Monday, August 22, 2016

Sermon for 8/21/16: Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity


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Mercy, Not Karma

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


It’s not easy to be a Samaritan. Well, actually, if you’re born in Samaria, then it’s very easy to be a Samaritan. But existing the way a Samaritan existed in a Jewish culture is a difficult thing. In historical context, every pure Jewish person saw Samaritans as unclean, and if you were a Samaritan, the Jew wanted nothing to do with you. And if he did condescend to interact with you, then you could be sure that he would mock you and curse you and even spit on you. Nobody wants to be that guy. After all, it’s hard to be hated by everyone you see; we all want to be liked. But as hard as that would be, it’s even harder to be the Good Samaritan. It’s hard to look upon that person who either ignores you or treats you like dirt and then, seeing that person beaten and bloody and dying, to pick him up and tend his wounds and carry him to safety.
But you know you want to be that Good Samaritan. “Lord, if I was in that position, I would certainly help.” And maybe you even believe you mean it. After all, as Jesus said, “The spirit, indeed, is willing.” But if that is true—and it is—then it’s also true when Jesus adds, “The flesh is weak.” If your boss gives you a hard time at work every day for months at a time, could you honestly say you wouldn’t at least smile to see the man taken down a peg by his boss? If someone cuts you off in traffic, could you honestly say you wouldn’t smile to see her pulled over by a police officer? If a classmate makes fun of you in the hallway, could you honestly say you wouldn’t laugh to see him slip and fall on his behind? The truth is, you drive by the stranger who is stranded on the road in the dead of winter. The truth is, you walk by the beggar who hides in the doorway. Our culture is terribly invested in the idea that you get what you deserve. We like the pagan idea of Karma: you get what’s coming to you. And you think the other guy has it coming to him. But in reality, you are that man who lies bloody, beaten, dying in sin. And what’s more, that is the fate you deserve.
The lawyer who confronted Jesus should have known better. He thought to test the Lord. He was looking for knowledge. He just wanted to see if Jesus met his standards, if Jesus knew what he did. He asked: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” But the question showed more than he meant. He thought he was clever, but actually showed his ignorance. Inheritance isn’t a matter of doing; inheritance is always the gift of birth. An inheritance only changes hands at death.
And that’s what it takes for sinners to receive eternal life: it takes death. The Kingdom is overthrown by violence. God gives up His crown in death. It is now yours by the birthright of Holy Baptism, a holy inheritance in the living Christ. Your bloodline now runs through the cross and you are the rightful heir of heaven. The crown changed hands by war. God in flesh surrendered to death to take away the power of death, to crush the serpent, to make you His.
Blessed are the eyes that see what you see and the ears which hear what you hear. It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. The mercy of God is hidden here. The Divine plan of God's rescue for men is hidden as Jesus changes the question. No longer do you ask, “Who is my neighbor?” meaning to find a way to keep the law or to find an excuse for breaking it. Instead you must ask, “Who was neighbor to this man?” Jesus is your neighbor. He has done what you and the Law could not. He has had mercy. He didn't have to. He was free of obligation. He was moved by His own compassion. He bound up your wounds to take them into Himself. You rode. He walked. He paid for everything, and He promised to come back. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. It is like an unexpected rescue from death by an outsider who loves everyone perfectly.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, who has been your neighbor? Who loves you as He loves Himself? Who is no phony, but is genuine and authentic? Who makes no profit from your friendship but loves you anyway without fail? The answer to that question is life and salvation: Jesus is the One who had mercy. 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.

Sermon for 8/21/16: Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity


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Mercy, Not Karma

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


It’s not easy to be a Samaritan. Well, actually, if you’re born in Samaria, then it’s very easy to be a Samaritan. But existing the way a Samaritan existed in a Jewish culture is a difficult thing. In historical context, every pure Jewish person saw Samaritans as unclean, and if you were a Samaritan, the Jew wanted nothing to do with you. And if he did condescend to interact with you, then you could be sure that he would mock you and curse you and even spit on you. Nobody wants to be that guy. After all, it’s hard to be hated by everyone you see; we all want to be liked. But as hard as that would be, it’s even harder to be the Good Samaritan. It’s hard to look upon that person who either ignores you or treats you like dirt and then, seeing that person beaten and bloody and dying, to pick him up and tend his wounds and carry him to safety.
But you know you want to be that Good Samaritan. “Lord, if I was in that position, I would certainly help.” And maybe you even believe you mean it. After all, as Jesus said, “The spirit, indeed, is willing.” But if that is true—and it is—then it’s also true when Jesus adds, “The flesh is weak.” If your boss gives you a hard time at work every day for months at a time, could you honestly say you wouldn’t at least smile to see the man taken down a peg by his boss? If someone cuts you off in traffic, could you honestly say you wouldn’t smile to see her pulled over by a police officer? If a classmate makes fun of you in the hallway, could you honestly say you wouldn’t laugh to see him slip and fall on his behind? The truth is, you drive by the stranger who is stranded on the road in the dead of winter. The truth is, you walk by the beggar who hides in the doorway. Our culture is terribly invested in the idea that you get what you deserve. We like the pagan idea of Karma: you get what’s coming to you. And you think the other guy has it coming to him. But in reality, you are that man who lies bloody, beaten, dying in sin. And what’s more, that is the fate you deserve.
The lawyer who confronted Jesus should have known better. He thought to test the Lord. He was looking for knowledge. He just wanted to see if Jesus met his standards, if Jesus knew what he did. He asked: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” But the question showed more than he meant. He thought he was clever, but actually showed his ignorance. Inheritance isn’t a matter of doing; inheritance is always the gift of birth. An inheritance only changes hands at death.
And that’s what it takes for sinners to receive eternal life: it takes death. The Kingdom is overthrown by violence. God gives up His crown in death. It is now yours by the birthright of Holy Baptism, a holy inheritance in the living Christ. Your bloodline now runs through the cross and you are the rightful heir of heaven. The crown changed hands by war. God in flesh surrendered to death to take away the power of death, to crush the serpent, to make you His.
Blessed are the eyes that see what you see and the ears which hear what you hear. It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. The mercy of God is hidden here. The Divine plan of God's rescue for men is hidden as Jesus changes the question. No longer do you ask, “Who is my neighbor?” meaning to find a way to keep the law or to find an excuse for breaking it. Instead you must ask, “Who was neighbor to this man?” Jesus is your neighbor. He has done what you and the Law could not. He has had mercy. He didn't have to. He was free of obligation. He was moved by His own compassion. He bound up your wounds to take them into Himself. You rode. He walked. He paid for everything, and He promised to come back. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. It is like an unexpected rescue from death by an outsider who loves everyone perfectly.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, who has been your neighbor? Who loves you as He loves Himself? Who is no phony, but is genuine and authentic? Who makes no profit from your friendship but loves you anyway without fail? The answer to that question is life and salvation: Jesus is the One who had mercy. 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, August 15, 2016

