Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sermon for 7/5/15: Trinity V




A Reason to Hope

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

Jesus does something that goes against all logic. He tells Peter, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Anyone who is even casually familiar with fishing, at least it is true of fresh water fishing, knows that you catch fish in the shallows where the fish congregate and feed. And that is especially true when you’re fishing with nets; you need to go where they nets can actually reach the fish. What Jesus suggests here goes against all that experience teaches. Peter also informs Jesus that they had just been fishing all night without success. They had put to use all of their skills and techniques and knowledge as experienced fishermen, and hadn’t caught a thing. It just wasn’t a good time to fish. And what’s the point now of going out during the heat of the day, which is absolutely the worst time? Jesus is in over His head here; He doesn’t know what He is talking about. 

And yet, Peter responds: “But at your word I will let down the nets.” Because you say so, Lord; because it’s your words, I will do it, even though I have my doubts.” And when Peter and his friends did so, they caught such a great amount of fish their nets began to tear, and they ended up filling two boats with fish! And so, even though today’s Gospel might seem to be all about fishing, what it’s really about is the word of Jesus. Nothing happens apart from that word. The word of Jesus may seem foolish to human reason and logic, but in truth it is powerful and effective to do what it says, and to deliver what it promises, and to save those who believe it. 

In today’s Epistle, St. Paul wrote: “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” The world thinks of the Gospel, and all of Scripture for that matter, as a myth for the naive and the gullible and the shallow-minded. No one who has any real intelligence or education would go for that. They regard it as superstition. The Word of God is constantly being mocked in our world as being backward and outdated and even dangerous and hateful. We've seen ample evidence of that these past few weeks. Biblical morality has been called bigotry, and the day is coming when preaching faithfully from the Word of God will be considered a hate crime. If the world needs a god, they’ll find one that’s more logical to them—usually the one they see in the mirror. 

And we know well the temptation of wanting to follow such thinking, to walk by sight and not by faith, to have a religion that is based on human wisdom and glory rather than God’s wisdom and the cross. But like Peter, by God’s grace we have been brought to trust in Christ’s Word, even in the midst of our doubts. We have been brought to know that, though the Word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, to us who are being saved it is the power of God. It is written, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” 

In order to humble those who are proud and wise and strong in their own eyes, our Lord chooses to hide His power behind that which seems foolish and weak. In that way His saving wisdom and strength will be perceived only by lowly, penitent believers to whom He reveals Himself. After all, where has human wisdom really gotten us? Technology and science can do wonderful things. But has man’s wisdom eliminated crime and violence? Is there any less loneliness or depression in the world? Have people stopped dying? Man’s wisdom is severely limited. We dare not rest our hope there. Just as Peter had been able to catch those fish solely by the power of the Word, so now Jesus would make him able to draw men solely by preaching Jesus’ powerful Word. In this way, others who were weak and foolish would be made wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. 

That’s the whole point of this catch of fish; it all happens at the Word of Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus had been “casting the net,” so to speak, as He preached the Word from Peter’s boat. Jesus had turned that boat into a cathedral. He was not afraid to launch out into the deep and let down His nets. Just as the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at the creation, so our Lord goes to the deep, to the very depths of sin and death, in order to pull up His catch of sinful men and raise us to the light of His resurrection life.

So, let us hear clearly for ourselves the words Jesus spoke to Peter. “Do not be afraid.” And as Peter took our Lord at His Word, let confess the reason for the hope that is in us. At the Lord’s Word, even though all our senses can grasp here are worldly objects—things like water, things like bread and wine—yet because Christ has said so, we believe that Christ is truly present to make us God’s child, to feed us with His body and blood, to proclaim our sins forgiven. 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, July 04, 2015

HYMN: Father, Behold My Shield

My latest hymn is based on the readings for the Fifth Sunday After Trinity in the LSB 1-year Lectionary, especially the Gradual (Psalm 84:9,8) and Introit (parts of Psalm 27) with a little of the Epistle (I Peter 3:8-15) thrown in for good measure. This is an early draft, so there's work to be done yet, and any feedback would be appreciated.

Father, Behold My Shield

1. Father, behold my Shield,
Grace in the flesh revealed:
Behold Your Son, appointed!
Lord God of hosts, give ear.
In mercy, hear my prayer
For love of Your Anointed.

2. Ever my Helper be.
In mercy answer me,
My Light and my Salvation.
Courage and faith impart.
Strengthen my waiting heart
Against all accusation.

3. Teach me Your way, O Lord,
That I may trust Your Word
And love and serve my neighbor.
Grant that I faithfully
Confess the hope in me,
And let me never waver.

4. Father, behold my Shield.
To Christ my Lord I yield.
In Him no foes assail me.
If, for Your holy name,
Rivals should dare to blame,
My Shield will never fail me.

(c) 2015 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
667 667
(The only tune for this meter in Lutheran Service Book is NUNC DIMITTIS, hymn 888. Were I to use this tune, I would want to alter it to lengthen some of the quarter notes.)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sermon for 6/28/15: Trinity IV

Nice to have the audio back. I added some adlib near the end, so the transcript is lacking.




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

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” What is mercy? Maybe it’s easier to say what mercy is not. Mercy is not giving someone what they deserve. Mercy means that you know exactly what someone else has said or done to hurt you, and if things are right and fair, you know precisely what they deserve. And yet, you choose to show mercy to them. You forgive them. Perhaps you even absorb yourself what they should have received.

So when Jesus says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful,” He is first speaking Law to us. This is how we are to be. Do this. Be merciful. But He knows perfectly well that we are not merciful, but in fact we are often full of judgment and anger, and at times even hatred toward our fellow human beings. How many times have you sat in this church, listening to God’s Word of grace and mercy, while your hearts were full of anger and judgment, even toward someone who may have been sitting near you? How many times have you looked at others, secretly with contempt, thinking that you are really a better Christian than those who don’t do as much as you do, or whose life is a mess, or who have created some kind of scandal, or whatever it may be? Every time this happens, you are forgetting this word of mercy.

Look at what Joseph said to his brothers: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” This is what Jesus meant when He said: “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” None of us stands in the place of God when it comes to passing judgment on others, especially the motives of others. It is not my job to stand as judge and jury over my fellow Christians. God is the judge of all. While we must strive to remain faithful to the Word of God, while we must endeavor to teach our neighbors what it means to be faithful, our place as Christians is to remember that we, too, are poor, miserable sinners, no better off than anyone else.

