Sunday, May 01, 2016

Sermon for 5/1/16: Sixth Sunday of Easter

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Whatever You Ask

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

“Ask anything.” That's what we hear Jesus saying in today's Gospel. “Ask anything of the Father in My Name and you'll get it.” And so our mind races to think of the many “anythings” we want. And nearly all the “anythings” are things that we are sure will make our life easier, better, smoother. Or they're things that will help others—or help us all. But then comes doubt. After all, how many times have we asked for something? How many times have we prayed and begged God to give us the things we know will help us, and yet God has turned a deaf ear. We haven’t received a single one of them. And so we're not so sure about our Lord’s “ask anything” policy. We count it as just one more exaggeration: God speaks like us, overstating His promises to get our attention or make a point. And then we point to St. Paul. He didn't ask just anything. Three times he pleaded with the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh”—the ailment or temptation or weakness that afflicted him. Yet even this great apostle didn't get what he wanted. Instead, we hear Jesus tell him, “Live with it. Deal with it.” Oh, He makes it sound prettier: My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. That’s the same answer we always seem to get. So much for “ask anything.”

But “Whatever you ask the Father in My name” doesn't mean to ask for the things you're sure are best for you. Neither does it mean, “Ask for anything you like.” For the things we like, the things we're certain we need—those are often things that gratify our passions and serve our selfish desires. Or they're things that will soon fade or be consumed, and so we're back asking again. The problem is that our field of vision, our field of faith and prayer, is too small. Our concerns are all too often centered on the things in this life—the things Jesus told us not to fret about—and so our prayers are not really prayers, but worrying and complaining expressed as desires. Do you really think that when Jesus taught us to say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” He was only talking about bread or food? And do you really believe that when you say, “Forgive us our trespasses,” you're only referring to the things you know you did yesterday or last week or a few years ago? And does “deliver us from evil” only mean that we hope we don't get in an accident, or that no one hurts us?

When Our Blessed Lord Jesus says, “Whatever you ask,” the “whatever” is not about the things that bring you pleasure now, but the Thing that will increase your joy both now and forever. The “whatever” and the “anything” our Jesus urges you to ask for is the “whatever” and “anything” that lets the Lord bless you in spite of yourself, have mercy on even though you constantly do your own thing, and pull you through sickness and death even though you are dust and should return to dust.

So the “whatever you ask” is not aimed at the “anythings” that will make life easier now. “Whatever you ask” is aimed at the one thing needful that hauls you through this life to the life of the world to come. So when Jesus says “whatever you ask,” He is really urging you to ask for the Holy Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit who gives you the faith to see past today's fears and sicknesses. And it is the Spirit who gives you the faith to look beyond now, to yearn for the true and perfect gifts of God. And it is the Spirit who teaches you to see not the little things in life, but Jesus, who is Life Himself. And it's the Spirit who brings to your remembrance that everything you've been through, everything that keeps you back, everything that frustrates you—all of that works together for good. But most of all, it is the Holy Spirit who gives you the courage and the desire to ask the Father anything in Jesus' name.

When you ask, the Holy Spirit also helps you see and believe that all your asking, all your praying, all your true godly desires, come not from the many “anythings” your sinful Adam desires, but from the one thing needful that is concentrated and unfailingly given at this holy altar. For from this altar you receive the mercy, the forgiveness, the strength, the compassion, the grace, and the life of God Himself inseparably resident in the flesh and blood of His Son. The Holy Spirit shows this to you—to your heart and mind. And so the greatest “anything” we ask of Our Father is that He would send down His Holy Spirit upon us and upon His gifts of bread and wine so that He might bless them and hallow them and show that the bread is the precious Body of Christ, and the wine is the precious Blood of Christ which was shed for the life and forgiveness of the world.

All this is yours for the asking when you look beyond what you want and ask your Father for your salvation. All this is yours, because you asked the Father for the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ Our Lord. 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.

