Sunday, October 31, 2010

HYMN: From Ramah We Have Heard Them

I wrote this text as a sort of lyrical exercise, to see if I could set a particular Biblical text into a metered form and make it come out. The text was Jeremiah 31, and I took excerpts--vv.15-22 and vv.31-34--and fit them together into the following text.

This hymn will most likely never make it into the rotation of hymns I'd select for my congregation, but I'll admit that I'm pleased with the growth it exhibits in my writing.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

From Ramah We Have Heard Them

1. From Ramah we have heard them:
Laments and bitter grief.
Dear Rachel for her children
Weeps tears without relief.
Fair Rachel, grieving spurn.
Behold, the Lord has spoken.
Your mourning now is broken.
Your children shall return.

2. Refrain your voice from weeping.
Your comfort now is near.
The Lord your hope is keeping--
A future without fear.
The children shall come home,
Returning from oppression.
With Ephraim make confession:
"My sins You have made known."

3. Lord, I have been unruly,
And You have reined me in.
You have restored me truly--
Absolved me of my sin.
O Israel, return;
O, how long will you wander?
Set up your signs and ponder
The road that you must learn.

4. Her signs the road has taught her:
Turn back, O virgin mild.
Return, O wayward daughter,
For you shall bear the Child.
Lord, call Your children home.
Bring us to true repentance.
Commute our dread death sentence
Until that day You come.

5. "Behold, the days are nearing--"
Thus says the mighty Lord--
"When with all those now fearing
And trusting in My Word
I will a cov'nant make
With all my chosen children,
To take their hand and lead them.
Their sins I will forsake."

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
76 76 67 76

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sermon for 10/31/10--The Festival of the Reformation

Seizing the Kingdom

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

The promise was for Abraham and his descendants. It was to be an everlasting covenant made by God with His people. He would be their God, and they would be His people. He would send for them a mighty Savior, one who would fulfill the promise made to Eve that one of her descendants would crush the head of that wily and deceptive serpent, Satan. The children of Israel were heirs of that promise, heirs of the richest inheritance God could provide. As cautionary tales like that of Paris Hilton and other celebrity heirs would show us, the danger of being an heir of a rich inheritance is that it tends to make the heir complacent and even lazy. Since they don’t have to work to make a living, they don’t work. They don’t do anything useful, in fact—unless, of course, you consider providing fodder for gossip columns to be a useful task. You remember the parable of the prodigal son, where the younger son of the rich father demands his inheritance while his father is still alive. He wastes his inheritance on extravagant living, and it’s not until the sum of his inheritance is spent that he finds himself looking for something useful to do. The children of Israel reacted to their inheritance in the same way. They saw their role as sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as an eternal inheritance, one that could not be taken away from them. By the very accident of their genealogy they saw themselves as irrevocable heirs of the kingdom of heaven. But Jesus Himself told them in another time and place, “And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”

And that is exactly what our heavenly Father did. He made for Himself heirs who were hungry for their inheritance. When God’s own chosen people rejected the covenant, Jesus sent His apostles to the ends of the earth to share with them the message of the Messiah who came to deliver forgiveness and life to them. The inheritance which was originally intended for the indolent children of Israel was taken away from them by force, taken away by the Gentiles, the people whom the children of Israel looked down upon as lesser people, as unclean, as unworthy of the favor of God. The Gentiles seized the Kingdom, clinging to it with a violent passion—a passion so violent that it led many of them to their deaths at the hands of the Jews who saw their inheritance being violently ripped away from them.

In Luther’s day, great violence was again being done to the Kingdom. The blessed Gospel, the message of salvation and life in Jesus Christ, was being muffled and even perverted. The Church had become careless and even negligent in its confession of the truth of God. The times called for men of spiritual courage, men who did not fear the cost of confessing the truth. The times required a boldness like that of the apostles, who ventured out into a world that did not know the Gospel. There was a violence that was necessary–not a physical violence, not coercion, not intimidation, not manipulation, but a confession of the truth that was unwavering, a confession that, under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, could topple the fortresses of unbelief and rejection. What was needed was a stubborn love, a love for Christ, a love for the Gospel, a love for the Church, and a love for the people of God that could endure all things. Luther put it well, didn’t he, when he said: “And take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife; let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won! The Kingdom ours remaineth!”

