Though I will do so in person and frequently, I would like to thank here everyone who made the day so special: my wife and children; my parents and Faith's mother, all of whom traveled long distances to be here; President Mueller and Pastors Weedon and Buetow for officiating, as well as all the pastors who came to participate in the Rite of Installation; the people of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois, who extended to me the Divine Call to serve as their pastor and who began living up to the vows they made "to receive him, show him that love, honor and obedience in the Lord that you owe to the shepherd and teacher placed over you by your Lord Jesus Christ, and . . . support him with your gifts and fervent prayer . . ." long before they made those vows; and above all, the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whose graciousness to this poor miserable sinner is abundant and whose timing is . . . well, divine.
Today begins my first full day back in the saddle, and I've given a lot of thought as to where I want to begin. All that thought has led me back to something I first encountered in college: Luther's Sacristy Prayer. So I will close with Luther's words:
Lord God, You have appointed me as a pastor in Your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon You Word. Use me as Your instrument -- but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all. Amen
To God alone be the glory!
With Pastor Buetow's gracious permission, here is his sermon from last night.
The Installation of the Rev. Alan Kornacki, St. Peter, Campbell Hill
St. Mark 16:14-20; I Peter 4:7-14
St. Mark 16:14-20; I Peter 4:7-14
Today is a day of celebration! It is a day of celebration because this is the day the Lord rose from the dead! He died on the cross and answered for our sins and rose from the dead and now He has ascended to the right hand of the Father, securing your place there! It is a day of celebration for this congregation because she is once again going to be served by her own full time pastor. Today, people of God at St. Peter, the Lord is giving you a man to call upon when your sins trouble you, when your are sick, when you need the comfort of Christ's Word. A man to teach you God's Word and to care for you in the faith of Christ. Today is a day of celebration for Pastor Kornacki who has longed to once again serve the Lord in the Office of the Holy Ministry, caring for the Lord's flock. It's even a day of celebration for the vacancy pastor who can now go back to working just one day a week instead of two! So today let us hear why it is the Lord is giving you a pastor once again and remind that pastor of what the Lord expects of Him. We'll also hear from God's Word how you are to treat your pastor and how he has been commanded to love you. It is a great blessing that the Lord has once again called a man to serve as the shepherd of His flock in Campbell Hill!
In the Gospel for our Lord's Ascension, which we just heard, Jesus commands His apostles to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” When our Lord had accomplished the salvation of the world, He sent His preachers to announce it to the ends of the earth. Jesus, the Son of God suffered and died for all of our sins upon the cross. He rose victorious and has thrown down the powers that were against us: sin, death, devil, hell, the curse of the Law—all of it. But how does that salvation come to us? It comes through a preacher. The Lord, in order that the whole world would know what He has done and so believe in Him, sends His preachers to preach and baptize. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is why you are being given a pastor. Because even here in Campbell Hill, Illinois, sinners need to hear that they have a Savior. And so the Lord is giving you a preacher to declare that to you. That's His job: to preach the Good News that for Jesus' sake your sins are forgiven. He is sent to baptize and to remind you of your baptism. He is sent to absolve you and declare that holy pardon that your sins no longer block you from God. He is sent here to feed you with the holy food of Jesus' body and blood so that you will be forgiven of your sins and strengthened in the faith. Pastor Kornacki is being given to you, brothers and sisters in Christ, so that you will always have this comfort and confidence, so that there will be a man here to deliver to you those gifts of Word and Sacrament by which the Holy Spirit keeps you in the faith. You NEED a pastor to give you exactly those things!