Sermon for 8/14/16: Twelfth Sunday After Trinity


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Diseased

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


Everything seems to be a disease today. Whether it’s alcoholism or drug addiction or gender dysphoria, or whatever is wrong with a person, it has become popular to consider all human problems to be diseases. The problem is, that denies personal responsibility. Whatever’s wrong with me, it’s not my fault. I’m not responsible for my actions because it is a bug or a virus or bacteria or a genetic disposition or whatever else that’s at fault.

On the other hand, we have genuine illnesses and diseases: cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, autism, and a whole host of others. Most of you here have either suffered a debilitating disease or known someone else who has—perhaps it was someone quite close to you. It can be devastating in so many ways: so much time and money are invested in health care; emotions wear away at a person; and even every day tasks like eating are a lot harder. But perhaps the hardest part about disease is the list of questions: What could I have done differently? What if I had eaten only organic foods? What if I had exercised more, been more careful with germs, washed my hands more often, or not gone out in the sun as much? And there are other, harder questions: What did I do to deserve this? Have I sinned in some way? Is this my fault somehow?

The bottom line is this: no matter what the sickness or disease, the cause ultimately is sin. Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that you will get cancer because you were mean to your spouse or children. But Scripture teaches you, and you know instinctively when you see this happen, that sickness, disease, and death are not right. This is not how God made the world. Death is not a natural part of life. Death was never a part of His plan. God created you to live, and to live forever. But disease, sickness, and death are here because sin is here. You can put whatever spin you want on it, but the truth is, you are all dying.

Yet in the midst of this crushing reality, there is hope. These friends bring the deaf/mute to Jesus and beg him to put His hands on him and heal him. They, and presumably the man himself, recognized that this is not right, and that only God can make it right. So they went to the only One who could finally heal both body and soul. They went to Jesus. God uses many people to heal our bodies. Doctors, nurses, moms and dads, all kinds of people go into the work of keeping you alive and healthy and safe day after day. But for all of their strength and power, all of their wisdom, years of schooling and knowledge, they cannot heal…not forever, at least. Their words do not create life. They may only sustain it for a while, stave off death for a moment or a day or a year.

That is the difference between the word of man and the Word of God. Jesus sees this deaf mute and speaks to him. He puts His fingers in the man’s ears, spits, and touches the man’s tongue. Jesus walks into this man’s life in a way which no one else could. While doctors and nurses may diagnose, they may prod and poke, and perhaps come up with some solutions for a time, Jesus enters this man’s life by His divine Word and touch. He says to this man a word in Aramaic: “Ephphatha,” that is, “be opened.” And the Word of God which created everything opened his ears to hear God’s Word and loosed the man’s tongue to speak His praises.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the healing you need—not the healing of your body, though that may happen for a time on this side of the grave. No, the healing you need can only come by the power of His Word. You need the healing Word of forgiveness. You need the Word which creates faith, which causes you to cling to Him and nothing else. You need the Word made flesh to be flesh for you. In the midst of things you cannot understand, when you are in trial and heartache, when you are hurt and despairing, it is the Word of God alone which will sustain you: as it goes in your ears in the preaching of the Word, and as it goes into your mouth in the Holy Supper of Christ’s body and blood. Come. Be opened. Be healed. 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.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

My Take on the 2016 LCMS Convention



I wanted to take a little time to let all the stuff sink in. I didn't want to write immediately, because the cynic in me would have gone out with guns blazing. I hope I have a little more perspective on the whole thing now. Here is what I'm sending to the congregations in my circuit.
 ________________________________

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As the duly elected voting pastoral delegate of the Southern Illinois District’s Circuit 9 to the 66th Regular Convention of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I felt it was my duty to offer some sort of summary of the convention to those who selected me. Anyone who is interested can find a number of viewpoints concerning the events of July 9-14, including a fairly comprehensive report on the results through Synod’s newspaper, the Reporter; however, this is mine. Before I go on, I must admit that I'm a little cynical about church politics—maybe more than a little cynical about church politics—so that will likely color my views of what took place.

The election of the President of the LCMS took place electronically in the month of June, and at that time the Reverend Matthew Harrison was re-elected to his third term. I believe President Harrison was the best candidate of the three available. He is both a gifted theologian and a responsible churchman. I don't always like his choices in delegating authority, but one can only use the tools one has in the truck.

Elections took place throughout the convention. I don't know most of the people who were elected. The nature of Synodical elections is that you vote based on the biographies provided by the candidates. If you're fortunate, you know some of the candidates personally. In some cases, you seek out those who have personal knowledge of the candidates. I will say that, concerning the candidates with whom I had personal knowledge, the one who were elected were people I trust. In the cases of people with whom I had no personal knowledge, the people who were elected were mostly viewed favorably by people I trust. As is the case with any other kind of election, one must pray for those elected and hope they serve with integrity under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

As far as the resolutions go, it was the usual mixed bag that marks every convention. We did a lot of navel gazing. We did a lot of self-congratulation. We patted a lot of backs. We as a church body like to make ourselves feel good and put a positive spin on our life together. We as a church body like happy news to fill the pages of the Reporter and to make us look good in front of whatever secular media outlets choose to cover the convention. Some of the resolutions caused some contention, and there were times when it seemed like some delegates were playing parliamentary games to unduly slow the proceedings. But for the most part, the convention conducted its business at a deliberate pace and with a great deal of agreement in most matters.