We are the heirs now: heirs of the Word and inheritors of the Gospel. And have we not also become complacent? Look at the state of those calling themselves Lutheran today. Look at the divisions among us. Look at how we fight amongst ourselves. Look at how Lutherans have, in the misguided name of love, abandoned the Word for the love of the world. Look at how Lutherans have begun to ordain women and homosexuals in opposition to the clear Word of God. Look at how we have abandoned the rich blessings of the traditional liturgy for the cotton candy of contemporary liturgies that are here today and gone tomorrow. “People are dying eternal death while we talk about the purity of the Gospel,” some would say. That means we should stop worrying about the purity of the Gospel and just get any old message out, right?

No. Still today we must carry on with Luther. Still today we need that stubborn love that seizes the kingdom of God and shares it with the world. It is time, once again, to storm the gates of heaven with our prayers that God would bless and sustain His Church. It is time, once again, to wrestle with God, even as Jacob did, and insist that we will not end our striving until He blesses us. It is time once again, to cling to the Word with passion, clinging to it violently, even in the face of persecution and death.

We are the heirs now. We have heard the voice of John crying in the wilderness, the voice of the prophets, and we have received it. We are the heirs now, and we have been given that faith which clings to these promises and gifts of God; we have been given that faith in the Word and the water of Holy Baptism. We are marked there as heirs of the kingdom of God, heirs of the everlasting inheritance of forgiveness and salvation. The promise that God made to Adam and Eve, the promise made to Abraham, the covenant God made with His chosen people—that promise has been fulfilled in the person of Jesus, who died on the cross bearing our sin, who rose again to bring us to life again with Him, and who now sits at the right hand of the Father to intercede on our behalf. God has made us His children, and He has promised us, “I will be your God, and you will be My people.” We are His children, and as His children, we are also His heirs. That inheritance includes the forgiveness of sins, spoken in the word of Holy Absolution. That inheritance includes the body and blood of the promised Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, in which we receive the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and the strengthening of our faith for our violent struggle for the Word.

Luther wrote, “The Gospel is not preached in vain; there are people who hear it and love it violently, so that they hazard body and life for the sake of God’s Word.  When they hear the Gospel, their conscience drives them on, so that none can keep them away.”  By the grace of God through the waters of Holy Baptism, we are those people, for we know that the Gospel is not preached in vain.  The kingdom ours remaineth.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  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 21, 2010

#40 . . . With a Bullet

A number of my friends and fellow bloggers (like Rick Stuckwisch and Chris Esget) have put together lists of their most influential music albums.  Thinking about the role which music has played in my life, I decided to put together my own list.  Obviously it won't be a comprehensive list--after all, I own over a thousand CDs, and all of them have influenced me in some way.  These are the ones that left the greatest impression, that reached me at a certain point in time and made an impact.

I doubt I could rank them from highest to lowest, looking back over the past 35 years.  Time magnifies some things and desensitizes others.  So what I've done is list them chronologically according to when the album as a whole made its initial impact on me.  That means some of the albums might be dated differently than the year they were originally released.  (Since some of these albums are from before I was born, that should be obvious.)  The chronology might be different if I went by when a certain song from the album influenced me, but that's not what I'm going for right now. 

By the way, you'll notice a few "Greatest Hits" collections on here.  That's because those albums are how I first encountered the artist's work as a collection.  (For example, I encountered "Rock N Soul Pt. 1" by Hall & Oates long before I ever bought a studio album of theirs.)

All that being said, here we go with . . .

