Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sermon for 11/18/12--Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year


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

Hearing the text, our Old Adam takes the words of Jesus as a set of guidelines for what we should be doing so that He will allow us into heaven. We've got to get on the ball and do more to help the poor and the needy so that we will be counted worthy to enter heaven. And so we keep looking for spiritual checklist that we can fulfill: feed the hungry–check; clothe the naked–check; visit the sick–check. There, I've done my part; I'm being a Christian now. But by doing that, you are putting your faith in yourself, not in Christ. To do that is contrary to the Word of God. Let me be clear: we should help the needy and do charitable works toward our neighbor. The Fifth Commandment requires that we help our neighbor in every bodily need. But the Commandments are God's Law, and we can’t rely on the Law to save us; the Law only brings judgment. 

How, then, do we understand this aright? This is not so much about good works as it is about faith in Christ.  The focus is on Him and what He has done. Notice what Jesus says: “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Jesus isn't just talking about any old charitable deeds here, but ones done towards His brethren. So just who are the brothers of Jesus that are referred to here? St. Matthew would have us understand that these brethren are in fact the preachers of the Gospel. And the difference between the sheep and the goats is whether or not they received Jesus' brethren and believed the Gospel that these men proclaimed.

In Matthew 10 the Lord Jesus said to His apostles, “He who receives you receives Me.” The preachers who are sent with the task of preaching the Gospel—these men represent Christ. To hear them is to hear the Lord Himself, and to reject such a preacher is to reject Christ; they are called and ordained by Christ to be His representatives. When a pastor says, “I forgive you all your sins,” he is not speaking for himself, but in the stead and by the command of Christ. When he says, “This is My body,” that is not his voice, but Christ's.  And the same is true of Holy Baptism. Jesus is the one giving out the gift of salvation in the water.  The man Jesus uses to do these tasks is really secondary; he's covered in robes, wearing a slave collar, to show that he is a servant who represents the Lord Jesus Christ. To receive a preacher of Christ is to receive Christ Himself–not because of the merits of the pastor, who is among the greatest of sinners, but because Christ is truly present in the ministry of His Word and Sacraments for your salvation.

Our text is chiefly about those who embrace and those who reject the Gospel of Christ. It's not primarily a call to do works of mercy. It's ultimately about faith in the Gospel of Christ—and works are a consequence of that faith. This faith is brought to perfection on the Last Day, when the sheep seem blissfully unaware of the things they have done. True faith focuses not on one's own deeds, but on the deeds of Christ. “When did we do all these things?  All we did was believe the Gospel!” Faith forgets itself that it may forever remember and retain Christ and His eternal gifts.

Our Lord Jesus won those gifts for you by becoming needy in your place.  He was weak and hungry in the wilderness. On the cross He said, “I thirst.” He Himself took your infirmities and bore your sicknesses in His own body on the tree.  He was treated like a stranger amongst His own people. He put Himself into the bondage of your sin so that He might burst the bars of your captivity by His mighty resurrection.  Through Christ you are set free from death and the devil; you are released from your sins; you are cleansed and forgiven in Him. He made Himself to be the least of the brethren so that you might receive the greatest of His mercies. He showed the truest and highest charity, paying with His own blood to redeem you, so that you might live in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. 

You have heard the Word, preached to you by Christ’s faithful “brethren”—men like Pastor Welp and those who have followed him. You have received their preaching as the preaching of Christ Himself. On the Last Day, Jesus will certainly say to you who believe, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” It's all a gift, given to you through the merits of Christ. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sermon for 11/11/12--Third Last Sunday of the Church Year

Signs and Warnings

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

We have begun the countdown to the end of the Church Year, when the Church turns its attention to the Second Coming of Christ and to the new heaven and the new earth. But until that day arrives, the Lord warns that there will be false messiahs and false prophets running around in this world, seeking to deceive God's people and steal them away from Him. So He warns you not to believe it when you hear preachers who point to some messiah who is not the real one. As sincerely as you warn your children away from strangers, hear the Lord's warning today. His Words will save you!

The thing about false prophets is that they try to look and sound like Jesus and His preachers. Every day people are fooled by preachers and religious leaders who sound like they are preaching Christ but really are not. People especially fall for what looks like miracles and signs done by those who claim to be Christ or represent Christ. The devil’s greatest tactic in opposing Christ is not by sounding like he's against Christ—though he does that too. But more effective is when Satan tries to sound like he is Christ. Consider the golden calf. The people made the calf, and then Aaron said, “Tomorrow is a festival to the Lord!” It was an idol, a false god, but the Lord's name was attached to confuse the people and lead them astray! So it is with false prophets today: they'll sound a whole lot like Jesus and Christians—so much so that many will follow their lies.

