Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sermon for 11/27/16: First Sunday in Advent

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Anticipation and Fulfillment


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


What is it that drives millions to wait for hours in the dark and the cold on the morning after Thanksgiving Day for a department store to open? What is it that possesses young men to wait in line for hours to purchase the new video game console? What is it that keeps deer hunters on their stands for hours on end? It is what happens at the end of all of that waiting. Their expectations are met; their hopes are realized. Those who waited in department store lines get their bargains. The young men get their cool new video game console. The hunters tag their bucks and does. The waiting and the hoping are over, and what has happened has made the wait worthwhile.
This is the Christian life: a life of waiting and hoping, and then realizing that all that waiting was so worthwhile! We see this in the lives of the Old Testament saints. For forty centuries, they had waited. God had promised a Savior from sin immediately after man committed the first sin. And so the people of God waited for their hope for a Savior to be realized.
During the next twenty centuries, God continued to give descriptions about the promised Savior. Jeremiah, for example, proclaimed that the Savior would be born in the line of Judah. In giving prophesies, God showed His goodness and mercy toward His people, calling us to task for being impatient with Him and His ways and renewing our hope through His Word. And so the people of God waited for their hope for a Savior to be realized.
And, finally, the day was at hand! The long-expected Savior had come into the world! Jesus revealed Himself to be the promised King when He entered the city of Jerusalem on the donkey colt. The people of God had waited for their hope for a Savior to be realized…and it was. The waiting was over. What they had anticipated with hope had now happened!
And what happened made the long wait worthwhile! For the One who was paraded into Jerusalem and lauded as the King on that Sunday was paraded out of Jerusalem the following Friday, condemned as a criminal. The Lamb of God was being led out of the city to the slaughter. His day had come. His long wait was over, too. He had waited patiently from the very beginning of eternity for this day; He had been born in flesh for this very moment. The Father had held back His wrath against all the sins of the world, and now He was going to unleash His wrath against His only Son, the One carrying our sin in His Body. The wait was over. What the Triune God had anticipated was now happening: the Father put His Son to death for sin so that we, His adopted children, would not perish in sin. Because of Christ’s sacrificial death, the Father forgives the sins of the entire world: from the original sin of Adam to the final sin of the last man on earth.
Like the Old Testament saints, our lives also are lives of waiting. We await the Second Coming of the same Savior. And we, too, have waited long. It has been nearly twenty centuries since the Lord ascended with the promise that He would come again, to usher in the new heavens and the new earth, our eternal dwelling place with Him and with each other.
In the meantime, we wait for His final coming. But as we wait, He comes to us in humbler ways—but these ways are no less fulfilling for us, for He comes to us in the mouths of pastors who speak His forgiveness to us. He comes to us in the preaching of His Word. He comes to us in His body and blood. And all these humble comings of Christ prepare us for that final coming in glory, when He will come to us, when we will never again be able to be parted from Him…and it will be worth the wait! 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 28, 2016

HYMN: O Lord, Where Are You Going?

After a bit of a dry spell, and after working on this trying to figure out the third verse of this text for about two months now, I've finally finished another text. (Not like my life hasn't been crazy lately, but it's nice to get another text out of me.) This one is based on the propers for the Fifth Sunday of Easter in the LSB one-year lectionary and around the Gospel text, John 6:5-15, in particular. The disciples are sad because Jesus tells them He will be departing from them, but none of them asks Him where He will go or why. Anyway, here it is. Let me know what you think.


O Lord, Where Are You Going?

1. O Lord, where are You going?
My fear is freely flowing.
You say You must depart.
I want to have You near me.
Stay, Lord! In mercy hear me.
The weight of sorrow fills my heart.

2. Lovingly You address me.
You say You leave to bless me:
The Helper You will send.
Comfort He will provide me
And in all truth will guide me.
Oh, I could ask no better friend.

