Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sermon for 5/25/14--Easter VI




Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Most of the time, our lips aren't used for praying or for speaking well of others. They're used instead for grumbling. In the wilderness, the children of Israel had all the manna they could eat. God supplied them this heavenly bread to keep them from dying in the wilderness. But did they thank Him? Did they praise Him for this gift? No. They loathed the manna. They were sick and tired of it. They did nothing but complain against God and Moses.

What about you? Most of the time that words come out of our mouths, they are not words that worship God or build others up. They are words that grumble and complain about what the Lord has given us. When we open our mouths, it is not to ask God's blessing upon others but to say how awful they are. Brothers and sisters, repent! When the Israelites did that, God simply would not put up with it. If the children of Israel would not glorify Him and speak well of each other, then they were worth nothing but destruction. And so the fiery serpents came to bite and kill them. And if we keep running our mouths the way we do, we too can expect the righteous judgment of God.

So what hope is there for such sinners who speak like we do? For the children of Israel, a bronze serpent was lifted up. When they looked at it, they were saved from their snake bites. This bronze snake points us to Christ, who is lifted up on the cross for the sins of the world. Look to Him and be saved. Christ, with lips that spoke only purely and perfectly, carried upon Himself the sins of the world and every useless and worthless word we have uttered. On the cross, Christ's blood and water flow into the font to wash you clean—just as Briar, Eli, and Titus have been washed and made clean this very day. Now, when we are bitten by the snake, pierced by our sins, betrayed by our wagging tongues, we look to Christ, present upon the altar in His very body and blood, to be saved. Where Christ's Word and gifts are given, we may be certain that the Father of Jesus is now our heavenly Father too. Where the water and blood and Spirit are given to us, we can be certain that our Father has forgotten our sins and remembers our wasted words no more. Your sins are forgiven. Hear these words of life which save you!

Now because Christ has rescued us from sin and death, He has given us a far better use of our tongues than what we would make of them. Christ has rescued even our tongues for the worship of God and the service of our neighbor. Therefore He tells His disciples, "You won't ask me for anything, you'll ask the Father in My name and He'll give it to you." Whatever you ask the Father in the name of Jesus, He will give it to you. God Himself has promised to hear us for the sake of Christ. Could there be a more astounding promise? We have been given what the world seeks in vain to find—the ear of God. The religions of the world work overtime trying to figure out how to grab God's attention. You already have His undivided attention because you are in Jesus! Jesus, the Son whom the Father always hears and honors, now gives you the same place as sons of God to call upon the Lord.

When your mouth turns to evil and wickedness, and the Law sinks its teeth into your flesh and soul, then look up and behold Christ! Behold His blood and water in the font and on the altar to wash and cleanse the poison of sins from you. Then, lift up your lips, cleansed in Christ, in prayer and thanksgiving. Rejoice to ask your Father for anything and everything that will make you a good and faithful servant to God and your neighbor, for He will not fail you. 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 keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sermon for 5/18/14--Easter V



Speak the Gospel Clearly

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

How much of the confusion that exists in this world about the Christian faith is due to unclear speaking? We cannot really know, but it is a good bet that at least some of the confusion rests there. Of course, there are the mysteries of our faith which defy easy description. But when it comes to matters which apply directly to our salvation, those can be clearly spoken. Whether or not they are believed and accepted is another matter, one over which we have no control. But at the very least, we can work at speaking these truths in ways that are clear and faithful. The stakes are enormous. Misrepresenting and misbelieving God’s truth leads to damnation.

Jesus told His disciples that He was about to leave them. But it was to their advantage that He was going, because He would send the Holy Spirit to teach them. This brings to our attention a point of crucial significance. To speak the Gospel clearly and faithfully is no assurance that it will be heard and believed. Faithful hearing is the work of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit, the words of the Gospel are only words; they will say nothing. But when words are invested with the power of the Holy Spirit, they have the power to do exactly what they say they will do. When the Holy Spirit uses words to call us to faith, the power to believe is in those words.