My Top 40 Most Influential Albums

1. 1979 - Kiss: Destroyer
2. 1980 - Styx: Paradise Theater
3. 1982 - Toto IV
4. 1982 - John Mellencamp: American Fool (released as John Cougar)
5. 1982 - Asia: Asia
6. 1982 - Michael Jackson: Thriller
7. 1983-1984 - Billy Joel: An Innocent Man
8. 1984 - Hall & Oates: Rock N Soul Pt. 1
9. 1986 - OST: St. Elmo's Fire
10. 1986 - "Weird Al" Yankovic: Dare to Be Stupid
11. 1986-1987 - Boston: Third Stage
12. 1986-1987 - Bon Jovi: Slippery When Wet
13. 1987 - Bryan Adams: Reckless
14. 1988 - Dan Fogelberg: The Innocent Age (especially disc 1)
15. 1988 - Mannheim Steamroller: A Fresh Aire Christmas
16. 1989 - America: Greatest Hits
17. 1990 - Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
18. 1990 - The Eagles: Greatest Hits 1971-75
19. 1990 - Metallica: . . . And Justice For All
20. 1991 - Journey: Infinity
21. 1991 - Pink Floyd: The Wall
22. 1992 - Peter Gabriel: So
23. 1992 - Neil Diamond: 12 Hits Vol. 2
24. 1992 - Meatloaf: Bat out of Hell
25. 1992 - Joe Jackson: Night and Day
26. 1993 - Jackson Browne: Running on Empty
27. 1993 - Queen: A Kind of Magic (and Innuendo)
28. 1994 - Barenaked Ladies: Gordon
29. 1995 - Harry Chapin: Greatest Stories Live
30. 1995 - Crosby Stills & Nash: So Far
31. 1995 - Sarah McLachlan: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
32. 1996 - Cake: Fashion Nugget
33. 1996 - Alison Krauss: Now That I've Found You
34. 1998 - Praetorius: Mass for Christmas Morning (Paul McCreesh conducting the Gabrieli Consort and Players)
35: 1999 - Holly Cole: Temptation
36: 2000 - Gary Allan: Smoke Rings in the Dark
37. 2001 - Liz Phair: Whipsmart
38. 2002 - Damien Rice: O
39. 2003 - Evanescence: Fallen
40. 2009 - Breaking Benjamin: Dear Agony

Honorable Mention
1986 - Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
1990 - REO Speedwagon: Hi Infidelity
1990 - Led Zeppelin: IV (ZOSO)
1991 - Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon / Wish You Were Here
1993 - Barry Manilow: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (and 2 and 3)
1998 - Ani Difranco: Living in Clip
1998 - Ecole Notre Dame: Messe du Jour de Noel (Marcel Pérès conducting Ensemble Organum)
2000 - David Bowie: Changesbowie

Sermon for 10/24/10--Twenty-First Sunday After Trinity (LSB 1-year)

The Word Speaks

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

It took faith for the man in our text to make the journey from Capernaum to Cana to seek healing for his son from Jesus. Though it was not a terribly long journey, he left behind a son that was deathly ill. But as much faith as it took for him to make that journey, it took even more faith for the man to walk away from Jesus. After all, the man didn’t get exactly what he asked for from the Lord. He asked Jesus to come with him and heal his son who was at the point of death. Jesus spoke truth to the man, saying, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” And when the man again implored Him, saying, “Sir, come down before my child dies,” Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” The man asked Jesus twice to “come down” with him so that Jesus could heal his son. Jesus did not send him away empty-handed, yet it seems that all Jesus gave this man was words. How much faith did it take to walk away from Jesus at that point and believe that he would find his son alive and healed? This is faith in the crucible, faith under pressure. His faith was rewarded the next day, when he was met on his way back by his slaves who told him, “Your child lives!” They even told him that the boy was healed at the moment when Jesus said that his son was alive.

On the Sunday after the resurrection, Jesus told Thomas the disciple, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The man in our text exhibited the faith of those whom Jesus calls “blessed”. How does a man get that kind of faith, anyway? It’s an important question for us, because we are living in an age where we do not see Christ in the flesh performing signs and wonders—not the way the disciples were privileged to witness Him. For now, we are meant to live by faith, not by sight. As St. Paul tells us in his First Letter to the Corinthains, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly.”

But it’s so hard to live that way, isn’t it? Even Adam and Eve, who were created in the image of God, who would have seen the Almighty face to face, who would have spoken with Him as we speak to each other, did not have that kind of faith; rather, at the first opportunity, they questioned the command of God. They turned away from Him—not in faith, but in sin, choosing to believe Satan and flee from God. As for us, we know that Jesus is ascended on high, and we know He does not show Himself to us the way He showed Himself to the world during His earthly life and ministry. Still, we expect Him to show Himself to us, especially in our hour of need. “Jesus, my child is sick. Why aren’t you here?” “Jesus, he wants a divorce. Why did you let this happen?” “Jesus, the ground is dry, and the crops are dying. You’re the one in control of the winds and the waves; do something!” We’re under the impression that we know better than God what is good for us and how He should take care of things. Like the man in our text, we want Jesus to come down to where we are, to where the trouble is, and to take care of it. We want it done our way.