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

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sermon for 4/24/16: Fifth Sunday of Easter

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All Truth

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

The Holy Spirit is a big deal. Flip through the channels on your TV, and you'll see all kinds of Holy Spirit stuff supposedly going on. But these words and phrases are often as misunderstood as the Holy Spirit Himself. If you listen carefully to the Holy Gospel readings in these Sundays of the Easter Season, you will hear our Lord Jesus speaking Words that will teach us the truth about the Holy Spirit. For Jesus teaches exactly this: the Holy Spirit is doing His job not when you hear about the Spirit, but when you hear Christ preached and the forgiveness of sins delivered. Jesus says, “[The Spirit] will not speak from Himself, but whatsoever He hears He will speak.” The Holy Spirit does not do fancy tricks to make you shake or fall on the ground or speak in gibberish. The Holy Spirit directs you to Jesus by the preaching of the Word, and through that Word and the Sacraments of the Church He delivers Christ's forgiveness to you. The more you hear of Christ crucified and risen and delivered in the Means of Grace, the more you can be sure the Holy Spirit is at work. On the other hand, the more you hear about the Spirit, the more you can be sure that the Spirit is not preaching.

Jesus said, “When that one comes, the Spirit of truth, He will lead you into all truth.” What is the Truth? The Truth is Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Truth is that God does not count your sins against you but counts instead for you the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. This He does through the Word and in the Water and at the Supper. This is all laid out for us in Holy Scripture. Speaking through the apostles and prophets who wrote the Bible, the Spirit speaks and testifies of the truth, which is this: in Christ, God is reconciling the world to Himself. Many people say that no one church has all of the truth. They say, “We're all on the same path to God.” But be wary of such thinking! The Spirit has been sent by Jesus to lead us into all truth. Never think that the Word of God is insufficient. It would be easy to think so in our day and age when everyone claims to have a piece of the truth, when everyone claims to be spiritual but not necessarily religious. But what does Jesus say? “The Spirit will lead us into all truth.” You have the Word of God which rescues you from your sins, delivers Jesus to you, and through which the Holy Spirit leads you into all truth. Let there be no doubt that the Bible is all you need to know the will of God, that is, your salvation in Christ.

Jesus goes on to say, “The Spirit will glorify Me because He will take of what is Mine and announce it to you.” The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus by delivering Christ’s gifts to you. Jesus is not glorified if the Spirit preaches about the Spirit. If the Spirit just promotes the Spirit, then He has not carried out His work. Jesus is glorified when what He has done is given to you. Jesus, the Son of God, has come in the flesh to carry the sins of the world and to die for them. Christ has conquered your sin and death. By suffering on the cross, Jesus declares your salvation is finished. By rising from the dead, the Lord confirms that your sins have been paid for and your salvation is won. It is Christ who owns the victory over sin and death. And it is the Spirit who teaches this to you through the testimony of the apostles who wrote down what they saw and heard. All that the Father has belongs to Jesus, and all that belongs to Jesus is given to you by the Spirit in the Word and Sacraments. Where Baptism is preached, where Absolution is spoken, where Christ crucified is preached and the Supper of our Lord's body and blood are given, there you may be sure that the Spirit of Truth has led you into all Truth by delivering to you all that belongs to Christ.

Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit. And Jesus sends Him—not for the Spirit’s sake, but for yours, that you might receive from Him all the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation that Christ won for you. The Holy Spirit points you to Christ. The Holy Spirit teaches you to live in your baptism, to confess your sins and to eat and drink the flesh and blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit teaches you not to glorify yourself but to humbly serve your neighbor. And that same Spirit waits until that Last Day to give you that one last gift of Christ: the resurrection of your flesh from the dead. From birth to death to rising again, it is the Spirit of Truth who leads you into all truth by bringing you to Christ and keeping you in Christ forever. 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.

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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

HYMN: O Lord My God, in You I Put My Trust

It's a bit of a surprise to me that I'm posting a hymn today. About five hours ago I was looking at the readings for the First Sunday After Trinity and the notes I'd taken, and I had no idea what I would write about them. The theme of the Sunday revolves around trusting in the Word and promises of God, which is an easy enough topic, but how to approach it? And then I saw how the Psalmist approached the Lord: "O Lord my God," he said. And that gave me an opening. The Gospel appointed for the day is the rich man and Lazarus, "He whom God has helped." It's such a rich text--no pun intended--with a lot to grab on to as a writer. Here's my attempt at bringing it all together. Feedback is love.

O Lord My God, in You I Put My Trust

1. O Lord my God, in You I put my trust.
Sick with my sin, I cower in the dust.
I have no merit of my own to claim.
Down at death's gate, I call upon Your name.

2. Hear my petition. Listen to my plea.
In Your great mercy, hear and answer me.
You will provide for each and every need.
You are my Father; I, Your child, indeed.

