Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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

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Anticipation and Fulfillment


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


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

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

HYMN: O Lord, Where Are You Going?

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


O Lord, Where Are You Going?

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

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

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


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

Sermon for 11/24/16: Thanksgiving

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Abundance


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


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

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

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

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Wise Virgins


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


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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

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

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There Will Be Goats


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


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

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

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

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Saints by Grace

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


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

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

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Sermon for 10/30/16: Festival of the Reformation

Sorry for the delay. Life intervened.


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Abiding in Christ

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

The struggle was over how sinners become free from sin. It is akin to the struggle going on in the Gospel for this festive occasion. In fact, if we were to do a quick scan of church history, we would find that this battle is always being waged. How does one become free from one’s sins?
Today we remember Martin Luther and all the Lutheran fathers who confessed the faith boldly in order to restore the gospel to the church. Today we stand as Lutheran Christians, following in the heritage of these Lutheran reformers.   We see it in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees as He teaches in the temple. We see it in the early church fathers and the Council of Nicaea when the factions fought over the doctrine of Jesus Christ—who He is and whether or not He was God. We see it in Martin Luther as he spoke against the selling of indulgences for the paying off of sins. We even fight that battle today. Satan and his false preachers are constantly trying to creep into the church in order to replace the truth with the imaginations of sinful hearts.
It is always a battle between Christ and Satan. This battle, while being waged in the Church, is also being waged in your life. You have to cope with your sinful urges. You also have to cope with the stark reality that you spend more time in the world than you do in the church. This means more time is spent listening to TV, radio, and popular opinions, and less hearing God’s word and keeping it. Jesus never intended for people to half-heartedly take the salvation that He won for them on the cross.  The church is the place where new lives start. The church is the place of new beginnings for sinners. 
Once you get a new beginning in the waters of Holy Baptism, you pass through the waters of Holy Baptism. The old Adam dies, and you begin to live your new life in Christ. You abide in Christ and His Word, and you are His disciples, abiding in Him forever. You make your home with Him. If you are to abide with Jesus, if you are to make your home with Jesus, then you must spend time there. Jesus must become your dwelling place. This is more than just making occasional or even regular visits. You must be in God’s word constantly. You must be in prayer without ceasing. 
So...are you just a visitor to Jesus? Or do you truly abide with Him? You must come on your knees to the altar.  Abiding in Christ first means that you confess your sins—not just once, but constantly. You need Jesus to cover up your sins.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is why Jesus came in the flesh.  Jesus came to keep the Law and then bear all sins to death on the cross—including yours. Abiding with Jesus means you dwell in His mercy. The church is a mercy place. It has to be. Where there is repentance, there is forgiveness. When your sins continue to frighten you or place doubt in your mind, Jesus brings you here, where He frees you from that terror.
Jesus beckons you with the gospel, and He continually reminds you that you have a home with Him in His Church. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden,” He says, “and I will give you rest. …For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
You cannot trust in yourself or wait until things are perfect in your life before you can abide in Jesus. Abiding in Jesus means that you place on Him all of your wretched and nasty sins, along with all of your imperfections. Jesus has paid for all of those sins. Your only hope of release from sin and the world is to abide in Christ. He will be your home. And abiding in Him, you will receive every good and gracious gift of God, including the resurrection of the body and eternal life, abiding in Him forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.                

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sermon for 10/23/16: Twenty-Second Sunday After Trinity

