Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sermon for 11/29/15: First 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. 

He wasn’t waving to the crowds from an expensive sports car. He wasn’t riding on a fancy parade float. He wasn’t dressed in a fancy tuxedo with a sash to proclaim Him the homecoming King. Jesus is the King—the great King of kings and Lord of lords, worthy of a glorious parade to surpass the wonder of Caesar riding victorious into Rome. But He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The power of God is hidden in the weakness of human flesh. He has come to Jerusalem as the priceless Ransom to purchase sinners with His blood. He has come to be enthroned on the cross. He has come to die.

He comes with power, but He is known in weakness. He is the Lord of Life, but chiefly we celebrate His death. He came before; He will come again. Though His triumphant entry into Jerusalem was made in humility, in the fullness of time He will come in glory. Every knee will bow; every tongue will confess, “Jesus is Lord.” Both the good and the evil will know and confess the truth—the good to their everlasting joy, and the evil to their everlasting despair and shame. All of creation will know what the angels already know. The dogs, trees, rocks, and birds will see your faith, your burning lamp of hope. The world will see the sons of God as the sons of God; they will see you in whom God is well-pleased. Jesus will come in glory; the Kingdom of power will be known. It will be seen in you. This is why we pray: “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins, and save us by Your promised deliverance.”

Jesus comes already now. He comes in power hidden in weakness. It is not the power of might and strength as the world counts such things. It is the power of love, of deliverance and protection. It is the power of sacrifice. This grace has made Him your Lord. He rules in you through forgiveness. He comes in humble things, things that you might look upon Him and not be destroyed. God has a face. By faith you gaze upon the face of the Child born of Mary, the face of a Man. And though He was despised and rejected, He is beautiful to you. He is wonderful. Though He comes in weakness, He is mighty. His feet, pierced and scarred, are most beautiful, for He brings Good News from God. He has reconciled you to His Father. He has opened heaven. He fulfills His promise. He keeps His Word. He is your God, and you, by grace, are His people, His beloved Bride.

He comes now in power. He is not some random god far off. He is our present, promise-making, promise-keeping God. He knows no borders or limits. He abides in the flesh of a mortal Man made immortal, raised and exalted. A Man sits at the right hand of God and rules the Universe. He is God and Man, and through Him, man is welcome in heaven. He is in heaven, but He is also here. He is hidden from the world and yet present—hidden in the water, hidden under bread and wine, hidden in the voice of His messengers, but present and powerful. He is seen by faith, and He reveals Himself to you in His Word and holy gifts. The Kingdom of heaven, the Kingdom of power, glory, and grace, is within you.

This is a strange parade, not at all what one would expect of a procession to honor the God who dwells among His people. That eternal parade of well-deserved glory will come in due time, at a time which only the Father knows. As we wait for that day, Jesus continues to come among us. He continues to come to you humbly, hidden, but no less powerful—for in those humble ways, He comes to save you. We continue to pray, “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come.” 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.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Sermon for 11/25/15: Eve of the Day of National Thanksgiving

Audio: RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.


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

Wouldn’t it be nice to have so much of what you need or want that you have to build bigger buildings to hold it? Wouldn’t it be great if your harvest was so plentiful that you needed extra trucks to carry it to the silo? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if that year-end bonus was so large that you had to open an extra bank account? Wouldn’t it be exciting if your team scored so many points that the scoreboard couldn’t count that high? Wouldn’t those be wonderful problems to have? It would be hard, in fact, to even consider those to be problems. If only all our problems would be so taxing! May the Lord smite me with it! May I never recover!

But whether one is rich or poor, the wealth of this world comes with problems of its own. The rich man has been blessed to abundance by God with daily bread.  He has everything he needs to support his body and life for many days.  So this rich man sits in his easy chair and thinks, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” It is not sinful to be rich. It is not sinful to enjoy the blessings which the Lord provides for you. But it is sinful to ignore the source of your blessings. This rich man forgot the God who made him and blessed him.  He was not interested in the things of God. He was interested in happiness; he was interested in the pleasures of this life. He was interested in himself instead of being interested in God.

The psalms have a word for those who are not interested in God. Twice the psalmist says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” That is exactly what God called this rich man.  God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Or as Jesus said elsewhere, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

That is the problem on our hands, while we gather to give God thanks at this traditional time of thanksgiving in our nation. When we take stock of the harvest of blessings that God has poured out for us, we see that God has blessed us plentifully, with blessings beyond our ability to store them up. He has poured His blessings generously into our homes, workplaces, schools, government buildings, and the Church, beyond the capability of these man-made buildings to hold them all. And while we, who have been made so rich by God, consider with wonder this great bounty, we are right to ponder the wonderful problem this presents to us: “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?” What shall you do, rich people? My brothers and sisters in Christ, repent, lest you be found by the Lord to be a fool.

This bounty of blessings is provided by God to make us wise unto salvation.  Our Heavenly Father provides “all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” The Lord gives graciously so that we learn the truth that the Lord is gracious and full of compassion. Although a man’s life soon ends, there is yet time to turn away from the way of the fool and to walk the way of the wise, those who walk in the light of the Son of God who is abundant in mercy. It is in our Savior Jesus that we see the full bounty of God’s grace and compassion and love. It is in our Savior Jesus that we find the full abundance of God’s blessings upon us. It is in our Savior Jesus we fully grasp the truth that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Even so, God the Father now hands down to you every heavenly blessing in Christ Jesus, in overflowing abundance.  He has blessed you with forgiveness of all of your sins in the holy washing of your Baptism.  He has blessed you with the promise of eternity in the world to come through the proclamation of His Holy Gospel.  He has blessed you with a new life marked by continual thanksgiving through the Feast of His Body and Blood.

So yes, my brothers and sisters in Christ: eat, drink, and be merry; rejoice, giving thanks to God for all of the blessings that He has poured out upon you. Enjoy them, and enjoy sharing them with your neighbor, for our gracious Father will continue to provide all that you need: both for this life and for the life to come. 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, November 25, 2015

Sermon for 11/22/15: Last Sunday in the Church Year

Audio link: RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.

Enough Oil

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

If only we had the same urgency of heart and mind to be ready for our heavenly Bridegroom, the Lord Christ, that we have pursuing all the things we think are so important in this life! If only we so eagerly awaited our Lord's return with the same energy and zeal that we store up for the start of football season or summer vacation! "Sleepers, wake!" says the Apostle, and in the Lord's parable: "Behold! The Bridegroom is coming!" Dear Christians, this is no time to be fooling around with how much oil is in our lamps! Now is not the time to wonder whether we can go get some oil and still make it to the wedding feast! When the Bridegroom arrives, the doors are shut! And while those who are outside may have been invited to the wedding, once the doors are closed, they are unknown to the Bridegroom.