3. When I am called to suffer earthly pain,
Use it to draw me near to You again.
You are my Shield. You calm my deep distress,
Meeting each need with manna in excess.

4. Teach me to love as You have first loved me:
To serve and honor neighbors selflessly,
Giving the bread You give me every day
So we may thank You and our praise display.

5. When in the end You call me to my rest,
Let angels lay me home at Abram's breast.
Then, Father, raise me so that I may see
Your Son, my Savior, for eternity.

(c) 2016 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
10 10 10 10
Tune: ELLERS (LSB 917)
Occasion: Trinity I

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sermon for 4/17/16: Fourth Sunday of Easter

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

For better or for worse, there are times when I look at my children—especially Michael—and I think to myself, “I just want them to be happy.” In the world in which we live and the uncertainty of our times, happiness seems like the best we can do, and often even happiness seems unlikely. Still, parents want the best for their kids, whatever that may be. That’s the way our Lord looked upon His ragged band of disciples on the night in which He was betrayed. All their faults—their dusty feet, their vain thoughts of glory, their sleepiness and fear—all were exposed for the world to see. Jesus just wanted them to have joy. So He washes their feet. He feeds them with His body and blood. And He warns them of what is to come: “A little while and you will not see Me. And again a little while and you will see Me.” Their minds are too feeble to understand, so He makes it simple. “You will have sorrow. But your sorrow will turn into joy.”

And so it was. To their great sorrow, the very next day, Jesus went to Pilate’s judgment Hall. He endured Herod’s false worship and cruel jests. The scourge tore the flesh from His back and sides, His legs and His arms. He was displayed before the world: naked, dying, weak, and alone. The ironic title nailed was above His head: “The King of the Jews.” His ragtag collection of disciples scattered in fear. The beautiful people all laughed and sneered. “Look at Him! There is your God, strung up on the cross. There is your one chance at happiness, and what good will it do you?” But our Lord’s Word is true. And while the disciples are a sad sight to behold, they know exactly what they are. Jesus told them. They expect their own imperfection; they expect their suffering to mirror His suffering. Look and see your God upon the cross! Look; do not be ashamed. He let them do all that to Him so divine justice would be served, so our debt would be paid, so the devil’s head would be crushed. He let sinners do that to Him so that they would have joy. He died, but He is not dead. He lives. He forgives them, comforts them, breathes His Holy Spirit upon them. Even in their weakness, they were wiser than the wise fools of this world. The world groups us together with our Lord in contempt, but in truth, there is nothing better. Yes, holy Father, make us like Jesus! They may kill us, but You have forgiven us. You have reconciled us to Yourself. You have turned our sorrow into joy! 

Still, joy is not the same as happiness. Joy as we await our rising is always stained with sorrow. Nothing here is yet perfect. The willing spirit still lives in the weak flesh. The chaos of sin is still upon us: contempt for the Word of God and the Christians who cling to it; abortions as commonplace as breathing; corruption in government; so-called preachers mislead people in the name of human love; families, marriages, and children are all under attack. Our joy, fully won and paid for, is not yet complete. We weep and lament. We are hurt and confused. We suffer satanic attacks upon all God gives. Repent. Fear God. Believe His promises. Cling to His Word.

We may be under attack, but it is not in vain, for our God is not dead. He lives. He rose and He ascended. And we are not ashamed of His death. After all, we know that He rose! He has defeated death for you. Your sins are forgiven. He is coming back! Now you see Him by faith in bread and wine. Then you will see Him as He is, begotten of the Father from eternity, ascended, exalted in human flesh, when at last we shall all be free. This is how we live. We endure in hope. We lick our wounds in faith. He is coming back, and we are not afraid. As we wait, we do what He has given us to do. We receive Him as He comes to us in His body and blood. We love and serve our neighbors. We teach our children. We turn the other cheek. We support the Church. We pray for our country. We do not do it perfectly, but God is gracious. He forgives. He is not a parent who pines away helplessly for your happiness. He delivers joy here in time in Word and Sacrament, in the love of wife, children, and friends. And He delivers the joy to come, joy that will not end, joy that no one can take away from you. 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.

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

HYMN: Oh, Come to Me, Lord Jesus

Now that I've caught myself up in my project to write a text for every Sunday in the 1-year lectionary with the completion of the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent, it's time to catch up with the rest of the Church year. This text is written for the Second Sunday of Easter and the account of Jesus appearing to His disciples on Easter evening. As Jesus would have us believe the testimony of those first eyewitnesses, this is a prayer for that faith, faith which trusts the gifts He would give us by the hands and mouths of those He has sent to forgive sins in His stead and by His command. As always, feedback is love.

