Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sermon for 12/13/17: Midweek Advent II

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Fear Not: Joseph

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

Joseph was a good man. He was righteous before God and his community. He was wise, caring, compassionate. If there had been romance novels 2000 years ago, Joseph was the kind of man after whom the novelists would model their male protagonists. He was honorable, just, and considerate, even to someone he thought had wronged him. After all, in our time, it would be a very rare man who would respect his ex and care enough about her to protect her reputation even after she supposedly cheated on him. There are videos all over the Internet with men who shame the women they previously claimed to love. Yeah, the man has been hurt, but that’s no reason for him to scream her infidelities to everyone with an Internet connection. Had he lived today, Joseph would have turned off his computer, put away his phone, and gone to his lawyer with as little fuss as possible. And once the deed was done, once Mary had been set aside with as little fanfare as he could manage, once the pain of betrayal had left his heart, maybe Joseph could have made a wonderful spouse for some other lucky woman.

But yes, he still would have gone ahead with the divorce. He was righteous, after all. Though he would grieve to set Mary aside, Joseph had a reputation to maintain, and Mary’s alleged infidelity would have shamed him and destroyed his reputation. The philosophers, not to mention the Scribes and Pharisees, would have approved of this worldly wise decision. This action balanced justice with fairness, righteousness with mercy. And yes, First Century romance novelists would have swooned in their writing workshops to encounter such a man. To do what is right in the eyes of the world seems wise. Look at how hard it is to live as a Christian today. The wise thing is to deny your faith—to bake the cake, to perform the wedding, to live together before marriage, to laugh at the crude joke—rather than risk the scorn of friends and neighbors. That’s the struggle Joseph faced.
And then the angel appeared to him in a dream to intervene. “Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David.” What the world counted as righteousness, the Lord called fear. The Lord sent His messenger to calm Joseph’s fear, for things were not what they had seemed. The Child was not the product of infidelity on Mary’s part; this Child was from the Holy Spirit. Mary’s virginity and her vow to Joseph remained intact. This Child, thought to be a sign of Mary’s unfaithfulness, was the promised Messiah. Joseph had wisely, in they eyes of the world, decided to set Mary aside; but the angel gave to Joseph God’s foolish option—foolish in the eyes of the world. The Lord sent His angel to give Joseph a better option than he could work out on his own. The circumstances did not change, but this message allowed Joseph to keep his honor before God and still keep his oath to Mary.
When the angel said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as wife,” Joseph was freed. Mary had not been unfaithful. She carried in her womb the One who had been promised to their first ancestors, who would crush the head of the satanic serpent. Mary’s pregnancy, which Joseph thought would bring him shame, would instead bring about the end of all the world’s shame and save all people from the wages of sin, for Mary bore in her womb the Child who came to bear all that shame, who came to die to pay the price of all the world’s sin.
In the end, Joseph remained the kind of man romance novelists would drool over. And what’s more, Joseph remained the man he strove to be: righteous before God, honorable among men, and faithful husband to faithful Mary. He was given the responsibility of being the step-father to the Son of God. Joseph lost nothing…nothing except his fear. God released him from his fear, and in doing so provided an earthly father for the Christ Child, the Child who frees us all from our fear, from our sin, from our captivity to death and the power of the devil. So as the angel said to Joseph, our Lord says to you also: “Do not be afraid!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sermon for 12/10/17: Second Sunday in Advent

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

The signs are all around us. The total solar eclipse back in August? That was a sign. The supermoon this past weekend? That was a sign. The war in Afghanistan? That’s a sign. The Black Lives Matter movement and the Blue Lives Matter movement? Signs. They tell us that Son of Man is coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. No one except God the Father can say exactly when that day will be, but the day is coming, and so is our Lord Jesus Christ. These signs we see constantly, all around us—they are fulfilled on every television, in every newspaper, in every hospital room, in every heart. Yet they’re so constant that we have become numb to them. And they’re so common that we’ve forgotten that these signs point, not to the end of the world, but to the Kingdom of God. And the Kingdom of God is near.
Don’t think that these signs just happen. When you hear of these things, and when your heart is filled with dread because you feel inside yourself what is happening all around you, remember that the Lord is allowing these things to happen. He is using the dread you feel in your heart. And He does this, not to scare you or threaten you or harass you, but to keep you focused on your goal, which is the Kingdom of God. He lets these things happen to you to draw you to Himself and to His Kingdom. After all, the Kingdom of God is not merely an “end of the world” thing. If our goal is to attain the Kingdom of God, then we must now be present, standing in the Kingdom of God on earth.
And where is this Kingdom of God on earth? It is here, present in the Holy Supper. Here we have a foretaste of the Kingdom which we will receive fully on the Last Day. While we long for and anxiously await our Lord’s second coming, we are not left comfortless and empty. Instead, we receive at the Supper an appetizer that wets our appetites for the eternal wedding feast.
How can this be? In the Kingdom of God, here at the Sacrament of the Altar, we receive the Spirit of God. He comes and lives in us. And by these holy mysteries of Word and Sacraments, the Spirit gives us the strength to strive and struggle, to push through and sacrifice, to have patience and trust so that we can endure and finally attain the fullness of the Lord’s kingdom. We do not achieve our goal by our own strength, but in the Holy Spirit.
We were made to live in this Kingdom. Our Lord tells us as much with these words: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” How can we look up? How can we lift up our heads and hearts to the Lord our God? Only because the Father, through His Son, gives us His Holy Spirit in and with the sacramental mysteries that we receive at the Supper.
Let nothing keep you from standing before God at the Holy Supper. Receive here the strength and comfort, the consolation and hope, the joy and gladness that He offers here in His Spirit. When you stand in God’s kingdom at this Feast, then you will have no fear of what is happening all around you. Instead, you will see these horrific signs for what they really are: signals of our Lord’s imminent return, and the realization of your true goal. For Christ is coming soon. 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.  