And that is what our Lord Jesus wants us to understand. When the Gospel is spoken, mere words become Spirit-filled words, words with the power to do just as they say they will do. The words of the Liturgy we pray each week are Spirit-filled words which give us precisely what they promise. The words that come from this pulpit are Spirit-filled words which invite you to listen and enable you to hear them with understanding. The words of the Gospel you speak to your neighbors are words with the power of God to save and bless. This is why it is so important that we speak these words clearly and faithfully. These are the ways God hands on His message of love and mercy to sinners; through the words we speak. There is no substitute for clarity and faithfulness when speaking the words of the Gospel.

The essence of sin is rejecting the forgiving grace of God in Jesus Christ. To believe in Jesus Christ is to be saved from sin. To not believe in Jesus Christ is to remain in sin; to perish forever in sin. This is the Spirit’s work, a work He does through words. Only those who believe in Jesus Christ will escape the consequences of sin. This conviction of the Spirit will rightly crush the hearts of some and lead them to repent of their sin. Sadly, it will also harden the hearts of others who will resist the Gospel even more strenuously. The Spirit will do this through the Word of God. The work of the Spirit is to convince sinners that true righteousness is found only in Him who has passed from the cross to the right hand of the Father in heaven. And this work the Spirit does through the words we speak clearly and faithfully.

The Spirit teaches about true righteousness. True righteousness is only and always a gift of God’s grace. God declares us righteous, not because of anything we have done or ever could do, but for the sake of Jesus Christ who suffered and died in our place as the sacrifice for sin, and who rose from death to show us that His sacrifice was accepted by the Father in heaven. And now, Jesus told His disciples, He was about to return to the Father, which meant that His mission was complete.

But there is one more thing. The love of God is what lies beneath all that is said here about sin and righteousness and judgment: His love that wishes none to perish but come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. And so we must also speak in a way that speaks convincingly of the love of God. You know very well that not only what is said is important; how something is said can be equally important. The Spirit will use the words we speak clearly and faithfully to convince the world of sin and judgment. But He will also use those words to communicate that His love and mercy shown in Jesus Christ is what He wishes to give them above everything else. It is for us, then, to speak not only clearly and faithfully, but also lovingly. For we ourselves have known this great love of God that forgives sin, gives the righteousness of Christ, and spares us from judgment that is yet to come. That is the work the Spirit has done with us; this is the work the Spirit would, through us, do with others. 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 5/11/14--Easter IV

There's no audio, as we forgot to turn on the sound system. Sorry!

Tribulation and Joy

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus tells us that we will suffer tribulations which will cause us to sorrow. But He promises that there will come a time when this suffering will end. Think about the example our Lord gives, ones which moms certainly understand. When the time comes to give birth, it hurts! There is pain and agony and suffering, but then it’s suddenly over. The baby is born and the mother holds in her arms that little bundle of joy. Where did the pain go? It is overcome through joy and happiness. Our problem, though, is that when it comes to the serious sufferings in our lives, instead of awaiting the joy, we wallow in the misery of our circumstances. And the world laughs and rejoices! "Look at those stupid Christians! They think if they pray to their invisible God they'll stop hurting. Why don't they just give up on God and enjoy life!" And what the world says sounds pretty good! Who wouldn't want to be happy instead of miserable? But such talk is selfish. If the purpose of our having any religion is just to get rid of our own problems and suffering, then we won’t weep and mourn only in this life!

"A little while and you will see me no more. Then a little while and you will see Me." It would not be long before Jesus would be taken from the disciples, and they would be scattered. During that time Jesus would suffer for the sins of the world; He would suffer alone. Forsaken by His followers, mocked and tortured by his accusers, and finally even forsaken by the Father as He hung on the cross, Jesus would suffer. He weeps and mourns as He carries the sins of the world to His death. But then comes the victory! He is risen! The mourning and sadness of the disciples is turned into joy on that third day. The suffering that Jesus undergoes is painful for the disciples for a time, but that sorrow and suffering of Jesus is our salvation.