When we judge others, we do it on the basis of a corrupted and limited vision. I look and see what I don’t like in someone else, and then I condemn him or her for it. But our Father in heaven knows all and sees all. There is no sin that goes unnoticed, no misdeed that is lost. He knows all your faults, down to the very end. Even so, God is merciful! He doesn’t give you what you deserve! He doesn’t give you eternal death. He gives life in Christ, a life that is rich and full of blessing. In Holy Baptism, in the Absolution that is given your sins, in the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, in every word of the Gospel that goes in your ears, you are receiving the mercy of God! He gives you mercy! His judgment against sin has already been carried out against His Son! He doesn’t condemn you; He forgives you! He gives You Himself. He gives you that measure of grace and mercy that has no end.

Now what does this mean for you in the real world? It means everything! It means that here, in this place, you receive the one thing you need more than anything else; the mercy of God. Here your troubles are not glossed over, nor are they held up as a kind of spectacle to shame you. Here in this place, your heavenly Father gives you this great gift of mercy, so that your sins are forever washed away. He also gives you that mercy so that you may cover your neighbor’s sins, speak well of your neighbor, so you may say everything in the kindest way.

To some, I suppose, all of this is old news. “I have heard all of this before, pastor. Tell me instead how I can be a better parent; how to manage my money; how to manage my anger—you know, something really practical like that.” But as important as those things may be, the truth is this: what you need more than anything else is the mercy of God. And like the love of God, His mercy knows no boundaries; it will give you the peace of God for which your heart longs. That is why we earlier joined the Psalmist in saying: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Receive the mercy of God this day, in His Son, Jesus Christ, and know and live that life of peace with the God of mercy. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sermon for 6/21/15: Trinity III

Sorry for the delay, but it: I finally got the computer to edit audio!



Opened Arms
Luke 15:11-32

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

Jesus isn’t looking for the righteous. Jesus came to save sinners. After all, those who aren't sinners don't need a Savior. But wait! Aren't all people sinners? The Bible says so, but we tend to think we’re pretty good people. But we are sinners. Sinners don't fear, love and trust in God as they should. Sinners despise their neighbor and put themselves first. Those who confess that they are sinners recognize that they deserve nothing except the wrath of God. They know that they have nothing going for them but God's own mercy in Jesus. On the other hand, those who have no need of repentance don't think they're such bad people. They’re pretty sure they've got God all figured out and are pretty good at doing what He says. Jesus can't help those who believe they’re sinless. They will be on their own on the Last Day.

Those who are sinners crowd around Jesus to hear Him and His Word. Those who have no need of repentance complain that Jesus receives and eats with such people. But Jesus came to save sinners, to call them to repentance. And what is repentance? Repentance means being turned around. It means that the Spirit, by the preaching of the Word, turns you away from your sins to faith and trust in Christ. Repentance is the Lord's work. You can't repent on your own. You can't decide to turn away from your sins. Christ Himself calls you away from your sins by His Word and Sacraments.

The wasteful son lives a sinful life. When the bottom falls out, when he has to eat with the pigs, finally he realizes he can’t clean up his own mess. The only one who can fix his broken life, the only one who can love him, the only one who can restore him, is the same man against whom he sinned: his father. But he still thinks he can do it his way. He plans his fancy speech. He chooses his own position in the household.

But that’s not the way the father works. Before the son can approach the house, the father comes running to meet him. Before the son can do any more than confess his sin, the father restores him. He dresses him in the finest robe and prepares the fanciest of feasts—not because the son deserves it, but because the father loves his son that much. And our Father works the same way. The Lord comes to us through the water and Word of the font. Christ seeks us out and restores us by the preaching of the Gospel and the speaking of holy absolution. Christ provides His own body and blood as a rich feast for us to eat and drink. These things are His gifts for sinners. Those who have no need of repentance have no need to be baptized or absolved or fed with Christ’s body and blood. They may as well stay away. But you, sinners: if you have nothing going for you but Jesus, come to hear Him. Live in your baptism and feast at His Supper. That's what Jesus has for sinners.

If you don't have need of repentance; if you think you've got God all figured out; if you're convinced you're not perfect but you try hard; if you think you’re basically good—or at least, you're better than most other people; if you think God must be happy that such a person like you goes to church; then repent! Either weep and despair of yourself, or recognize that Jesus didn't come for you because you apparently don’t need His help. But if you know you are a sinner—if you don't love God as He commands; if you don't love your neighbor like you should; if you know that you deserve nothing from God but His eternal wrath and condemnation—then rejoice! Rejoice, because it is for such sinners that Jesus has come into this world. Through the merits of His Son, our Savior, Jesus, the Father runs to greet you with His hands outstretched to welcome you into His kingdom, to receive you with the fine baptismal robe of Christ’s righteousness, to welcome you to the rich feast of His own Son’s body and blood. What was lost, now is found! 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, June 14, 2015

Sermon for 6/14/15: Trinity II

I hope to have the audio going by the time we get back from vacation. *sigh*

Desiring the Feast

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

When our Lord prepares a feast of salvation for the whole world, not many people want to come and receive it. From the very first moment of sin in the Garden of Eden, our Lord promised a Savior. Then, at the right moment, He sends His Son into the world. The Father sacrifices Him on the cross, just as the Passover Lamb was sacrificed, so that Jesus Himself, the Son of God, would be our feast. Christ is given into death and raised from the dead so that He might be our Bread of Life. The Lamb has been slain. All is prepared. The Feast is ready. It is a feast prepared by the Lord for you.  

Even though what our Lord gives us is so much better than a pizza from Shiloh Tavern or a steak from Newell House, even though the Lord's feast gives us life and salvation, people don't want it. The world doesn't care. My brothers and sisters in Christ, don't you wonder why, if we have the Gospel here at St. Peter, more people don't join? We know we are surrounded by so many who are hungering and thirsting for something more in their lives. But where are they? But that's the wrong question! Jesus isn't telling this parable to those who are outside of the church but those who are inside it. When someone at the Pharisee's dinner shouts, "Blessed is the one who eats bread in the kingdom of God," Jesus tells them that they don't really want bread in the kingdom of God. They've got a bunch of other stuff they would rather do than actually come to Lord's feast. We could go on all day about the people out there who don't think they need Christ and His gifts. But do we, God's own people, really want His gifts? Think about this: What is enough to keep you from the Lord's house and His gifts? What is going on in your life that would bring you to toss aside the Divine Service? What keeps you from crying out for the body and blood of Christ every Sunday? What’s most important to you? 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus does not teach us in His parable that having a field or oxen or getting married are bad things. He's not saying that going on vacation or playing sports or going fishing are bad things. But when anything else becomes more precious, more important, more desirable than Christ and His gifts, they've become our idols. They will become our excuses for not coming to receive the Lord's gifts. We must all learn to recognize that we are not in Christ's church because we somehow deserve a place, as if the Lord needs us to show up for His sake. We need to be here because the Lord has invited us and lavished His gifts upon us.  

