born in flesh for this very moment. The Father had held back His wrath against all the sins of the world, and now He was going to unleash His wrath against His only Son, the One carrying our sin in His Body. The wait was over. What the Triune God had anticipated was now happening: the Father put His Son to death for sin so that we, His adopted children, would not perish in sin. Because of Christ’s sacrificial death, the Father forgives the sins of the entire world: from the original sin of Adam to the final sin of the last man on earth.
Like the Old Testament saints, our lives also are lives of waiting. We await the Second Coming of the same Savior. And we, too, have waited long. It has been nearly twenty centuries since the Lord ascended with the promise that He would come again, to usher in the new heavens and the new earth, our eternal dwelling place with Him and with each other.
In the meantime, we wait for His final coming. But as we wait, He comes to us in humbler ways—but these ways are no less fulfilling for us, for He comes to us in the mouths of pastors who speak His forgiveness to us. He comes to us in the preaching of His Word. He comes to us in His body and blood. And all these humble comings of Christ prepare us for that final coming in glory, when He will come to us, when we will never again be able to be parted from Him…and it will be worth the wait! In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Monday, November 28, 2016

HYMN: O Lord, Where Are You Going?

After a bit of a dry spell, and after working on this trying to figure out the third verse of this text for about two months now, I've finally finished another text. (Not like my life hasn't been crazy lately, but it's nice to get another text out of me.) This one is based on the propers for the Fifth Sunday of Easter in the LSB one-year lectionary and around the Gospel text, John 6:5-15, in particular. The disciples are sad because Jesus tells them He will be departing from them, but none of them asks Him where He will go or why. Anyway, here it is. Let me know what you think.


O Lord, Where Are You Going?

1. O Lord, where are You going?
My fear is freely flowing.
You say You must depart.
I want to have You near me.
Stay, Lord! In mercy hear me.
The weight of sorrow fills my heart.

2. Lovingly You address me.
You say You leave to bless me:
The Helper You will send.
Comfort He will provide me
And in all truth will guide me.
Oh, I could ask no better friend.

3. Send, Lord, Your Spirit to me,
And let Your Word renew me,
That I may sing Your praise.
Thus will Your Spirit render
Peace, life, and solace tender:
My joy in sorrow all my days.


(c) 2016 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
776 778
Tune: O WELT, ICH MUSS DICH LASSEN (LSB 453)
Occasion: Easter V
John 16:5-15

Sermon for 11/24/16: Thanksgiving

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Abundance


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on the television, and then you can find college basketball and pro football on pretty much any channel. Meanwhile, the table groans with turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and corn and green beans and dinner rolls, and the sideboard is covered with pies. There’s beer and soft drinks in the fridge and wine waiting to be uncorked. And trough it all, we make our plans for Black Friday shopping. It seems Thanksgiving has become the holiday which celebrates overindulgence. But what are we indulging in? Everything set before you on the Day of National Thanksgiving is a gift from our heavenly Father. Those things are a gift.
Idolatry happens when you turn the gift into the most important thing:  when you deem these things to be more important than the Giver. Who hasn't been so invested in something that they've forgotten about God, deciding that whatever they like is much more interesting than the Lord's Word? Think of it in terms of the rich man. Perhaps you don’t have a grain silo. But how about this? What shall I do, since I have no room for my big screen TV, my new sewing machine, my new rifle, and my new SUV and boat? I will do this: I will pull down my house and garage and build bigger, and there I will store all my worldly possessions. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ There's some Thanksgiving Day repentance for all of us! While the Lord is generous in giving us stuff, that stuff isn't the center of our life. After all, those things will pass away. Your TV will short out. Your sewing machine will get knocked off the table. Your rifle will misfire. Your car will break down. Your boat will sink. The earthly gifts you treasure will turn to dust, just as your body will one day.
Your life doesn't find its value in the abundance of your possessions. Your life finds its value in Jesus. In Him you have everything you need—and this is so much more than just material possessions and daily bread. In Him you have the sacrifice that has taken away your sins; the resurrection that has conquered death for you; and the sacramental water, Word, Body and Blood by which you have forgiveness: the heavenly treasures that will not rust or fade away, that thieves cannot steal, that no one can take from you.
Jesus being your Savior means that every sin which has made into an idol the gifts creation is forgiven. It means every gracious gift from our Father can be recognized as a gift instead of a god. It means you have from our Lord far more than you could ever ask for or dream of or imagine. You have life beyond this earthly life, bread beyond your daily bread and turkey sandwiches, joy and gladness beyond even your favorite sports team winning or losing!
Some folks have traditions of helping others on Thanksgiving. Many more have traditions of helping themselves to seconds and thirds. Either way, as Christians, we recognize all these things as gifts from our heavenly Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. But above all, in Jesus, you have an abundance which is beyond anything in this world, for in Him you have eternal life. Thanks be to God! In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Sermon for 11/20/16: Last Sunday of the Church Year