As I said, the results are a mixed bag. On a positive note, resolution 13-02a undid a travesty that has made the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod a heterodox church body since 1989. At the Synod convention that year, the delegates passed a resolution which approved the licensing of “lay deacons,” laypeople who would handle the functions of the Office of the Holy Ministry. While the motives were good—providing care for congregations that weren't in a position to support a pastor in a traditional sense—that decision did not square with Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession. Resolution 13-02a gives those men serving as lay deacons an avenue to become Ordained, which legitimizes them and their work. This caused more contention than it should have, but the result balances compassion and faithfulness to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. This should have passed unanimously, but that speaks to the divisions within the LCMS.

Another important and positive bit of business was that Synod in convention voted with a 91% approval to allow the women of our church body to claim conscientious objector status concerning their conscription into military service and serving in combat roles. However, as the Reporter states, “The consciences of women who 'have carefully considered their station in life and Holy Scripture on this issue who wish to voluntarily serve in our nation’s military' are also protected by the measures of this resolution.” On a somewhat related note, the delegates voted nearly unanimously to “reaffirm LCMS military chaplains’ right for free exercise of religion in face of LGBT inclusion in Armed Forces.” We respect the right of our chaplains to serve according to their faith, and we stand behind them.

On a less positive note, one resolution which failed that would have affected most of our Circuit was resolution 11-07a, which would have allowed parishes with more than one congregation to have a lay delegate for each congregation in the parish at district conventions. This bylaw change needed a 2/3 majority to pass, and it only received 66.42% of the vote.

Perhaps the resolution that caused the most contention at the convention was 12-01, which was meant to allow the Synod President to act in ecclesiastical oversight when a District President doesn't act. There was heavy opposition from the district presidents and a vocal minority of the delegates, and this was where the delay and parliamentary games happened. Finally a substitute resolution (12-14) was offered, supported by both President Harrison and the unanimous consent of the district presidents, which would give the district presidents input before the Board of Directors scripted the language for new bylaws. As a cynic and as one who has been burned by both the actions and inactions of more than one district president, I was not impressed with the compromise, as it seems to allow the district presidents to say how they will be held accountable by their ecclesiastical overseer. Still, our own district president has demonstrated his trustworthiness to me. I can only hope the rest will prove theirs.

The worship opportunities were excellent. Pastor William Weedon, the LCMS Director of Worship, put together an excellent collection of services to remind the delegates of the “one thing needful” in the midst of all the politics and bureaucracy. 

If you have any questions about the convention or how I voted, I would be happy to give an account. The peace of the Lord be with you. 

Respectfully in Christ,

Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr.
Circuit 9 Pastoral Voting Delegate

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Sermon for 8/7/16: Eleventh Sunday After Trinity

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Coming to the Temple

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


Two men went to pray, but only one of them did. The Pharisee was not ashamed. He went to be seen praying. He fasts and tithes. He is not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, tax-collectors, legalists, purists, traditionalists. He is loved by men. He has a vision. He is bold and unafraid. He goes home condemned. Meanwhile, the tax collector is afraid and ashamed. He will not even lift up his eyes. He is like other men… and worse. He has betrayed his people. He has sold his soul. He has acted on his baser desires, lived by greed, malice, and treachery. He is a sinner. He is corrupt and broken, dying. He comes to pray. All he has is a request: “be merciful to me.” 

The tax collector went down to his house justified. God honors repentance. He forgives sinners. The Physician comes for those who are sick, who fail, who are full of regret, who lose control and behave badly, who gossip and slander and in a thousand other ways hurt themselves and those they love. He comes for those who are like other men. He comes for sinners: not on their terms, but on His. It is not given to you to tell God how He should be, what He should want, what He should do, or who He should save. It is only given to you to bow your head and beg for mercy, for “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

This parable was spoken to some who trusted in themselves and their own righteousness. Those who would find mercy must despise themselves. We must trust in Jesus Christ, who is righteous, for mercy. And here we see the irony of Christianity: those who are happy in their sin, who embrace it and seek to justify themselves, like the Pharisee, are satisfied and comfortable in their sin. The devil doesn’t bother them. Meanwhile, sinners who have been Baptized, who have been named by Him and who belong to Him, are forgiven all things and declared saints of God, but they feel their sin. It is shameful and awkward, and you struggle with it. 

That is how it is in the Kingdom of God. It is a Kingdom of reversals and irony. God became Man. Death brings life. He who knew no sin became sin. And the instrument of tortuous execution made from dead limbs of rotting wood has become the Tree of Life. The King of this Kingdom does not send soldiers off to die in struggles meant to enrich Himself and enlarge His territories, not even for defense or good of country. This King, this Good Shepherd, dies. He gives up His life to enrich rebels and the traitors who spoke against Him. This loving Shepherd gives His life for sheep who would trample Him as they run off a cliff into sin. He allows them to destroy Him and accepts that destruction, that violence, as payment for the crime. He exchanges His life for theirs…for your life. This God, this merciful Lover of mankind, makes something from nothing. It happens through Grace. It is only the blind who are given sight, the sick who are given healing, and the dead who are given life. It is only the repentant who are forgiven. It is only sinners who become saints and go to their homes justified.  