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Forgiven


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


It seems like Peter always knows what’s truly in the sinner’s heart, and he’s never afraid to say it. “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” In other words, how long do I have to put up with my neighbor? What is the bare minimum I have to do to love my neighbor as myself? Yeah, I know that God is merciful to me, but how long must I be merciful to my brother? This is a dreadful way of thinking! We must all learn some repentance today, before we are thrown into prison forever.
That’s what Jesus says. But don’t try to make Him say that God’s forgiveness really depends on how well you forgive your neighbor, as if you could forgive your neighbor as much as Jesus forgives you. Jesus knows that God’s mercy rests entirely on the Father giving of His Son over to death, and He applies that work to you through Word and Sacraments. God has paid the penalty for sin by killing Jesus on the cross. All your debt is paid. What you owe, Christ bought. Though you deserve to be cast into prison until you’ve paid every cent, Jesus went to prison for you. He paid the whole amount of debt for every man, woman and infant: from the vilest murderer to the meekest child. Jesus rescued you from ever thinking there is anything you have to do or give or show to gain God’s heaven. So do not believe that He will withhold God’s grace until sinners makes full repayment for their sins.
But also don’t believe that He wants you to cast them off or make someone suffer a little longer before you give them forgiveness. Jesus speaks today the way a king would if, having forgiven one servant an incredible amount of money, he then finds out that that same servant turned around and had a fellow servant put in prison for a debt far less than what was owed the king.
It is the pastor’s lot to stand in the middle of these two errors. Pastors hear the sins that people confess. They watch the lives of God’s people fall apart because of sin. They hear criticisms and accusations and complaints, sometimes against the pastor himself. Still, a pastor stands before the altar and says: “I forgive you all your sins.” He hears your sins and he forgives, admitting poor sinners like themselves to Christ’s altar. By the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ in bread and wine, your sins are done away with, forgiven and forgotten. Learn from the Ministry that’s here for you! Learn from how God deals with you, and from that, learn how to be toward one another. Jesus takes your sins, dies for them, and pours out His forgiveness.
Pay attention to the Gospel that has been set before you. Has there ever been a time when a sinner does not receive absolution when he comes with repentance and confesses? If you don’t know, you have not been paying attention. Your pastor promised to forgive repentant sinners, and he can be removed from the Holy Ministry if he doesn’t forgive repentant sinners. So come and learn the Gospel of Jesus. Learn that, when you sin, the Lord will use your pastor to hear your confession and speak forgiveness. He will use your pastor’s mouth to preach to you that Jesus died so that you will live. Your sins now belong to Jesus, and He calls them all forgiven. He will feed you with His body and blood, bringing forgiveness, life, and salvation to your lips. From these, you learn to use your lips to forgive others.
Like Peter, your pastor is under orders to forgive as often as you come repenting. And if you are not yet strong enough to let go of someone’s sins, confess your weakness and your lack of faith and love. For the sake of Jesus, and in His stead, your pastor will say, “By the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.” He will urge you to receive the Holy Supper. And with such forgiveness, we, who ought to pay forever, will “sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us,” no matter how many times we have to do it. 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, October 17, 2016

Sermon for 10/16/16: Twenty-First Sunday After Trinity

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Your Son Lives


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


“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” Why should we believe without signs and wonders? What good is faith if it does not deliver? The nobleman had left his dying boy to bring home a miracle worker. That took some small, burning ember of belief that Jesus could help. But the miracle worker who turned water into wine would not go with him. He would not leave Cana. It must have seemed as though the faith and hope, the desperate prayers from Capernaum to Cana, had all been in vain.
Jesus would have surely failed at the seminary. In the face of such desperation, He dares to preach the Law. He sees that faith is still lacking, still imperfect, and He will not pretend that it is good enough. He will not be winsome or polite. He will not be patient or seemingly even kind. He will not meet felt needs. He sees into the man's heart by the man's words. He rebukes. He brings faith to its knees. He makes the father come to full desperation and forget his nobility. Then He commands: “Go your way,” and all he adds is, “Your son lives.” But what does that mean to a father full of fear? Does it mean that his son lives in heaven? Does it mean he lives right now but will die within the hour? Or does it mean—dare he hope?—that the fever has left him? The nobleman is not told. Nothing is explained. No promise is made. It is a simple declaration in the present tense: “Your son lives.” That is it. Nothing more. Take that and go on your way.
Miracle of miracles: that mysterious sentence changed the nobleman. He had tried to command Jesus. He did not ask. He commanded: “Come down before my child dies.” But Jesus said: “Your son lives,” and everything changed. It was not the nobleman who believed. It was the man, the father of the son. His nobility was stripped away. The Word of Jesus changed him. He went on his way. He obeyed and believed as a simple man, stripped of pretensions, no longer glorying in his faith, no longer making demands of God, but resting in the Word of Jesus. He still doesn't know just what it means, but Jesus said it, and that is good enough. This is how faith lives between Cana and Capernaum without signs or wonders.
He was not the first parent to get a son back from the dead. The widows in Nain and Zarephath had experienced this miracle as well. The Syro-Phonecian woman got her daughter back from demons. Abraham got Isaac back from the mountain, and Issac got Joseph back from brotherly murder. God provides. He always does. But most significantly Our Father in heaven got His Son back from the dead. When it was finished, He gave up His spirit. That Son didn't have to die. He didn't have to be forsaken by the Father and feel the hatred of the mob burning in His hands and feet. He didn't have to… except that His love demanded it. Love drove Him to the cross. Love desired to drive off the fever in Capernaum and change water into wine in Cana. Love demanded death to put death to rest, so that Jesus could stand in the upper room and pronounce peace upon the Church and establish the Ministry of reconciliation. The Father lost the Son on the cross. He went to heaven and told Our Father what He told the nobleman: Your Son lives. The Sacrifice is complete. The Father's wrath has been appeased. Hell has lost its claim. God's good will has been restored.
Jesus lives. Go on your way this dying, autumn day. Take this with you: Your Son lives: not the one that has come from your our union with your spouse, but a different Son, a Son more fully yours than those temporarily placed into your care. Your Son lives—even if you are yet a child or never had a child. For this Son is your Son, but you are not His father or mother. He is the Son given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism. He is placed upon your tongue in the Holy Communion. You are His and He is yours. He is your Son, even as His Father and His Spirit are your Father and your Spirit. He has caused Himself to become your Lamb, slain for your transgressions and raised for your justification. You've come this day to modern day Cana, not where water is turned into wine, but where wine carries the Blood of Christ and makes glad the hearts of men. You've got your miracle and sign. It is the Body and Blood Jesus. Be strengthened and encouraged as you go on your way. Go back to your daily life. Your Son lives. So will your children. So will you. Jesus lives. This is enough for faith. It will see you through. 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, October 09, 2016