Jesus tells this parable in order to save us. He speaks to us of these five virgins who are wise and the five who are morons in order to rescue us from the fate of those foolish ones. Likewise also the Lord's apostle St. Paul warns the Thessalonians and us about the Lord's coming so that we are not caught unawares but rather whether asleep or awake—that is, living or dead—we are ready to rejoice when the Bridegroom shows up. The world goes blissfully, ignorantly on its way, never considering that there will be a day when everyone will try to get into the wedding feast, but only those who have oil for their lamps will be behind those closed doors! Aside from the most die-hard atheists, doesn't everyone want to get to heaven? People fly planes into buildings and blow themselves up thinking that will get them straight to paradise! People pay money for preachers to tell them the steps they need to take to get themselves right with God and get to heaven on the Last Day. People live their lives to be as good as possible in the hopes that they might get in. But all such faith and trust in ourselves is a damning trust. So Jesus tells us about the wise and foolish virgins to rescue us from the religion of the world, the notions of our sinful flesh, and the seductive lies of the Devil. He preaches to us to save us and bring us to everlasting life.

The oil is what matters, but it’s not something we can get for ourselves. The oil is what Christ pours forth from Himself. The oil in our lamps is the Spirit and the Gospel and the Body and Blood and the water of Holy Baptism. The oil is the means of grace—the Gospel and Sacraments—and the Holy Spirit and faith, all of which go together and none of which can be apart from the others. To be ready for the Bridegroom is nothing other than to be filled with the gifts of Christ, to be filled to overflowing. The Lord always has more! “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The wise virgins are those whose lamps are full of this oil. You are ready for our Lord's return because your lamps are full of this oil. You have been baptized. You have been absolved. You have heard the Gospel preached to you. You have feasted on the Body and Blood of Christ. All these things will be given to you over and over until the day that you die and are with Christ as the angels cry, "Behold the Bridegroom!"

My dear Christians, that Day will come; those doors will be shut. If you believe you have enough oil, then tremble in fear at the prospect that you will be shut out on that Day! But if you know that you can never have enough oil; if you must make sure your lamp and vessel are filled; if you recognize your need to live every day in your Baptism, to confess your sins, to grow in the Word and feast at the Holy Supper, then rejoice! Wake up! The Bridegroom is coming! He comes to gather you to His wedding feast and take you as His own for all eternity. He has filled your lamp and shall keep it full. He’s 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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PARODY: Ain't That a Slap to the Head

Something special for my 600th blog post...

In honor of St. Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6, a parody of "Ain't That a Kick in the Head," made famous by Dean Martin. Hat Tip to Joshua Reynolds for the idea.

Ain't That a Slap to the Head

How stupid can one man be
To spout public heresy?
Like Saint Nicholas said,
"Ain't that a slap to the head?"

To say that the Son was made
Is madness of highest grade.
Like ol' Saint Nick said, quote,
Your heresy gets my goat.

Your head is spinnin'.
Arius, you won't be winnin'.
Nicea's just the beginnin'.
Rightful confession is...beautiful!

I'll swing 'til your face is red.
I'll revoke your clergy cred.
Tell me, chap:
Aint that a slap to the head?

Like Saint Nicholas said,
"Ain't that a slap to the head?"

Like ol' Saint Nick said, quote,
Your heresy gets my goat.

Your head is spinnin'.
Arius, you won't be winnin'.
Nicea's just the beginnin'.
Rightful confession is...beautiful!

False prophet, you've made your bed.
Repent of the lies you've spread.
Tell me, chap:
Aint that a slap to the head?

Tell me, chap:
Oh, ain't that a slap?
Tell me, chap:
Aint that a slap to the head?

(c) 1960, 2015, Sammy Cahn and Alan Kornacki

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sermon for 11/15/15: Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

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Sheep by Grace

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

It is the truth: we are not saved by works; we don’t get right with God by what we do. We can hear it over and over, but we find it hard to believe. We can hear that it is by grace that we have been saved, but there is still a part of us, no matter how small, that still supposes that we’d better end up with more good works than sins on the Last Day. There’s still that way of thinking which infects even Christians that, when we stand before the Lord on that Day, we will have to show positive good balance sheet or else we’re doomed. We can hear that Jesus saves us. We can hear that Christ lives in us and does good works for others in and through us. But we still suppose, even if just a little, that we had better have something to show for ourselves when we face the Lord at the End. So to rescue us from that thinking, Jesus tells us how it’s going to be. Sheep have done good works. They may not even know it! But they have done them. And it pleases the King. And the King gives them an everlasting inheritance forever with Him. But those gifts are not because of their works.

Two things in the story prove this. First of all when we stand before the Lord, we are already sheep and goats. Jesus doesn’t even address their good works of helping others until they’ve been separated. Secondly, the kingdom has been prepared for them from “before the foundation of the world”—before they were even born or had done anything for anyone! What ties these together is Christ, for He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was the sacrifice for our sins before we had even sinned! He is the Good Shepherd who brings us into His flock, the Church. He is the one who gives His life on the cross to take away our sins, who rises from the dead to gives us life. Jesus not only saves us from our sins; He also sets us apart for good works. And He even does those good works in and through us. He makes all that you do into something good because He has forgiven whatever is evil and makes holy everything else. Jesus rescues us from thinking our good works have any purpose toward our salvation.

So the question is, how do you know whether you are a sheep or goat before that Last Day? You don’t write down a list of what you’ve done. You don’t keep track of good versus bad on your balance sheet. No, you hear your pastor tell you: You are a sheep: already, now, because of Jesus. You were made a sheep when you were baptized. The very Christ who lives in and through you does so because His Word of forgiveness fills your ears, His absolution declares your sins null and void, and His body and blood are in you to raise you up on the Last Day.

So go and live your life. Go and serve others. Forgive their sins as you have been forgiven. Bear their burdens as your burdens have been carried. Carry out your callings as forgiven children of God in Christ. And then, when you stand before the King on the Last Day, He shall praise the things you’ve done—you won’t even know the half of what you’ve actually done in Him and for others. And until that day, don’t worry whether you’re a sheep. You are. Jesus has made you so. And that means you’ve got an everlasting kingdom waiting for you, and it has been ready since long before you could try to earn it or deserve it. It’s yours, a free gift from your Father in heaven. 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, November 11, 2015

PARODY: Red Starbucks Cup

Facebook has blown up over the stupidity of one or two (or maybe a dozen) so-called Christians who may or may not be objecting to the lack of Christmas messages on Starbucks cups. So with that in mind, I decided to put pen to paper once again for the purpose of parody. Here's my humble effort.

Red Starbucks Cup
(parody of “Red Solo Cup”)

Now a red Starbucks cup ends pumpkin spice season,
But there’s no “Merry Christmas” for some unknown reason,
And taking it off does not seem too pleasin’
To one or two Christians, it seems.