And the Lord knows this. That's why He throws the banquet. He knows that we are poor, miserable, hungry sinners who need to be fed and nourished by His Son. Why do you suppose that we don’t ask for "daily bread" until the Fourth Petition in the Lord's prayer? The Lord knows that, even more than stuff in this world, we need His name to be holy among us, His kingdom to come, His will to be done. What is most important of all things is that we hear His Word, that we live in our Baptism, that we be absolved from our sins, that we eat and drink the feast of Christ's flesh and blood. Brothers and sisters, here in the church, the Lord has prepared a rich feast for you. Here He freely seats you at a banquet of salvation: you are washed for dinner at the holy font. You are seated in the place of honor by the words of holy absolution. Then in the sermon, the special of the day—Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for sinners—is described. Then you come to the main course, the feast itself: Christ Himself and His body and blood given and shed for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  

The day will come when Jesus comes back. He tells us that on that day, none of those who were invited and refused to come will be invited back! There's no chance to take back your excuse that you don't want the Lord's gifts. This is why we practice closed communion. The altar is closed to those who don't want to learn God's Word or repent of their sins. It is a warning that a time will indeed come when the Feast is closed off. Never run from the feast. Never desire to be excused. Come and feast upon Christ Himself, His Word and body and blood. Come as beggars, rejoicing to be brought in to this feast which we do not deserve, but which God spreads for us in Christ. And look forward to the day our Lord will return for His Bride and we shall rejoice to celebrate the eternal wedding feast prepared by the Father for His Son and the Church. 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, June 12, 2015

Sermon for 6/7/15: First Sunday After Trinity

Still trying to install the audio software on my computer. Sorry.

In Abraham's Bosom

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

What is it that saves Lazarus? Why does he end up in the bosom of Abraham? To be in the bosom of Abraham means to receive God's promises. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. St. Paul later writes that all who believe in Christ are sons of Abraham and heirs of the promise. We don't have to save ourselves from sin and death. God Himself will do it by sending His own Son in the flesh. To be in the bosom of Abraham means nothing other than to be in Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, do you hate your neighbor? Do you hate your brothers and sisters in Christ? The simple fact is that if you see them in need and do nothing for them, you hate them. St. John tells us that in his epistle. Maybe the Rich Man prayed for Lazarus. Maybe you pray for your neighbors and others in the church who need help. That's good. But if you see a brother in need and you don't help, then you are no neighbor. There's no reason to believe the Rich Man was anything other than a religious man. He probably went to synagogue and maybe even gave lots of money. Like the Pharisees, he probably made it very clear how much he believed in God and how hard he worked to obey the law. And all the while Lazarus is having his sores licked by dogs out at the gate. What about us? Do we actually love others with our words and actions, or do we just talk like we do? Abraham's rebuke of the rich man is a strong one: "You had your good things in life, but now you are tormented."
But here's the real kicker! We all have enough to repent of when we fail to serve others. But when we do good works, then do we suppose that God is pleased with us? What if we take the things God has given us and do some good with them and then suppose that we're pretty good Christians? This is what the Pharisees did: they took God's Word as a guide to how they should live, and when they lived that way, they were proud of themselves. Then they could claim that if a man was poor, it was his own fault for not following God's Law the right way. Just like the TV preachers today who tell you that if you think happy thoughts and try to be good, God will bless you and give you all kinds of goodies. There is no end to our ability to take what good comes to us as an indication of how good we are. You know the saying: "God helps those who help themselves." But the Lord most certainly does not work that way.
Brothers and sisters, we must learn to be as Lazarus, having no faith in anything of this world, confessing that we have no claim on God. Lazarus had nothing in this world going for himself. All he had was the Lord. And that certainly didn't get him anything in this life, did it? But it brings him to eternal life. We have nothing but what the Lord gives us. Whether it's our material goods or forgiveness and eternal life, everything is His gift to us. We must again confess that even if we have nothing in this life, we have His water and His word, we have His Gospel, we have His absolution, we have Jesus' body and blood. Poor Lazarus begged for scraps from the rich man, but here, in Christ's church, you have a feast laid before you, a feast that is your confidence and certainty against all suffering and misery in this life. 
It's easy to take the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus as some kind of moral lesson about how being rich is bad and being poor makes you somehow more blessed in God's sight. Instead, we learn repentance for taking anything God gives us and turning it into something that is only good for us, a false god and idol. We learn the repentance of despising God's Word and learn to trust that Word which gives us Jesus. But we also learn that being in Christ means we are so free that we may spend what is given to us for the good of others. And being free in Christ means most of all that you are safe in the bosom of Abraham: now and forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Monday, June 01, 2015

Sermon for 5/31/15: The Feast of the Holy Trinity

Still no audio. Sorry.

The Only Way

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

If you remember studying fractions in school, you may recall the concept of the lowest common denominator. Say you have one quarter of a pie and one half of another, and you want to know if you have a whole pie. You have to add the two together. But first you have to make the numbers into a form that can be added. One half of a pie is two quarters. So you add the two quarters of the one pie to the one quarter of the other pie, and you see that you have three quarters of a pie.
Many who call themselves Christians--including many who call themselves Lutherans--treat the doctrine of the Church the same way. After all, we all want to get along, right? Jesus knew there would be divisions in the Church, but His intent was that all believers would be as one, even as He and the Father are one, as He prayed later in John's Gospel. But many within the Church try to create artificial unity. Christians of different denominations disagree about things. To create unity, these denominations figure out where they disagree, and then they disregard those things as unimportant. I believe that Jesus is truly present in the Lord's Supper, but you think He meant He would be present spiritually. Can we agree that our salvation does not depend on how He's present? Yes? Then let's get rid of that. See? We're more unified than we were two minutes ago! This also works when dealing with people of other faiths. You eliminate all the differences until you reach unity...also known as the lowest common denominator.
Unity in the Church is a good thing, but not at the price of doctrine. When speaking with our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often easiest and safest to repeat that popular lie, “We all pray to the same God.” Much less popular and much more offensive are the Words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” These words divide the Church. Like it or not, those are the Words of Jesus. Like it or not, those Words speak about Baptism. 
The unbelieving world wants nothing to do with God’s miracle of Baptism because the unbelieving world wants nothing to do with Christ. Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” Meanwhile, the unbelieving world looks for a compromise. We must defy the world and proclaim the salvation that comes through Christ alone. As you are about to confess in the exclusive terms of the Athanasian Creed, "It is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man… who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead." 
Today is Trinity Sunday. Today we must hold the faith of the Scriptures, even in defiance of our own reason and senses and experiences. We would choke on the Words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, especially where He says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  We all know of children who have died before birth, and therefore, before Baptism. We may even know children who were born but did not receive the Sacrament of Holy Baptism before they died. We have no choice but to commend such children to the Lord of Hosts, who abounds in mercy and compassion and steadfast love. Christ Jesus died and rose for the sins of the whole world—your sins, my sins, and even the sins of those whom we lose in utero. The blood of Jesus could not be delivered personally to them through Baptism, it is true, but the Triune God is greater even than Baptism. We must leave such exceptional cases to God. The Christian faith stands in defiance even against the reason and the senses of the Christians.
God has His own work to do, and we are not qualified to do His work or to judge how He does it. Instead, the Triune God gives us work to do. God tells us to cling to the Faith as He has given it to us. Our job is to confess, “Thus says the Lord,” and to do so without hedging, without wavering, without apologizing. The Scriptures teach that God wants all people to be saved. Today’s Gospel declares that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, whose forgiveness is now for you and for me and for all people. 
Ours is not a God who can be molded or shaped. We cannot cut and paste Him to fit our desires. On this day, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity, let us cling to the faith which was given to us by the Holy Spirit in our baptism. Let us confess God as He has revealed Himself to us in His name, the name into which we have been baptized and united with Him: the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