If you are a sinner, this is the place for you to be. Come like the tax-collector, with your pain, your fear, your doubt, your shame, your loneliness, your failures and disgrace. Come to where God promises to be, where He extends His mercy, where He gives Himself to you. Come to the Temple made without hands, torn down by men, but rebuilt by God on the third day. Come and feast on Christ. Join in that feast of Holy Communion, and then go home justified. You’re in good company. Your righteousness is not your own, but it lasts forever, and no one can take it away from 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, August 01, 2016

Sermon for 8/1/16: Funeral of Ruth Marie Bunton

Here's a link to the obituary.

                                   
“I Have Kept the Faith”

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


As he wrote this second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul was an old man. He knew his end was near, and he was looking forward to the time when the Lord would call him to rest from his labors. Unlike Paul, Ruth did not know when the good and gracious will of the Lord would be done. She did not know when the Almighty would call her into eternal glory. But she was ready, just as Paul was. Both could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

It was not my privilege to serve as Ruth’s pastor for very long. I only had the opportunity to visit with her two or three times. But I can tell you with absolute confidence that Ruth hungered and thirsted for the Word of God and the gifts Christ died to give her. Before Pastor Buetow moved on, he told me about the members of Bethel in general and specifically the shut-ins under his care. He told me that Ruth looked forward to his visits, so much so that she wanted him to preach at her funeral. Sadly, he couldn’t be here today. But when I asked him what he remembered most about Ruth, he told me, “She received Christ’s gifts faithfully.” What a wonderful testimony for a baptized child of God! She lived her baptism by confessing her sins and receiving forgiveness. She lived her baptism by receiving the body and blood of Christ. And through these gifts, the Lord prepared her and made her ready for this day. By faith Ruth could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Are you ready? Could you make the same confession? Are you fighting the fight? Are you running the race? Are you keeping the faith? Just as surely as the mortal remains of Ruth are before you today, so also will your body find rest from its labors. When will your end come? Will it be today on the way home, suddenly and unexpected? Will you live to a ripe old age? Will it be somewhere between? Death wants to swallow you whole. Are you ready? What are you going to do with this Jesus? Do you cling to him? Do you hunger and cry out for His Word and His gifts? If you have neglected your spiritual welfare or the spiritual welfare of your family, let both the words of Paul and the reality of Ruth’s passing demonstrate your need for a faithful relationship with the Lord.

Saint Paul stated the truth that those who have no such trust in and worship of the Lord will not partake in the joys and blessings of heaven. He wrote: “Henceforth there is laid up for me the Crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” When Paul was no longer able to go about freely and be with the congregation for worship, his desire was still to have the Word of God brought to him. He asked Timothy to bring the books and the parchments to him, to have the Word of God brought to him in his prison cell. When Ruth was no longer able to come to church, her desire was to have the Word of the Lord brought to her. From the monthly times when she received the Lord's Supper and heard Bible readings to the times when she came to Bible class, Ruth was kept close to her Lord.

The faith that the Holy Spirit created in Ruth, that faith which clung to the Word of God, depended entirely on the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus took Ruth's place. Jesus lived the perfect life that Ruth could not live. Jesus went to the cross and endured the full punishment of God's wrath in Ruth’s place. Jesus rose from the dead in order to show Ruth that her body will one day rise to immortal perfection. This is the gift that the Holy Spirit delivered to Ruth when He created faith in her in the waters of Holy Baptism.

This faith is not just for Ruth. The Jesus who lived a perfect life in Ruth’s place also lived it for you. The Jesus who took Ruth’s sins to the cross also took your sins to the cross. The Jesus who rose from the dead to give Ruth the promise of resurrection also makes that promise to you. The Holy Spirit delivers this same gift to you through the faith He creates in you.

This means that the goodbyes we say today are not forever. We will see Ruth again. Although we shall not again see Ruth in this life, there is a life to come in eternity. Those who believe in Jesus will live again in His presence. In the meantime, gathering around His body and blood, we shall be reunited with those who have gone on before in the faith: “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.” And then, on the Last day, we will be raised, and we shall be forever reunited with our loved ones as we gather around the throne. By faith, we will see Ruth again.

Saint Paul wrote elsewhere, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” The world grieves without the hope of seeing loved ones again. We also grieve. We will miss Ruth, just as we miss her husband, and we mourn. But the day is coming when we will see them again. We will join them at the throne of God, and we will dwell with them in the house of the Lord forever. In that place—our fight fought, our race run, our faith kept—we shall live in the sure knowledge that we shall never be parted again. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Sermon for 7/31/16: Tenth Sunday After Trinity

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Weeping

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


Have you ever had the experience where you just know that something horrible is going to happen? Have you ever been convinced that the worst thing possible cannot possibly be avoided? Perhaps there’s a car stuck on the tracks, and you know the train is going to plow through it. Our Lord weeps today because He knows the trouble that is coming. He knows the wages of sin is death. He knows Jerusalem, that Holy City, will soon be destroyed by Rome. He knows the people will pay the price for unbelief. He knows. After all, the Lord has visited them, time after time, to warn them against their unbelief, their disregard of God and His prophets. All His Ministry, Christ has been preaching to turn the hardened hearts of men to God's mercy and salvation.

This is not the first time Christ has mourned for Jerusalem. Only chapters before, our Lord cries out in anguish for the city and her people: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” He has been among His people there since David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city. He had dwelt there in the sacrificial service of the priesthood in her Temple. He kept the Law there at His infancy, when He first shed blood for His people in His circumcision. He was found in her Temple on the third day by His parents, sitting among the teachers, rejoicing in His Father's Word. He Himself was everything the City and her Temple represented. But all the people want to do is go on with their sinful ways. They care nothing for God's Word! Jesus weeps over that. He came to bring them so much good. Why must they insist on turning it into their harm?

That's the way it is with sinful men who do not fear the Lord. If you told the victims of terrorist attacks about the coming carnage, most of them would not change their life one bit. If you tell a child that a man in a white truck will take her off one day, she will only shrug. We are a stubborn, sinful people! That's why He weeps. If only His people paid attention to His Word! If only they knew the things that make for peace!