Oh, Come to Me, Lord Jesus

1. Oh, come to me, Lord Jesus,
And still my doubt and fear.
When enemies assail me,
Be present with me here.

2. Speak peace to me, Lord Jesus.
Speak absolution sweet!
Through mouths of faithful pastors
Your Word of grace repeat.

3. Oh, breathe on me, Lord Jesus,
Your holy, living breath.
Give me Your Holy Spirit
That I may conquer death.

4. Send pastors, dear Lord Jesus,
To give Your gifts to me,
To speak Your Word of comfort
As You Yourself decree.

5. Oh, grant me faith, Lord Jesus,
To trust what I have heard
From every faithful witness
Who shares Your holy Word.

6. Give life to me, Lord Jesus,
Through Your most holy name.
I trust the Word and wonders
Your ministers proclaim.

(c) 2016 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
76 76
Occasion: Second Sunday of Easter 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sermon for 4/10/16: Third Sunday of Easter

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The Voice of the Shepherd

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Do you remember a while ago, when we heard the account of Jesus calling that woman a “little dog?” Well, today He calls us “sheep.” And as cute as we think sheep are, and soft and cuddly, the truth is that sheep are dumb, stubborn animals, prone to wander off and get in trouble. This is not a flattering thing. To be a sheep means to confess that you are stupid, stubborn, obstinate, you like to wander off, and you wouldn't know a wolf until he took a took a bite out of you! But the news is not all bad. If we have to be sheep—and we do—then the Good News today is that Jesus, the Son of God, is our Good Shepherd. And with Jesus as a Good Shepherd, there's nothing to fear. Don't worry about being a stupid, stubborn sheep. Your Good Shepherd will take care of you and make sure no wolf eats you.

No matter how stupid they are, sheep have one thing going for them: sheep have very good hearing. Amidst all their bleating, a sheep can hear and recognize its shepherd's voice. From all the sounds around it, a sheep is able to pick out and follow that one voice that it knows is its shepherd. Jesus says the same thing: He knows His sheep and He is known by them because they know His voice. That voice of Jesus is His Word. What does the voice of that Shepherd say? He says, "I lay down my life for the sheep." How do we recognize the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd among all the voices we hear in this world? The true voice of the Good Shepherd is the one that speaks of what He has done for us. The voices around us all speak about what we should do, what we must accomplish, what debt we must pay, how we must find our way back if we get lost. But the voice of the Good Shepherd calls us to Himself: the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep, who goes to the cross and dies as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. The only true shepherd is the Good Shepherd.

Any voice which does not declare the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for you—run away from such a voice! That's the snarl of the devilish wolf. Though he wants you to believe that he’s your shepherd, he’s already got his grill fired up, ready to roast you. The devil, that big bad wolf, wants to snatch you up and scatter Christ's church. It's always his aim and goal to drag you away from faith and trust in Jesus alone. He wants you to believe that you can save yourself. He wants to divide and separate the church so that, instead of a congregation of those who hear the Shepherd's voice, everyone instead wanders off and does his own thing. A sheep on its own is in trouble, just as Christians on their own are in danger. When the wolf gets in, the flock is scattered and troubled! It's suddenly every sheep for himself, and we are done treating one another like fellow children of God. Beware that behavior! Repent of the desire to run away from your Good Shepherd and the rest of the flock! Instead, prick up your ears to hear the Good Shepherd's voice calling you back to Him and to the flock.

But again, what is His voice? How do we hear and recognize it? Remember: it’s the voice of the One who tells us what He has done for us. We recognize His voice through the preaching and the holy gifts which deliver His death and resurrection to us. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the one that preaches that the Lamb of God alone takes away the sin of the world by His death and resurrection. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the one that calls you to the still waters of Holy Baptism to wash away the grime and dirt of your wandering. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the one that comforts you with the rod and staff of Holy Absolution, pulling you out of the pits and crevices into which you blunder in your sins. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the one which calls you to the table prepared in the presence of your enemies, a table filled with the feast of the Lamb's own flesh, a cup running over with His own blood. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the one which declares to you that in these holy gifts, He lives in you and you live in Him, and He will carry you through the valley of the shadow of death to raise you up on the Last Day. Hear and learn that voice, dear little lambs! Learn what the voice of the Good Shepherd promises and directs you to receive. Learn that voice and always prick up your ears to listen for that voice and hear it! And run away from anyone who calls himself a shepherd but doesn’t speak with that voice! For it is the voice of the true shepherd that will call you to Jesus and rescue from the wolves! Rejoice that you have Good Shepherd who fends for you, keeps you safe, and will bring you to His eternally green pastures! 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. 