3. Send, Lord, Your Spirit to me,
And let Your Word renew me,
That I may sing Your praise.
Thus will Your Spirit render
Peace, life, and solace tender:
My joy in sorrow all my days.


(c) 2016 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
776 778
Tune: O WELT, ICH MUSS DICH LASSEN (LSB 453)
Occasion: Easter V
John 16:5-15

Sermon for 11/24/16: Thanksgiving

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Abundance


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


The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on the television, and then you can find college basketball and pro football on pretty much any channel. Meanwhile, the table groans with turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and corn and green beans and dinner rolls, and the sideboard is covered with pies. There’s beer and soft drinks in the fridge and wine waiting to be uncorked. And trough it all, we make our plans for Black Friday shopping. It seems Thanksgiving has become the holiday which celebrates overindulgence. But what are we indulging in? Everything set before you on the Day of National Thanksgiving is a gift from our heavenly Father. Those things are a gift.
Idolatry happens when you turn the gift into the most important thing:  when you deem these things to be more important than the Giver. Who hasn't been so invested in something that they've forgotten about God, deciding that whatever they like is much more interesting than the Lord's Word? Think of it in terms of the rich man. Perhaps you don’t have a grain silo. But how about this? What shall I do, since I have no room for my big screen TV, my new sewing machine, my new rifle, and my new SUV and boat? I will do this: I will pull down my house and garage and build bigger, and there I will store all my worldly possessions. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ There's some Thanksgiving Day repentance for all of us! While the Lord is generous in giving us stuff, that stuff isn't the center of our life. After all, those things will pass away. Your TV will short out. Your sewing machine will get knocked off the table. Your rifle will misfire. Your car will break down. Your boat will sink. The earthly gifts you treasure will turn to dust, just as your body will one day.
Your life doesn't find its value in the abundance of your possessions. Your life finds its value in Jesus. In Him you have everything you need—and this is so much more than just material possessions and daily bread. In Him you have the sacrifice that has taken away your sins; the resurrection that has conquered death for you; and the sacramental water, Word, Body and Blood by which you have forgiveness: the heavenly treasures that will not rust or fade away, that thieves cannot steal, that no one can take from you.
Jesus being your Savior means that every sin which has made into an idol the gifts creation is forgiven. It means every gracious gift from our Father can be recognized as a gift instead of a god. It means you have from our Lord far more than you could ever ask for or dream of or imagine. You have life beyond this earthly life, bread beyond your daily bread and turkey sandwiches, joy and gladness beyond even your favorite sports team winning or losing!
Some folks have traditions of helping others on Thanksgiving. Many more have traditions of helping themselves to seconds and thirds. Either way, as Christians, we recognize all these things as gifts from our heavenly Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. But above all, in Jesus, you have an abundance which is beyond anything in this world, for in Him you have eternal life. Thanks be to God! 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 21, 2016