And the odd thing is, He does take care of these things; yet we’re not satisfied with the way He handles them. Twice the man in our text asked Jesus to “come down” with him. Don’t doubt for a moment that it took faith for the man to keep asking Jesus to heal his son after the first time. After all, Jesus told a parable of a widow who kept badgering a judge so much that he finally gave into her, with the point that we should be persistent in our prayers to the Lord. But at the same time, with the man in our text, we want to see the proof, the evidence, the goods. If God can fulfill our request in our way, in a way that we can see and touch and experience, then we can know that He is God. But that’s not the way God works. Jesus speaks, and His powerful Word accomplishes what He wills—not necessarily in a flashy way, but it is effective.

Just how powerful is the Word of God? How trustworthy is it? It does exactly what He says it will do. The Word gives life. The Word gave life in creation, where God spoke, and what He willed came to be. The Word gave life to the son of this man in our text, bringing healing from the moment the Word was spoken. And the Word gives life to the people of God still today. It begins in Holy Baptism, where the Word works in the water to drown the old sinful man within you, bringing to life a new and cleansed man, a new creation. A new life begins, a new life which has been given the gift of faith, faith which clings to the forgiveness and life you receive. It continues in the Holy Absolution, where the Word brings you back to that baptismal cleansing. When your pastor speaks this Word in the stead of Christ, your sins are forgiven, removed from you, never to be looked upon again by our Lord. In Holy Absolution, the new life you have received in Baptism is restored. And then that new life is fed in the Holy Supper, where, like the son of the man from Capernaum, Jesus heals you and restores life to you, even though you don’t see Him. Jesus takes ordinary means, bread and wine, and He says to you, “This is my body. This is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” The Word of God does exactly what He says it will do. The bread of the Holy Supper is His body. The wine of the Holy Supper is His blood. And these gifts give you the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, exactly as He said they would. You can’t see the evidence, and there are no signs or wonders to prove these things empirically; but the faith which you have received in Holy Baptism clings to these words and trusts them. As the Lord says to you through the prophet Isaiah: “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

Jesus is the Word of God, and the Word of God is powerful and trustworthy to do exactly what He says it will do. What the Word promises, the Word delivers—whether it be light and the other blessings of creation and daily living, or healing of the body, or the healing of the soul which you will receive today in Christ’s body and blood. Do not seek signs and wonders; but cling to the Word of God. Go your way; for you will live, now and forever. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed; for the Word speaks, and He does exactly what He says He will do. 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 14, 2010

Sermon for 10/17/10--Twentieth Sunday After Trinity (LSB 1-year)

The Wedding Garment

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

The invitation had been extended by the king, and there were no strings attached to it. “All things are ready. Come to the wedding.” When those who were first invited, the cream of society, refused the invitation with indifference and even with violence, the king responded to their rejection by destroying their city. Then he sent his messengers out to the street corners and the marketplaces, anywhere they could catch a lot of people in a hurry; and the messengers were to invite everyone they could find. Finally the wedding hall was full. The wedding banquet should have begun then to the joy of everyone gathered. But the king came in and saw a guest who was in his street clothes instead of the wedding garment the king had provided. And the king asked the man, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?”

It is sometimes a fearful thing for Jesus to call someone a friend. In the Gospel of Matthew, between the use of parables and His address of people He encounters, He only calls someone “friend” three times. The first occurs in a parable in chapter 20, when the man who has hired laborers at different times addresses the men he hired first, men who are now complaining about their wages; and he addresses one of them as “friend”. The third occurs in chapter 26, when Jesus addresses Judas in Gethsemane as “friend” when Judas came to betray Him. And the second occurs in our text, where the king addresses as “friend” the man who has come in to the wedding feast without a wedding garment. None of these occurrences are what we would consider particularly friendly, and it does not end well for any of those Jesus addresses as friends. It is as if, as Paul suggests to the Romans, Jesus is heaping coals upon those who reject His love by speaking kind words to them. In truth, though the words seem kind, He deals harshly with those who claim to be friends in faithfulness to His Word, but who in reality are enemies, those who have proven themselves to be unfaithful.