Sermon for 10/9/16: Twentieth Sunday After Trinity

Sorry about the sniffle sounds on the audio recording. My allergies have been very nasty this weekend.


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Heeding the King

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


There’s something that people always seem to get wrong about parables. The Kingdom of Heaven is not like a wedding banquet. It is like a King who gave a wedding banquet. It is like a Man who owns a vineyard and goes to hire laborers, a Man who sows good seed, or a King who wished to settle accounts. The Kingdom of Heaven is not found in abstract notions. It is found in a Man: our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why St. John the Baptist cried: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” when Jesus appeared. He was saying: “Repent. Jesus is here.”
Few would refuse an invitation from the President of the United States, whether or not you like him or voted for him. He is the President. If he summons, you go. You do that even though his term and power are limited. You show your respect for the Office of the President. You don’t ignore him, and you certainly don’t ignore his invitation.
But that is how men treat God. They spit on His invitation. They do not believe that Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is the King. They don’t believe He has power. Satan deceives them by the humility of the invitation. They think God can't see them in the dark. They think they can lie to Him as easily as they lie to men. They'll make amends later, when it is more convenient. And God is so gentle in His invitation, so meek, that they think He can be ignored and mocked. He is so gracious that they think they can they treat His servants shamefully without consequence. Repent.
Do not think this door will always remain open. Do not think you can ignore the invitation without a cost. Do not think the Word of God belongs to you and will always be here. Ignore it, abuse it, neglect it, and it can be taken away. Look to modern day Europe and Israel. Let them be signs to you. Once they were nations teeming with the Word. Now they are nearly godless. The Good News of Jesus Christ is rarely heard and nearly forgotten. The Christians remaining in those countries suffer in ways we have so far been spared. Be warned. The King in the parable sent His army to those who refused Him. He destroyed them and burned their cities. Repent.
The King is still inviting. Your pastor has been sent here on His behalf: Come to the Wedding Feast of the Son! He wants you. It does not matter how bad you have been, what you have done, what you have said, who you have hurt, or how many times you have spat on this invitation in the past. Now is the hour of salvation. He loves you. He wants you. Rich or poor, smart or dumb, young or old: it doesn't matter. He will fill the banquet hall, and He wants you there. Everything is ready. There is nothing for you to do. Come, eat and drink a food better than that of the kings: the body and blood of Christ, laid before you in the humble means of bread and wine, hidden from those will not believe, but given and shed for you to unite you to Him and forgive all your sins. Come, eat and drink, without money and without price.
Do not worry about what to wear. Christ provides His own righteousness for you. He covers all your iniquities, all your shame and guilt. You are immaculate, without blemish, spot, or stain. His name rests upon you. You have been washed and clothed with Him. He has shown His love for you in the cross. He has taken up your flesh and made a Sacrifice of Himself to buy you back out of Hell. He has shut the devil's mouth, and there is no one left to accuse you.
Such love exists only in one place: in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for He is love. God has loved you since the beginning of time. He has called you by name. He is worthy. His invitation awaits you. Christ can do what He wants, and what He wants is to have you with Him as a His Holy Bride. The marks of His love are still upon His hands, feet, and side. He is the Lamb who was slain but who lives. He is the Voice from the burning bush who led His people out of slavery. He is still leading out of slavery and into freedom. Come, eat and drink. Be free. Be forgiven, renewed, strengthened.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a King, a Man. The Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus. And the Kingdom of Heaven is 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.           