While most true believers don’t seem to be bitter,
Social media seems to have gone all a-twitter
‘Cause some silly bleaters with hearts all a-flitter
View these plain, red cups and scream.

(refrain) Red Starbucks cup, no tree? What’s up?
Let’s all sound stupid. Let’s all sound stupid.
Red Starbucks cup, my dander’s up.
Proceed to stupid. Proceed to stupid.

Now I really love your overpriced Joe,
But it seems like you’re bashing on Christmas, you know?
And we take our holidays serious, yo.
So that, my friends, makes us sad.

But I have to admit it makes Christians sound silly
When we call for boycotts of stores willy-nilly,
Is it Starbucks’ job to share Christmastime, really?
Come on folks. This just sounds bad.

(refrain) Red Starbucks cup, no tree? What’s up?
Let’s all sound stupid. Let’s all sound stupid.
Red Starbucks cup, my dander’s up.
Proceed to stupid. Proceed to stupid.

My bros and sisters in Christ, please be thinkin’.
This shaken black tea lemonade I’ve been drinkin’
Does not mean that any of us should be shrinkin’
From sharing Christ’s love on our own.

You few so-called Christian objectors, you’re crazy…
Or silly, or foolish, or maybe just lazy.
One thing’s for sure, your thinking is hazy.
Your whining is so overblown.

Red Starbucks cup, yes, you’re just a cup.
You’re caffeine.
Thank you for being caffeine.

(refrain) Red Starbucks cup, no tree? What’s up?
Let’s all sound stupid. Let’s all sound stupid.
Red Starbucks cup, my dander’s up.
Proceed to stupid. Proceed to stupid. (repeat)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Sermon for 11/8/15: Third-last Sunday of the Church Year

Audio link: RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save.


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 
Sun and moon shall darkened be,
Stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee;
Christ will then like lightning shine,
All will see His glorious sign...
We have seen the signs; the days are at hand. Have we seen false christs and false prophets? Just turn on the television, and Joel Osteen’s shining teeth and false promises are staring back at you. Within the visible Church, faithless Christians and false pastors ridicule such things as the Lord’s Prayer and the Creeds which confess the very Word of God, and replace them with liturgies which spring from the hearts of men and prayers for earthly riches. They take the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which are the work of God to forgive sinners and give them life, and turn them into decisions by which sinful men claim to prove their faith to the world and earn their place before God. Have we seen people pretending to know when Jesus is coming and where He will be? In the last month, another prophecy of the return of Christ has proven false—just one of many such predictions that have come and gone. If that’s not enough to convince you the day is at hand, remember this: the world praises laziness, abortion, lust, and everything else the Word of God calls evil, and it vilifies what the Word of God calls good and just and right. We are living in the days of which Jesus spoke. We are in the midst of the great tribulation, as indeed have been all who have lived by faith since Christ ascended.

Between all the horrors of a fallen world and the temptations of a false spirituality, the baptized are as surrounded by evil as Noah and his family before the flood. The life of a Christian is not a life of ease, nor does Jesus promise it will be; in fact, the opposite is true, for Jesus promises us that we will be persecuted because our Lord is despised by the world. Our life in Christ is a life lived under the cross. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something; a preacher who tells you that this is your best life is looking to add an addition to his mansion. Even in those instances where life is comfortable, when the weight of the cross isn’t as cumbersome, do not give into the temptation of believing this is God’s thank-you gift for your life of faith, lest you become so attached to your earthly blessings that you forget the things of God.

Our Lord knows we will go running for Him where He will not be found. He knows we will look for Him under every nook and cranny, thinking He will appear secretly to us first, before He appears to the rest of the world. Rest assured, we will know along with the rest of the world when Jesus returns visibly to judge the living and the dead. That’s a certainty that should put us at ease.

Jesus does give us the tiniest of hints about the when of Judgment Day. When we see or hear those false christs and false prophets who claim to have that “new revelation” or “insider information” concerning the End Times, we should stop walking toward them and put a finger in our ears. But hasn’t this been going on for a long time? Precisely! That’s why Paul says therefore comfort one another with these words. Though we might not think judgment is comforting, it is. Judgment is a certainty proclaimed in the Bible. We believe the Bible to be God’s error-free Word to us. No matter what anyone else says or does, we have the certainty of Holy Scripture that tells us the Truth about the faith.

Though we may not know what tomorrow holds, we know there is a bright future for those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Though we are sinners living in a sinful world, we live in the sure and certain hope of eternal life. While we live here, God feeds our faith through certain things. He attaches forgiveness, life, and salvation to words, water, bread, and wine. We believe that these means certainly sustain us until Jesus comes again to take us home.

The life in Christ through Word and Sacrament is certainty amid the mountains and valleys of uncertainty we tread every day. God’s people gather around God’s altar and pulpit to be comforted with God’s Word. His Word says Jesus will return as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west. Before you know it, the Lord is come, the dead will rise, the living will be caught up in the air with Christ, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. This is our certain hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 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.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Sermon for 11/1/15: Feast of All Saints

Audio Link: Right-click here to save.

Saints Now and Eternally

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

The most popular preachers are those who want you to believe that, if you are a Christian, your life will be better. You will be "blessed" with riches and your problems will disappear. Apparently they have not read the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells us that you are blessed when you have nothing but Christ, when the world hates you because of Him. The devil hates Jesus. The world hates Jesus. Your own flesh hates Him! All three of those enemies are after you because you belong to Jesus. The devil’s highest goal is to get you to stop trusting in Jesus. He wants you to believe that God is going to punish you. Dear saints of God, don’t believe him. We saw St. John's vision in the book of Revelation. The robes of the saints are white. You have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Satan can accuse you all he wants, but it doesn't change the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, died for your sins and blotted them out by the blood that He shed on the cross. The devil says you're no saint, but the Lord says you are His. Are you going to believe the father of lies or your heavenly Father? Dear Christian, your whole life, you will struggle to believe you are a saint when the devil says you aren't. But thanks be to God in Christ, whose death and resurrection wipe out your sins and defeat the devil's lies.

But there's more suffering for Christ's saints in this life. The world hates you because of Jesus. Jesus says, "Blessed are you when you are persecuted for my sake." That means the world doesn't just hate you because of you. It hates you because you are in Christ. It hates you because you desire to do good and to make peace and to be merciful to others, because you desire to live like Christ. Sometimes we try to do good, and it seems like the world pays us back with trouble and difficulty and misery. What did you expect? The world hates Christ and so it hates those who are His. The mere fact that you are baptized is an accusation against a world that despises Christ and His gift of eternal life. So the world will hate you. It is your connection to Jesus that earns you the scorn and bitterness of this world. The world hates Christ. It put Him to death. But He has risen! He has overcome this world. And you will overcome it too.