"A little while and you will see me no more. Then a little while and you will see Me." These words come true again, for again Jesus is not seen. He ascends to the Father and is hidden from the sight of our eyes. Yet the church sees Him again by faith in the divine and holy gifts. Surrounded by sorrow and weeping and mourning, we rejoice in the gifts Christ gives us and the joy they bring. We weep when we behold the world into which we bring children. But weeping is turned to joy at the font when water and the word make us children of the Father. We weep over our sins and iniquities and the things we have done wrong to offend God. Yet weeping is turned to joy by the holy and certain words of absolution, declaring our sins forgiven. We weep that Jesus is not with us as He was with the disciples, yet weeping is turned to joy as we behold our Lord upon His altar in His holy supper of forgiveness, life and salvation. Every day of our lives is an opportunity for sorrows and heartaches. Yet here in Christ's holy church we receive the gifts in which by faith you see Jesus, and the sorrow that comes upon you daily is turned to joy.

"A little while and you will see Me no more. Then a little while and you will see Me." There is yet one more time that Jesus words will come true. On the Last Day when He comes again, we who have not seen Him with our eyes will see Him face to face. All of our sorrows, sufferings, pain and sadness will be turned to joy, as if they never took place. This is the Christian life, dear brothers and sisters. As Christians, we suffer because Christ suffers, knowing that we will share in the glory He has received. That Day will come when Jesus returns. Pain will be just a memory; your weeping and mourning will be turned into joy. 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.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

HYMN: The Ransomed Shall Return

It had been over a year since I'd written a hymn, a fact which I've found increasingly distressing. I went to a hymnwriter's conference, and all of a sudden I couldn't write a hymn to save my soul. (It's a good thing I don't have to!) 

But the drought has ended...or at least, a little rain has fallen. This past weekend I attended a hymnody workshop hosted by Pastor Kirk Clayton and Zion Lutheran Church in Mascoutah, Illinois. The Reverend William Weedon, LCMS International Center Chaplain and the LCMS Director of Worship, was the presenter. His presentation opened with a quote from Isaiah 51:11a, which reads, "So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing." That inspired me, and I immediately noted it in my notebook.

After feverish scribbling and a lot of prayer, this is what I've come up with. It's a very rough first draft, but I'm geeking over the fact that I've actually written something again. Your feedback is welcome and would be appreciated. By the way, Isaiah 51:9-16 is the OT reading for Trinity 24 in the one-year lectionary.

The Ransomed Shall Return

1. The ransomed shall return.
Rejoice, O Zion—sing!
Redemption’s price for which you yearn
Is paid by Christ, your King.

2. Sing anthems to the Lord,
Your Rock of righteousness.
Find comfort in His holy Word,
In Him Who comes to bless.

3. The King shall make you whole.
His body and His blood
Will recreate your sin-parched soul
The garden of the Lord.

4. No more shall sorrow reign.
Your sighs shall flee away,
For your salvation shall remain
Though all the earth decay.

  5. All glory to the Lamb,
Who sets God’s people free,
With Father, Spirit—great I AM—
For all eternity.

© 2014, Alan Kornacki, Jr.
SM (66 86)
Tune: ST. THOMAS (LSB 814)

Monday, May 05, 2014

Sermon for 5/4/14--Easter III



No Hirelings

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Jesus says it twice. That’s a big deal. Jesus lays down His life for you. That’s how He saves you. When the satanic wolf comes to make a nice, tasty lamb chop of you, the Good Shepherd throws Himself before the wolf so that you are safe. When the devil comes to devour you in your sins, it’s Jesus the Good Shepherd that lays down His life for you and saves you. He is the one who chooses men to tend His flock. The fact is, we are surrounded by hirelings—plenty of false preachers who lead you to their own false Jesus. The preacher who is all about making your life better or easier? As soon as some disaster comes, he leaves you in his dust to be the devil’s dinner. The preacher who wants you to live a good life? As soon as your sins grab hold of you, he’s gone. How about the preacher who is so worried about love that he gives no attention to what Jesus teaches? He drives off the faithful preacher, and then he runs off when real conflicts over belief and teaching arise. There are plenty of hirelings; there is only one Good Shepherd, one true Jesus. And only faithful preachers—not hirelings—speak with His voice.