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Sermon for 12/6/17: Midweek Advent I

RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file. (Let me know if this works. I had to use a different device and method to record the sermon this evening.)
Fear Not: Mary

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

An angel appeared to Mary. It sounds so commonplace to us. “Oh, an angel. How nice. Ho hum.” When we think of angels, we probably think of those adorable little angel figurines with fat cheeks; maybe, if we’re old enough, we think of Michael Landon or Roma Downey and Della Reese. But this was no cutesy, chubby little cherub standing in front of Mary, no mild mannered, soft-spoken guardian in a sweater vest. This is a divine messenger from God, a being who reflects the holiness and righteousness of God. Some accounts count Gabriel among the archangels. A mere human standing before such a being would certainly have reason to be afraid—much like when a police officer, or maybe even a pastor, shows up at your door unannounced, only more terrifying, because at least the police officer and the pastor are common occurrences.
But that’s not what Mary finds so troubling, which is exceptional enough. But what about that news? “Mary, I know you’re a virgin, but you’re gonna have a baby. Oh, and it’s by the Holy Spirit.” How overwhelming is it to hear that you’ll be part of the fulfillment of the most important prophecies ever? You may recall that Isaiah said to King Ahaz, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” You may even recall what God said to Adam and Eve: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This Son, this Seed of a woman, this Child—promised to Adam and Eve, to Abraham the Patriarch, to King David, to King Ahaz, and to all those who clung by faith to that promise—this Child shall be the One to crush the head of the serpent. And Mary—sweet, virginal, innocent Mary—was chosen by God to be the Mother of God.
And that’s what so troubling to Mary. Gabriel wasn’t kidding when He said, “The Lord is with you.” The Lord through whom all things were made would reside in her womb. The Word made flesh to dwell among us would grow inside her until He would be born in Bethlehem. It would not be easy for Mary. She would be the object of scorn. Joseph, her betrothed, would seek to divorce her. And that’s just before the Child was born. Later, she would run through the streets of Jerusalem, looking for the Child who had wandered away from her to be in “His Father’s house.” Finally, she would stand at the foot of the cross upon which her Son would hang, weeping as she watched Him die. She may not have known all the details at first, but she knew this would be a rough life. Nevertheless she answered Gabriel, Let it be to me according to your word.” And Mary would be okay. After all, the Lord is with her.
And the same is true for you: The Lord is with you. You may not have the same struggles as Mary—certainly none of you are pregnant with the Messiah—but everyone has difficulties. No matter your vocation—father or mother, son or daughter, boss or worker, teacher or student, pastor or layperson, and all the rest—the Lord has given you tasks, and each one carries its own troubles, especially when you try to live according to your faith. Very little is sure.
But the one thing you can be sure of is this: the Lord is with you. And this is not some wishful thinking presence. He is with you physically, in the flesh, just as present with you now as He was in Mary’s womb. The Word became flesh. He has never stopped being flesh, and He has never stopped being present with you. He placed His name upon you in the waters of Holy Baptism. He speaks His Word into your ear—the same Word by which all things were created. He feeds you with His own flesh and blood, hidden in and under the bread and wine. He is present with you. Find Him in the font. Find him on the altar. Find Him where His Word is preached in truth and purity. Don’t worry that you can’t see Him; you have His promise, and His Word does not fail. So whatever it is that you face in your life, whatever the challenge, know this: the Lord is with you. “Do not be afraid!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Monday, December 04, 2017

Sermon for 12/3/17: First Sunday in Advent

Sorry it's been a while. I've been trying to get things back on track after a family adventure, and the blog has been a low priority. Thank you for your patience. 