There is still more suffering and struggle for Christ's saints! Our own sinful flesh hates Jesus too. It rebels. It struggles. It wants to break free. It wants to toss Jesus out and go back to enjoying the favor and temptations of the world. It's bad enough to have Satan and the world against us because of Jesus, but our own flesh? We are temples of the Holy Spirit, and in us the Spirit does battle against our flesh. Your sinful nature wants nothing to do with Jesus or righteousness or God's Word or loving others. It wants to live and do its own thing. So the sinful nature has got to go. So it is that the Old Adam within us gets drowned at the font in Baptism. That Old Adam is silenced by the words of absolution and purged by the body and blood of Jesus within you. It is those gifts of Jesus that make you saints. And that is our struggle: that when we act like pagan sinners, the Lord still calls us saints! That is the Spirit at work within you, so you may believe your sins are forgiven and that you are God's children. When you see Jesus face to face, you will see what God Himself has made you: a new creation by His Word and sacraments!

If you listen to the beatitudes closely, you will see that He describes His saints in this life, but He describes gifts which are for the life to come. That's the struggle of saints. We know our Lord has given us forgiveness of sins and eternal life. We know the glory of the Lamb's throne in paradise awaits us. Until that day, we live as saints whose hope is in Christ's promises. The Lord calls us blessed even though we are targets of the Devil. The Lord says we are blessed even though we are hated by the world. The Lord says we are blessed even though our sinful flesh could care less. You are baptized, absolved, fed with Christ’s body and blood. That's what makes you a saint!

But it is a mighty struggle with such great enemies out to get us. That is why we celebrate All Saints' Day! We are blessed to see the gifts of Christ in the saints who have gone before us: saints who were fed to the lions or burned like torches; saints who were skinned alive or exiled to dismal places; saints who witnessed to kings. The saints who are in heaven are the saints who heard the preaching of Christ in all times and all places, like our own parents and children who have gone before us, delivered from this evil world and brought into the glory of Christ's heavenly throne. When we sing in the liturgy, Sunday after Sunday, about "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven," we are rejoicing that our Lord really keeps His promises. He really does preserve His saints through their hardships and struggles. He really does indeed deliver His saints from their enemies. He has done it for them, and He will do it for you. After all, you are saints. Jesus says so. 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, October 29, 2015

Sermon for 10/25/15: Festival of the Reformation (observed)

Audio: RIGHT-CLICK to save...

Abiding in the Word

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

Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” That what the Lutheran Reformation was all about: getting the people back into the Word. Before the Reformation, only the clergy, some of the ruling class, and the intellectual elite could understand what was going on because the Bible, the liturgy, and everything sung during the Mass were all in Latin. Now, just because the common people couldn’t understand what was going on, that doesn’t mean the Word wasn’t able still to work in their hearts. But Luther translated into German the Bible and eventually the liturgy, and he wrote, translated and encouraged others to write and translate hymns, so the people could know and participate and live and abide in the Word of God. With the advent of the Gutenberg’s printing press, the Word of God was put into the hands of everyone who wanted it. What a wonderful blessing it is for everyone in the Church to be able to have access to the whole of Scripture. It is the gift of Pentecost all over again!

But having the Word of God so readily available has brought about problems of its own. I’m sure you’ve heard it from someone who calls himself a Christian, someone who says, “I don’t have to go to church to worship God or to hear His Word.” Usually this is followed by a speech about seeing God in the beauty of nature, about being able to read the Word at home, about not wanting to be around hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach. And much of that is true. One does not have to attend a Sunday service to worship God or to hear His Word. God is certainly present in His creation. Very rarely is a Christian household lacking a Bible. And it is most certainly true that the Church is filled with sinners who cannot perfectly live as we know we should.

But there are two problems with this way of thinking. The first is, while one can worship God and hear His Word in places other than the divine service, it’s very rare that a person who refuses to come to the divine service will actually seek the Word of God in their home—or anywhere else, for that matter. “The Word will always be there. Eventually I’ll find time for it.” But we don’t. The second problem is that the world, the devil, and even our own flesh do everything they can to keep us from the Word. Even with the best of intentions, the television, the Internet, children, phones, books, and other things are distractions for those who would worship at home.

The easiest way to abide in the Word of God is to seek that Word in a place and at a time set apart specifically for the reception of the Word, a place where the faithful gather together to be fed with that Word. If only such a thing were readily available to the Church! But thanks be to God, for He made a promise to be Immanuel—God dwelling with us—when we gather in His name. Christ has set apart men to serve in His stead to deliver His Word to us in faithful preaching and teaching and the word of holy Absolution. He applies that Word to us in the water of Holy Baptism and in His own body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. Even in the Church, we must be careful not to take the Word for granted. “Of course going to church once a month is enough.” “Oh, it’s not necessary to offer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.” “Pastor talks about the Sacraments every Sunday, so I don’t need to pay attention today.” But the Lord continues to give these gifts freely and generously—so much so that, as King David rejoiced, “My cup runneth over.”

It is much easier for us to think of abiding in a town, or in a particular house. Words do not seem like the sort of thing that we can get inside or remain in. Nevertheless, Jesus speaks in today's Gospel as if His Word is a home, a resting place, a shelter. Jesus has placed you into His Word; He has set you inside His Word; He has submerged you in His Word—after all, that is what Baptism is all about. He has put you into His Word. And having given you a place to abide in His Word, He will abide there with you. In His Word you know the truth, “and the truth shall make you free.” 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 21, 2015

Sermon for 10/18/15: Trinity XX


Right-click to save. Box has changed their interface, and I don't know how to embed anymore.


Invited and Robed

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

The parable of the Wedding Garment reminds us that those who reject God's invitation of salvation and those who would come without being dressed properly will be cast out and thrown away from the Lord. He has no use for those who despise Him and His grace. On the other hand, there is the beautiful and majestic picture Isaiah gives us: that the Lord invites us to come and to feast. He invites those who have sinned and turned away to once again cling to Him and return to Him in repentance, to know that their sins have been forgiven. Those who are sinners, who cannot save themselves, who have no hope of earning such an invitation, are brought into Christ's kingdom and made a part of this eternal celebration.

The King sends His servants out to tell people, “The feast is prepared!” Those servants who have gone out were the holy prophets of the Old Testament who called God's people to repentance and faith in His promises. Now those servants are the preachers who call us to repentance and faith. The feast that is prepared is the feast of salvation. Jesus is the Lamb, slaughtered for our celebration. It is the feast prepared the day our Lord gave His life into death for the sins of the world.