So what makes for peace, dear people? Knowing the future? We all know the future. We will die one day. Not even atheists deny that. But does it bring us peace? Look how hard we work to stave off age, how much we spend, how frantically we cling to our youth. So what makes for peace? That you are not now in some terrible condition? That you don’t feel sick right now? That someone else’s child is the one whose tragedy we see? That you're a pretty decent person? That you're a Lutheran and you know your doctrine better than the rest? It is my sad duty to tell you that death is stalking you. It’s my sad duty to tell you that your body is falling apart. It is my sad duty to tell you that your enemies line up against you. Even now they do, with every line and wrinkle, every ache and pain! They will tear you to the ground, and your children with you.

The Lord is trying to open your eyes. He doesn't want the things that make for peace hidden from your eyes or kept out of your ears! He wants to save you, so that even when death draws near, even when the enemies surround you, you will live. What a Savior! He hasn't come to condemn the world, but to rescue it. He's come to take your sins upon Himself, to die in place of every sinner. He's come to be your life when death is all you've got. He’s come to be your righteousness when all you know is sin, your hope when all you feel is sorrow and despair, your confidence before God when all you ought to do is tremble. He came to be your Peace when everything's against you!

Jesus is your Temple from above. When He visits you, that is your peace. And God visits you this morning in the preaching and the teaching of His Word. He visits you with peace that passes understanding. He has raised you in the waters of Holy Baptism, where He bathed you in that peace. He gave you that peace again when your pastor absolved you here this morning. He's preaching peace right now: the peace that outlasts all your sinning.

The One Who wept for you also bled for you, and now He sets a table here before you in the presence of your enemies. But He is present there with you too! This means that, even when your body fails, you have the Lord’s body and blood to raise you up and give you peace. 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, July 24, 2016

Sermon for 7/24/16: Ninth Sunday After Trinity

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Shrewd

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


Often Christians question what the Lord’s holy will is, as if the Lord is hiding His good and gracious will, as if one can only guess what the Lord wants from His people. But that’s not how it is with our Lord. He doesn’t treat His people the way we treat each other. He takes no pleasure in playing games. The kingdom of heaven is not found by solving divine riddles and puzzles, for “who has known the mind of the Lord?” And beside that, He is a kind, gracious, loving, merciful God “who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth.”

There are no guessing games. The Lord’s holy will is very clearly laid out for you. It is found throughout Scripture: in the Ten Commandments, in the Psalms, in the Sermon on the Mount, in the Epistles. The Lord Jesus summarizes the will of the Father numerous times. And in today’s parable He says it again. The will of the Father is this: live not for yourself; live for the Father through His Son in the Spirit, and live for your neighbor. Do not love what the world gives. Do not chase after the riches the world promises. Do not feed your passions or addictions. Do not think and do for yourself. Do not first get yours, and then help someone else. Do not live in the fear that God won’t or can’t or doesn’t take care of you. Instead, live in the confidence, boldness, and certainty that the Lord is merciful. Live not in fear, but in the love, the kindness, the compassion and the grace of Christ, which the Spirit generously pours over and into you by the Holy Sacraments.

The dishonest steward lived for himself. He liked the power and prestige of his position. And when the man was discovered for his misdeeds, he didn’t care any more for his neighbor than he did for his master. His entire thought was how he could buy friends that would take care of him. He only cared for himself. Still, the man was very shrewd—so much so that you should admire him, as, in fact, the master admired the man and praised him precisely “because he had dealt shrewdly.” And Jesus praised this clever, calculating, quick-thinking, self-serving character. He said, “The sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”

The Lord’s will is that you no longer live for yourself, that you live for God by living for your neighbor. The Lord’s will is that you trust not in your cleverness or plans. The Lord’s will is that you rely completely on Him alone. The Lord’s will is that you not only say, but also believe, that you are nothing but a beggar before Him. And so the Lord’s will is that you hunger only for the food He gives at His altar; that you long only to live His Word; that you strive for nothing except the kingdom of heaven; that you seek nothing except doing what pleases Him. The steward was considered shrewd because he used what belonged to his master. What prevents you, the sons of light, from doing the same? You have rich gifts from God. You have the earthly blessings He has given you. More than that, you have the forgiveness Christ won for you, which He gives you freely. What keeps you from shrewdly sharing those gifts with your neighbor? What keeps you from shrewdly forgiving your neighbor when he sins against you? What keeps you from shrewdly sharing the bounty with which the Lord has filled you?

Let your prayer be, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” He is gracious to answer that prayer to your good. The Father sends you the Holy Spirit, who uses the waters of Holy Baptism to apply to you the salvation Christ died to win; who shows you the truth about yourself and the empty promises of the world; who sets you on the right way; who rescues you from your fears and self-serving ways; who fills you with the earthly blessings which fade and with the heavenly blessings which endure. And in doing these things, He shows you how to love and serve your neighbor.

This is the will of the Father: that all He has made and placed in the hands of Jesus would come into the kingdom of heaven, to live intimately and wondrously in Him. That includes you, the crown of His creation. The will of the Father is ultimately lived here on earth in only one place: in the holy Church, where you do not make false friends for yourself by unrighteous mammon. Here in Christ’s Church, you are made friends by the righteous wealth of Our Lord’s holy gifts—made brothers and sisters in the waters of Holy Baptism, united in Christ’s body and blood. These gifts bind you together in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit. 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, July 18, 2016

GUEST POST: Sermon for 7/17/16--Eighth Sunday After Trinity

I'm back from the Synod convention, but I was too lazy to write a sermon after I got home late on Thursday. Fortunately, Pastor Timothy Landskroener from Chester once again graciously filled the pulpits at St. Peter in Campbell Hill and Bethel Lutheran in Du Quoin, Illinois. With his permission, here is his sermon. Again, thank you, Pastor Landskroener.
 