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

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Sermon for 4/3/16: Second Sunday of Easter

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Sent for Peace

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

Irony of ironies: Unlike most of the rest of Christians, Thomas missed church on Easter! He only knew that the Risen Lord had appeared to the other apostles because they told him. And he didn't believe it! But he was there the next Sunday—also unlike most of the rest of Christians—and he believed when he got to stick his fingers and hands in the nail and spear holes in his Savior’s body. But the Lord says, "Do you believe because you have seen? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Our Lord is preparing the disciples for their next task, because then He said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you." With those words, Jesus establishes the Office of the Holy Ministry; He places those men into that Office to do the work of preaching the Gospel and forgiving and retaining sins. What Jesus points Thomas and us to is not a vision of Himself that we can see and touch, but the preaching of Him through which He comes to us. Thomas teaches us our post-Easter repentance: we are not to seek Jesus on our terms but upon His; not looking with our eyes, but hearing the preaching which forgives and saves.

Jesus says to the disciples: "As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you." Thus He makes them apostles, “sent ones.” By sending the apostles to preach and forgive sins, Jesus teaches us that He will use the mouths of pastors to preach His Word. It is true that Jesus accommodates Thomas' weakness by allowing Thomas to see Him and touch the nail and spear holes. But He will not be visible to the world that way for long. Therefore He directs even Thomas to the preaching of the disciples, of which Thomas would also be a part. Through these apostles sent by Jesus, the forgiveness of sins would be delivered to the world. And as these apostles went and preached, they ordained men to preach, and these men did the same, and so on, down through the ages even to the present time, where the Lord still calls and ordains men to be His preachers and to deliver His gifts: Baptism, Absolution, Supper. And it is through these preachers that Christ comes to the world and deals with us, rebuking and correcting us in sins and comforting us with the preaching of the Good News of forgiveness. This is the way the Lord has always dealt with His people. Consider the valley of dry bones. How did the Lord make these bones come together and come to life? By a preacher. It is the Lord's Word that makes these bones come to life, but it is spoken through a preacher. The Lord deals graciously with the children of Israel, dead in their trespasses and sins, but He does so through the preaching of Ezekiel. Ezekiel is an integral part of how the Lord deals with His people, and yet he is just a mouthpiece, so that the Lord Himself can say, after Ezekiel preaches, "'I have spoken and I have done it,' says the Lord."

Dear Christians, the job of the pastors that Christ calls is not to be the information guy and just give you some facts to accept or reject. Christ calls pastors to deliver His Word to you. His pastors act as His mouth, announcing His victory over sin and death to the world. They act as His hands, laying upon sinners the comfort of His life-giving, sin-erasing gifts. The ministry that Jesus sends His apostles to carry out is summed up in Christ’s command that they forgive and retain sins. Our Lord doesn't leave faith and salvation up to our wishy-washy notions; He gives us preachers to faithfully declare His Word to us and to rightly administer His holy gifts of salvation. Sometimes that means speaking harsh Law to those who are willfully unrepentant, persisting in their wickedness; and it also means proclaiming the word of forgiveness. In these means, Christ Himself comes to us—not figuratively, but for real, so that we have all confidence that our Lord has rescued us from sin and death.

St. John, who recorded all these words, also tells us that this ministry of Gospel and Sacraments is the witness to Christ that the Father gives. He tells us that these three bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood—the Spirit, who is active in the preaching of the Word; the water, which is Holy Baptism; and the blood itself, which is Christ's Holy Supper. The witness, the testimony, is given: your Baptism—the water; the preaching of the Gospel—where the Spirit is; the Supper—where the blood is given. In these you may be certain that you have Christ. Crave the Word; crave the gifts given in your baptism and by absolution; hunger and thirst for the Holy Supper of Christ’s body and blood. Eagerly desire the gifts your pastor has been called to give you. Cry out for them constantly and partake of them as often as possible. These gifts save you because they give you Jesus. You don't have to see with your eyes as Thomas did. The Spirit opens your eyes of faith, and you receive Jesus. As the Father has sent Christ, so Christ has sent His preachers to deliver His saving gifts, gifts giving you the peace which the world cannot give. 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.