Hear the Lord's warning. There are those who despised that invitation; some assaulted the messengers and even killed them! The King will have justice. He musters his army to kill those murderers and burn their city! This is a prophecy. For centuries, the Lord sent His prophets to remind His people, the physical children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that their Savior was coming. He reminded them to turn away from false gods. But when that time finally came, rather than welcoming their Savior, they crucified Him. And even when He had been raised from the dead, those people still persecuted and killed the apostles who preached Christ. What was the result of their rejection? In the year AD 70, the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem. Oh, it's there today, but can there be any greater insult to the Jewish people than that a Muslim mosque sits where their temple used to be? This is a warning, dear Christians, of what happens to those who despise the Lord’s gracious invitation and want nothing to do with Him.

The Wedding Feast of God's Son is the feast of salvation given on the day that our Lord meets with His Bride, the Church. It is the banquet in which the Son of God is main course, who gives us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. It is this feast of which we have a foretaste in the Holy Supper of our Lord. Brothers and sisters in Christ, you are invited. You have been brought to the feast, to Christ's kingdom and church. He has invited you, the good and the bad, all of us who are sinners and unworthy to be here. We don't have to earn our place. We don't have to create some kind of holiness. All is prepared by the Lord Himself. He offers His Son as the sacrifice. His Son gives Himself as the main course. And yet the Son is the Bridegroom for whom the Feast is given! You don't have to cook or clean or get your life straightened out in order to be in attendance! The Lord has brought you here to celebrate with Him the marriage feast of His Son, your Savior. Our Lord gives His church the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation for free! You don't have to earn it. You don't have to pay for it. There aren't any conditions or qualifications. He's accomplished your salvation on Calvary. He brings you into His church to receive and enjoy His salvation. He prepares you for the Last Day when the final and eternal Wedding Feast begins. There is nothing for you to do but live in it.

When you were baptized, you were brought into the Lord's kingdom and given a wedding garment. But there was a man at the wedding who wasn't wearing one. There's no reason he shouldn't have had one on. But he didn't. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord gives us everything! Only in our sin would we cast off the baptismal robe of Christ’s righteousness. The Church on earth is full of people who have been brought in but who refuse to wear their wedding garment. They want to be members of the Church, but they don't want to learn God's Word, receive the Sacrament often, confess their sins and trust in Jesus. On the Last Day, the Lord will ask them and they'll have nothing to say, no confession to make. The Lord doesn’t make anyone wear the righteousness He died to give them. But He gives it freely. The wedding garment is already yours! Don't ever take it off or throw it away! Rejoice to stand before you heavenly Father dressed as Christ!

Everything is ready! The Lord all prepared. Come and eat and drink without cost! Come and receive Jesus and the forgiveness of sins! Come and rejoice to be the Bride of Christ. Come and receive all of the gifts Christ has for you with no strings attached. You've been given the invitation. You've been brought to the Wedding Feast of Christ! Rejoice! You are welcome here. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.          

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

HYMN: Behold, the Lamb's Own Wedding Feast

I'm continuing to work my way through the Sundays of the LSB 1-year lectionary, writing hymns as I go along. I seem to be working behind, but there's no rush. Anyway, the Gospel appointed for the Twentieth Sunday After Trinity is Matthew 22:1-12, the Parable of the Wedding Feast. I chose to focus on the wedding garment especially, the baptismal robe of Christ's righteousness which covers our unworthiness. Here it is. Any feedback is appreciated.

Behold, the Lamb's Own Wedding Feast

1. Behold, the Lamb's own wedding feast
Prepared for bad and good.
All praise to Christ, the Groom divine:
To Christ, the holy Food.

2. The King in mercy sends His slaves
To call and bring me in.
He does not ask my piety.
He does not seek my sin.

3. I am a poor, unworthy guest,
No holiness to trust.
My deeds and words are filthy rags.
They rot and turn to dust.

4. But now I dress in holiness,
No longer smeared with mud,
For Christ, my Robe of righteousness,
Has washed me in His blood.

5. The wedding banquet is prepared,
And You have honored me
By making me a welcomed guest
To feast eternally.

6. O holy Father, mighty King;
O Christ, the Bridegroom Son;
O Holy Ghost: all festal praise
While endless ages run!

(c) 2015 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
CM (86 86)
Tune: Consolation (LSB 348)
Occasion: Trinity XX (LSB 1-year)  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Ten Years

October 12, 2005 was the worst day of my life. I've told the story before: how my district president called me aside at the end of the district church worker conference to tell me he was placing me on Restricted Status with the possibility of removing me from the clergy roster; how the senior pastor called me on the way home to tell me I was required to be present at a meeting; how the president of the congregation told me the congregation's elders voted to demand my resignation, and how they'd withhold any severance if I were to resist; how I called my wife, 28 weeks pregnant with our twins, and decided with her to resign; how, with my wife 32 weeks pregnant, we moved out of the church's house at their demand, making the long trip to Louisiana from Ohio; how I remained on Restricted Status for 10 months, even though the district president made the decision that my offense was an error in judgment, not gross misconduct that merited removal from the clergy roster; how I spent four years, seven months, and four days without a parish to serve.

That was ten years today. That's a quarter of my life so far, give or take a few months. My life and the circumstances in which I find myself today have improved dramatically over the course of those ten years: the birth of the twins; my eventual employment at the Amelia Community Center; preaching in numerous churches in Louisiana (and one in Mississippi); receiving the Call to serve as pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois; the love my family and I have received in our five-plus years here. I am, to put it mildly, content to be serving and living where I am.

Nevertheless, there are scars that remain from those dark days. My cynicism toward and distrust of Synodical bureaucracy remains, though it has been tempered at least some through the faithful service of my current district president. My discomfort on the days of congregation meetings is palpable, though the leaders and members of my current congregation have never given me reason to worry that they intend to seek my departure--if anything, the opposite is true, and the threats to keep me superglued to the pulpit should I try to leave are heartwarming. My anger and hurt and shame regarding the events that transpired with the leaders of my previous congregation, though less heated, crop up unexpectedly. (I saw a picture yesterday which was taken in the fellowship hall of that church, and my reaction was visceral. That was the room where the meeting took place, where I was forced to resign. That's what I call fellowship!) Fighting that anger is a common battle for me. There have been times I've felt I've won the battle, let it all go, but then the anger roars back. It is a common topic when I visit my Father Confessor. And those are just my issues. My family has their own to deal with as a result of our years in exile. You'd think that after ten years, after spending more than five of those years back in parish ministry, these things would just go away. Then again, as my friend Sandra said, "PTSD is the gift that keeps on giving."