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Wise Virgins


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


Ten virgins pure, watching and waiting in the flickering light. Outwardly they were all clean and undefiled. Nonetheless, these handmaidens of the Lord were overcome. Their flesh was weak. They were seduced by sleep, enticed to slumber. Their eyes grew heavy and they gave up, gave in. They quit fighting. They let the night have its way with them. The oil’s light burned in vain while they satisfied their flesh in slumber.
And then came the midnight cry. It caught them unaware, their duties forgotten. The oil was gone. They had forgotten to trim their lamps. And then the cry came, and then the panic, and then the begging: “Give us some of yours!” But there was none to spare. No one can believe for another. So out went the five fools into the night, seeking to buy what can only be given. They returned empty-handed, too late. The door was shut. Therefore, watch! Beware! Repent!
It is hard to stay awake these sleepy days, as Peter and James and John know all too well. We abide at the end of time. Temptation grows stronger deeper in the night. It seems so futile to keep watch. We’ve waited already all our lives, and still He has not come. There are pleasures all around, and no one seems to care if we slip in a few winks or go off for a while, if we go and do those things that sinners think to be their right. If we behave like the ancient men of Rome or the modern men of New York or San Francisco or Amsterdam, who would blame us? We are who we are. Must we really be so vigilant and suffer through this night of days and months and years? Can’t we just have our fun and then repent at the end? No. We cannot. That way leads to death. Now is the hour of salvation. Even if Our Lord should continue to delay, no man knows when his last hour will come. Repent before it is too late. Repent and watch.
And for the sake of hope and confidence, notice this: all ten virgins fell asleep. All ten. All ten were outwardly pure, yet all ten failed in their vigil. What made five wise and five foolish? The wise still had oil. By the grace of God, despite their weakness and self-pity, they never stopped believing that He would come. They trimmed their lamps, and whatever little oil was left, it was enough. It was multiplied like the widow’s oil in Zarephath. Their oil was given by God. For if He desires to be greeted and ushered into the chamber by virgins pure, He must create them. By grace, by what God supplied, five wise virgins were spared the coming wrath and saved.
And so there is hope even for us. You have not defiled yourself so gravely that you cannot be cleansed. Your God has not forgotten you. He brought you here this day for a purpose: to forgive you anew, to restore your purity, to recreate you immaculate, strong in faith, undefiled, righteous and holy, and mostly wise. You have the oil of faith, given in the waters of Holy Baptism. The world scoffs at this true wisdom, but it comes from God: He is coming back.
He does all this for and to you through His Word. By the Word He creates and restores. He called you by Name in Holy Baptism. You were born in those waters from above and made alive. He speaks these saving, cleansing words in the Scriptures, in the absolution, in the preaching, in His Church. He feeds these Words made flesh to you in the Holy Supper. He wants to be met on the last day with faith and praise and rejoicing. His work outside the city gate will not be in vain. He has not fallen asleep. He does not forget His promise. He still and always loves you and makes you again virgin pure.
Concerning then the time and the seasons, you have no need to know. Even Jesus doesn’t know. All you need to know, the best and surest wisdom in all of creation, is that the day is surely coming. It will come suddenly, unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. God in His great love will steal you away from the darkness, death, and chaos of this fallen world. He will pull you from your bed and trim your lamp. You will again be pure and undefiled. You are not of the darkness or of the night, no matter how sleepy and lazy you might feel. You are of the day. You are of Jesus Christ.
So watch and wait. Do not be afraid. Surely the day is drawing near. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly! In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sermon for 11/13/16: Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

