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.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Sermon for 9/10/16: Funeral of Lyle Wydeck

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Hands and Habitations

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text is Psalm 90, and we consider these particular verses: Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. …Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.” Thus far our text

           
When he was an old man nearing the end of his life, Moses, prompted by the Holy Spirit, wrote the words we just heard. If you read Psalm 90 in its entirety, you realize that Moses doesn’t pull any punches. Moses knew the Law—who better than the one through whom the Lord delivered it to His people?—and he knew his own sinfulness. Sin draws the wrath of God upon sinners. Even if we are permitted to grow old, we still sicken and grow weary and eventually die. It’s not natural—we weren’t created that way—but death is God’s reaction to sin: the sin we inherit as children of Adam and Eve, and the sins we commit in thought word and deed, by what we do and what we leave undone. St. Paul wrote, “As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all men sinned.”
But as you read Psalm 90, you realize that the Lord’s wrath toward sin is only exceeded by His love. For the person whose God is the Lord, the steadfast love of God comforts the believer for as many days as the Lord gives. God makes His dwelling place with and in the believer, and He allows the believer to live with Him.
This is the reality in which our beloved Lyle lived his life. If ever there was a man who knew about dwelling places, it would be Lyle. In his work as a carpenter, not to mention his work with Laborers for Christ, he knew something about building a dwelling place. He knew what it took to build a house, to assemble a meeting room for a church, to erect something meant to last. He also knew how wrath could affect those dwelling places. Whether it was storms or the wrath of earthquakes or the devastation of floods, what can be built up with human hands can be so easily torn apart and left to decay. While he built things to last—while he prayed that the Lord would “establish the work of our hands for us”—he also was smart enough not to put his trust in things that moth and rust can destroy. He knew the truth: “The wages of sin is death.” And because of that, He knew the day would have to come when the Lord would make all things new. There was only one dwelling place Lyle trusted, and that was in Jesus Christ, who has been our dwelling place in all generations,” who is the “Word made flesh” to “dwell among us.”
Lyle was a baptized child of God. He heard the Word of God and believed the Word of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. He trusted in the promise of his Lord who said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” What a wonderful blessing and honor, to have the Lord be Lyle’s dwelling place! And on the 7th of August, that promise was fulfilled in full, when the Lord called Lyle home to dwell with Him forever. On one occasion when I visited Lyle in the hospital, I remember him and Sarah asking me if the Lord would have any use for Lyle’s abilities in heaven. Honestly, I didn’t have an answer for that. I still don’t. But I can tell you this with certainty: Lyle is now “before the throne of God, and [serves] Him day and night within His Temple; and He Who sits upon the throne will shelter [him] with His presence.” I don’t know what kind of service the Lord will require from Lyle, but I know the Lord will have something for Lyle to do, and whatever it is, it will give Lyle great joy.
The same is true for you. The day is coming when you will be carried away “like a flood;” you will finish your years “like a sigh.” But you will not face that end alone—if, indeed, you can call it an end—for the Lord will be with you, dwelling with you and in you, just as He is now. When the number of your days is complete, He will grant you a blessed end and graciously take you from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven, where He “will wipe away every tear from [your] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain…” And as you await that day, just as He did for Lyle these many years, the Lord will dwell with you and within you “establish the work of [your] hands,” using your work for His glory. God grant it for the sake of Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Sermon for 9/4/16: Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity


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Trust and Believe
Matthew 6:24-34

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


What does Jesus mean when He says, “You cannot serve God and mammon?” He means simply, “You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What is to have a god? What is God? In simple terms, Martin Luther tells us, “A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart.” That’s what it means to treat something like a god.
But it’s not enough to treat any old thing like a god. To trust in anything other than the Triune God is idolatry. To cling to anything other than the crucified Christ is to have a false god. For some, it’s money and financial security. For some, it’s that fancy automobile. For some, it’s the flashy new product from Apple, Inc. For some, it might even be church. For a pastor who at one time was forced out of his congregation, it could be doing anything to avoid causing offense to those who called him. My brothers and sisters in Christ, while items and money and church and the desire to serve are not sinful in and of themselves, every one of these things becomes an idol when you trust in them before the Triune God. Every one of them will surely and swiftly steal away the True Faith and the One True God to which it clings. And as Jesus tells you, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Let me give you an example. It’s no secret that our congregation is not as financially stable as it has been in past times. That fact alone would have made it an easy decision to join our sister congregation in a dual parish arrangement. But that was not the only way to ease the financial burden of supporting a pastor. We could turn part of the sanctuary into a coffee shop. We could build a swimming pool on the property. Or we could stop preaching the hard truth of God’s Word and start saying those things that would make us popular in the eyes of the world. It worked for Joel Osteen. The entryway of his house is bigger than our sanctuary! Some churches, even some that call themselves Lutheran—and yes, even some that are members of the Missouri Synod—have done those things. But none of those things serve the Gospel. None of those things confess faith solely in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
To have true faith, one must not have mere trust and belief. It must be a right trust and a right belief. We must be all the more diligent to think always on the First Commandment, for faith and the Triune God belong together. In that commandment, God requires of you true faith and true trust in Him and Him alone, for He alone is the One True God. He would have you cling to Him. Whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, He wants you to run to Him, for He will satisfy you and help you out of every need. He wants you to look to Him for all good and find refuge in Him in every time of need. He wants you to believe him with your whole heart.
And He wants you to approach Him that way because it is His greatest desire to give you “all that you need to support this body and life.” It is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” And this is most certainly true, for Jesus Christ our Lord always feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things. It was for precisely this reason that He was condemned to die: the Righteous for the unrighteous, the Holy for the unholy, the sinless for the sinful. He trusted in God above all things. He loved His neighbor as Himself—and even more so than Himself, for He did not hesitate to lay down His life for the very people who wanted Him dead, to douse you in the baptismal water and sacramental blood which poured from His side to make you holy. It is for His sake that our Father hears your prayers and gives you everything you need for this life and for eternal life.
Everything you have is a gift from our Father. Like any father, He wants you to have all good things, and He is gracious to give them to you. God has given you faith: faith which clings to Him alone; faith which uses His gifts for His worship and the service of your neighbor; faith which sustains you in times of trouble and trusts in Him above all things. 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, August 30, 2016