HYMN: O Holy Spirit, Fix Our Eyes on Jesus

It's only taken six months for me to write another hymn. Considering the fact that it took me 35 years to write the first one, six months isn't so bad, I guess. Anyway, this is a Pentecost hymn, one which could also be used as the opening hymn at the beginning of any service.

O Holy Spirit, Fix Our Eyes on Jesus

1. O Holy Spirit, fix our eyes on Jesus,
Who gives forgiveness, all without our merit,
Who died and rose to win for us salvation.
Come, Holy Spirit.

2. O Holy Spirit, sanctify Your people:
Washed in Christ's blood and robed that we may wear it.
Give us right judgment. Help us to be faithful.
Come, Holy Spirit.

3. O Holy Spirit, speak through faithful pastors.
Preach out the Word so all the world may hear it.
Kindle with love the hearts of all Your people.
Come, Holy Spirit.

4. O Holy Spirit, in our grief, give comfort.
We mourn our sin; by grace we need not fear it.
Grant us Your peace and joy in our forgiveness.
Come, Holy Spirit.

5. O Holy Spirit, fill us with the Gospel.
You show us love and teach us how to share it.
Turn ev'ry heart to cling to Christ, our Savior.
Come, Holy Sprit.

(c) 2015 by Alan Kornacki, Jr.
10 10 10 5

Occasion: The Feast of Pentecost
Texts: John 14:23-31, Psalm 104:30, John 15:26

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sermon for 5/24/15: The Feast of Pentecost

Still down one computer. No audio. Sorry! 

Love and Peace

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

It's no coincidence that the first thing Peter does after receiving the Holy Spirit is that he begins preaching about Jesus. After all, the gift that day, the Holy Spirit, delivered to the Apostles the Word of God. That's what the Holy Spirit does: He delivers to us the work of Christ, and He does so through the Word. The Spirit does not tell us what He Himself looks like or how He does what He does. The Holy Spirit tells us about Jesus. And our Lord makes that very plain. "The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." It's not His job to whisper into your ears new and exciting revelations about the Will of God. It's not His job to bring about faith healings. It's not His job to promise you prosperity. It is His job to deliver Jesus to you. And that's exactly what He does.
This is a dangerous way of thinking today in the Church—dangerous because many who call themselves pastors, even within our own Missouri Synod, teach that it's the Holy Spirit's work to whisper sweet nothings into your ear, to make you wealthy, to make you popular with the world. And such teachings certainly make those who preach them popular and wealthy, but these rich and popular preachers do not deliver to you the forgiveness of sins which Jesus won for you. They deliver to you what they call love, but this is not truly love. What they call love is actually a poisonous mixture of self-affirmation, permissiveness, and even willful disobedience to the will and Word of God. The so-called love they give doesn't condemn sin; it celebrates sin. It wallows in sin. It twists everything so that evil is considered good and good is considered the highest form of evil.
I've told you this before, but Jesus has a different way of looking at love. Hear again the Word of the Lord: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words." These false preachers and teachers, along with their willing hearers, have chosen their homes. Their homes may be rich mansions, and their church buildings may be enormous structures, but these palaces do not have room in them for Jesus Christ. They do not make a place for the preaching of His Word; they feel no need for His gifts as He gives them. They have no need for the Holy Spirit, for they have given themselves up to the spirit of this world. They have their reward.
On that first Pentecost, the Apostles spoke in tongues they did not know by the power of the Holy Spirit. The tongues of fire upon their heads were not the miracle. The Spirit at work through his Word, burning in the hearts of men, so that they asked, "What shall we do?"—that was the miracle. That was the intervention of the Almighty in the course of human affairs. Luther said it: "I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him." But the Holy Spirit does what man cannot do. He converts and gives new birth from above. He changes the hearts of men.  
This isn't some far away, long ago act. This is who He is and what He still does today. He calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with his gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith. All of this He does through the Word. Men seek signs and get none but the sign of Jonah, Jesus said, that word of His resurrection from the tomb. If you will not believe that Word and live by faith, then no moving of mountains, however spectacular, will ever change your heart.
What, then, shall we do? Later in the Second Chapter of Acts, after Peter has preached his Pentecost sermon, the people asked the same question.  And this is what Peter told them: "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."
This is the God of the Holy Scriptures, the God of Jonah who brought even the pagan Ninevites to repentance and faith. He forgives. He justifies. He renews. He restores. He encourages. He feeds. He nurtures. He heals. He loves. And He does these things, not in some abstract or philosophical way, but in the real, solid things He has given—in His Word; in those cleansing waters of rebirth infused with His Triune Name; in the body and blood of Jesus Christ, given and shed for you. All of this is by grace, all by the death and resurrection of Jesus, sent by the Father, proclaimed by the Spirit.
Religious fads come and go, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Here is your hope, your present and your future wrapped up into one: the God of all grace and mercy makes His home with you. This is the gift called Pentecost. This is the love and the peace that come to rest and remain in Christian hearts this day. Rejoice, and live in that peace. 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, May 17, 2015

Sermon for 5/17/15: Easter VII

My computer is still down. Though I hope to have it back soon, there have been some complications in getting it repaired. I won't have audio recordings until I get it back. My apologies.