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Greeting the Coming King

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

Jesus Christ—the Lord, the Savior, the King—He’s coming! The crowd was electric. Here comes Jesus, the descendant of King David, riding a donkey into the holy city, just like his famous ancestor did. Surely He is coming to save us from these evil Romans and from King Herod. The disciples had already put their cloaks on the donkey to make it fit for the King; the crowd followed suit, people laying their cloaks on the road and waving palm branches as if Jesus was on His way to be crowned.
He did not come to be that kind of king. Anyone who had paid attention to Him during His earthly ministry would know that. When Jesus was born, the Magi came to Herod, seeking the One who would be King of the Jews; old King Herod thought there was a usurper. But He did not come to be that kind of king. When He fed the 5,000, they wanted to crown Him king for the sake of His miraculous food. But He did not come to be that kind of king. The only two thrones Jesus would know would be the manger where He lay at His birth and the cross where He was raised up before those He came to save. He did not come to be an earthly king. He came to die.
Still, He was always greeted as King. When Jesus was born, the angels sang songs to the glory of God concerning the newborn Savior King. The magi greeted Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When Jesus entered into Jerusalem, riding a donkey, He was greeted with palm branches and shouts: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Even the Roman soldiers and Pilate the Governor hailed Jesus as King, even though it was in mockery. They adorned Him with a crown of thorns, wrapping Him in purple robes, placing a stick as a scepter in His hand; they knelt before Him; Pilate hung a sign over Christ’s head in which he called Jesus “King of the Jews.” Everyone knows: when Jesus comes, He comes as King.
This is the season of Advent. It’s as true today as it was two-thousand years ago: Jesus Christ, the Lord, the Savior, the King, is coming! So how do we greet Him appropriately? After all, “He comes to judge the nations, a terror to His foes, a light of consolation and blessed hope to those who love the lord’s appearing.” How does one greet a King? One honors him. Whether He’s the most wonderful king ever or the stingiest miser ever to sit on a throne, one does not dare to turn one’s back on the king. And so we kneel before Him. And then we beg for His indulgence. This morning it sounded like this: “Stir up, we implore you, your power, O Lord, and come that by your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and be saved by your mighty deliverance; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
And as the best of kings will do, He will answer graciously. He will, indeed, save us from our sins. He came into Jerusalem, heading for the cross. He came to die, and in doing so, to save us from our sins and from the death our sins earned us. After three days He rose again so that we would never die. He delivers that salvation to us this day in His body and blood, given for us to eat and drink for the remission of our sins.
This Advent season, as we kneel before our King, the only hope that we sinners have to rescue us from the “threatening perils” of our sins is the coming of our Lord—Jesus coming to us with His Cross-won gifts in the Sacrament of the Altar. What a wonderful gift from our most gracious King! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” 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 26, 2017

Sermon for 11/26/17: Last Sunday in the Church Year

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What Matters

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

There is nothing more important than the kingdom of heaven. Once it has been offered, presented, and given to you, let nothing take it from you. There is nothing that matters except the kingdom of heaven. But such an intense desire for nothing but the kingdom of heaven will force you to make hard decisions in life. The godly pursuit of the kingdom sets “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.” You will be reviled and mocked, falsely spoken against, endure all sorts of grief and heartache—all because you are striving for the kingdom of heaven. You will be forced to decide between what the world says is necessary for success, and what is necessary for salvation; between what satisfies you now, and what matters most; and between what is comfortable for now, and what truly comforts in the long run. The kingdom of heaven is all that really matters—because only the kingdom of heaven is true and real and sure and lasting in this life, as well as in the life of the world to come.
The kingdom of heaven is the only place where the faithful, both living and departed, gather to feast on the Lamb and hear once again the never-ending mercies of their God. The kingdom is your life, and you should let nothing keep you from it. Likewise, there is nothing that should capture your attention more than when you hear that the Bridegroom is coming. But do not misunderstand: the kingdom of heaven is already a present reality! The Bridegroom is here! The Banquet is ready! The Lamb sits on the throne, surrounded by the faithful! And the angelic choir together with the whole company of heaven is ready to sing, “Holy, holy, holy!”
Don’t let this moment pass you by. This isn’t just practice to get you ready for what is to come. That’s the thinking of the foolish virgins who were so caught up in living that they missed out on Life Himself. They were so focused on what they needed to do that they missed what they needed most. When the Bridegroom arrived and the doors to the kingdom were opened, they were not around. When the Supper was ready to be distributed, they were not in attendance. They can only beat on the door and cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” And what is the answer? “I do not know you.” That may sound harsh, but they were doing what they thought was best, not the will of God. “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of the heavenly Father.”
And what is the will of the heavenly Father? Look at the five wise virgins. They keep vigil outside the doors of the kingdom, eager to greet the Bridegroom, anticipating both His arrival and the Gospel He serves them. Even when the Bridegroom comes later than they expect, they have prepared by being filled with the oil of faith, for the kingdom of heaven cannot wait for them. The faithful wait in eager expectation for the coming of their Lord.
And these wise are not disappointed in their hope. The Bridegroom does not delay too long. He arrives at the appointed time, here in this place where the kingdom of heaven is already present. This is where the faithful departed gather with the faithful living. This is where the Lord’s kingdom comes. The Bridegroom makes His entrance. He serves His feast. He stands among you. He preaches, forgives, and blesses you, serving Himself to you as your food and drink. The Bridegroom is here, and He brought His Kingdom with Him. Receive Him as He comes to you in His Body and Blood. And as you do so, pray that you may attain to the fullness of His kingdom in the life of the world to come. For Christ is coming soon. 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.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sermon for 11/22-23/17: Thanksgiving