 
Beware of Wool-Covered Wolves


"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-16 ESV)

In the Name of Jesus, the only Savior of the world...

The Lord Jesus loved us enough to bear the sins of the world and give up His life for all on the cross of Calvary. He loved us enough to come to us and apply that forgiveness He earned on the cross so that we might enjoy life with Him now and forever. In Holy Baptism, He has washed away our sins, snatched us from the clutches of death and the devil, and made us His own dear children. In Holy Absolution, He forgives our sins through the voice of the pastor He’s given us. In Holy Communion, He gives Himself, His very Body and Blood, into our mouths that we would have forgiveness, life, and salvation - even now. And because Jesus loves us so much and doesn’t want us to be seduced away from Him, He warns us today to, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing.”

Now Jesus is not here warning us about the open and blatant false teachers in this world, though we most certainly should beware of them and avoid them and their teaching. He is not warning us here of the many false religions with which we’re surrounded - Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, paganism, and a host of others. And these don’t include the dangers of the current cultural climate such as atheism, human secularism, and New Ageism. Nonetheless, we must be careful that we not give place to them or their teaching in our lives.

Rather, Jesus is warning us today about false teachers within the Church, that is, “false sons within her pale” (TLH 473.3). And this warning is nothing new. Listen again as the Lord God speaks through His prophet Jeremiah, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” (Jer. 23:16). Indeed, these false prophets spout their own opinion, their “vision,” as though it were from God Himself and it’s not. They preach and promote their own vain ideas, and their false teaching leads people away from God and His saving Word. Certainly they lead away from Christ and His saving work.

So while false prophets are wolves in sheep’s clothing, we can recognize them by their fruits, that is, by what they preach and teach. You see, you can't always tell by someone's looks or behavior whether or not he's a false prophet because false prophets might well live very pious lives and might perform many works that seem outwardly good. They may even quote the Bible to give their false teaching legitimacy. But even the devil can do that! Yes, false prophets come "in sheep's clothing," and when we remember that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light, we see that all false prophets are servants of Satan whether they realize it or not. And instead of delivering life and salvation, they end up fleecing the flock for their own purposes.

True prophets, on the other hand, make people uncomfortable because they tell you what you need to hear and not just what you want to hear. They don’t scratch your itching ears. So it is that today's Old Testament reading says, “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29). Sometimes God's Word breaks you down, and crushes all your idols and all your self-worship, so that God can build you back up again the right way. You aren't always going to like everything God's Word has to say, but it truly is all for your own good.

But false prophets don’t care for the truth of God’s Word because they’re always trying to gather people and please them. They scratch itching ears by telling them what they want to hear - and that’s often that their sin is okay or that they simply need to do something to be a better Christian, and thus make their life better. They appeal to man’s pride and self-delusion. That’s why there’s seldom a word of condemnation for sin, any sin, and therefore, no call to repentance. Rather, there may be great emphasis on “the mission,” whatever that is. But be assured it usually has to do with increasing the bottom line. That’s why there’s an over-emphasis on what we’re supposed to do. If only we do and say all the right things, then certainly numerical growth will happen. Thus Jesus is usually held up as a good example and not as the only Savior from sin, death, and the devil. False teachers appeal to man’s desires, and that’s why they so often attract larger crowds than the true preachers of God's Word. And that’s why we need to get over the silly notion that what makes a good preacher is that he attracts all kinds of people and generates income. That's a sure fire way to fall victim to a false prophet.

You see, what a preacher teaches is what matters, and not how many people or how much cash he rakes in. After all, most of the time Christ only had 12 followers and when He was crucified even they abandoned him. According to most people's thinking, Christ was a very unsuccessful prophet, when in reality, He was the truest prophet of all. That's why all true prophets, all true preachers, ultimately point you to Christ alone for your salvation. The true prophets preach only God's Word, the very Word which became incarnate in the flesh of the man Jesus Christ, God's one and only Son. True prophets aren't ashamed of God's Word no matter how unpopular it may be to others. Forgiveness of sins and eternal life are found only in the Truth of God's Word and never in the lying mouths of the false prophets.

“By their fruits you will know them.” True prophets lead people to Christ, false prophets lead people away from Christ and His Word and work. That's the ultimate test. The bad fruit is all the false teaching that centers on sinful perverted man, and the good fruit is all the true teaching that centers on Christ and what He's done for us. The good tree that produces good fruit is the only tree that lasts. After all, Jesus says, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” That means that false prophets go to hell, and tragically they take their followers with them. So if you think your sin isn’t that big a deal, if you think God's Word changes with times, if you think the warnings about false prophets aren't important, then you need to repent right now or you’ll share the fate of the false prophets. Repent, and receive the mercy and forgiveness that God generously gives to you in Christ.

For no matter how sincere false prophets are, no matter how much they actually think they're doing God's will, they will still be thrown into the fire. According to the Gospel reading many false prophets actually think they're doing God's work. Christ tells us, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” False prophets claim to do the work of the Lord, just as in our Old Testament reading they claimed to speak for the Lord, but they are condemned for declaring lies in the Lord's name.

That’s why Christ Jesus issues us His solemn warning. He wants you to be with Him forever so He wants you to be aware of false teachers within the Church, those wolves in sheep’s clothing, who would lead you away from Him. Do not cling to your own works, intentions, self-delusions, or idols, but cling only to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He alone gave up His life and shed His blood on the good tree of the cross, so that you could have the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life. Christ alone is the tree that produces good fruit, and all his true prophets proclaim this. These prophets are sent by God to give you the good fruit of His Word and Sacraments. Whenever you hear the Word preached in its truth and purity, whenever you receive the Body and Blood of Christ in repentant faith, you receive the good fruit that gives nourishment unto eternal life. And here our Lord gives you more than enough good fruit to fill you for eternity. To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.