Still, hindsight being what it is, I can see blessings now from those days that I was blind to back then--or if not blind, I did not appreciate them as I should have. I was able to be a full-time father to my twins for nearly a full year. When I finally did find a job, it was one in a field in which I had experience, one which kept my mind active, one which allowed me to accept the invitations I received to preach. And those invitations were plentiful--indeed, I think the pastors and congregations occasionally invented opportunities to ask me to visit. I won't spend the day enumerating each blessing--there are too many to count!--but I'm in a position to appreciate them more now than I had graciousness to do so at the time.

And now I'm also in a position to do some good. I wrote a book about my experiences (and the experiences of other pastors who, like me, found themselves on the outside looking in). Though Lutheran Purgatory: Pastors Without Calls has been ignored and in some cases ridiculed by many of those who most need to take it to heart, it has brought awareness of the greater problem of how we as members of the body of Christ treat our brothers and their families in these difficult circumstances, and the sale of this book has allowed me to raise some money to support my brothers and their families in times of need. I was asked by the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations to present at their annual conference on this subject, and as the opening speaker I had the opportunity to set the table for the rest of the presenters. (You can listen to my presentation by right-clicking this link and saving to your own computer.) This is a subject our Synod now realizes is a troublesome one, one that gives lie to the idea that we're in koinonia (fellowship--what we've taken to calling our "life together"), that we are earnest and quick to display our diakonia (service--what we call "mercy") toward each other. I hope that our Synod in convention next summer will act to address these issues and will respond appropriately to what the Synod's task force on this issue brings to the table, whether their report deserves praise and action or rejection and re-tasking.

Ten years. It's strange to think of how my life and the lives of my family members has changed over that time, how our time in exile has affected us. But one thing that has remained constant in all of this, the good, the bad, and the ugly, is that God has remained good to us. Whether or not the wounds fully heal here in time, the Day is coming when the wounds will be healed, when we will finally be fully at peace with the events and the people. God grant it for the sake of His Son, Jesus.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sermon for 10/11/15--Trinity XIX

Please ignore the part of the audio where I completely space on the meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed.



Forgiveness Is Like This

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

Jesus looked at the paralyzed man and said, “Take heart! Your sins are forgiven you!” Did the man ask for forgiveness? Did he tell Jesus he was sorry for his sins? No. Jesus just forgave him. The Pharisees exploded. “This man blasphemes!” Blasphemy is lying in God’s name. They made this charge because they believed Jesus had no business forgiving sins. Only God can forgive sins. Forgiveness is between a person and God, and they believe you have to go through the routine to get your forgiveness. Some people believe that if a person sinned right before he died, and he didn’t have a chance to ask forgiveness, he would go to hell. They act as if Jesus isn’t really a Savior! God doesn’t work that way. But that’s how people believe who live as slaves of the Law. It sneaks into the church, too, where people believe that the forgiveness Christ gives has conditions and requirements, that forgiveness isn’t yours until you ask for it or decide you want it.

Look again at that paralytic. He can’t get up and walk to Jesus. His paralysis is an example of our standing before God. We don’t come to Jesus. We don’t approach Him. We must be brought to Him by the Holy Spirit so that He can speak His Word of forgiveness. And Jesus does His forgiving without consulting us or drawing up a list of demands. “Your sins are forgiven you.” From the cross He says, “Father, forgive them.” In fact, the whole cross and Good Friday work of Jesus is this forgiveness for which we do not and cannot ask. God doesn’t wait until the world realizes it needs a Savior. Jesus doesn’t wait until we ask nicely. He comes and does what He does, suffering and dying and being the Lamb of God without our asking. He accomplishes our salvation before we even knew we needed saving. We like our sins too much to think they need forgiving. So Jesus comes and pays for our sins before we even knew they needed to be forgiven.

And that’s how we come into the church. We’re brought like the paralytic. We are carried to the font—either by our parents and godparents, or by the Holy Spirit, working through the pastor who speaks God’s Word. You are brought in here like the paralytic, and at the font, maybe even when you didn’t understand a word of it, your Lord declares, “Your sins are forgiven.” You are here in the Divine Service. The pastor declares that your sins are forgiven. Maybe you don’t remember all your sins. Maybe you weren’t even paying attention when we confessed our sins. But Jesus gives it to you freely: Absolution and the Supper, given for sinners without any merit or worthiness in you. This is not a party that you can sneak into; this is a meal, a feast, given for sinners, given by Jesus to forgive your sins—each and every one of them: the ones you know and don’t know; the ones you ask forgiveness for and the ones you don’t remember.

You can live as if that forgiveness isn’t true. You can live as if that forgiveness needs to be asked for first. You can live as if your sins don’t belong to Jesus. That’s the way the Pharisees work. That’s true blasphemy. Real unbelief is to think your sins don’t belong to Jesus. But they belong to Him now. He took them from you. That’s why He tells you they are forgiven. And that is what church is all about. That’s what the Christian life is all about. It’s not that we don’t sin, but that we live knowing our sins are His. He’s taken them; He will never give them back. He will never condemn you for them. He gives you forgiveness before you wanted it or asked for it. He comes to where, like Adam and Eve, you hide in your naked shame, and He says to you, “Your sins are forgiven you.” That’s how Jesus works. 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, October 10, 2015

Sermon for 10/4/15: Trinity XVIII

Forgot I hadn't posted this yet. Sorry for the delay.




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

People want to be religious because they think that, by figuring out some law and rules and commandments, they can live their lives the right way. People want a religion that spells out exactly how they should live. They want rules and guidelines so they know how to stay on God's good side. So Jesus boils it all down to two: Love God and love your neighbor. So how is that going? We like to say we love God, but there is usually a long list of people we can't stand. The thing is, you can't love God if you don't love your neighbor. That’s why the world can't stand religion: it's got too many rules we can't keep! We believe wrongly when we think that the Bible is about the Law and how we can live a good life. Now don't get me wrong: the Bible certainly gives us the Commandments, and the Commandments teach us how to live. But they don't give us the ability or the power to do keep them. When we break them, all they do is condemn us!

It’s important to understand our Lord’s words the right way. He says that everything in the Law and the Prophets hangs on these two commandments. When Jesus says "the Law and the Prophets," He means the Word of God, Holy Scripture. He means Himself. So when Jesus says that the Law and the Prophets—which mean Jesus—all hang on the commandments, He's talking about His own death on the cross. The Law itself says, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree." So Jesus does not mean that the Bible tells you how you can save yourself. He means that He Himself will hang on the judgment and curse of the Law against sin when He hangs on the cross. The cross is death. Death is the curse, the sting of the Law. Jesus receives that curse when He hangs on Calvary. This means the Bible and true religion are not about the Law teaching us how to live. They are all about Jesus living and dying for us upon the very Law that we could not keep! This is why He asks those Pharisees whose Son the Christ is. To save us, Jesus can't just be some guy. Only the Son of God, the one who is true God, begotten of the Father, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary, can save us from our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, since Jesus hung on the cross, since He hung upon the judgment and damnation of the Law, since He hung on the tree of death to give us life, do not hang your hopes on the Law! Don't try to think of a way to please God by how you live! Instead, hang your hopes upon Jesus! Hang your faith and trust upon Him. Jesus hung on the Law in your place. At the holy font, in the water and word of Holy Baptism, the Lord Himself hangs His name on you to mark you as His own, one who is redeemed by Christ. In the Absolution, our Lord hangs on you His Word that declares you are forgiven and your guilt has been pardoned. In the Sacrament, Christ Himself takes the same body that hung on the cross and the same blood that poured out on the cross and gives them to you as the sure and certain promise of forgiveness, life and salvation, upon which you can hang all your hope and faith.