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Enduring Mercy

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

St. Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks.” By our way of thinking, that seems a bit extreme. Give thanks always for cancer? For war in the Middle East? Give thanks for divorce and runaways, for abused children and homeless families, for the deceptions perpetrated in abortion mills and for the babies that will never be born? How can we thank God for that? How can this be the Lord’s will? Only in this way: His mercy endures forever.
It is a bit sobering to realize that, as painful and sad as our lives might be, they are not as painful and sad as they could be. Even in war and cancer, even in pain and abuse, there is still some measure of mercy. There is no Hell on earth. Not ground zero in New York, not Jeffrey Dahmer’s basement, not even Stalin’s prisons were Hell on earth. Any of those places looks like a wonderful reprieve to souls in the never ending gnashing of teeth and torment in Hell. Hell is Hell. There is nothing on earth, no matter how horrific, that really compares. The pain of having God withdraw from your life is beyond all imagination. By God’s mercy in Jesus Christ there is only Hell in Hell. He stopped it from coming to earth. He intervened in the garden. And no man ever need endure or suffer it because His mercy endures forever. Thus do we always give thanks in all things, because bad as it is, is not as bad as it could be.
That is not to say that we actually give thanks for cancer or for war. Rather we give thanks in spite of cancer, war, abuse, injustice, and death. We give thanks that, as St. Paul says, “All things work together for good to those who love God…We give thanks for the mercies we receive in this vale of tears. As bad as it might be, we deserve worse according to God’s Law. If He recorded our sins, who could stand? Our suffering is not insignificant, but is not it the true price of our sins. Thus we give thanks.
We also give thanks and praise for the sure and certain mercy that will lead us through the baptismal sea, red with our Lord’s blood, and into the arms of the Father. The angel of death has no room for us. He passed over us because the doorposts of our singing hearts are marked with the blood of the Lamb. The angel will not lead us across the Styx and into Hades. He filled his boat at Mt. Golgotha. There is no room for us in the boat or in Hell. Our payment has been made. There is nothing left, nothing more for the devil or the Law to ask. There is no accusation remaining, because His mercy endures forever. And because His mercy endures forever, we give thanks.
This merciful sacrifice does not buy us passage into some fantasy land where we can play for all of eternity—some Disneyland in the sky with immaculate golf courses and stocked trout ponds. We do not go to the Fiddler’s green, the Elysian fields, or Valhalla to drink and do whatever else. We go to our Father’s house. We will enter the Bridal chamber prepared for us even before the foundation of the world, into the promised land flowing with milk and honey and grapes too big for one man to carry.
His mercy endures forever. And that is reason enough to give thanks in all things—whether the harvest comes in or not; whether our children honor us or not; whether the world lets Christians live their faith or not; whether our synod, our country, or our families endure or not. We give thanks always in all things because Jesus died but did not stay dead. He rose for us. He lives for us. We too shall live! This life is not all there is. For even as the worst and most torturous day here is not as bad as an instant in Hell, so also the very best day here, with family and friends and good food, in peace and quietness, cannot compare to what is to come. For His mercy endures forever. 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.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sermon for 11/19/17: Second-Last Sunady of the Church Year

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Living the Christ Within You