The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
 

Monday, July 11, 2016

GUEST POST: Sermon for 7/10/16: Seventh Sunday After Trinity


Since I'm at the Synod convention, Pastor Timothy Landskroener from Chester graciously filled the pulpits at St. Peter in Campbell Hill and Bethel in Du Quoin, Illinois. With his permission, here is his sermon. Thank you, Pastor Landskroener.


Christ's Compassion
Mark 8:1-9

        In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them,  2 "I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.  3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away." (Mark 8:1-3 ESV)

In the name of Jesus, the only Savior of the world...


    In these grey and later days, what we need most our dear Lord Jesus gives in great abundance for He is patient with us beyond imagination. He desires that we give up all trust in ourselves and our abilities and works, and that we learn evermore to trust in Him - most certainly for forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation, and also for everything we need to support *this* body and life.

    In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [that is, earthly necessities like food, drink and clothing] shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). In today’s Gospel we see that play out. A large crowd had followed Jesus away from the cities and villages and out into the wilderness, the deserted place, a place of scarcity, danger and death. They had evidently given no thought as to how long they would be there and had not brought adequate provisions. And we have no record of Jesus telling them to come prepared for a lengthy stay.

    So, why would those people give up the comforts of home to follow Jesus out into the wilderness? Quite simply, because they wanted to hear what He had to say. The One who feeds the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, had purposely drawn them out and opened the glories of heaven and the wonders of God’s love to them like they had never heard before, or even imagined. And His gracious words caused them to forget all other things.

    So now was the third day of their listening to Him preach. Imagine that! Listening to a sermon for three days. Who would do that? Those people did, because they wanted to hear the gracious words which flowed from Jesus’ lips. They had left all, and now they were hungry, though it’s important to notice that they don’t say anything. They were intent on listening to Jesus and hearing everything He had to say. They kept their eyes on Him. After all, “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut. 8:3). His Word was their life.

    So, they don’t say anything about their hunger, but Jesus does. “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.  And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” Yes, Jesus has compassion on them. He knows what they need even before they ask, and He’s ready to provide. You see, His compassion is a real concern for the ongoing reality and eternal fate of mankind. His compassion brought these people out and put them into such dire straits. He has them right where He wants them. For the reality is that they would be just as helpless if they were home snuggly tucked away in their beds with full bellies and full cupboards - but they might well not know it. They might think they were in control. But there in the desert with growling bellies and too far to return, they’re helpless. The hunger that gnaws at the 4,000 is the mark of death, the wages of sin. They must eat or they will die. There is no place for them to turn. They cannot provide for themselves. They are helpless.

    And what was the result of their helplessness? Jesus provides all that they need. He fed them with the Bread of Life, and now He would provide earthly bread as well. As on the earlier occasion when He miraculously fed 5,000 people, He consults with His disciples. He declares His compassion and concern for the crowd. But the disciples seemed to have forgotten that other event. They ask, “How can one feed [or satisfy] these people with bread here in this desolate place?” Once again, they looked at the situation with the eyes of reason and concluded that it was impossible to provide food for all these people.

    Once again, Jesus demonstrates His great love and compassion for the people and for His disciples. He has the people sit down. Then He takes the seven loaves from the disciples, gave thanks, broke them, gave them to the disciples “to set before the people.” Then He did the same with the fish. Again, the people ate and were satisfied. They had no more hunger. Their needs were fully met. Furthermore, the disciples gathered seven large baskets of leftovers. Jesus didn’t simply meet the need, He provided an abundance. With Jesus, there is always more.

    Now, most certainly, this Gospel is for us as well. Jesus would have us follow Him and listen to Him. He would have us leave everything to hunger and thirst for righteousness. For we too need to see our helplessness, even as we feel the hunger pangs of sin and death. We need to realize the fullness and the depth of our sin. We too must give up control, and learn that we have nothing to give, and that there is nothing we can do to change our sorry state. We too must learn to hang on Jesus’ every Word so that we may live.

    Indeed, this is what we learn from the crowd – to live from Jesus’ compassion. And this, not because we have earned it or deserve it, but only because Jesus Himself declares, "I have compassion." Only in the gifts Christ freely gives can we be filled and have genuine satisfaction. Everything else we seek and lust for in this world leaves us cold, empty, full of regret. Our efforts in this world end in futility. This is what lies behind the disciples' words of unbelief: "How can one satisfy these people?"

    Yet, in Jesus’ great compassion, He doesn’t scold them for their unbelief. He uses them to serve the crowd. From their hands Jesus feeds the crowd with bread and fish.

    Now, of course, this miracle points toward a greater miracle, where our Lord again takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it to His disciples, the Holy Apostles, those first ministers of the Gospel. Still today they give out the Gifts to you, that multitude that has come to the realization that the things of the world cannot, by themselves, satisfy.

    Yes, Jesus does have compassion on you. For you, the very Son of God was made Man. He had compassion on you and for you suffered rebuke, humiliation, and hatred. He had compassion on you and endured the lash, the spear, the thorny crown. He had compassion on you and suffered the bitter agonies of death and the Father's wrath. He had compassion on you and allowed His side to be opened by the thrust of the spear. He had compassion on you and brought your flesh out of the grave triumphantly. He had compassion on you and entered into the heavenly places with your flesh, my flesh, human flesh. Know then that your Lord still has compassion on you, forgives your selfish pride, forgets what you have done and been, and invites you yet again to simply receive His gifts, all by grace. So let these words of your Lord sink down deep into your ears: "I have compassion on the crowd." To Him be the glory now and forever.    Amen.