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Sermon for 10/02/16: Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity

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The Bigger Deal


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


So, which is easier? Is it easier to say to the paralytic to, “Get up and walk,” or to say, “Your sins are forgiven?” In many so-called Christian Churches, we are told that “Get up and walk” is the more important of the two, and so the harder to say, because there is empirical evidence to prove whether or not bodily healing has actually been accomplished. Like the Old Testament scribes, such modern-day Pharisees demand visible signs: healings, manifestations of the Spirit, speaking in tongues, or some other power that will prove that God is really with them.
We recently heard the account of the man Jesus healed on the Sabbath. And just as the Pharisees objected to Jesus healing on the Holy Day of the Lord, so the scribes objected to our Lord forgiving the sins of this paralyzed man. Since Jesus didn’t defile the Holy Day before the Pharisees, surely He must have blasphemed by forgiving this man’s sins in the presence of the Scribes. After all, everybody knows that God alone has the authority to forgive sins.
The world agrees, but for a different reason. Anyone can say that someone is forgiven by God. But the world requires a demonstration of power in a visible way before it will allow itself to believe. Do something—still the storm, heal the sick, make me wealthy, or raise the dead—and then I will believe. But the Scriptures are clear: even if someone comes back from the dead, they will not believe.
Jesus says that He heals the paralytic to prove that He can forgive sins. Jesus knows how we think, doesn't He? But our Lord’s answer to the question is the opposite of how we think. To win the forgiveness He delivers to the man, Christ must suffer. To earn the absolution He speaks to us, Jesus must be beaten, bruised, mocked, and finally die. The cost of the paralytic's salvation, the cost of your salvation, is the blood of Christ, shed on the cross.
The crowd rejoices over the healing. That’s a big deal, truly. But the man had been already made well by Christ before he could walk. Jesus forgave this man's sins! God reconciled this man to Himself in Christ. Whatever else was said about the paralytic at that point, whether he walked away or remained paralyzed, he was a child of God whose sins were forgiven. The big miracle was not the one the crowd thought was so impressive. Seeking the lesser miracle of healing, the paralytic received the greater miracle of forgiveness.
You are privileged to witness this miracle first-hand every Sunday. It's easy to miss. We don’t seem to think it’s very profound when your pastor, acting “in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ,” forgives your sins “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It seems mundane, but it’s a profound miracle. After all, every sin you commit in thought, word, and deed, every sinful thing you have done and every righteous thing you have ever left undone, was forgiven in Holy Absolution, covered in the blood of Jesus. This is as certain and sure as Christ your dear Lord had spoken that Word of forgiveness to you Himself! God makes you well by forgiving you all your sins in Absolution.
Which is easier: to forgive or to heal? Only Jesus knows the answer for sure, for He is the only one who can do both. Jesus healed the paralytic to prove that He had the authority to forgive the man’s sins. Jesus has forgiven your sins too. You are a child of God. No matter what else is true about you, you have already been made well by the forgiveness of Christ, won on the cross, and spoken by the mouth of your pastor. All glory be to God, who has given such power to men. 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 9/25/16: Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity

My apologies for the delay and for the lack of an audio recording.