We see in this text a metaphor for the whole history of salvation. Our heavenly Father invited Israel, His chosen people, to the union of His Son, Jesus, with His holy Bride, the Church. From Adam on, the Old Testament people of God were waiting for the promised Messiah. They had been told the wedding was coming, and they waited for the day when that promise would be fulfilled. When the Christ finally came and the wedding feast of His body and blood was prepared, those who had been invited first rejected the invitation, crucifying Christ and then persecuting and murdering those who had been seen to tell them that the wedding feast is ready, that Jesus had been raised from the dead, bringing life and salvation with Him. So the Apostles went to the ends of the earth, inviting everyone they could, Jew and Gentile, to the Feast of Christ’s body and blood. And many have come: the good and the bad, the just and the unjust, the faithful and the hypocrite.

One of the most common excuses people give for not coming to church goes something like this: “I don’t go to church because there are so many hypocrites there.” What a shameful reason to refuse the invitation. Everyone who is in church has been invited by the Savior—those whom the world sees as good and bad, those whom the world sees as faithful and hypocrite. What a shameful excuse to refuse the grace and gifts of God—shameful and ironic. A true Christian concerns himself with his own salvation in fear and trembling, not with checking the eyes of his neighbors for specks. By commenting on the spiritual condition of those who would share the pews with them, these people who are against hypocrisy have shown themselves to be the very thing they hate. They have shown themselves to be hypocrites, enemies of Christ and His Church. They have condemned themselves to the outer darkness.

But they are right about one thing: there is certainly truth to the claim that there are hypocrites in the midst of the Church Militant. Jesus Himself points them out to us in this parable. There are people who come to the divine service for the wrong reasons. There are people who come to see who else is there, and to make sure they’re seen to be there. The truth is, we look a lot like that hypocrite who has refused the wedding garment. We try to come to this place on our own terms, clothed in self-righteousness. There are people who expect to be recognized for the good they do in the community and for the amount of money they give to the congregation. There are people who come to church and expect the pastor, speaking in the stead of Christ, to say to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your lord.” The congregation may never know what is in the hearts of these people, but the Lord certainly does. As the king speaks in the parable, so Jesus will say to them: “Take him away, and cast him into outer darkness.” They have already excluded themselves from the joy of the wedding feast; the Lord is just acknowledging their rejection of His grace.

But we have already been clothed in the proper wedding garment, the robe which has been made white in the blood of the Lamb and which has been placed on us in the waters of Holy Baptism. The King of kings Himself has provided your spotless royal robe of righteousness, and seeing that robe, no one will come to cast you into the outer darkness. Your teeth will remain ungnashed. Your eyes will remain dry of the tears of the anguish of those who have been cast away from the feast. Yes, you can choose to take it off, to reject this beautiful gift, but no one else can take it away from you. The invitation has been addressed to you, and our Lord has brought you to this place, where you may feed freely on the wedding feast of the body and blood of Jesus. You may feast on the Word of forgiveness, spoken to you by your pastor as by Christ Himself. You may drink to contentment the living water of Holy Baptism. Wouldn’t you love to be able to walk into your favorite store and freely walk out with everything you desire without having to pay for it? That is exactly what our Lord gives us in His church: 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 strings attached. There aren't any conditions. He's accomplished your salvation on the cross. He brings you into His church to receive and enjoy His salvation. You are an invited and welcome guest. All things are ready. Come to the feast. 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 12, 2010

Five Years Later

"You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day . . ." -- Genesis 50:20b

You've heard this story before.
Five years ago today, I was attending the Ohio District Pastors' Conference. I like to be a good citizen when I can, and that means going to these things when you don't have a good excuse not to go. Anyway, the conference wasn't too bad--though if I'd have had to listen to then-President Kieschnick say "incessant internal purification" one more time, I might have bludgeoned myself with my own computer. But then, at the very end of the conference, then-President Bergen of the Ohio District took me aside and said to me, "I'm putting you on restricted status, pending your possible removal from the Synodical roster." On the drive home from the conference, I spoke with my Circuit Counselor, and he told me the board of elders of the congregation I was serving at the time was going to ask for my resignation, and should I refuse, they'd force me out. Sure enough, that evening, the president of the congregation asked for my resignation upon the request of the elders. It was the worst day of my life--and I hope it always remains so.  It was the start of four-and-a-half years on CRM status, which is as close to purgatory as I imagine anyone can get.