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There Will Be Goats


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


There will be no goats. That is how most people picture it. That is how most people envision the outcome of the final judgment at the end of the world: there will be no goats. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory… He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” That is the picture that the Lord Jesus paints for us. But most people envision a lot of vacant space on the left hand side of the judgment throne because they see no goats.
That, of course, would be a great thing to see. It would be wonderful to see everyone in the world standing at the right-hand side of God, and to have no goats on the left. After all, those on the left will go away into everlasting punishment, while the right-hand side is destined for eternal life. It truly would be marvelous to have a picture with no goats. But those who see a picture with no goats are using the lens of human opinion, and not divine truth. They are seeing something other than what God Himself presents in His Scriptures. They are envisioning matters according to a different spirit, rather than the Holy Spirit. They envision a god of their own imagination: a false god so loving, so forgiving, that He will ignore the faithlessness of those who ignored His Word, who forsook His gifts, who did not love and serve their neighbor.
Here is the divine truth, depicted in the Holy Scriptures, revealed by the Holy Spirit: there will be goats. In fact, there will be more goats than sheep. Sadly, we will see a lot of vacant space on the right hand of the judgment throne. Our Savior desires all men to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved, and He has made room for many sheep. But that open space on His right hand will remain unfilled. There will be many goats on the left, for they have spurned the salvation Christ has won for them.
But the Good Shepherd has come to separate the sheep from the goats, and He does so without hesitation. Judgment Day is not a day of timid hesitation; it is the final day of ultimate action. This is the Day on which evil is consigned to the fiery abyss. This is the day of the righteous justice of our God. On the Last Day, the Lord Jesus Christ will not need to sit and ponder His judgment, wondering what He will do with those who are sitting on the fence. There is no doubt at all who is a sheep or a goat. He is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep by name, and He has come to take them home.
How long has he waited for this day? How long has he anticipated our arrival and waited in eager expectation for our release from this world of suffering and sorrow? How long has he waited to bring us to the green pastures and still waters of our eternal home? He has waited long for this day, for He will finally say to His faithful people, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” You cannot earn your status as a sheep; it is a free gift from God, won for you by Jesus, given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism.
You who are blessed by the Father; you who have been filled with the Holy Spirit and born again in the waters of Holy Baptism; you who have been given the gift of living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who trust in His suffering and death for your salvation; you who have fed upon the Bread of Heaven and have supped at the Table of the Lord: your wool shines whiter than snow, washed clean in the Blood of Him who died and rose again! He knows your name. He has been waiting since the beginning for you, and on that day He will rejoice to welcome you home to His Kingdom. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Sermon for 11/06/16--Feast of All Saints (observed)

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Saints by Grace

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


There's a reason why the heavenly elder, the servant of God, calls it "the Great Tribulation." The Lord does not promise that the life of a child of God will be easy. In fact, the opposite is true. If the world treated the promised Messiah like a common criminal, the world will certainly not treat those who cling to the Christ with any more compassion. And it’s not just the world which hates you. Your own flesh betrays you, taking comfort in worldly treasures and rejoicing in sin. Woe to you whose heart is not pierced and broken by the Law, for whom all the answers are easy and excuses plentiful, who has never struggled against sin or doctrine! Woe to you whose conscience is hard, who is comfortable in this living death, who has sought honor, prestige, and approval from men! Woe to you who is proud. You have your reward. Woe to us all, for the flesh is weak. Its seduction always betrays you. It never satisfies. It is always shameful. Repent. Be emptied of yourself.
Blessed are those whom the world counts cursed. The Kingdom of God is built upon suffering and blood. When you are poor, sad, meek, hungry, and thirsty, then you are His. You do not yet have your reward, but the suffering you now endure is not worthy of comparison to what you will enjoy. You will be comforted. You will inherit the earth. You will be satisfied. You will obtain mercy. You will see God. You will be called the sons of God.
But not yet. Not now. Now you are poor, sad, meek, hungry, and thirsty. You are taken advantage of for your mercy. Your purity in heart is mocked and challenged. You receive violence for peace. You are falsely accused and reviled. So was He. And as He now is, you will be, for you are Baptized. You are a Christian. You are blessed. Yours is the Kingdom of God, now and forever, delivered and bestowed in time and in eternity by grace. Now is the peace that passes all understanding. You belong to Christ. You are a holy one, a saint, by divine redemption and atonement, by prophecy and promise, by the cross and resurrection, by the victory of the Messiah, the crushing of the serpent’s head, and the defeat of Hell. The Kingdom of heaven is is a present reality. It is yours.
You live in this Kingdom of grace by faith. It cannot be seen with mortal eyes. But faith knows and trusts Jesus died and rose again, that the victory of God over Hell was won by suffering violence in meekness and poverty, by being falsely accused and betrayed, by pain and sorrow, hunger and thirst upon a cross, and finally by being overcome to the point of death in an execution reserved for the guilty but foisted upon the innocent. Faith lives what faith believes. Blessed are those, then, who are like Him: poor in spirit, sad, meek, hungry, thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers. Blessed are those who are suffering, falsely accused, and reviled. Blessed are those who are killed all day long for His sake, for they are like the One who lived and died without sin to make men free again. They are like the One who did not love His life to death but who instead loved His murderers so much that He laid down His life for them! The kingdom of heaven is theirs—not by works of righteousness which they have done, but according to His mercy. This is not a to-do list; all of this has been done by our Lord Jesus for you.
The Kingdom of heaven is yours. You are killed all day long for His sake. The old man in you is daily drowned in contrition and repentance. The new man emerges and arises. It seems as though you have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed, but some martyrs bleed on the inside. Indeed, the greatest heroes of the faith are the ones who go unknown and unsung by men, who are poor in spirit. They bear their burdens as silently as lambs to the slaughter. But the angels know. And so does the Lord. The reward will be given. The seats at the right and left hands of Jesus that John and James sought for pride’s sake will be filled by grace.
Rejoice and be glad. Your suffering will not last. Your tears will be wiped away. Even now the saints in glory pray for you. A great cloud of witnesses surrounds you. The saints have been delivered and enjoy their rest because Jesus rose. So will you. God be praised. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.