That You Would Not Fall Away

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

James and John, you may recall, wanted the best seats in heaven, right next to Jesus. Peter denied Jesus three times. Thomas rejected the witness of his fellow disciples to the resurrection. All the disciples hid in fear. Controversies and disagreements would shake the Church to its very foundations. And Jesus had told his disciples: "I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away." It almost sounds as if His words had fallen on deaf ears.  
Luke tells us that, after Jesus ascended, the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy. But can't you imagine, human beings as they were, that soon they began to feel the absence of their Master, and discouragement and disillusionment began to set in? Even after the glory of Pentecost, the disciples stumbled, and the Church struggled mightily. They weren't successful by worldly standards. They were rejected by the religious leaders. They were forced to worship in secret. The Pharisees had more money, bigger congregations, political control, and better working conditions. They enjoyed worldly success. The multitudes attended their synagogues and believed what they taught. But that is exactly the point. The apostles weren't sent to preach the kingdom of the world. God's true messengers are measured by different standards. They are sent to teach the truth to a world that would rather not hear it. They are sent to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God.
In the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone, a stumbling block and foolishness to the world. But upon Him the Kingdom of God is established. And He spoke to His disciples as He did that they would not lose that faith. He spoke to them that they would faithfully confess the truth. For doing so, they would face persecution, ridicule, worldly failure, disaster, and death. In other words, they would share in the sufferings of Christ. But with the eyes of faith they would see in these sufferings Christ's victory over the world. They would see the ultimate victory, won for them by the shedding of His precious blood.
So it is for you. Faith in Jesus Christ does not promise worldly success. Christians do not always live happily ever after in this world. Nor does faithfulness to God's Word carry with it any earthly guarantees. That is not how God works; that is not what He has promised. In the Kingdom of God, the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. Those who proudly claim to have earned first place may well have hell to pay. The proclamation of the true Gospel always brings persecution and suffering in this world, not success. What the world counts as truth draws men away from salvation. Love covers a multitude of sins; to remain silent in the face of error is not an act of love. And so we are to speak the truth in love and hold to the Word of God and the teaching of Christ and His Apostles. Do not think it strange, as Peter said, that you would actually suffer for doing this. Rejoice that you are blessed to partake of the sufferings of Christ.
God has called you out from this world; He has set you apart. He has baptized you with that one Christian baptism given to the Church through the Apostles. There all your sins were forgiven. There the sinful creature you were born was drowned and died. There you were brought to new life in Christ. There you received the pure confession of the one true faith. There the Word of God and water washed you clean from sin. There God gave you a new heart and put His Spirit within you. And because Jesus rose from the dead, so will you. Your tomb will be opened and you, too, will rise. And because Jesus ascended into heaven, so you, too, will be changed, given a glorified body like that of the risen Jesus, and then gathered, body and soul, into everlasting life. And there you will live forever in the joy of the Lord. And so, in the face of persecution, in the face of the false beliefs of this world, in the face of worldly failure, and even when facing disaster and death, you have been given to see with the eyes of saving faith the victory of Jesus Christ over this world. This blessed gift is given to you so that you would not fall away. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Sermon for 5/10/15: Easter VI

I apologize for the delay in posting this. My computer is still down, and so there will be no audio recording posted. I hope to have the computer back soon.

Whatever You Ask

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

What do you want? What do you lack that would make you happy? And if you had it, would you really be content? “Whatever you ask,” says our Lord. Of course, what we want is often far removed from what we need. Earthly desires capture our hearts, and our eyes become fixed on material things. Our anxious minds and grumbling mouths betray our failure to trust God to supply all those things that we need. That was how it was with the children of Israel. They were discouraged. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” They did not trust God. They did not appreciate the gifts He had given them.  
Today we are urged to pray. But what is prayer? Prayer is listening speech. You probably haven’t heard it described that way before, but that’s what it is. In other words, we don’t just begin to pray, but like a child who learns to speak by listening to its parents, we listen first. The Lord has His say first; we listen to Him speak to us in His Word before we respond to Him in prayer. And when we listen first to the Lord, the first thing we learn is that we are sinners. Because of that, prayer begins with confession, just as it did for the children of Israel. They said to Moses: “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you.”
Like those children of Israel, we have a tendency to be careless about this: to ignore prayer, to wallow in self-pity and impenitence. That is one reason why the Lord allows tribulation to come to us: that we might be called back to Him, turning our hearts from hardness to repentance. Tribulation and affliction is the Lord’s instrument to turn us back to Him. I know that many of you have afflictions of various kinds. No one else may know them, but the Lord knows them. He knows the conflicts you have in your family; He knows your problems at work; He knows your loneliness and your ailing body; He knows the sins you struggle with and the sins you should be struggling against. He knows how you despair over such things. Too often we respond with regret and shame, when we should see this as an invitation from God to call upon Him out of the depth of our troubles. In this way, the very things that plague and afflict us will cause the Lord to draw us to Himself, leading us where true joy is found: in Christ's victory over the world. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
When Jesus invites us to pray to the Father in His name, that means the invitation to pray is based upon His cross, His atonement for sin, His redeeming work, His victory over death, the world, and our sin. The words “in the name of Jesus” are not an incantation that promises some divine magic. They mean that we have access to the Father in heaven, and that He hears our prayers because of what His Son has accomplished for us. Saying His name without faith means nothing. But what that name stands for--His redeeming work--that means everything!
So what do you want? Our Lord says: “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Ask for those things that help you in your life as a disciple of Christ and a child of God. If you ask for something that hinders your salvation, if you ask for something that keeps you from leading a God-pleasing life, then you have not really asked in the name of Jesus, no matter what words you have used. The name of Jesus is not a formula that guarantees an answer to prayer. Rather, the name of Jesus is that righteousness that stands outside yourself, righteousness by which we ask for and receive life, forgiveness, salvation, and everlasting joy.  
Ask the Father to have the righteousness of Christ be for you and in you. “Ask anything,” He says. Let us ask, then, for what His Word says. Let us seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, gifts He is glad to give us. And in addition to those holy gifts, He will even provide all that we need for this body and life. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Sermon for 5/3/15: Easter V

I apologize for how late I am in posting this. My computer is still down. I hope to have it back soon. In the meantime, there will be no audio recording posted.