But there is a difference between false prophets and the true Christ. The True Jesus is the Son of God who is also true man who saves you from your sins. Did the golden calf rescue the Israelites from Egypt? No; the Lord did! Jesus Christ is true God and true man who died and rose for our salvation. That is not what you will hear from false teachers. False prophets will tell you what your itching ears want to hear: that the life of Christians is a life of ease, that God wants you to be wealthy in the things of this world, that your best life is now. What you won't hear from the false preachers is that Christ came to be made sin for you. On the cross, He was cursed for your sins. Your sins are so awful that the Son of God had to shed His blood and die to get rid of them. Christ does not save you by showing you how to live or by teaching you some path to inner peace or anything else like that. He is your Savior hanging the cross on Calvary and bleeding and dying for sinners—for you. He rose from the dead to raise sinners—to raise you. His death and resurrection for sinners set Christ apart from every impostor.

So how do you tell the difference between the impostors and the real deal? Christ has given you His Word and Sacraments; by those alone you know Him. By those alone you have His forgiveness. Christ tells you to hear and believe His Word, not look for miraculous signs. If a preacher doesn't preach Christ crucified and risen for the remission of sins, then run from him. If a preacher denies Baptism's power to save you, run away! If a preacher doesn't point you to the body and blood of Jesus given in His Supper, then close your ears to what he preaches! A false preacher will direct your attention away from God's Word in the Scriptures, away from Baptism and Absolution and the Holy Supper. The false prophet will astound with his exciting teaching, his wonderful and fake gifts of prophecy and knowledge, his wealth, his charisma—even with miracles which seem to confirm that he is authentic. But if he does not preach Christ crucified for sinners, then don't believe him! Run away! Close your ears! My brothers and sisters in Christ: the Lord has given you His Word. He gives you forgiveness at the font in Baptism and from the lips of your pastor and at the altar of His Supper. Cling to those things, and you will not be led astray.

When Christ returns, you will know it without a doubt. Until then, the devil and his preachers will impersonate Christ and try to fool you. But don't be fooled! You are washed in water and the word, fed with the body and blood of Christ, and declared forgiven! Only the true Jesus who has made you His own gives that to you. He will keep and protect you from all the devils out there who will try to steal you away from Him. Devils will fill the world, eager to devour you. Jesus says there will be. But resting in His Word, they will not overcome you. Until that great and glorious day when the new heavens and the new earth will come, the Church prays with the saints of all times and places: “Amen! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               

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

Monday, November 05, 2012

ONE THING'S NEEDFUL released today!

Christmas has come to Narnia! Er...umm...okay, so that was a bit dramatic.

I'm sure you know how aggravating it is to start reading a book, only to realize it's one of a series, and the complete series hasn't been released yet. I've been there myself, and it makes my teeth itch. Well, the wait is over. "One Thing's Needful", the third and final book of the "Thy Strong Word" series, has been released today! It is available in Kindle and print formats.

Pastor Justin Corwin of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Carousel, New York, and his wife, Detective Beth Corwin of the Carousel Police Department, find themselves in the midst of tribulation. Beth's body has betrayed her, making an unwanted surgery a necessity. Justin is dealing with uncertainty regarding his effectiveness as Pastor and as Chaplain of the Carousel Fire Department. Both of them are finding that it's not as easy to live their God-given vocations as they had hoped. Will they require a change of scenery to again find the joy in the Lord which seems so hard to obtain?

My intention in writing these books was to make sort of a poor man's "Hammer of God". They're about vocation and Lutheran apologetics, with a touch of romance and at least a little humor.

If you've read the first two books, it's time to complete the set. If you were waiting for the last book to be released, it's time! If you're looking for a Christmas gift for a friend, this could be what you've been seeking.

Click the link to find links for all three books in both formats: CLICK HERE!

For those of you who are waiting for the ePub versions, send me an e-mail, and I will make arrangements with you. You can reach me at revalkorn AT gmail DOT com. (Sorry. Trying to block the spammers!)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

HYMN: A Son Abides Forever

This idea popped into my head as I was writing my sermon for this past Sunday, on which we observed the Festival of the Reformation. Based on John 8:31-36 and Revelation 14:6-7, this hymn focuses on the central theme of the Reformation: faithfulness to the Word of God. It's a little rough, so any advice would be appreciated.