       
Questions


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


Once again, the Pharisees are doing everything they can to prove that Jesus is a fraud and a phony. A lawyer among the Pharisees asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is. But they don’t really care about the truth. They don’t care about the Word of God. All they care about is their own perceived superiority: how they have studied the Word of God, how they perfectly patterned their lives after God’s Law, how no one else can match their faithfulness. The Pharisees weren't interested in learning unless they could see the benefit to themselves. They were those students who raised their hands the fastest and always gave a right answer. They were those students who took great joy showing off and smirking at the ignorance of their classmates.
But just as he did before, Jesus silenced the Pharisees. “If David calls [the Christ] 'Lord?', how is the Christ also David’s son?” Suddenly the know-it-alls didn't have an answer for Jesus. In fact, their ignorance on this matter made it clear to everyone that maybe they didn't know nearly so much as they thought. So instead of listening and learning, they just stopped asking questions. The Pharisees weren't interested in learning unless they could use it as an opportunity to show everyone how much they knew. They stopped asking questions altogether.
We, on the other hand, have no problem questioning God. “Why doesn’t God do things the way we want them done?” “Why did He put that tree in the Garden?” “Why do I have to have cancer?” “Why does it seem like evil people prosper and people who are generally good seem to suffer?” We have all sorts of questions for God, because we feel we know best how to take care of ourselves, because we know what we need, because we don’t like to have to rely on anyone else…ever. It is contrary to our rugged individualism to admit that we are not sufficient to meet every challenge placed before us. We are a new brand of Pharisee, for not only do we trust in our own reason and strength, but we make ourselves out to be gods, putting our sinful desires ahead of the Word of God and His gifts. We fear, love, and trust in ourselves, and we think that’s enough. Like the Pharisees, who want to know which commandment is greatest so that they can save themselves by keeping the commandments, we are satisfied with our own expectations, our own understanding, our own obedience. And if that’s good enough for us, that should be good enough for God.
But Jesus teaches us these commandments, not so we can save ourselves, but so that He can save us. We don't have all the answers, especially in spiritual matters. Left to ourselves, we're like children who stumble around in a dark room, bumping into furniture and knocking things over. That's why you are invited to sit at the feet of the Christ, the Son of David, and be taught by God through His Word and messengers. That's the Word which saves us! He saves us from our inability to keep the Law by keeping it in our place. Yet He also teaches and trains us for our purpose in life: first, to glorify God by receiving His Word and gifts: daily living in our Baptism, being absolved of our sins, and receiving Christ's body and blood; and second, to love and serve our neighbor in his time of need.
 Saving faith is not about having the sinner having the right answer—which is good, because no sinner has every right answer. Saving faith is not all about the sinner being perfectly obedient—and again, that’s a good thing, because no sinner is perfectly obedient. Saving faith is all about Jesus, because Jesus has all the right answers and perfect obedience. And what’s more, saving faith is all about Jesus, because He gives you His perfect obedience, and He speaks all the right answers before His Father for you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.     

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

Saturday, September 24, 2016

PARODY: We Know a Lovely Story

It's been a while since I've written a parody, but this one could get me in trouble. It's not always good to lampoon an old favorite, but the irony of the song is just begging to be redone. Apparently the four verses we sing so loudly are only the beginning of the hymn, which goes on to summarize the Gospel. (Imagine that!) But since we don't sing the actual Gospel part, here it is.


We Know a Lovely Story
(Parody of "I Love to Tell the Story")


1. We know a lovely story
Of Jesus and His love:
He set aside His glory,
Descending from above,
To die for our transgressions
And rise to give us life.
To Him we make confession
And cling to Him in strife. (Refrain)

(Refrain) I love to hear the story.
The facts are mandatory.
So tell me Jesus' story:
His death and life for all.