The Spirit Preaches the Gospel


The work of the Holy Spirit is not as well known or recognized as that of the other two persons of the Holy Trinity, Father and Son. However, that is by design, because the work of the Spirit is to bear witness, not to Himself, but to Christ. That is what the Holy Spirit does: He bears witness to what Christ has done, and then brings us to faith through that witness. Honestly, though, that is not what usually comes to mind when talk turns to the Holy Spirit. Mention the Spirit, and most think of the wild claims of Televangelists, faith healers, speaking in tongues, and "God spoke to me" talk. All of this misses the real work of the Spirit and perverts the Gospel. 
These are the marks of the Church: Baptism, Absolution, Preaching, and the Lord's Supper. These things are the work of the Holy Spirit. Everything else in the Church is really secondary to these, for these are the things that create and sustain faith; these are the things that grant forgiveness of sins, victory over death and the devil, God's grace, and Christ in all the fullness of His grace and glory. God makes Christians by water and the Word, by His gift of grace. Christian faith and life do not happen because God's ears are filled up with our words of promise; those words are untrue and uncertain. Christian faith and life comes by hearing the Word and promise of God, for those words and promises are most certainly true and unbreakable.
So, what happened to the Holy Spirit? Nothing, really. He is alive and well. As Jesus tells us in this Gospel, He is convicting us of sin, because of that stain of unbelief that still wants to live in our hearts. He is convicting us of righteousness, because even the holiest of our good works are but filthy rags. And He is convicting us of judgment because Satan has already been condemned. In all of this the Spirit preaches the Word of God into the ears of the unbelieving and the skeptical so that they, too, might receive life and faith and righteousness in Christ.
And that same Holy Spirit preaches the Gospel into your ears. "Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is (your) Lord, who has purchased and won (you) from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death." All of this, so that in His blood You are declared holy.
You don't have to be good to go to heaven. In fact, you can't be that good. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Jesus said that He came to seek and to save the lost, that is, the condemned of the world. Again, He said that those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Of the goodness and mercy of God, for the sake of the suffering, dying, and rising of the Son of God, you needn't lift a finger to inherit eternal life. It is yours as a gift of the Father in heaven, for the sake of His Son, delivered into your ears, and through your ears to your hearts, by the preaching of the Holy Spirit.
The holy Christian Church on earth is a hearing Church, not a seeing Church. It is all by way of the Word of God, preached and taught; the Word that is heard, and not by the seeing of the eyes. Preaching and Absolution are the things. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." For this reason, everything in the Church is so ordered that the Gospel is preached into the ears of those who would believe such words and promises of God, by the work of the Holy Spirit. And the very same is true of the Lord's Supper and Baptism. If you come to the altar seeking with your eyes, you see only bread and wine. But if you listen with your ears, then you know that the body and blood of Christ are there for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. If you witness a baptism only with your eyes, all you see is water. Listen with your ears, however, and you hear of the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.
The Church lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You are not an apostle; neither am I. We did not see Jesus for ourselves. Our eyes are no good to us, only our ears. Be like Mary, the mother of our Lord, who heard the word of God by the angel Gabriel, and then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word made flesh was conceived within her. In the same way, Christ dwells in the depths of your being through the work of the Holy Spirit, who preaches Him into your ears and hearts.
Dear Christians, you have every reason to rejoice. You have been declared righteous for the sake of Christ, who went to the Father through suffering, death and resurrection. You are righteous because He absorbed your unrighteousness in the font of the Jordan River, and then put it to death on the cross. You are righteous because the Holy Spirit preaches the righteousness of Christ into your ears, and opens your ears and the eyes of your faith to His body and blood which is given to you under bread and wine, for the forgiveness of sins. You are righteous because that same Christ is now your Mediator with the Father in heaven, pleading with Him, praying to Him that He would see you now in Christ's perfect righteousness. That is what the Holy Spirit is about. That is the work He does. He takes what is Christ's and gives it to you. As the Introit today bids us: "Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations." ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA! In the name of the Farther and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Sermon for 4/26/15: Easter IV

I apologize for the delay in posting this. My computer is still down, and so there will be no audio recording posted. I hope to have the computer back soon.

Jesus and Time

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

Seven times in this Gospel reading reference is made to "a little while." It is a reference to time and its passage. There is much that can be said and thought about the passage of time. As Moses said in Psalm 90: "For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh." You know just how this is from your own experience. All you have to do, especially if you are bit older than the rest, is think about those people and places and times you once had that are now nothing but memories. Memories are often a cause of sadness, of longing, of wishing we had back what we once had. Every joy or gladness this life gives you is transitory. These things will pass away. The things you now enjoy on earth won't last. The people whose company you now enjoy will not always be around. And we tend to ignore this and live only in the present. But we know it's true. It can be a terrifying thing to contend with: time marches on, and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
Jesus knew all about the painful passage of time, and here was His answer. He was with them for a little while. Their Master was with them, but only for this little while, as every little while on earth will pass. "A little while and you will not see Me." But now comes the good news: "Again, a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father." And that's just what happened. Good Friday came. Jesus died and was buried. And while the world rejoiced that He was gone, His disciples mourned and wept, as He said they would, but only for a little while. On the third day, He rose from the grave; their little while of mourning was over.
When someone is dead, they are dead, and there is nothing you can do about it. And that is a helpless experience, as many of you know firsthand. But He who was dead is now alive again. He turned back the clock--or perhaps better said, He turned the clock ahead. The resurrection of Jesus is a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come, a glorious glimpse of the everlasting salvation God has prepared for His people. There He stood before them, having conquered sin, death, and the devil. He had won the forgiveness of sins and, in doing that, guaranteed their resurrection from the dead and everlasting life! And this is the answer to that dreadful passage of time we would prefer to not think about.
Every time He would vanish from their sight, they would still expect Him to return. Indeed, on one such occasion, on the road to Emmaus, He went in to eat and stay with two of them. At first they did not recognize Him. When it was time to eat, He took bread and blessed and broke it, and their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. But then He vanished from their sight. And they came rushing back to Jerusalem to tell the others how Jesus had revealed Himself to them in the breaking of the bread, a phrase that came to refer to How Jesus comes to His Church in the Holy Supper.
And then, the day of Pentecost came, another Sunday, and Jesus returned again, though not in the way He had been returning before--that is, not to their sight, but in the apostolic ministry, where He charged His disciples to preach the Gospel and administer the Holy Sacraments. And from that day, Jesus kept on returning to His people, and they rejoiced. Were they sorrowful the day after Pentecost? No, because they knew He was coming back. And so moves the life of every Christian lived in the light of the resurrection of Christ. That resurrection is an eternal thing. And every single Sunday since then, Jesus has returned to His people in Word and Sacrament. He is here at this very moment!   
But where is He? Can you see Him? That question can only be answered by a confession of faith that says that He is known by us, too, in the breaking of the bread. He is recognized when His Word sounds forth as it is rightly proclaimed and taught among His people today, especially in the words of forgiveness and life. The resurrection of Jesus provides victory, not only over Satan, sin, and the grave, but also, as we may celebrate on this Jubilate Sunday, a victory over the passage of time. Yes, even this He has conquered.
This victory over the passage of time is reflected in the way we worship. Week after week we say and sing many of the same words. This is a reminder that the feast of everlasting life is an ongoing feast that has no end. Time stands still when you come to this place and stand before the Holy One and kneel before His presence. Time stands still--or rather, unending time begins. The reign of the Lamb of God upon His heavenly throne has begun, His unending reign. Do not be sorrowful, therefore, about the passage of time, about people and places and times that you miss and long for. Do not be worried about the passage of time, and those things to which you will bid farewell on some day to come. The little whiles are, indeed, little, but the eternal life our Savior gives us has no end. And every longing, every sorrow, every grief among God's people will be put away. You know this because Christ has risen from the grave. Let us, therefore, continue to sing our Alleluias to Him! ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sermon for 4/19/15: Third Sunday of Easter

My ccomputer died. I have no way of editiing the audio of the service right now. I'll try to come back and post the audio when I have it available.