The Good Shepherd stays with you, guarding you, all the way to the cross where he lays down His life for you, His sheep. It’s not because you don’t wander off. It’s not because you wouldn’t let the wolf eat you. It’s not because you’re cute and cuddly. In reality, sheep are sinful and stubborn and stupid in sin! No. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for you because He’s not a hireling. You actually belong to Him. You are His sheep. You are His responsibility. And He lays down His life for you so that He can rise again and, having conquered death, lead you through the valley of the shadow of death. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to walk through that valley. If you were left to do it on your own, you’d never make it for the darkness and the wolves. But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has gone that way. He’s been there. He knows how to get your through it because He’s walked it Himself. So when the time comes for you to take that walk, you don’t do it alone. He’s right there beside you, for He is the one who laid down His life for you. Preachers of the true Jesus, the true Good Shepherd, lead you to the Jesus who dies for you, for the true Jesus knows that you and your Old Adam have to die.

Let me say it again: the Good Shepherd lays down His life for you so that He can lead you through the valley of the shadow of death. He won’t let you be snatched by a wolf or some hireling. That’s why He gives you the still waters of your Baptism: to make you His sheep—just as He has made Briar, Eli, and Titus His sheep this very day—and to remind you that His death and resurrection are your death and resurrection. That’s why He gives you absolution and preaching: so that you can hear His voice from your pastor, telling you that the wolves—sin, death, and devil—won’t hurt you. He gives you the overflowing cup of His Supper, so that you can dine in the presence of your enemies and laugh at them because they cannot have you. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. That’s what He’s all about. Jesus being the Good Shepherd means that He keeps you safe from whatever could harm you as a sheep. His goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, until you dwell in the house of the Lord 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.  

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Sermon for 4/27/14--Easter II




ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The Apostles and the generation of Christians with them saw Christ in the flesh with their eyes. But the rest of us, we have seen Christ by faith which comes by hearing His Word. True faith is faith in the Word. Jesus is the Word. His disciples believed in Him in part because of what they saw. They saw the Word. For the rest of the ages, it is ours to hear the Word. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is our lot. This is our blessing.

Jesus tells His apostles, “As the Father has sent me so I send you.” With these words, He sends His apostles into the world to preach the forgiveness of sins in His name, to baptize and to teach, to absolve and to bind sins, to administer Chris's body and blood. It is through the ministry of the Apostles that the Spirit brings faith to those who hear the Word. It is the Gospel and Sacraments that bring us Jesus and bring us faith. It is through the Spirit who works by these gifts—through the Word, the water and the blood—that we are given faith which trusts in Christ and clings to Him.

The world does not understand this. Many who call themselves Christians do not understand this. There is no faith apart from Christ's Word and Sacraments. Christ does not come to us or deal with us or forgive us or give us life apart from the Spirit. There are many who say they don't need to come to church to believe in God or have forgiveness. There are many who are baptized but no longer come to hear God's Word. There are many who began receiving the Sacrament and now receive it rarely if ever. I don't want you to have any false impressions. Those who despise Christ's gifts and don't receive them are not to be considered Christians. We aren’t justified merely because we’re here this morning and others aren’t. It is just as easy to despise the gifts of God while sitting in the pew every Sunday, to act like the Pharisee who feels worthy because he is not like the tax collector. Repent of such thinking. Repent of such a faith.  

Repent of self-reliance; it is Christ who earns for us the forgiveness of sins. He does it by His perfect life and His obedient death. He does it by shedding His blood. He does it on the cross by the water and blood that flow from His side. See? He comes by the water and blood! That's how He died. It's how He comes to us now: by the water of Baptism and the blood of the cup in the Supper. He comes to us by the preaching and teaching of Scripture. When the Lord was raised from the dead, He breathed on His disciples and gave them the authority to forgive and bind sins! Jesus doesn't leave us guessing as to how we may have forgiveness! It's all there in the preaching and teaching of Scripture by which the Spirit gives us the forgiveness won by Jesus. No need to wonder about where to find Jesus: He comes to us in the waters of the font and the absolution spoken by our pastors. No need to look high and low. He's right there on the altar in His body and blood. His own Word and Sacraments give faithful witness. This is how He comes to us. This is how He forgives us and saves us.

Yes, the Apostles got to see Jesus with their eyes, but you have heard Christ and believed in Him through His Word and Sacraments. This faith clings to Jesus where He has promised to be: in His church, where His Word and Sacraments are given. Here and only here you can be certain that all Jesus has done, He has done for you. Here in His church, Jesus puts His Word, His water, and His body and blood in you. Do not doubt what you have heard. Instead, believe with the faith given you in Holy Baptism…for believing, you have 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.