The peace of God, which passing all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Sermon for 7/3/16: Sixth Sunday After Trinity

 
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A Spirit of Righteousness

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


Righteous scribes and Pharisees studied and immersed themselves in and lived according to the letter of the Law. That’s not evil in and of itself, for it shows great respect for our Lord and His Word. It shows a desire to live not as you prefer, but as the Lord requires. That’s the righteousness of the scribe and Pharisees—and we wish we could attain even that! But today our Lord tells you that, by His Spirit, you reach for a greater righteousness: a righteousness that desires not simply to learn the letters and words of God, but also to inquire after the Spirit. This is a righteousness that does what is right not only because God said so, but also because it is the way of Life, because there’s no other way for Christians to live. This is a righteousness that lives not from the fear of missing the goal, but from a Spirit-given love for God and a desire to live like His redeemed children. This righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees because it lives not just by the words of God, but in Christ Jesus, who is the Word of God in the flesh, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Our holy Lord gives you a glimpse of the Way that He is when He describes some of the commandments. He says, “You have heard that is was said to those of old…” But our Lord is not denigrating or setting aside or negating or abolishing what was said. Instead, Our Lord wishes you to look through the letters to hear the Spirit. And in each instance, the Spirit shows you that the Way of the Lord ought to be your way—not just then, when you reach the goal, but now as you strive and struggle—for the Way of the Lord is not just the way to the kingdom, but also the way our Lord desires to live in you and through you, now and forever.

So what stands in your way? What blocks your path? What gets you off track so that you turn away from Christ and choose your own path? You are turned from the narrow way by love of self; love of getting even; love of having your rights met; love of revenge; love of holding grudges; love of hiding; love of material pleasures; love of being in control; and ultimately, love of what you deem worthy of your love and attention.

Yet by His Spirit, our Lord keeps calling you away from your self-chosen loves, calling you to Himself, the beloved Son of the Father. By His Spirit, our Lord persists in calling you away from your love of holding something over someone, and to the love of growing and maturing in intimate union with Him and with all men. By His Spirit, our Lord determinedly calls you away from your false loves which drive you into the darkness. And by His Spirit, our Lord gives you the courage to embrace Him as your true Love, to live only for Him.

So this is the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees? It is not resisting, but submitting in trust and confidence to the Lord Jesus whose love for you knows no limits, whose love for you transforms and transfigures your whole way of life, whose love for you brings you the superabundant mercy of God, whose love for you allows you to bury your meanness and pettiness, and whose love for you teaches you to fear nothing except the fear of losing Him.

Such love has been poured into you by the Holy Spirit. He has, in a wondrous and miraculous mystery, bound you to our Lord Jesus. And just as wondrously, He has bound you to each other and to all Christians living and departed. By this Holy Spirit you have the Righteous One as your righteousness. And by the Spirit you get to live as one who is loved by God and to live as one who shares the love of God. May that Spirit strengthen, feed, and grow this love of exceeding righteousness within 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.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Sermon for 6/26/16: Fifth Sunday After Trinity

Sorry for the delay. Life intervened.


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Christ in the Boat

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


There are a good number of boats in Scripture. The disciples found themselves inside a boat on stormy water with Jesus, and He spoke and calmed the storm. Jesus met His disciples in a boat when He came walking to them on the water, and He spoke and calmed their fears. In the Old Testament, God saved the Church—eight souls in all—by closing Noah and his family in an ark, a ship. It is no wonder, then, that the Church is called the Ship of Faith—the Ark of God—into which we sinners are baptized and by which Christ keeps us safe. Jesus is in the boat, and He speaks across the water: Word and water to save sinners. What a lovely image of the Church! It's why this room is called a nave. In Latin, “Navis” means ship. If you sail a ship, you navigate. If you go to war on ships, you're in the Navy. The Church gathers around Jesus, preaching, teaching, serving us His Word, and we are safe inside His Ship.

From a boat, Christ sends His Word across the water to the ears of those who set aside their seeking after earthly things to press Him for the Word of God. When He'd finished, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” The Lord is doing two things here. First, He shows those who pursue His Word that He will take care of them. You have work to do: God-given vocations. Do those to the glory of God and the good of your neighbor. But “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…” Live in and from the Gospel.

And He is also showing the Church and Her preachers that His Word does what He says it will do. He promised through the Prophet Isaiah: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Simon had fished all night and caught nothing. Now Emmanuel, God in flesh, was telling him to put into the deep. But every fisherman knows that fish are caught in shallow waters at night. Still, the Word made flesh had spoken, and now He was teaching how His Word bears fruit.

Simon did as he was told, and they caught so many fish the nets began to break and the boat began to sink. That is what the Lord is doing in His Church even now. You who fish for a living—you who are engaged in the labors and vocations which the Lord uses to care for people—you are hearing that the Word of God bears fruit. Christ Himself is speaking, calling you forgiven; saying that your lives are things He cares about. He cares enough to impose Himself on exhausted fishermen so you receive His Kingdom and His Righteousness. The Lord has let down the net of His Word and Water and caught you by the Gospel, and He gathers you into His boat. In this place He keeps you safe and makes your whole life holy.

As you go about your daily tasks, you do them in Jesus, at His Word. And the Word of God makes your daily labor fruitful. So, when the Lord imposes Himself on you through His preachers to serve your neighbor; when He bids you try again; when He sends you places you’d rather not go to do work you’d rather not do—do you ask what some preacher knows about real living? My brothers and sisters in Christ, “seek first the kingdom and His righteousness.” Trust His Word. Live in the Gospel. He knows you've been at it all night long. He knows it doesn't seem to bear fruit. He knows you're tired of trying. Find your rest in God's Word, for He will do His work through that Word.

Take comfort in this: Christ has taken into Himself all your sins—all of your frustrations, distractions, dissatisfactions with the life and work God gives you. Though you pursue many things, the Lord has only you in mind. He seeks you and promised you that, at His Word, His kingdom bears much fruit. It bears you up, lifting you out of the deep and bringing you safely in His Ship that does not sink. He  places you into His Church, and there, the One Who died and rose to save you keeps you safe.

That sustains you as you tend whatever nets He gives you. Live from the Gospel in the Liturgy each Sunday. Eat and drink the Body and the Blood of Christ each week. Set aside your labor to be served by Christ and His forgiveness in His Word. “Seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness,” and then be certain that He will daily add whatever else you need. 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.