Sermon for 8/28/16: Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

Today we also witnessed the washing of Carsyn Boyd in the waters of Holy Baptism! Welcome to the Family!



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Obligation

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

           
Why did this leper return? Simply put, he came back to give thanks. He was polite. He was doing the right thing. Yet our Lord said to him, “Your faith has made you well.” He was not talking about physical well-being. Faith did not cure him of leprosy. The Word of our Lord did that, even as it also cured the nine who did not return. He spoke and they were all clean. This man returned and worshiped Jesus and was healed by faith in body and soul. All ten were healed of leprosy, but only one had faith. His faith saved him. The others were healed but not saved.

Why are you here today? Some come to church out of obligation, a response to the Law. Some feel they owe God and He wants them here to pay up. And maybe they hope to butter Him up, to stave off future disasters, maybe make up for past sins. All of that is fine. It is the natural response to the Law—like how people filled churches after 9/11. The Law threatens to punish anyone who breaks God’s commandments, and one of them is to worship. The Law should get a reaction. But the problem is that, while the outward response is good, it is never good enough. It always falls short. The Law is an impossible standard. You have heard it said that you shall not murder, but Jesus says that if you have hated anyone, you are guilty. You have heard it said that you shall not commit adultery, but Jesus says that if you have lusted, you are guilty. The Law does its work by accusing and convicting, by killing. It breaks you. It empties you of excuses and vanity.

Ten lepers stood far off and cried for mercy. They wanted a cure for leprosy, the restoration of their flesh, health, reunion with their friends and family, a place in society. He gave them all of that. But their desire was too small. They did not understand their own prayer. His mercy would go further. It would not stop until they were completely healed. He would clean their souls, adopt them as sons, keep them safe in His perfect love. His mercy would not fall short. It would drive Him to the cross to exchange His life for theirs. There is nothing He would not give those ten lepers, nothing too good for them. After all, He loved them. He loved them without their prayer. He loved them without their thanksgiving. He took care of everything for them.

He cares no less for you. Praise is like all the other good works you do: you offer them in weakness. God knows why you have come. He knows your weakness. But before you can offer your praise, He forgives you. He cleanses you. He feeds you. And then He looks upon your prayers and praises. He purifies them. He loves them. He is well-pleased in you for them. His death and resurrection perfect all the things you do—even when you come to worship for the wrong reason. The Law does its work so that God can have His way with you. He is gracious and merciful. You come into this place carrying sins that you don’t even remember, and you cry out for mercy. As He has done this very day for Carsyn, He has washed you clean in the waters of Holy Baptism. He speaks His Word of forgiveness. Even more than that, He sends you to the true Temple, to His own body and blood. He forgives you, heals you…restores you. He is glad you are here, no matter what it is that brings you. You may only be here to say thank you and be on your way, to drop your money in the plate and move on. But He intervenes and cleans your soul. He speaks and you are free.

Give thanks this day by receiving what He gives in His Body and His Blood. Your faith, that ultimate gift of grace, has saved you. There is nothing to pay, nothing to do. You are free. You are saved by grace. His mercy endures 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 keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Monday, August 22, 2016

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


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Mercy, Not Karma

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


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

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

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


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Mercy, Not Karma

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


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

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

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


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Diseased

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Saturday, August 13, 2016

My Take on the 2016 LCMS Convention



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully in Christ,

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

Sunday, August 07, 2016

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

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Coming to the Temple

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, August 01, 2016

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

Here's a link to the obituary.

                                   
“I Have Kept the Faith”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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