Shepherd and Sheep

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

In the words just after our Gospel reading, Jesus explains why He is the Good Shepherd. He says: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.  This charge I have received from my Father." The only One who ever was without sin, the One who seemingly could not die, laid down His life. His enemies killed Him, but only because He let them. Take note of this: no one takes His life from Him. He lays it down on His own. And only when the ransom had been paid in full, only when an eternity of hell had been suffered for every sinner ever, only when the sacrifice had been enough for the sins of the whole world, then, and only then, would He proclaim, "It is finished." 
The Good Shepherd, the loving, kind, gentle, providing, protecting Shepherd, was killed by the sheep! And, wonder of all wonders, the murderers were exonerated; the very crime itself declared them, and us, innocent. For He who laid down His life of His own accord also had the power to take it up again. He died the common death of men, but when the task was done, when all things were fulfilled, He rose back to life. The victory is His. And we, poor, miserable sinners, we murderous, rebellious sheep, are spared by the mercy of the Lord, our Shepherd, our Holy Redeemer, who loves us and names us as His own.
For this dying, His Father loves Him. Dying to save us was what His Father gave Him to do as the fulfillment of divine promise. He was born of the Virgin and became Man to be a sacrifice. God Himself has provided. There is no ram in the thicket for Him, no angel to hold back the knife. He takes our place and dies our death. His dying fulfills His Father's will by paying for our guilt with His life. He buys us back, and the angels rejoice! He redeems us, and all of heaven is overcome with joy! He crushed Satan's head and opened the gates of heaven to all believers. This is why He is the GOOD Shepherd. No one is good but God. Only God has saved us. He is the only sacrifice that is good enough.
If our Lord had not been true man, if He did not have a true human body and soul, human emotions, and all that it is to be man as man is intended to be, then He could not have acted in our place under the law and fulfilled it for us. Nor could He have been able to suffer and die for our guilt. But He was and is true Man. He kept the Law that we broke. He let that Law do to Him as it should have done to us, exacting its full punishment on Him who was innocent, for us who were guilty. But the One conceived in Mary's womb is also God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. He is equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, without beginning, uncreated. His fulfilling of the Law, His life, suffering, and death, is a sufficient ransom for all people. Because He was and is true Man, He could do it. He could die. And because He was and is true God, His ransom is sufficient, not just for one person, but for all people. Because He was and is God and Man, His death would be enough. And having paid the full amount, the Law being fully satisfied, He rose again. For He, our Good Shepherd, is the Lord of life. He gives and sustains life in all who live. By Him is all that lives and moves and has its being. He has the power and authority, for He is true God, who has overcome death and risen to life again!
By this great act, His death and resurrection, He is our Good Shepherd, our Redeemer, our King, our Lord, our Brother. We are His sheep. He was lifted up from the earth. He laid down His life, and there He has drawn us to Himself. We hear His voice. He speaks to us--not in the chirping birds, not in the rushing waters, not in the gentle breeze--He speaks to us in His Word. In the Holy Scriptures he beckons us into green pastures and still waters--not those of our imagination, but of His declaration. He reveals Himself to us in Words that enter our ears, in green pastures of bread that is His body and wine that is His blood. In Him we see undeserved kindness; perfect, undemanding love; a sacrifice for all who are without merit or worthiness. We know Him by His voice, the gentle Word of forgiveness He speaks to us. That Word of life changes us, cleanses us, and makes us new again; murderers and rebels no longer. Now, by grace, called again to life out of death, we are sheep as sheep were meant to be. We are His. So let us be what He has called us to be: His forgiven, His beloved, His sheep. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sermon for 4/12/15--Second Sunday of Easter



Doubt and Faith

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

Even though we may remain uncertain about the things of this world, there is one all-important question that seeks a sure and certain answer: How can I be certain that God forgives me? We are still very much in the midst of the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord; what does that have to do with forgiveness? What does that have to do with my life?

We are often uncertain about forgiveness because we use our experience with this world as a judge. For many in our world, forgiveness is for weaklings. Revenge, not forgiveness, is what motivates so many in this world. In this world you are judged by your actions, and there is no mercy in the court of public opinion. We use that view of things, and then we apply it to our relationship with God. I am guilty, therefore I cannot be forgiven. That’s it. It’s all over.

Another reason we are often uncertain about forgiveness is that we want visible proof, like Thomas thought he needed. We try to turn faith into sight. If I can’t prove it, if I can’t measure it, if I can’t see it, then it must not be true. That is what our science-above-all-else world would have us do to the Christian faith. But even worse, perhaps, we want our faith to have all of the perfect answers to life’s problems. If the Christian faith cannot answer everything the way I want it answered, then it must not be true. That is how this world trains us to think and believe.

Yet another way we doubt forgiveness is when we look inside ourselves, rather than to Christ and His cross and resurrection. Our world thrives on self-empowerment. Even the church is infected with this plague. We try to judge the condition of our faith based on our feelings and emotions. If I don’t have a particular feeling, then there must be something wrong with my faith. Somehow we have gotten the idea that we have to do something to prepare ourselves for God, and that He won’t forgive us until we are in the right frame of mind.

Now, compare that uncertainty to the resurrection of Jesus as the firm foundation of our forgiveness. When Jesus died, He took on all of our sin for us. He paid the full and final price for all the sins of the world. Christ alone is our confidence. There is nothing we can do or say or feel that adds anything to our salvation. By the standards of the world, that doesn’t make any sense. Why should Someone else pay the price that I deserve to pay? He did it simply because He loved us, even to the point of His own death. That’s who He is; that’s what He does.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the solid ground of our faith and the source of our forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t something we get, like a new pair of shoes. Forgiveness means reconciliation with God. It means communion with Christ. It means receiving from Christ. We receive forgiveness by becoming one with Christ. Again, this isn’t something we do. In Baptism we put on Christ, but there is no work on our part. It is an objective fact, something that happens to us. St. Peter writes, “Baptism now saves you.” And then He comes to us with forgiveness through Holy Absolution and the preaching of the Gospel. Jesus gave that gift to the Church so that we could see and know that He is always with us, forgiving our sins. It is that gift that stands behind the words of your pastor when he says, “In the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And He finally comes to us in His body and blood, feeding us with forgiveness and life.