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

We are not judged faithful simply because we say we believe in God. What good is it if you say you believe in God, but you are not kind to your spouse, your children, your co-workers, or even strangers? As St. James tells us, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” On the other hand, others may say, “I have done many good things. I’ve been kind to many people. I’ve helped all kinds of folks. And I give money to the poor, and treat strangers with kindness.” If you must tell me about your works to prove your faith and justify your righteousness, then you do not yet have true faith. Just as true faith must come alive in love, so also good works must not be advertised, lest you shine the spotlight on yourself. Our Lord Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Works to glorify the Father is glorified—that requires faith mixed with true humility, and love combined with genuine meekness. Faith mixed with true humility says, “It is not I, but Christ who lives in me, that does these things.”
Faithful humility and loving meekness will be on display on the Last Day. For how will the faithful, blessed sheep answer the kindly, generous King? The faithful are stunned. They are dumb-struck. “When, Lord, did we do what you say? When did we show you any kindness, any love, any mercy?” As they see it, they failed the Lord. They certainly did not treat every soul as if they were dealing with the Lord. But that is the nature of true faith. True faith lives for another without caring about how it will come back later. And coupled with true faith is true love. True love sacrifices everything—reputation, pride, will, body, the whole self—for the good of another. True love conforms itself completely to whatever benefits the other. True love asks nothing for itself, instead seeking out new and different ways to please and satisfy and please another.
Again, consider the blessed faithful on the Last Day. They are commended because they sacrificed themselves entirely to care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. They gave no thought to germs or what others would think or if the other person would give a little something in return. They thought nothing of themselves, instead concerning themselves only with what was best for whomever they met. And they do this because that is how the Lord God deals not only with the faithful, but with all men and all creation. And these sanctified faithful see it, consider themselves unworthy of the Lord’s many kindnesses, and yet cannot help but live the mercy they’ve received.
So on the Last Day, the faithful are blessed and given the Father’s kingdom, but not because they worked for it with all that they did, and not because they believed it was theirs to possess. The faithful are blessed and given the kingdom because they lived the Christ within them—living for others, living the mercy they had received—astounded and grateful and joyful that the Lord had lived for them and, in the greatest of mysteries, in them and through them by faith.
Our Lord tells us about the blessed faithful so that we might strive to match their faith. And to make that possible, just as He did for them, He feeds our faith—a faith born in the waters of Holy Baptism, fanned from embers into a mighty flame by the power of the Word, and, yes, fed in our Lord’s body and blood—so that you may imitate their humble faith and meek love. In doing so, you live no longer for yourself, but for Him by living for others with the same mercy, love, and compassion that He has so richly and generously poured over you and into 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.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sermon for 10/15/17: Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Son and Lord

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

Jesus was like a juggernaut; He could not be stopped! First Jesus silenced the Sadducees when they tried to trap Him on the question of marriage. And then He tore through the Pharisees and their test about the greatest commandment and the nature of the Messiah. Those hypocrites needed to be set down a peg! The Lord deserves a standing ovation! But hold on there just a second. Jesus doesn't need our applause. He doesn't need any more people heaping honors on Him. He doesn't take the Pharisees to task just for the sake of scoring points. No, He does what He does to save you and me from our constant questioning of God.
Don’t bother to deny it: we interrogate our Lord all the time. We hold our little inquisition with God. We call upon Him to do what we want Him to do when we want Him to do it. We demand that He be the sort of God we think we need. When we lack money, we press Him to give us what we need…“and a little extra wouldn’t hurt either, Lord.” When there is a storm coming our way, we press Him to get to the work of being our God to save us. When our children are struggling or suffering, we storm the gates of heaven; we wonder why He allows such things to happen, and we demand that He fix what’s wrong. “Answer me the way I want, Lord! Take care of my problems, and be quick about it!”
Jesus changes the subject to save you. There can be no more asking questions about what kind of God He should be or how you think God should work for you. There can be no more testing God to make Him the sort of God you want Him to be. He directs you away from your fleshly desires, and He turns you to Himself. He pulls you away from your demands about what sort of God He is, and He leads you to a deeper confession of how the Father deals with you in Christ.
So let's talk about the Christ. “Whose Son is He?” Is the Christ David's Son or David's Lord? The answer is simple: He is both! The Christ is the Son of David and He is the Son of God. He is Son of David, having been born of the Virgin. He is the only-begotten Son of God. He is both God and man. He is Immanuel, “God with us,” God made flesh to dwell among His people.
St. Matthew says that after no one from the Pharisees, Sadducees, or the crowd dared to question Jesus again after this. And then, on Good Friday, one dared. The Roman Governor Pilate interrogated Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus, now bruised and beaten, answered, “It is as you say.” That's Jesus telling Pilate—telling you—that He is the Christ. He is both King David's Son and King David's Lord. And then, from Pilate, Jesus went to Cross to show you what it means that He is David's Son and David's Lord. His death counts for you. His death counts for all the times you interrogated and doubted God. His death counts for you once and for all. On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead. He raises you with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism. The Christ now sits at the right hand of God with all His enemies as a footstool under His feet. The devil, sin, death, and the world have all been defeated.
Today our Lord turns you aside. He keeps you from going on and on about what you think He should be doing. He is no longer your Mary Poppins or genie in a bottle to act according to your whims. Instead He says, “Enough about what you think. Here is what I did for you on the Cross. And here the daily bread you need to live.” David’s Lord died for you so that your old Adam would die with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism; and then the David’s Son rose to raise you with Him from those same waters. 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.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

PARODY: A collection of previously unreleased parodies

To apologize for not posting more lately, here's some parody fun for you.