2. Some sing about this Jesus
With voices clear and bold.
But though the singing pleases,
The story's never told.
The irony is stunning--
Alanis, listen, kid!--
For, though their song is running,
The Gospel light is hid. (Refrain)

3. Oh, it would be so easy
To sing a story song
That's not so very cheesy,
Nor must it be so long,
Which tells the story clearly
Of Christ the crucified,
Who held us all so dearly
That for us all he died. (Refrain)

4. So if you sing the story,
No need to sing with fear.
That tale, so proud and hoary,
Your neighbor needs to hear.
All praise to Christ, our Savior,
Our Lord, the Crucified.
His death, our Father's favor;
His life, new life supplied. (Refrain)


76 76D with refrain
Tune: HANKEY

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sermon for 9/18/16: Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity

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A Sabbath Remains for the Weary

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


It should come as no surprise to us that Jesus would find Himself challenged regarding the Sabbath. After all, sinful man loves to put the Lord to the test, especially when it comes to His authority over His creation. Jesus knew that the Pharisees were watching Him closely as a suffering man approached. So He asked them a simple question: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” These men who made their livings with their mouths found themselves speechless. They were very good at teaching the letter of the law, but very poor at living the true spirit of the law. Any answer they gave would convict them. Since they would not respond, Jesus answered His own question—not with words, but with actions. He healed the man and sent him on his way.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out that way. They thought they had this upstart Rabbi over a barrel. They had invited Jesus so they could keep an eye on Him, so they could find a way to trap him. They didn’t care one way or another for the sick man, whether he lived or died; they just want to show Jesus what was what. They wanted to show Jesus that they were the big thing. They were the ones who mattered. It didn’t matter what Jesus did; He would be in trouble either way. If He healed the man of his dropsy on the Sabbath, Jesus would be accused of ignoring the Law of God by doing work on the holy day of rest. If he didn’t heal the man, he would be accused of being unloving and insensitive to the man’s needs. Either way, the Pharisees would accuse Jesus of being a fake. But Jesus doesn’t care about passing their tests. Everything Jesus does, He does to glorify His Father. He heals the man, and He does no wrong in doing so. Jesus has the impossible answer; they Pharisees are speechless.
That’s where the Law left the Pharisees. And that’s where the Law leaves us. Just like our Father, we children are to rest for a day from the labors of our hands and mouths and minds. The Sabbath is about rest—godly rest. The Sabbath is a day of mercy, not a day of rules by which you may earn eternal life. But how often do we take our rest in things apart from Jesus? Why do we constantly seek our peace in worldly things to the exclusion of Jesus? When our Sabbath is constantly all about the Cardinals, when it is only about the comfort of our bodies, when our Sabbath is constantly opposed to the Word of God, it is then that we despise preaching and the Word of God. It is then that we stand silent with the Pharisees, when any word which we could utter would convict us.
With all that in mind, let us answer the question: Yes, it is, indeed, lawful to heal on the Sabbath. In fact, it is the very spirit of the law to love your neighbor on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day for healing. And more than that, the Sabbath is a day to remember deliverance. Just as Jesus delivered the afflicted man from his disease, the Lord has delivered you from your bondage to sin and death. Those chains which held you in captivity to the power of the devil have been dissolved in the waters of Holy Baptism—the water combined with the Word of God which washes away the dreaded disease of sin. Instead of leaving you to drown in those waters, the Lord Himself pulls you out into new life in His name.
All of this is yours through the death and resurrection of Jesus on your behalf. We remember the Sabbath day as the day when Jesus rose from the dead, celebrating the healing He gives us in His body and blood. Every celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the Sabbath, for we receive our promised rest. As He did with the man with dropsy, He reaches out and touches you, blessing and healing you with the forgiveness of your sins. And as forgiven children of God who have found rest in Him, we are ready for another week of labor in the midst of our various vocations. And we are blessed that we may receive a measure of that Sabbath rest every day, for we may return to our baptism daily to receive rest for our souls in His holy Word.
Just as it is lawful for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath, it is lawful for us to seek healing from Him on the Sabbath; for we know that He will graciously hear our prayer and deliver us. God grant that we always seek our rest in Him. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

HYMN: The Man of Flesh is Earthly-Minded

It seems like, every time I get sick, something in my brain says, "It's time to write a hymn." The first time it was my Litany hymn; this time, it's bringing me out of my unintentional hiatus from hymn writing. I had a mad dash of productivity in February, and then...pretty much nothing. It's nice to be back. Anyway, here's a hymn for the Eighth Sunday After Trinity. (I'm very far ahead for next year!) The appointed Gospel is Matthew 7:15-23, where Jesus warns us to beware of false prophets. Let me know what you think. Feedback is love.


The Man of Flesh is Earthly-Minded

1. The man of flesh is earthly-minded.
With itching ears he seeks to hear
From teachers and false prophets, blinded
By love of wealth and mortal fear.
They speak a word to please the crowd:
Self-righteous, haughty, vain, and proud.