Sermon for 11/20/16: Last Sunday of the Church Year

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Wise Virgins


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


Ten virgins pure, watching and waiting in the flickering light. Outwardly they were all clean and undefiled. Nonetheless, these handmaidens of the Lord were overcome. Their flesh was weak. They were seduced by sleep, enticed to slumber. Their eyes grew heavy and they gave up, gave in. They quit fighting. They let the night have its way with them. The oil’s light burned in vain while they satisfied their flesh in slumber.
And then came the midnight cry. It caught them unaware, their duties forgotten. The oil was gone. They had forgotten to trim their lamps. And then the cry came, and then the panic, and then the begging: “Give us some of yours!” But there was none to spare. No one can believe for another. So out went the five fools into the night, seeking to buy what can only be given. They returned empty-handed, too late. The door was shut. Therefore, watch! Beware! Repent!
It is hard to stay awake these sleepy days, as Peter and James and John know all too well. We abide at the end of time. Temptation grows stronger deeper in the night. It seems so futile to keep watch. We’ve waited already all our lives, and still He has not come. There are pleasures all around, and no one seems to care if we slip in a few winks or go off for a while, if we go and do those things that sinners think to be their right. If we behave like the ancient men of Rome or the modern men of New York or San Francisco or Amsterdam, who would blame us? We are who we are. Must we really be so vigilant and suffer through this night of days and months and years? Can’t we just have our fun and then repent at the end? No. We cannot. That way leads to death. Now is the hour of salvation. Even if Our Lord should continue to delay, no man knows when his last hour will come. Repent before it is too late. Repent and watch.
And for the sake of hope and confidence, notice this: all ten virgins fell asleep. All ten. All ten were outwardly pure, yet all ten failed in their vigil. What made five wise and five foolish? The wise still had oil. By the grace of God, despite their weakness and self-pity, they never stopped believing that He would come. They trimmed their lamps, and whatever little oil was left, it was enough. It was multiplied like the widow’s oil in Zarephath. Their oil was given by God. For if He desires to be greeted and ushered into the chamber by virgins pure, He must create them. By grace, by what God supplied, five wise virgins were spared the coming wrath and saved.
And so there is hope even for us. You have not defiled yourself so gravely that you cannot be cleansed. Your God has not forgotten you. He brought you here this day for a purpose: to forgive you anew, to restore your purity, to recreate you immaculate, strong in faith, undefiled, righteous and holy, and mostly wise. You have the oil of faith, given in the waters of Holy Baptism. The world scoffs at this true wisdom, but it comes from God: He is coming back.
He does all this for and to you through His Word. By the Word He creates and restores. He called you by Name in Holy Baptism. You were born in those waters from above and made alive. He speaks these saving, cleansing words in the Scriptures, in the absolution, in the preaching, in His Church. He feeds these Words made flesh to you in the Holy Supper. He wants to be met on the last day with faith and praise and rejoicing. His work outside the city gate will not be in vain. He has not fallen asleep. He does not forget His promise. He still and always loves you and makes you again virgin pure.
Concerning then the time and the seasons, you have no need to know. Even Jesus doesn’t know. All you need to know, the best and surest wisdom in all of creation, is that the day is surely coming. It will come suddenly, unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. God in His great love will steal you away from the darkness, death, and chaos of this fallen world. He will pull you from your bed and trim your lamp. You will again be pure and undefiled. You are not of the darkness or of the night, no matter how sleepy and lazy you might feel. You are of the day. You are of Jesus Christ.
So watch and wait. Do not be afraid. Surely the day is drawing near. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly! 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 13, 2016

Sermon for 11/13/16: Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

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There Will Be Goats


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


There will be no goats. That is how most people picture it. That is how most people envision the outcome of the final judgment at the end of the world: there will be no goats. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory… He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” That is the picture that the Lord Jesus paints for us. But most people envision a lot of vacant space on the left hand side of the judgment throne because they see no goats.
That, of course, would be a great thing to see. It would be wonderful to see everyone in the world standing at the right-hand side of God, and to have no goats on the left. After all, those on the left will go away into everlasting punishment, while the right-hand side is destined for eternal life. It truly would be marvelous to have a picture with no goats. But those who see a picture with no goats are using the lens of human opinion, and not divine truth. They are seeing something other than what God Himself presents in His Scriptures. They are envisioning matters according to a different spirit, rather than the Holy Spirit. They envision a god of their own imagination: a false god so loving, so forgiving, that He will ignore the faithlessness of those who ignored His Word, who forsook His gifts, who did not love and serve their neighbor.
Here is the divine truth, depicted in the Holy Scriptures, revealed by the Holy Spirit: there will be goats. In fact, there will be more goats than sheep. Sadly, we will see a lot of vacant space on the right hand of the judgment throne. Our Savior desires all men to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved, and He has made room for many sheep. But that open space on His right hand will remain unfilled. There will be many goats on the left, for they have spurned the salvation Christ has won for them.
But the Good Shepherd has come to separate the sheep from the goats, and He does so without hesitation. Judgment Day is not a day of timid hesitation; it is the final day of ultimate action. This is the Day on which evil is consigned to the fiery abyss. This is the day of the righteous justice of our God. On the Last Day, the Lord Jesus Christ will not need to sit and ponder His judgment, wondering what He will do with those who are sitting on the fence. There is no doubt at all who is a sheep or a goat. He is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep by name, and He has come to take them home.
How long has he waited for this day? How long has he anticipated our arrival and waited in eager expectation for our release from this world of suffering and sorrow? How long has he waited to bring us to the green pastures and still waters of our eternal home? He has waited long for this day, for He will finally say to His faithful people, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” You cannot earn your status as a sheep; it is a free gift from God, won for you by Jesus, given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism.
You who are blessed by the Father; you who have been filled with the Holy Spirit and born again in the waters of Holy Baptism; you who have been given the gift of living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who trust in His suffering and death for your salvation; you who have fed upon the Bread of Heaven and have supped at the Table of the Lord: your wool shines whiter than snow, washed clean in the Blood of Him who died and rose again! He knows your name. He has been waiting since the beginning for you, and on that day He will rejoice to welcome you home to His Kingdom. 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, November 08, 2016