Blest Be the Ties that Bind
(tune of "Blest Be the Tie that Binds")

1. Blest be the ties that bind
Our pastor's hands with "love".
He must commune my Druid aunt
Or we will make him move.

2. Can you believe? That man
Had the audacity
To say it's sin for my girlfriend
To share a bed with me.

3. Our children memorize
That Catechism stuff.
He wants to test them in the church
Though we say it's too tough.

4. We rule with iron fists
With money and with fear.
We will make both him and his wife
Break down in anguished tears.

5. From his closed-minded ways
And meddling we'll be free.
The elders soon will force him out.
Who needs the Word? Not me.

Great Is My Faithfulness
(to the tune of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness")

1 Great is my faithfulness. Why do I bother
Going to church when I'm better? You see?
I sinneth not. Thy compassions, I need not.
But I will give Thee my advice for free.

Great is my faithfulness.
Great is my faithfulness.
Do you not wish all the Church was like me?
I have no need
For what you have provided.
Great is my faithfulness.
Way to go, me!

2 I like to grease all the wheels of church justice.
All the advice they need, I will provide.
I speak today; Pastor is gone tomorrow.
After all, I am the one who should guide.

Great is my faithfulness.
Great is my faithfulness.
Do you not wish all the Church was like me?
I have no need
For what you have provided.
Great is my faithfulness.
Way to go, me!

Just a Closer Walk to Pee
(tune of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee", of course)

(refrain) Just a closer walk to pee
Build a bathroom is my plea
Outhouses are gross to me
Let me pee, dear Lord, let me pee.

1. Some can hold it all day long
Lord, my bladder's not that strong
Peeing pants in church is wrong
Yet I long, dear Lord, long to pee.

2. As I climb the outhouse stairs
I cannot quite make it there
Thankfully I brought some spare
Panty pairs, knowing this just might be.

3. When the sermon's fin'lly o'er
I will run to pee once more
While the elders hold the door
I think they might just build one for me.

Friday, September 29, 2017

HYMN: My Heart, O Lord, Is Grieved

I apologize for how long it has been since I've posted. I still have some sermons to post and will see about getting that done when I can, but I'm not really in a position to post them at the moment. Life has taken an odd and unfortunate turn, and I may say more about it later.

But in the midst of this odd and unfortunate turn, I've had some time--time to think, time to pray, and time to do a little bit of writing. Most of it has been for church things--my congregations, my circuit, my district--but life events have also inspired another  hymn text. This one is based on the propers for the Ninth Sunday After Trinity, and particularly the Epistle, I Corinthians 10:6-13. It also expresses some of what I'm feeling in this unexpected and unfortunate turn in life. 

Feedback is love. So are prayers.

My Heart, O Lord, Is Grieved

1. My heart, O Lord, is grieved,
Weighed down by cares and blame.
My fear and trust in You have failed.
My head is bowed in shame.

2. Surrounded by the world,
In torment from my grief,
Temptation is my legacy,
My woe without relief.

3. I bow before my Lord.
My guilt has humbled me.
O Christ, I call Your holy name.
I beg You, hear my plea.

4. Oh, save me by Your name.
Acquit me by Your might.
Display Your mercy unto me
And arm me for the fight.

5. When darkness overwhelms,
Oh, be my light of grace,
And vindicate me by Your blood
Which sin cannot displace.

6. And when temptation comes,
When terror grips my heart,
Sustain me as I face the trial
Of Satan's fiery dart.

7. O God, my faithful God,
My Helper and my Shield,
You are the Way of my escape,
O Christ, true Grace revealed.

(c) 2017 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
Occasion: Trinity IX; Affliction and Temptation; I Corinthians 10:6-13

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sermon for 9/17/17: Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