The Law will sound good only as long as you can keep it. The moment you break God's commandments, the Law will leave you hanging. But Jesus was nailed to the tree to hang on the Law for you, and you are saved. No longer do you have to figure out which commandment is most important; no more trying to figure out how much good you have to do. You have Christ, the Son of God, who hung on the cross for you. Upon Him everything hangs. Upon Him everything depends. Your salvation hangs on Jesus, who sits at the Father's right hand, and who makes a place for you there with 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, October 06, 2015

HYMN: Rejoice! Rejoice, O Heaven

I'm currently at the Southern Illinois District fall pastoral conference. Our worship during this event is based around the readings for the observation of St. Michael and All Angels. An idea popped into my head, and I ran with it when I had some free moments. This hymn is based primarily around the Epistle appointed for the day, Revelation 12:7-12. This isn't one of those mighty hymns dealing with the glory of the angelic band. We have those already. Anyway, here it is.

Rejoice! Rejoice, O Heaven

1. Rejoice! Rejoice, O heaven
And all who dwell therein,
For Satan is defeated;
Thrown down is death and sin.
(refrain) O holy Lamb, our praise,
For You have sent Your angels
To guard us all our days.

2. Saint Michael and his angels
Have quelled the devil's might,
And Satan, ancient serpent,
Is banished from the light.

3. No longer can he harm us
With any charge or lie.
Salvation and the Kingdom
In glory have come nigh.

4. Though Satan's wrath is burning,
Behold, his time will cease.
Fear not! The day is coming
Of everlasting peace.

5. O Triune God, all glory!
Our gratitude we sing
With martyrs, saints, and angels
To Christ, the angels' King!

(c) 2015
76 76 6 76
Tune: ES IST EIN ROS (Isorhythmic) (LSB 383)
Occasion: St. Michael and All Angels

Friday, October 02, 2015

HYMN: Hear, O Lord, My Anguished Cry

Between the mass-murder in Oregon and other events yesterday and lately, my heart and mind have been heavy. I was brooding over Psalm 86, particularly verses 1 and 14. This is the first draft resulting from those broodings:

Hear, O Lord, My Anguished Cry
(written on the occasion of the mass-murder 
at Umpqua Community College in Oregon)

1. Hear, O Lord, my anguished cry.
Sin and death have brought me grief.
To Christ's holy wounds I fly:
Water, blood, my great relief.
Send Your Spirit! Dry my tears!
Answer me, O God who hears!

2. Hear, O Lord, my fervent prayer
For my neighbor and for me.
Evil seeks me everywhere.
My own flesh won't let me be.
I am weak; temptation nears.
Strengthen me, O God who hears!

3. Hear, O Lord. My own words fail.
In Your Word I find my rest.
Do not let the world prevail.
Do not leave Your child oppressed.
Shield me from the demon jeers.
Shelter me, O God who hears!

4. Hear, O Lord. I call Your name.
You alone I trust for peace.
Though the devil seeks my shame,
You cause all my fears to cease.
Even if my own death nears,
I will praise the God who hears.

(c) 2015, Alan Kornacki, Jr.
77 77 77
Occasion: Persecution, Temptation

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sermon for 9/27/15: Trinity XVII


Go Up Higher
Luke 14:1-11

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

The Virgin Mary knew the kind of God her Son was, even before He was born. She sang: “He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.” She was right. Our Lord is not interested in those who are only interested in themselves. He came to put the self-important in their place and to seek the lost and humble, those who claim to have nothing but sin and wretchedness. Jesus shows us this by who He is and what He does. He is Son of the Most High. He is exalted above heaven and earth. He is the Ruler of all things. But He humbles Himself. He takes on flesh and comes to us. He through whom all things were made takes on a human nature. He who stands above the Law subjects Himself to its judgment and condemnation. He who is Life itself gives Himself into death on the cross, pouring forth His blood in a humiliating spectacle of shame and sin. He who is God Himself dies as a miserable man on Calvary. He does this so that, by conquering sin, He would be lifted up on the Third Day. He does this so that we who are made low in our sins may be lifted up by His salvation and forgiveness. Jesus is humbled so that you are exalted. Jesus is then exalted so that you may be lifted even into the heavenly places, seated with Him at the right hand of the Father!

It is Jesus who lifts you up; repent of lifting yourself up! Repent of exalting yourself in front of God and showing off in front of your neighbor, thinking God must be pleased with you because you go to church and volunteer your time here. Isn't this how we live? Don’t we try to get ahead of others? Don’t we try to get the last word in? Don’t we try to keep up with others and even pass them? Over and over, just as the Pharisees did, we exalt ourselves. We think we sparkle in God's sight because of how good we are, how holy. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let yourself be humbled. Let us who have exalted ourselves be brought low in the dust and ashes of repentance! Let us fall down before the Lord and plead guilty of all sins and put all of our hope and trust not in our own works, but the works and merits and wounds of Jesus. Fall down in repentance. Cling to Jesus who raises you up.

For indeed, the Lord exalts the lowly. He raises you up! He lifts you on high with Himself. He who was humbled by the cross and exalted on Easter now raises you up from the ashes and pit of death. Jesus, humbled and exalted for you, now humbles you in repentance and exalts and raises you up. He who healed on the Sabbath Day now comes to heal you in His gifts. At that font, you are raised up from death with water and the Word. In Holy Absolution, you are exalted and stand before the Lord as one whose sins are covered. At the altar, though you kneel in humility, you are raised up by the body and blood of Jesus that was raised up from the dead. In all of these holy gifts, Jesus is exalting you, raising you to God's right hand. By the forgiveness of sins, the Lord strips away your guilt and shame and gives you in their place His glory and righteousness. This, by the way, is why we practice Closed Communion: to teach us this very repentance and trust as Christ lifts us up. Many would presume to walk in the door and walk to the altar and take the high place at the Lord's altar. Don't do that! Let the Lord call you forward in repentance and faith to take your place—not because you choose it, but because He invites you. The Lord teaches you to sit at the lowly spot and be invited up to the place reserved for the guest of honor through His Word. And He never fails to invite you, to welcome you to this highest of places: into His presence. The Feast of Christ’s body and blood is ready. Friends, “go up higher.” 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, September 23, 2015

HYMN: Jerusalem, Christ Weeps for You

Since I like to work well ahead of the need, here's my latest hymn. It's based on the readings for Trinity X in the LSB 1-year lectionary--especially the Gospel text, Luke 19:41-48, where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and then clears the Temple of the moneychangers. Since this past Sunday was Trinity XVI, there's nearly a year to make changes if you have any suggestions for improving this text. Anyway, here it is.