A Son Abides Forever

1. A son abides forever,
Remaining in the Word.
In faith shall nothing sever
Disciples from their Lord.
We thank you, Holy Jesus,
Who from our sin released us.
God's children are restored.

2. Fear God and give Him glory.
His judgment hour is nigh.
Adore and serve Him only--
He is the Lord Most High.
Tell ev'ry tribe and nation
Of Him who won salvation
And lives that death would die.

3. All glory to the Father,
All glory to the Son,
All glory to the Spirit--
Almighty Three-in-One.
All worship and thanksgiving
To God from all things living
While endless ages run.

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
76 76 776

Sermon for 11/4/12--Feast of All Saints (observed)


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

Like much of Scripture, the Beatitudes are not easily understood. There have been as many interpretations of the Beatitudes as there have been interpreters. The most obvious interpretation is that these are principles for Christian living, moral lessons for your best life now. Rationalists have seen them as a structure for establishing a humane society—which ignores the fact that these were given only to Christians. But if they’re not either of these things, what are they? The answer is found in what they are named. A beatitude refers to a state of blessedness, and blessedness is something we can never give ourselves. It must come from outside of us.

Perhaps the problem is that the Beatitudes are given by Jesus in a scene that reminds us of the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai: a divine revelation of truth from the mountainside. But Jesus is not a new Moses; He is the fulfillment of what was given through Moses. And the Beatitudes are not a new Law or new interpretation of the old Law. The beatitudes are pure Gospel! Look no further than the word “blessed.” There are no threats in the Beatitudes. There is no admonition. They are words of promise, and so they are descriptions of what we are by grace as Christians. When we hear the words of the Beatitudes, we hear them as descriptions of who and what we are.

But when we take an honest look at ourselves, we see that we are none of these things. We are not poor in spirit; we are prideful and full of arrogance. Though we do mourn, our mourning is self-indulgence, a way of drawing the sympathy of those around us. We are not meek; we are brash and loud and disrespectful, especially when it comes to how we think God has been too hard on us or is giving us too much to handle. We do not hunger and thirst for righteousness; we satisfy ourselves with material wealth and instant gratification. We are not interested in showing mercy—unless, of course, someone has shown it to us first. We are certainly not pure in heart; it doesn’t take the Shadow to know what evil lurks in the hearts of men. We are not peacemakers; we carry our grudges like badges of honor. And we are never in the mood to be persecuted; the Christian faith should make us comfortable, at ease. How can the Beatitudes be speaking about us? We aren’t these things…and yet we are. How can this be?

Remember that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. First and foremost, the Beatitudes describe Him. He was truly poor in spirit, humbly becoming Man to save us. He mourned the sin that afflicted creation, and was comforted in knowing He would redeem His creatures. He was truly meek, allowing men to do their worst to Him without flinching. He hungered and thirsted for righteousness, and, indeed, came to fulfill all righteousness. He was merciful in all ways—look at the cross and try to deny His mercy. He was pure in heart, always in communion with the Father, always doing His Father’s will. He was the great peacemaker, for He reconciled man to God through His blood. And He was persecuted to make us righteous.

Jesus was and is all of these things; we are none of them. And yet, in Him we are all these things too. This is the great paradox St. Paul described when he said of Jesus, “He was made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” All that we are, He took upon Himself and bore it to death on the cross. In return, He gave us all that is His—His innocence, His blessedness. In Christ, we are everything the Beatitudes depict. This is our blessedness, and it comes as every blessing does: as a gift.

On the Feast of All Saints, our thoughts often and rightly turn to those who have gone before us—mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends and congregation members like Adele, Karen, David and Tillie—all the faithful of the Lord who have lived and died, clinging to their Baptism. In one respect, our lives are diminished by their passing, for we have lost something we will not regain in this life. But our faith has been strengthened also, for we commend them to the One who is the Resurrection and the Life. Surely they are saints. But so are we. The difference between them and us is not one of blessedness. The difference is that we see the truth of the Word of God dimly, as St. Paul wrote, through a dark glass. We continue to walk by faith; they see our Lord and the truth of the Word of God clearly. Or as we just sang, “We feebly struggle; they in glory shine. Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine. Alleluia!”

We share blessedness with all the saints of God. We are His blessed ones, forever united with all who have called upon our Lord Jesus Christ by faith—“with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.” And we sing together our praise to the Lamb who was slain, evermore praising Him and saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory; Hosanna in the highest!” 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.