2. All heresy is formed and founded
By human pride and Satan's spite.
The saint on every side is hounded
By those who will not teach aright,
Who seek to blaspheme and profane
God's Word and His most holy name.

3. O Father, send Your Holy Spirit
To keep Your children steadfast, true.
Your Word is truth; oh, let them hear it
And always seek the truth from You.
Send prophets whose delight will be
To preach the Gospel faithfully.

4. O Christian, cling to Christ, your Savior!
Be diligent in word and deed
To test the prophets. Never waver!
Reject each fruitless, Christ-less creed
So, when the wolf seeks you as prey,
God's Word shall hold the beast at bay.



© 2016 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
98 98 88
Tune: WER WEISS, WIE NAHE (LSB 598)
Occasion: Trinity VIII

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sermon for 9/11/16: Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity

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He Sees You

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


What a strange day it must have been for the widow. She had already lost her husband, and now she’s in mourning as she goes on her way to bury her son. His body is being carried to its tomb, and she’s steeling her heart to leave him there. Parents are never really prepared to bury their own children, but she somehow had to let him go and go on with her own life. And then Jesus intervenes. He sees the woman and has compassion. He stops the funeral procession of her son. He touches the coffin. He tells the young man, “Arise!” And suddenly life emerges from death. The young man sits up, very much alive, and Jesus leaves him in his mother’s care. Nothing would ever be the same again for the widow or her son, and it all started because Jesus saw this widow. She was no longer in this alone; Jesus was with her.
It’s been fifteen years today since the terrorist attacks in New York City and the Pentagon as well as the crash from the thwarted attack in Pennsylvania. In the years before and since, we have seen our own share of death right where we are. We have buried parents and grandparents, spouses, children, and friends. It’s been a month since we buried Ruth Bunton at Bethel; yesterday we had the funeral at St. Peter for Lyle Wydeck. Death has been a savage enemy. No one who died on 9/11 has risen from their grave. None of those who have gone before us into death have walked away from their funeral procession. Does Jesus not see us as we mourn them? “Yoo-hoo! Jesus! I’m right here! Don’t you see me mourning? Where’s my resurrection story? Where’s my compassion?” 
Luke does not record this account to tell you that Jesus will bring your loved ones back from the grave to resume their sinful and suffering existence. What a horrible God He would be if that was all He could do for you. Yes, He raised this young man. Yes, He raised the daughter of Jairus. Yes, He even raised Lazarus. All of them would die again. But He has bigger plans for you. He has something better in mind for you. Never doubt that He has compassion for you. 
You see, he raised this young man and Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus to point forward to His own resurrection. He didn’t die and rise again for His own sake. He went to the grave for you. He rose for you. After three days, during which the disciples mourned the death of the One who loved them most of all, Christ rose victorious from the grave. He stilled their grief in the resurrection. Remember how the women came weeping to the tomb; they left with joy. He stills your grief too. Christ is risen! Sin is put to death.  Death has been overthrown; its teeth have been pulled. Death is powerless before our Lord. Satan kneels before Him, the last conquered enemy. Our Lord has won the ultimate victory. And He has done all of that because He has compassion for you. He puts sin to death for you. He overthrows death for you. He conquers Satan for you. He sees you. He knows your grief. And He takes it away. In its place he gives you the sure and certain hope in the resurrection of the dead unto eternal life. It points you to Jerusalem the Golden where God will wipe every tear from your eyes, where there will be no more sorrow, no more hunger or thirst, and no more death.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, you have already been put to death. You have been drowned in the waters of Holy Baptism. You have been crucified and raised with Jesus. I tell you, it is okay for you to weep and to mourn the loss of those you love. You are not a stone. But do not weep and lament like those who have no hope. The Lord sees you. He sees your grief. But as you weep, remember to fix your eyes on Jesus, the One who died and rose from the dead. Lift up your heads. The Day of your redemption draws near. The day of weeping will soon be over. Christ our Lord sees you. He has compassion on you. He draws near to you to still your tears and give you joy. Hear His voice as He comforts you with the forgiveness of your sins and all the heavenly gifts and blessings that come with it. 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.