Now, Pastor Kornacki, pay attention! Christ has commanded you in this Call to preach the Gospel. That is your job. That is your calling. You are not to come here with your own notions about what this church needs or doesn't need. You are not put here to come up with clever ideas or things that will impress people. You are not put here to please the people and give them what they want. You are put here for this job: to preach Christ and Him crucified, the Savior of sinners. You are put here to splash the saving water and word of Baptism upon young and old and to teach these saints to live each day in the confidence of their baptism. You are put here to hear their confessions, bear their burdens and joyfully pronounce the absolution so that they may be comforted that their sins are no longer held against them. You are put here to faithfully administer Christ's body and blood and that means teaching people to treasure that gift but also withholding it from those who have not yet been taught what it is. Your job, Pastor Kornacki, your calling, is to call sinners to repentance, no matter how hard that might be to do, no matter how mad they might get at you! But most of all, your job is to comfort them with Christ's forgiveness so that they may live in the joyful confidence that they are set right with God for Jesus' sake. Everything you do: preaching, teaching, serving in worship, visiting the sick, the homebound, and loving these people is for this one purpose: that by the Gospel you preach, they will believe and be saved. NOT because you are doing it but because you are the Holy Spirit's instrument by which this gets done.
So we know, people of St. Peter, why you have a pastor. Now, how shall you receive him and treat him? This we hear in our Epistle from this last Sunday of the Easter Season. St. Peter, whose name this congregation bears, writes: “Above all have fervent love for one another, for 'love covers a multitude of sins.'” What does this mean? Our Lutheran Confessions interpret this passage by reminding people that they must overlook their pastor's faults and shortcomings. I won't sugar coat it. People will say, “Pastor Kornacki is human too.” Well, he is, but there's more to it that that. He's a sinner. A low-down, dirty, rotten sinner. (Trust me, I know the guy! And I hear he's a Yankees fan on top of that!) But a baptized sinner. When Pastor Kornacki preaches and teaches faithfully what God's Word teaches, you are to receive Him and hear Him as if Christ Himself spoke to you. But there will be times when his sinfulness will be evident. Perhaps in his temper. Perhaps in his frustration. Perhaps in forgetting to do something or neglecting to do what he should have done. It may be that he will sin against you by not being patient or attentive or aware of something. Whatever it is, hear God's Word from St. Peter: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Love him. Forgive him. When some foolish thing he says or does is not a violation or contradiction of God's Word, then love him. Forgive him. Overlook it. Never despise him for the same sins which you do. Rather lift him up in prayer and support him by your gracious forgiveness and love. Do not hold against him what you would not want held against you and what Christ Himself has forgiven!
Your turn, Pastor Kornacki. These are the Lord's people, not yours. They are sinners. They don't know as much about the Bible as you do. They didn't go to seminary. They can't read Greek and Hebrew. They don't have Masters degrees in doctrine. They forget their Catechism. They forget the commands of our Lord to love their neighbor and to love the Lord above all things. When they blow it, when they sin, don't come raining down on them as the holy-terror Mr. Authority Figure that many think the pastoral office has made them. No, love them! Cover their sins. Call them to repentance gently. Deliver Jesus and His forgiveness to them gladly. Overlook their faults and shortcomings as you desire them to overlook yours and as Christ has forgiven yours. Brother Alan, teach them! Patiently! Teach them God's Word. Teach them the Catechism. Teach them how they should judge your doctrine according to the Word of God. And teach them how to love and forgive by showing them yourself how to do exactly that. Learn, brother, how to speak of your congregation. Always do so gently and respectfully. Do not complain about them to others. Speak of them as Christ sees them: holy and spotless and blameless for his sake. And if the temptation to grouse and complain becomes too much, then go and find your father confessor and unload your own sins upon the Lord. Never unload them on the people He has given you to serve. Love them, Pastor Kornacki, not in some feel-good way but in the true way which is the way of Christ's forgiveness and life!
Christ died and rose and sent His apostles to preach to all the world. Today He sends Pastor Kornacki into this congregation and community to be a preacher of His Word and a deliveryman of His gifts. Welcome him, people of God, with open arms and a rejoicing that Christ is promising you, by this man, that He Himself will never leave you or forsake you! Rejoice that the one who has died and risen does not leave you without His Word but graciously provides it to you through your pastor. And you rejoice, Alan, because the Lord has called you to serve these people with His Word and gifts. What joy that you are not put here to figure things out for yourself but rather have God's Word and Spirit to do the work for you! Today, brothers and sisters in Christ of St. Peter, all that Christ has is yours, to be given to you by the hand of this man that He has called to serve you. And today, Alan, all that Christ has for these people He puts you here to give them. This is a day of celebration indeed! In the Name of Jesus. Amen.