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

Monday, March 28, 2016

HYMN: Behold! The Star Has Led the Way

One of my favorite hymns is "Songs of Thankfulness and Praise," a hymn for the Epiphany of Our Lord. It describes how God has revealed Himself to His people through God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. One of the problems I have as a hymn writer is that I can't imagine writing anything that compares with the great hymns with which the Church has been blessed. Still, the Lord has given me this gift, however humble that gift may be (even if I'm not as humble as my gifts should have me be). I might as well use it, even if it's only for my own devotional use. Anyway, this is a hymn for the Epiphany. Feedback is love.

Behold! The Star Has Led the Way

1. Behold! The star has led the way
To God's own Son made manifest
For heathen wise men, come to pray
And worship Christ, their King confessed.

2. In Bethlehem they found the Boy,
For Holy Scripture led them there.
To honor Him with regal joy
The magi gave Him treasures rare.

3. Though we no longer see a star,
The Word of God itself shall bring
Both Jews and Gentiles, near and far,
To meet the holy infant King.

4. Like Herod, some may live in fear
And seek to silence Christ in shame.
O Light of light, when villains jeer,
Help us confess Your holy name.

5. And let us give You golden faith
With myrrh in works of mercy sweet,
With prayers which rise with every breath
Like incense to the mercy seat.

6. O King of nations, Light of grace,
These humble gifts of faith receive,
And lead us to this holy place
Where wise men seek You and believe.

LM (88 88)
Temporary Tune: DEO GRACIAS (LSB 413)
Occasion: The Epiphany of Our Lord
Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sermon for 3/27/16: Resurrection of Our Lord

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I Know that My Redeemer Lives

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

I know that my Redeemer lives!
What comfort this sweet sentence gives.

He lives! The stone was rolled away from the tomb. Mary and Mary and Salome had come to the tomb with spices to anoint the body of their beloved Lord. For all their worry about who would roll the stone away—remember that Pilate had ordered the tomb to be sealed at the request of the Jews—they arrived to find that the tomb was already open. He who had been crucified was no longer there. Instead of finding Jesus inside, they found a messenger. “He is risen! He is not here!” the messenger proclaimed. Mark tells us that the women fled in fear. They should have known. As the messenger reminded the women, Jesus had already told them what was going to happen. 
He lives! He lives who once was dead!
He lives, my ever-living Head!

He lives! Job knew. He knew it eons before Jesus had even been born. “I know that my Redeemer lives!” he said. Job had lost everything: his oxen and donkeys, along with the servants who tended them; the sheep and their herders; the camels and their tenders; even his sons and daughters. He obviously knew the frightful power of death. But even amidst all this loss, Job knew. Salome and the Marys should have known. 
He lives to calm my troubled heart.
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives! When Mary Magdalene visits the tomb on her own, she’s in tears. She sees Jesus, and she mistakes Him for the gardener. “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid Him!” And Jesus comforts her just with the sound of her own name. 
He lives to silence all my fears!
He lives to wipe away my tears!

He lives! The disciples should have known it too. But they were afraid. They were hidden in the upper room for fear of the Jews. But Jesus had repeatedly told them of His power over death. Even when their beloved Lord appears among them, they are terrified. Jesus tells them, “Peace be with you.” He forgives them. He restores them. He gives them purpose. He gives them His own Holy Spirit. 
He lives to comfort me when faint.
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

He lives! The two disciples on the road to Emmaus should have known. They had left Jerusalem to return to their home. Jesus appeared to them on the road, though they were prevented from recognizing Him as their Lord. He taught them that the events in Jerusalem were prophesied in the Old Testament, that Jesus was the fulfillment of everything that the Old Testament taught. And then He revealed Himself to them as He broke bread.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives! And what about you? Do you know? Do you recognize your Lord when He comes to you? When your body aches and your head won’t be still, do you know that He lives? When the government infringes on your freedom to believe and live according to your faith, do you know that He lives? When death has struck what feels like a fearsome blow in your life, taking someone you love, do you know that He lives? Like the women, like the Twelve, like the disciples, you should know. 
He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He Iives to bring me safely there.