Jerusalem, Christ Weeps for You 

1. Jerusalem, Christ weeps for you.
Behold your visitation!
Your debt for faithlessness is due
In awful devastation,
For Christ alone can bring you peace.
From blood has purchased your release.
But lo, you would not know Him.

2. Lord Jesus, with baptismal tears
You bathe us for salvation.
You are the Christ, the God who hears
Our ev'ry supplication.
O visit us with lavish grace,
Do not avert Your holy face,
But hide us in Your shelter.

3. Children of God, repent and live,
For Christ has come to save you.
Cry out to Him. In faith receive
The blessings which He gave you.
O hear the judgment of the Lord.
Do not reject His holy Word.
He is your vindication.

 (c) 2015 Alan Kornacki Jr.
87 87 887
Occasion: Trinity X (LSB 1-year)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sermon for 9/20/15: 125th Anniversary of the Founding of St. Peter Lutheran

This past Sunday, St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois, celebrated the 125th anniversary of her founding. We welcomed the Reverend Mark Buetow of Bethel Lutheran Church in DuQuoin, Illinois, as our guest preacher. Here's what he brought to the faithful.



The holy, Christian church. It was there long before. It was there in Solomon’s day. He rejoiced that his Father David was a part of it and he called upon the Lord to continue it. And that was long before there was ever a St. Peter Lutheran congregation in Campbell Hill. And it will be there until Jesus comes again, even if this particular congregation is gone. It will be forever, for St. John saw it in his vision of things to come: the holy church, prepared as a bride for her Bridegroom, Jesus. And when Solomon prayed, the Lord was there, right there, among His people, in that Temple. And in the resurrection and the age to come, St. John sees in his vision that the dwelling of God is with men. God Himself, right there among His people. That’s how He did it in Solomon’s day. That’s how it will be in the new heavens and the new earth. That’s how God rolls. He dwells in the midst of His people. That’s why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. So there it is long ago, the holy church. In the age to come, the holy church. And for this little slice of the past 125 years, the Lord, dwelling among His people in THIS place, Campbell Hill, Illinois, St. Peter Lutheran congregation. That is a gift. Today we give thanks for the these 125 years but not ONLY for those 125 years. We give thanks for the Lord who is here among us as He has always been for His people, long before this congregation was gathered and, we pray, still until He comes again on the Last Day.

It was Peter who, by the Father's leading, confessed that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God." So, he's a good one to name a  congregation after. For 125 years, St. Peter's confession has been, well, St. Peter's confession. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That is the confession upon which Christ builds His church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Think of that! The Jesus whom St. Peter confessed and who St. Peter's has confessed for these 125 years is the same Christ longed for by the Old Testament people of God. He is the same Son of God who was present in the flames of glory at Solomon's Temple. He is the same Jesus who took on flesh in time and was born of the virgin. The same Jesus who was handed over, mocked, beaten, spit upon. The same Jesus who was scourged and crowned with thorns. The same Jesus who was crucified on Calvary and laid dead in the freshly cut tomb. The same Jesus who rose the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father. The same Jesus who did all that for sinners. For you. For the people of St. Peter who have gone before. For you here now and for those yet to come. That's the Jesus Peter confessed and it's that Jesus who is among His people in His church. That's the same Jesus who established this church here, 125 years ago, built on that confession. And it's a congregation against which the gates of hell can't prevail. The Kaiser going to war couldn't destroy it. Neither could a Great Depression. Or Nazis. Or the threat of nuclear bombs. Or terrorists. Or bad farming years or synodical crises or anything else. Because this is Jesus Christ's little flock and He Himself is here among you.

Now the temptation is to look back and make this gift about yourselves. This is YOUR church. It may have been your PARENTS' church. Even your GRANDPARENTS' or GREAT-GRANDPARENTS' church. There is the lure to look back and say, "Yes, we built this. We have taken care of it. We have preserved it. Pastors have come and gone, people have joined or left but we, here, the members today, this is our church." You would be wrong to say that. Christ built this church. It is His church. YOU are His church. And He built it through His Word which was delivered by faithful preachers over a century and a quarter and by which He called and gathered His saints here. And He cared for this church through its members and their offerings and gifts so that the pastors were cared for and the building and grounds maintained. All gift. But a gift from Christ, not the reason for the gift. There is also the temptation, as there is in everyday life, to look back on the "golden age" and compare it to today. To say that the congregation is shrinking or dying or wasn't what it used to be. That would be wrong too, because that still makes it about you. And about people. Instead of about Jesus. Here we repent of making the church about us at all and learn to believe that where His gifts are, Christ’s church is, Christ is and whether there are two or three hundred or just two or three, there He is dwelling with them in His Word and gifts and smashing in Hell's gates and overthrowing the devil's kingdom. Repent of making the church YOUR church; rejoice that because it is CHRIST'S church, it cannot be overthrown.

And so it goes. Jesus dwells here. Right here in little ol’ Campbell Hill, Illinois. For 125 years, He has been coming to this font to wash away sins by water and His Word. For 125 years He has been telling sinners, “I forgive you all your sins.” For 125 years, He has been coming to this altar in His body and blood to forgive sinners and promise them that He will raise them up on the Last Day. For 125 years, the Lord has been joining men and women in holy marriage, comforting the loved ones of those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, teaching the Faith of Christ, catechizing the young and old, comforting sinners who are in distress and who mourn and who struggle and who need the Lord’s Word to instruct and guide them. And, for the next however many years--the Lord grant that it’s 125 and more!--He will continue to wash away sins, absolve sinners, and feed His church with His flesh and blood. And so we ask with King Solomon: Can God indeed dwell on earth? Yes He can and He does! In the womb of the Virgin, in the flesh of His human nature. And until He comes again, He dwells in His church, where the water, Word and Body and Blood are. And of all the many places around the world that He is, it is also right here. St. Peter Lutheran Church, Campbell Hill, Illinois, where not even the gates of hell prevail against it. Because this church is Jesus Christ’s. HIS house. HIS gifts. And you, HIS people. For 125 years and counting. Happy Anniversary in the Name of Jesus. Amen.