Sermon for 11/06/16--Feast of All Saints (observed)

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Saints by Grace

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


There's a reason why the heavenly elder, the servant of God, calls it "the Great Tribulation." The Lord does not promise that the life of a child of God will be easy. In fact, the opposite is true. If the world treated the promised Messiah like a common criminal, the world will certainly not treat those who cling to the Christ with any more compassion. And it’s not just the world which hates you. Your own flesh betrays you, taking comfort in worldly treasures and rejoicing in sin. Woe to you whose heart is not pierced and broken by the Law, for whom all the answers are easy and excuses plentiful, who has never struggled against sin or doctrine! Woe to you whose conscience is hard, who is comfortable in this living death, who has sought honor, prestige, and approval from men! Woe to you who is proud. You have your reward. Woe to us all, for the flesh is weak. Its seduction always betrays you. It never satisfies. It is always shameful. Repent. Be emptied of yourself.
Blessed are those whom the world counts cursed. The Kingdom of God is built upon suffering and blood. When you are poor, sad, meek, hungry, and thirsty, then you are His. You do not yet have your reward, but the suffering you now endure is not worthy of comparison to what you will enjoy. You will be comforted. You will inherit the earth. You will be satisfied. You will obtain mercy. You will see God. You will be called the sons of God.
But not yet. Not now. Now you are poor, sad, meek, hungry, and thirsty. You are taken advantage of for your mercy. Your purity in heart is mocked and challenged. You receive violence for peace. You are falsely accused and reviled. So was He. And as He now is, you will be, for you are Baptized. You are a Christian. You are blessed. Yours is the Kingdom of God, now and forever, delivered and bestowed in time and in eternity by grace. Now is the peace that passes all understanding. You belong to Christ. You are a holy one, a saint, by divine redemption and atonement, by prophecy and promise, by the cross and resurrection, by the victory of the Messiah, the crushing of the serpent’s head, and the defeat of Hell. The Kingdom of heaven is is a present reality. It is yours.
You live in this Kingdom of grace by faith. It cannot be seen with mortal eyes. But faith knows and trusts Jesus died and rose again, that the victory of God over Hell was won by suffering violence in meekness and poverty, by being falsely accused and betrayed, by pain and sorrow, hunger and thirst upon a cross, and finally by being overcome to the point of death in an execution reserved for the guilty but foisted upon the innocent. Faith lives what faith believes. Blessed are those, then, who are like Him: poor in spirit, sad, meek, hungry, thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers. Blessed are those who are suffering, falsely accused, and reviled. Blessed are those who are killed all day long for His sake, for they are like the One who lived and died without sin to make men free again. They are like the One who did not love His life to death but who instead loved His murderers so much that He laid down His life for them! The kingdom of heaven is theirs—not by works of righteousness which they have done, but according to His mercy. This is not a to-do list; all of this has been done by our Lord Jesus for you.
The Kingdom of heaven is yours. You are killed all day long for His sake. The old man in you is daily drowned in contrition and repentance. The new man emerges and arises. It seems as though you have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed, but some martyrs bleed on the inside. Indeed, the greatest heroes of the faith are the ones who go unknown and unsung by men, who are poor in spirit. They bear their burdens as silently as lambs to the slaughter. But the angels know. And so does the Lord. The reward will be given. The seats at the right and left hands of Jesus that John and James sought for pride’s sake will be filled by grace.
Rejoice and be glad. Your suffering will not last. Your tears will be wiped away. Even now the saints in glory pray for you. A great cloud of witnesses surrounds you. The saints have been delivered and enjoy their rest because Jesus rose. So will you. God be praised. 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, November 05, 2016