He lives! Just as He appeared to the women; just as He appeared to the Twelve; just as He appeared to the disciples on the road, He comes to you, too. He speaks His Word of peace to you in Holy Absolution. He teaches you about Himself in the pure preaching of faithful pastors, whose mouths He opens to speak in His stead, teaching us that He is the fulfillment of every promise from God. He reveals Himself to you in the breaking of the bread in the Holy Supper of His body and blood. 
He lives, all glory to His name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.

He lives! And not only does He live; He raises you to new life with Him! In the very gifts with which He reveals Himself to you, He gives you life! He washes you in the water and blood that flowed from His side through the waters of Holy Baptism. He drowns the Old Adam within you, and He pulls you out of the water to new life! And it is not just a life for now, though your daily life is a precious gift from Him; He gives you eternal life, so that, even when your sin-riddled body dies, He will raise it pure and incorruptible. He will do this for you and for all you love who have gone before you in the faith. This joyful reunion will have no end, for you and your faithful loved ones will live with Christ forever.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives:
I know that my Redeemer lives!

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.

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sermon for 3/25/16: Good Friday (Hymns series)

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O Darkest Woe

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

“O darkest woe.” What a dreadful sight. Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, the Messiah promised to Adam and Eve and all their descendants, was hung upon the cross to His death, forsaken by His Father. He was there for you, dying the death which He did not deserve, to pay the debt you owed for your sin. 

O sorrow dread!
Our God is dead,
Upon the cross extended.
There His love enlivened us
As His life was ended.

Never before in history, and never since, has anyone even claiming to be God died for the sake of His people. False god upon false god has promised mighty acts of healing, of feeding, of deliverance, but none of those acts include the death of the deity itself. What kind of God would allow Himself to be forsaken by anyone, much less by His own Father? What kind of God would allow Himself to be sacrificed for anyone? Only Jesus Christ, true Son of the true God and Himself true God, who died for the salvation of His creation. Even the Centurion, likely a polytheistic Roman, could not help but confess, “Truly this was the Son of God.” 

There lies the spotless Lamb of God in a borrowed tomb. The ladies had stood by as Jesus hung on the cross. Even in their grief, they were ready to prepare the body of their beloved Master for burial. Joseph of Arimathea, a believer who had hidden his faith for fear of the Jews, and Nicodemus, who had originally come to Jesus under the cover of darkness, came out of the shadows to request the body of their Lord from Pilate. If the leader was slain, certainly the followers had reason to fear. But Joseph and Nicodemus stepped forward anyway, displaying the faith the Twelve could not. They laid Jesus in Joseph’s unused vault.
O darkest woe!
Ye tears, forth flow!
Has earth so sad a wonder?
God the Father’s only Son
Now is buried yonder.

Matthew writes, “Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The work for which Jesus had come was finally complete: the evil thoughts, the false words, the misdeeds, all that was done or left undone by the hands and mouths and minds of sinners—all that had separated man from God had been removed. The veil of the temple separated the Holy of Holies, the place where God had promised to be present in the midst of His Old Testament people, from the common man. Only the appointed priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and then only on the one day of the year appointed for that task. But that could no longer be the case. 
The Bridegroom dead!
God’s Lamb has bled
Upon thy sin forever,
Pouring out His sinless self
In this vast endeavor.

Adam no longer has to hide from God as his Father seeks him out; Moses no longer has to shield his face, lest he die. God and sinners are forever reconciled. Now, like Adam before the fall, like Enoch, like Elijah, we walk with God, unafraid, finally restored to full fellowship with our Father. 

 This is the day. The serpent has bruised the heel of the Seed of Eve. What a hollow victory for Satan. For even in taking the life of the Son of God, the devil has lost. Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” The true victory belongs to our Lord, who has crushed the power of death forever! Matthew told us that the tomb had already temporarily opened for some of the faithful who had died. The tomb will open for Jesus on the third day. And every tomb will open on the Last Day; every resting body will rise. St. Paul writes, “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” And it will be gone forever. 

O Jesus Christ,
Who sacrificed
Thy life for lifeless mortals:
Be my life in death and bring
Me to heaven’s portals!

He will do so—indeed, He cannot help but do so, for even in death—and especially in His own death—He is “the Resurrection and the Life.” 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.