I know I don't really talk about congregational matters very much on here, and that's a deliberate thing. But this morning I will make an exception. One of my elders and his wife stopped by to pick up something for an event we're having later this month. They were only here for about ten minutes, but while they were gathering what they needed, we had a lovely conversation, and we all went on our way with smiles on our faces.

What a difference five years makes! How blessed I am, and how blessed my family is, that we are in this place with these fine people. God is, indeed, good--just as He was five years ago, though I found it harder to see at times back then.  What a good and gracious God we have, who uses everything for good.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sermon for 10/10/10--Ninteenth Sunday After Trinity (LSB 1-year)

"Your sins are forgiven you."

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

It is all too easy for us to doubt the power of God in the lives of men. When you look around you and see all the suffering of humanity—when you see a young woman struggling over her last breath as cancer wins its battle with her body, when you see your life flash before your eyes as the car pulls out in front of you, when you see your parent slowly losing his grasp on sanity as dementia overtakes his mind—it is all too easy to question the goodness and power of God in our lives. Sinners that we are, even as we consider our baptism or kneel in confession or stand before the altar rail, it’s easy to look at the water of baptism or the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, to hear the words of Holy Absolution, and to question their power. Is this Word of God really effective? After all, we can’t read the hearts and souls of men—not even our own hearts and souls—to find out if the forgiveness of sins is doing its work in our hearts. There is no warm and tingly physical sensation to tell us that the Word of God is proving itself powerful in our lives. And without some sort of proof, we don’t trust the Word of God. After all, as the saying goes, talk is cheap. Like the Pharisees and Scribes, our flesh and our reason want nothing to do with the Word of God. These things hear only what they want to hear; they believe only what they want to believe.

When the friends of the paralyzed man brought him to Jesus, our Lord said to him, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” It might seem that Jesus missed the point. After all, this man was paralyzed. Wouldn’t it seem to you that the man’s problem was a physical issue, not a spiritual one? It might seem that way to us, but we don’t think or understand the way the Lord does. To Him, the connection between sin and suffering is apparent. Adam and Eve were not created to die. It is only after they partook of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they were exiled from the fruit of the tree of life. It is only after they disobeyed the command of God that they became subject to illness, disease, and death. In other words, if this man did not inherit original sin from our first parents, Adam and Eve, he would not have experienced paralysis; he would not have needed healing. He is experiencing what the Apostle Paul calls “the wages of sin”. When Jesus speaks forgiveness to the paralyzed man, he is actually dealing with the man’s greater need, the greater dilemma: the sin which is the cause of the man’s suffering.

So which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise and walk”? You can answer either way, but the reasoning behind the answer is the same. If you assert that it’s easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” it seems easier to say because it’s harder to prove the forgiveness of sins. If you assert that it’s easier to say, “Arise and walk,” it’s because it’s easier to prove that someone has been healed of that which has prevented them from walking. It comes down to proof. We want it, and we want God to provide it. But whichever is easier to say, the person who makes either statement has encroached on God’s territory: for it is because of sin that sickness, suffering and death entered God’s perfect and holy creation; and only God has the power to forgive sin.

But for Jesus, there is no encroachment. Jesus can and does speak both of these with equal ease. He is not stepping on God’s toes, for He is God. Here our Lord reveals Himself as the Savior and Healer of body and soul. The One who has power over the spiritual disease of sin must also have the power to heal the physical diseases which assail us. So which would make us believe that Jesus is the Christ, true God and true Man? For the crowds that day, it was both together that made them fear and believe. And the same holds true for us. The One who can heal our bodies is the same One who can forgive our sins: Jesus Christ. The One who has the power to forgive our sins is the same One who will raise up our bodies on the last day, and we will no longer be subject to the corruption of the flesh through sin. The work of redemption will be completely fulfilled. We will sin no more, and our bodies will never again break or bruise or fail us. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He is the Lord, and the curse of sin that, for now, allows us to die, He will undo forever.