Sermon for 10/30/16: Festival of the Reformation

Sorry for the delay. Life intervened.


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Abiding in Christ

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

The struggle was over how sinners become free from sin. It is akin to the struggle going on in the Gospel for this festive occasion. In fact, if we were to do a quick scan of church history, we would find that this battle is always being waged. How does one become free from one’s sins?
Today we remember Martin Luther and all the Lutheran fathers who confessed the faith boldly in order to restore the gospel to the church. Today we stand as Lutheran Christians, following in the heritage of these Lutheran reformers.   We see it in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees as He teaches in the temple. We see it in the early church fathers and the Council of Nicaea when the factions fought over the doctrine of Jesus Christ—who He is and whether or not He was God. We see it in Martin Luther as he spoke against the selling of indulgences for the paying off of sins. We even fight that battle today. Satan and his false preachers are constantly trying to creep into the church in order to replace the truth with the imaginations of sinful hearts.
It is always a battle between Christ and Satan. This battle, while being waged in the Church, is also being waged in your life. You have to cope with your sinful urges. You also have to cope with the stark reality that you spend more time in the world than you do in the church. This means more time is spent listening to TV, radio, and popular opinions, and less hearing God’s word and keeping it. Jesus never intended for people to half-heartedly take the salvation that He won for them on the cross.  The church is the place where new lives start. The church is the place of new beginnings for sinners. 
Once you get a new beginning in the waters of Holy Baptism, you pass through the waters of Holy Baptism. The old Adam dies, and you begin to live your new life in Christ. You abide in Christ and His Word, and you are His disciples, abiding in Him forever. You make your home with Him. If you are to abide with Jesus, if you are to make your home with Jesus, then you must spend time there. Jesus must become your dwelling place. This is more than just making occasional or even regular visits. You must be in God’s word constantly. You must be in prayer without ceasing. 
So...are you just a visitor to Jesus? Or do you truly abide with Him? You must come on your knees to the altar.  Abiding in Christ first means that you confess your sins—not just once, but constantly. You need Jesus to cover up your sins.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is why Jesus came in the flesh.  Jesus came to keep the Law and then bear all sins to death on the cross—including yours. Abiding with Jesus means you dwell in His mercy. The church is a mercy place. It has to be. Where there is repentance, there is forgiveness. When your sins continue to frighten you or place doubt in your mind, Jesus brings you here, where He frees you from that terror.
Jesus beckons you with the gospel, and He continually reminds you that you have a home with Him in His Church. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden,” He says, “and I will give you rest. …For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
You cannot trust in yourself or wait until things are perfect in your life before you can abide in Jesus. Abiding in Jesus means that you place on Him all of your wretched and nasty sins, along with all of your imperfections. Jesus has paid for all of those sins. Your only hope of release from sin and the world is to abide in Christ. He will be your home. And abiding in Him, you will receive every good and gracious gift of God, including the resurrection of the body and eternal life, abiding in Him forever. 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.