HYMN: Oh, Pilate Fixed Three Crosses

The Reverend William Weedon, the Director of Worship for the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, once shared a piece written by St. Romanos the Melodist called "Kontakion 22," which is a conversation between Hell and Satan concerning the Crucifixion. (You can find the text in its entirety here.) Weedon once dared a group of hymnwriters to versify the text. I'd never taken up the challenge...until today. In about an hour and a half, while preparing for tonight's service, I threw this text together. My apologies to St. Romanos for rhyming "skull" and "all." Feedback is love.

A blessed and holy Triduum to you and yours.

Oh, Pilate Fixed Three Crosses

1. Oh, Pilate fixed three crosses
On Golgotha, the Skull:
Two for the malefactors,
One for the Life of All. 
Said Hell, "A nail has pierced me,
A wound unto My heart.
A lance has laid me open,
And I am torn apart. 

2. "My insides are in anguish,
My gut in agony,
My spirit is in terror;
It trembles, quaking me. 
And I must vomit Adam,
My prize from Eden's tree,
For this new shoot has opened
My bars to set him free."

3. Said Satan then with cunning, 
"O Hell, why do you groan?
That tree, at which you tremble,
I built there on my own
To kill the Virgin's offspring.
That tree, it is a cross,
To which I nailed Messiah.
New Adam, Christ, has lost!

4. "Fear not, O Hell. Fear nothing!
That tree is barren, dry.
That tree, it cannot harm you,
So hold your head up high.
Do not release the Adam
Imprisoned in your gate.
No paradise awaits him.
Your hold, his only fate."

5. Then Hell replied to Satan,
"You cunning snake, beware!
You must have lost your senses!
Your trap, it holds you there.
Look up, for you have fallen
Into your own dark pit.
That tree which you call barren,
Rich fruit now grows on it.

6. "A Thief that fruit has tasted,
And now he is the heir
Of all of Eden's blessings:
A tree you once thought bare."
Then Satan cried, "You coward!
O Hell, your mumbles cease!
Why fear this cross? Why tremble?
My workings bring me peace.

7. "Your wretched words mean nothing.
This cross, it is my plan. 
For next I will entomb Him
Who sought to free all man.
Then I, O Hell, will mock you
For cowardice, for fear.
No paradise for Adam
When Christ is buried here."

8. Said Hell, "O Satan, listen!
Behold, the Crucified!
The cross, it is His power.
The cross, it is His pride.
For you the cross is folly:
Go see Him there, enthroned!
And on that royal dais
He hears the sinner's groan."

9. Then Satan heard with horror
The witness of a thief:
"Remember me, O Jesus,"
He spoke with fresh belief.
With mercy Jesus answered, 
"You faith, it will suffice.
This day will you go with me
Again to Paradise!"

10. Then Satan was astounded.
He wilted then in fear.
"Disdaining His accusers,
A thief He deigns to hear?
To Pilate He said nothing;
He welcomes home a thief?
His works bring condemnation,
No merit or relief."

11. The devil cried still louder,
"Receive me, then, O Hell,
For I did not believe you.
With you I now shall dwell.
The tree at which you shuddered,
Made red with watered blood
Which flowed from pierc├Ęd Jesus
Will work Old Adam's good."

12. They cried out both together,
"Oh, let us now lament!
This tree which we have planted
This Jesus now has bent
Into a holy shelter
For murderers and thieves,
A tree with shade most pleasant
With fruit that now relieves.

13. "This cross has now been shapen
Into a Tree of Life!
Now paradise awaits them
Who then faced only strife."
Then Hell said to the tyrant,
"O let that cross be bare!"
And Satan answered quickly,
"I'll kill nobody there.

14. "You also, murder no one.
Let us draw back our hand
And leave the race of Adam
With Christ the Lord to stand.
For all of Adam's children
Unto the cross are sealed,
And life to them is given:
A precious pearl revealed.

15. "That pearl a Thief has taken
Upon the holy tree,
And having borne that treasure,
He died without a plea.
That Thief, the Son of Mary,
Well-suited to His trade,
Was called again to Eden,
The Paradise remade."

16. O Highest and most Holy, 
O God of age and youth,
Your outrage is our honor,
The cross, our boast, our truth.
Unto our hearts we nail it
With songs to Christ addressed,
For His great cross shall bring us
To Paradise the blest!

76 76 D
Tune: EWING (LSB 672)
Occasion: Good Friday
Text: Kontakion 22 by Romanos the Melodist