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

            When we pray for God to give us an increase of faith, hope and love, we are admitting that we fail in faith; that our hopes are often wrong-headed; and that our love is self-serving. Our prayer admits that we too often take matters into our own hands without patiently trusting the Lord to be our defense; that our hopes and desires are set on gratifying our passions and what we believe is fair; that love for others—especially those who hurt us or hate us—often gives way to anger and hatred.
            And so we pray precisely because we do not love what He commands;  because we confess that, apart from His endless mercy, we will not obtain the inheritance, the kingdom, the life He promises. And we pray because, by fulfilling our flesh, we have sinned against the Spirit. And we pray because we give into hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, and envy; and because we sincerely desire to partake of the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
            Our prayer must always be, “Lord, have mercy.” For if the Lord does not have mercy, then faith, hope and love vanish. For who will want to believe in a God who treats us like we treat each other? Who wants to hope for God’s justice to be as strict and quick as ours? And who can love a God whose love is as self-centered as ours?
            So it is the Lord’s mercy we seek when we pray—a mercy that does not deal with us as we deserve; a mercy that overrides His anger and ours; a mercy that squelches our meanness and gives birth to true brotherly love; a mercy that betters us; and most of all, a mercy that gives us an increase of faith, hope and love.
            But our ingratitude and even our abuse of the Lord’s costly mercy does not stop His mercy; it does not turn Him against us. He does not undo what He in mercy has done. The lack of thankfulness of the nine lepers who did not return did not bring back their leprosy; they were still healed. They tasted the Lord’s mercy, although they did not savor it.
            But to those who return in praise and thanksgiving; to those who sacrifice their notions, passions and ambitions; to those who offer the Lord all they are and all they have in appreciation for the mercy they have received—they receive from the Lord not only mercy but also His blessing; not just the things that make for this life, but also the things that usher us safely into the Kingdom of heaven. This leper who returns, this Samaritan, cares less about being certified “clean” than he does about worshiping the Lord Jesus who healed him. So he returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. There, by that humble act, you see the Holy Spirit at work. There you see a man who confesses that he is undeserving of any gift from God and who begins to live from the mercy he has received. For living in the Lord’s mercy begins not by doing for others, but by receiving more and more from the Lord’s hand, to partake in the love, the forgiveness, the compassion, the strength, and the mercy that Our Lord Jesus is and gives.
            And then the Spirit works again—so that you are merciful, just as your heavenly Father has been merciful to you; so that you lay aside all grudges, all notions of revenge, all hatred, all ill-speaking; so that you live not to gratify your lusts and desires, but to walk in the Spirit with the saints toward the kingdom which is your ultimate goal. Toward this end, may the Lord continue His mercy to us, within us, and among us. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sermon for 9/10/17: Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Mercy for Enemies

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

The Lord does not give His mercy to those insist they ought to have it. He gives His mercy solely from His fatherly, divine goodness, without any merit or worthiness in us. “His mercy is on those who fear Him.” He gives mercy to those who see no way out. He gives it to lift up those who have been laid low—the penitent sinner, the hopeless parent, the blind, the leper, the unloved and disrespected and despised and guilty. These are the people who fill pews. These are the people who pray, “Lord, have mercy.”
The young lawyer was blinded by his pride. He would not see that he was in need of the Lord’s mercy. It was pride that drove him to stand up, believing he was better than others—even better than Jesus. It was pride that caused him to think that he could trap Jesus. It was pride that urged the lawyer to believe that he had already succeeded in loving God with all he was. So it was the man’s pride that Jesus used to trap him.
To omit mercy in dealing with neighbors; to omit mercy by refusing to forgive as the Lord has forgiven you; to omit mercy by insisting that others meet your conditions; to omit mercy by shoving aside those who don’t please you; to omit mercy by refusing to see that anyone you come into contact with is your God-given neighbor—that is where this young lawyer stumbled, where his pride threatened his inheritance of eternal life. So did the lawyer beg for mercy? He would never stoop so low.
But we cry out for mercy. So when we go down on our knees and plead for the Lord to overlook our sins, when we sing, “Lord, have mercy upon us”—do we let the Lord’s mercy stop with us? Do we let it die within our hearts by storing up anger or resentment? Do we live only for ourselves? The Lord gives His mercy for only one reason: so that it has its way with us, so that His mercy is lived in through us toward everyone—without demands, without conditions, without envy, without pettiness.
That is what the Good Samaritan does. And this Good Samaritan is none other that our Lord Jesus. Just as the Samaritan poured on his enemy the healing medicine of oil and wine, so our Lord pours over us His watered blood in Holy Baptism and then nurses us back to spiritual health with His Body and Blood. Just the Samarian carts the man off to the inn so that he might safely be cared for, so our Lord compassionately and willingly sets us within His holy Body, the Church, so that His preaching and sacraments would see us safely to the kingdom of heaven.
The Good Samaritan is the very picture of our Lord Jesus. Yet with this parable, Our Lord is also telling the young lawyer—and us—that the Samaritan is equally the very picture of our life in God. For we are to “be merciful, just as our Father also is merciful.” “For if you will not love your brother, whom you can see, how can you love God, whom you have not seen?” So we are to love all people, even our enemies. You are to bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” So we show mercy to our brothers and sisters in Christ who sin against us, to the atheist who wants us to keep our mouths shut, and even to the radical Muslim who wants us dead.
And let us remember why we cry out for and rely upon our Lord’s mercy: He is truly “ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness and great in mercy. Even to sinners like us who deserve from Him nothing but punishment and hell, Our Lord readily and mercifully gives us His Holy Spirit so we live in Him and His abundant mercy, even as He lives His love in and through us toward all 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.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sermon for 9/3/17: Twelfth Sunday After Trinity