It is through these means that Christ gives you a solid foundation for faith. In spite of any uncertainty you may have—and we are all visited by uncertainty from time to time—He gives us the certainty of the forgiveness and salvation that comes through the resurrection of Jesus. Thanks be to God that He has given us so many gifts to bring us to everlasting life. Thanks be to God, that by His grace we are among those of whom Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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

Monday, April 06, 2015

Sermon for 4/5/15: The Resurrection of Our Lord



What Has Changed?

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

“Do not be afraid! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here! See the place where they laid Him!” The young man in the white robe is telling them the Good News! Death is defeated. Jesus is alive. Yes, He was crucified for sinners. But it would all have been for nothing if He hadn't risen from the dead! Jesus is alive. His resurrection means that He really did pay for your sins. The wages of sin is death. Jesus dies because He had your sins. Now He is alive. Your sins are gone, left buried in the tomb. Jesus has accomplished your salvation. He paid the price for your sins. He has defeated death. Jesus who was crucified is risen. You won't find Him in the grave. He is alive forevermore.

“Go and tell His disciples and Peter”—Peter, who especially needs to hear this Good News—“that He is going to Galilee and they will see Him there, just as He said.” What about you? Where shall you find Jesus? Look no further. He is right here in His church. Don't go looking in Galilee. Look here at the font where His water and Word washes sinners. Listen for His voice in the absolution and preaching of your pastor. See Him raised from the dead in His own body and blood given and shed for you to eat and drink at His holy altar. Right here, present in His church, Jesus is present. And right here, present in His church, by water and Word, sermon and Supper, He is delivering His forgiveness for all your sins and His victory over sin and death.

So the angel tells the women to go tell the disciples. They run off and do it, right? Not quite. St. Mark says they were frightened and didn't tell anyone because they were afraid. Oh, sure, later it all came out. But right away, they were still overcome by fear. That's us. Today we just heard that Jesus is alive! He was dead and now He's risen. So what? Do we go back to business as usual? Do we go back to arguing with and hating others? Do we go back to lusting and fornication and coveting and stealing? Do we go back to doing the things we do as if Jesus isn't alive at all? The greatest triumph the world has seen, and we will yawn and go our merry way, with the same sins at work in us. Jesus rose from the dead. Does that mean anything? Does it make a difference? Or do we do what we’ve always done? Repent! Repent of living as if the stone was still there and Jesus was still dead!

St. Paul calls us to eat the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. That's why you are here today: to be purged of your old leaven of sin and to have new life. That's exactly what your baptism, absolution, and the Supper gives you. Your baptism has raised you from the death of sin. You are a new creation. The very body and blood of Christ cast out from you all that is sinful and selfish. Christ's body and blood are the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Your sins, whatever they are, are buried in that tomb forever. There is no need to go and drag them back out! Jesus has taken care of them once and for all. The same Good News which eventually overcame the women's fear and sent them shouting what they had heard is the same Good News by which the Spirit works in you to love God and your neighbor. Your sins have been put away by Jesus' death. They were buried with Him. And only Jesus came out of the tomb. Christ is alive. Your sins are done. And Jesus, who has defeated death, promises that you have defeated sin and death forever. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

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

Friday, April 03, 2015

Sermon for 4/3/15: Good Friday (Wounds sermon series)



The Wounds that Heal

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, for by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world. Amen.

A crucifix makes us uncomfortable, and well it should. We squirm before it—and our discomfort has nothing to do with any anti-Catholic bias. It is simply painful to look upon our Lord as He suffers and to know the reason for His suffering. Earlier in Lent we sang: “Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.” In the darkness of that first Good Friday, the totality of human sin—from the first sin of our first parents to the very last sin—all of it was gathered up and loaded on to Jesus. He bore the whole weight of it as if it was His own, including its penalty: death.

Look upon His cross. See His wounds, the nails fixing His hands and feet to the beams. See the blood continuing to run down His face from the cruel crown of thorns. Behold the gory mass of His mutilated back. And as you look, understand this: the wounded Man, dying in agony, is not suffering for a single wrong that He has done. His whole life was one of love. He was the only man who completely loved the Father with all His being, who perfectly loved His neighbor. And yet, it is because Jesus is love that He is now upon the tree of the cross. Love will not leave the sinner in his sin. Love takes that sin upon Himself. Love is wounded to grant us healing. Love is offering atonement for all the wrongs that we have done.

Yes, it is hard to look at a crucifix, because it is hard to accept the truth that this is the penalty our sins deserve. It is hard, and yet, it is salutary to look, to contemplate. It is salutary to pray that Christ would imprint this image on our hearts, so that we might carry it with us wherever we go, so that it can also be before our eyes in the moment of our death. You see, when the moment of death comes, Satan, who played down the importance of sin when he was luring you into temptation, will emphasize those sins in your memory in the hours of despair. When death is coming to you, he will replay in your mind the many sins you have forgotten. He will taunt you, saying that you are no Christian, that you are unfit for the Kingdom. He will tell you that you are his and that you have wanted to be his with every sin you have committed. And all the while, all those sins will be playing, in vivid detail, before your eyes, as you are struggling in the throes of death.

That is why it is vital to train yourself now to look upon the crucifix, to behold your Savior’s wounds, to hold them close to your heart. In the hour of your death that will be your only weapon against the despair of the enemy. You will be able to look at all your sins as the accuser brings them before your eyes, and you will be able to acknowledge their hideous nature as testimony to your countless failures. But foremost in your sight will be another image: the image Isaiah holds before us of the Crucified One. And it is this image that will shatter the devil’s attempts to draw you into despair. That is why we pray:
Be Thou my Consolation, my Shield when I must die.
Remind me of Thy Passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

The image you want before your eyes as they are closing in death is the image of the Son of God in His last agonies, where He answers for your every sin, pouring out His blood to blot out the accusations that Satan would use against you. Each sin, no matter how awful, has been covered over in the blood of the innocent Lamb, your Jesus. In the Book of Revelation, St. John writes: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the Word of their testimony.” In that final hour, you will say with boldness: “Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness. You have taken upon yourself the sin that is mine and have given to me the holiness which is yours. You have become sin to make me a saint.”
In this way you will indeed be prepared for death: when the image of the Crucified One hangs before your eyes. His life is your righteousness; His death is your forgiveness; His wounds are your healing; His sufferings are your crown and glory. You are beloved of God. That is what this day is about and nothing else! God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, has proved to be your dearest Friend, and He would make you His forever. Look upon His cross boldly and with confidence, and live.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, for by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world. Amen.