Do you question the power of Holy Absolution when your pastor speaks it to the whole congregation? Are you concerned that the Lord might not be able to hear your confession and address your specific sins? I assure you, the Lord knows your heart, no matter how many people are confessing around you. Is your conscience burdened by something that you believe the Lord could never forgive? I assure you, there is no sin you could confess that Jesus Christ did not die to forgive. Nevertheless, the Lord has graciously provided for you individually, too. The invitation is for you, and it stands open: come to your pastor by yourself. Speak to him in a private setting the sin that troubles you. Confess your sin before the Lord individually. The words of Holy Absolution which your pastor will speak are the words of Christ’s forgiveness, which Jesus applies to you personally, whether you make confession in the midst of the Divine Service or in the solitude of Individual Confession and Absolution. It is for you, given to you individually. As our Introit says, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears. He delivers them out of all their troubles. For this is God, our God forever and ever.” Your sin is removed from you as far as east is from west. It is removed from you, and the Lord never looks at it again. You are cleansed of that sin, and He will never again hold that sin against you.

Every gift of forgiveness is for you. Every healing of body and soul which you receive is a precious gift from God. We receive that healing again today. We received it in the Word of Holy Absolution, spoken by your pastor as by Christ Himself. And we will receive it again as we taste that forgiveness on our tongues in the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth—power over flesh and blood, and power over those things that afflict the soul. Cling to that Word. Cling to the forgiveness of sins. Cling to the promise of the resurrection of the body on the last day, the full healing of body and soul. Do not doubt the power of the Word. Be of good cheer, son of God, for your sins are forgiven you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Monday, October 04, 2010

PARODY: Hosanna (A Praise Song)

Lest y'all think I've gotten all stodgy and big-in-the-head since I started writing hymns, I'll post this to remind you of my humble roots as a parodist. Hat tip to Mark Buetow for the idea.

Hosanna (A Praise Song to the tune of "Rosanna" by Toto)

1. All I wanna do when confronted with Your glory is close my eyes. Hosanna! Hosanna!
Never thought that a Lord like You could ever care for me. Hosanna!
I love Your Bible but in the name of "love" I will compromise, Hosanna! Hosanna!
Never thought that hearing Law could make me feel so bad.

(bridge) Not quiet three years, then You went away. Hosanna, yeah.
Now You rose, and I have to say . . .

(chorus) Need you every day. Hosanna, yeah! (repeat)

2. Let me see Your face, now, shining like Transfiguration's mountainside. Hosanna! Hosanna!
Never knew disappointing You could ever hurt so bad.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

HYMN: Hosanna! Mighty Savior, Come

I was in a little bit of a funk this week about my hymn writing skills.  Then this morning I woke up, and this idea that had been percolating for about four months decided it needed to get itself out of my head and into my notebook.  No more funk.  No more comparing myself to those who have gone before.  No more worrying about how it will be received.  Just how writing is supposed to be.

The Last Sunday of the Church Year and the First Sunday in Advent are coming up, and in one lectionary or another, the reading for either is the triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  This hymn deals with that subject matter, utilizing the harmony of the Gospel accounts of the entry as well as the Introit for the Last Sunday of the Church Year.

Hosanna!  Mighty Savior, Come

1. Hosanna!  Mighty Savior, come--
Great King David's greater Son.
With fronds of palm prepare His way,
For Christ is present here today.
Hail!  Hosanna!

2. How bless-ed is the One who came
In the Lord's most holy name.
The prophet's words have all come true:
Behold your King now comes to you.
Hail!  Hosanna!

3. In glory You shall come again.
Yours shall be an endless reign.
Forsake us not, O gracious Lord.
Proclaim salvation through Your Word.
Hail!  Hosanna!

4. Until that great and glorious day,
Keep us in the narrow way.
Stir up your power, Lord, and come,
And bear us to our heav'nly home.
Hail!  Hosanna!

5. All saints and angels, martyr throng:
Raise th'eternal triumph song.
Praise God the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, three in one.
Hail!  Hosanna!

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 88 4