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A New Creation

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

Mark is the only Gospel that records for us the details of Jesus’ encounter with this deaf man, this man whose friends brought him forth so that Jesus could give Him a blessing. And what a blessing he received! Jesus spoke the Aramaic word, “Ephphatha!” which means, “Be opened!” And the ear in which Jesus had placed His finger was opened! He spoke the Word, and His Word made it happen! What a blessing that deaf man received from Jesus! And you receive the same blessing from Jesus today!
That word, “Ephphatha,” is the same Word that Jesus speaks today to each and every one of us. We are all born with the inability to hear the Word of God. When God created man, man had perfect hearing, of course; Adam and Eve listened to every Word from God with loving obedience and carried out God’s commands perfectly. But Satan got Eve and then Adam to listen to his words rather than God’s Word.
Only God’s Word has the power to create. Any other word is a destructive word. Think about the destruction our ungodly words of gossip cause, destroying good reputations, changing the way you look at people. Think about the damage we cause when we speak a word of judgment against another person, breaking that person’s trust in us, radically altering that relationship. And just as destructive was Satan’s word of deceit in the ears of Adam and Eve. The devil’s false doctrine left us completely deaf to God’s Word, and the man unable to hear God’s Word about his sinful condition is also not aware of sin’s wages.
But thanks be to God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. “He has given me my body and soul, my eyes, ears and all my members…and still preserves them.” He who created our ears knows how to re-create those ears and restore our ability to hear His Word. The Son of God, who participated with the Father and the Spirit to create of the world, came into the world in the flesh of man to re-create man’s fallen flesh. Jesus is the Word of God in the flesh, who came to live life fully by the Word of God for all, who came to suffer the full consequences of our inability to hear and obey God’s Word, suffering the sinner’s death and the sinner’s Hell for us. In doing all of this, the Creator once again was at work, restoring His creation by the forgiveness of our sins in Christ Jesus. By His life and death and resurrection from the dead for us, our salvation is complete. Nothing more needs to be done for our salvation; Jesus has done it all for us!
That Word of Jesus Christ has come to us today. It comes to us in the Word that is joined to the water of Holy Baptism, entering our ears, washing away everything that had been blocking them from hearing His gracious Word. The Word of Jesus comes to us, joined to the bread and wine at the Lord’s Table to be the very Body and Blood of the Christ Himself, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
The Word of God with all its creative power comes to us through the Words of Holy Scripture. It creates in us new life—a new life of faith for all of our days. In this new life we hear God‘s Word with loving obedience, carrying out His commands by His Holy Spirit. Having been washed in Christ’s blood, we are a new creation. We no longer speak our own destructive words. We share His Word with others in speech and in deed, so that, by our testimony, all the world might join us around the heavenly throne of Christ Jesus. And that is a powerful Word! 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 29, 2017

CHILDREN'S STORY: Augustine the Hippo

Here's a little children's story that popped into my head. Take it for what it's worth. (And yes, I realize I didn't talk about baptism or confession or the Lord's Supper.)

Augustine the Hippo

There was once a hippo. His name was Augustine. Everybody called him “Gus.”

Gus was a smart hippo. He knew his letters. He knew his numbers. He listened to his mom.

Then his mom said, “Gus, you’re a smart hippo. You know your letters. You know your numbers. You listen to you mom.”

“Now I want to teach you the best thing of all. I want to teach you about God’s Word. I want to teach you about Jesus.”

But Gus said, “Mom, I AM a smart hippo. I know my letters. I know my numbers. I don’t need to know about Jesus. I need to have fun.”

And Gus went to play with his friends.

One day, Gus met Ambrose. Ambrose was a smart hippo too. He knew his letters. He knew his numbers. He listened to his mom.

Gus and Ambrose became friends. They played together all the time.

Then Gus saw Ambrose reading his Bible. Gus said, “Put that away! I want to have fun!”

Ambrose said, “I have fun reading God’s Word. I have fun learning about Jesus.”

Gus was surprised. He said, “You can have fun learning about Jesus?” And Ambrose showed Gus how he had fun reading God’s Word.

And Gus and Ambrose had fun together, reading the Bible and learning about Jesus.

Gus went home and said to his mom, “Mom, Ambrose and I had fun learning about Jesus.”

His mom hugged him and said, “Gus, that makes me very happy. Jesus is the best thing of all. You are a very smart hippo!

The End

© 2017, Alan Kornacki, Jr.