Sunday, November 18, 2018

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

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Works Given and Received

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

Whenever good works are praised in Holy Scripture, it is important to consider the context. Our fallen minds are easily confused. We learn in Hebrews, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” This means no good work is pleasing to God without faith in Christ. Works only please God when they are performed by those who look to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. They cannot help but produce good works, and their good works please God.
When Jesus speaks here as though eternal life is given because of good works, it is understood that eternal life is given to the righteous—that is, to those have been declared righteous for His sake. Good works are the evidence of faith. There is no faith that does not produce good works, and no work is truly good if it does not come from faith. This is why our Lord lists these acts of mercy. He would show us that hypocrisy does not save. That which saves is the righteousness that He bestows in grace. That righteousness gives new life which produces good works.
So we ought therefore to measure ourselves against this standard: How merciful have I been? How evident is my faith in my life? Do the words of Christ about feeding the poor and welcoming the stranger and visiting the sick describe my life? Woe to you if you think they do. Repent. Repent for not doing them, to be sure, but even more, repent for thinking you’ve done enough. Repent for thinking you’ve been pretty merciful. Repent for justifying yourself and appeasing your conscience by dropping a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket while you go home to feast. Those who thought they’d done pretty well, who dared Christ to point out when they failed, go to the fire prepared for the devil and his angels. “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities”—if the Lord should see our lack of mercy—“O Lord, who could stand?”
Not one of us can stand before the Lord in our own righteousness. It is only those who repent, who throw themselves upon God’s mercy, who are washed and cleansed by Christ—these are the saved. The sheep protest just as loudly as the goats. Getting credit for good works makes the sheep nervous. They do not look to their works; they look to Christ. They don’t want to be judged by their works, but by their Lord’s righteousness. We beg God to judge us by the cross, to keep His promise and accept the demands that justice has made on the Son.
We must also consider this: our Lord does not identify Himself with those who perform good works. He locates Himself instead with those who receive good works. It is those who received the mercy of others, who were the beneficiaries, who stand in His stead. “When you did it to the least of these,” He says, “you did it to Me.” The Church is not the healthy, well-fed, well-clothed, and powerful people of this world. The Church is those who need mercy; they are His brothers. That is why the righteous are confused by His description of their works. They remember being fed, not feeding. And what honor is there is being fed? It seems backwards. But that is how it is in the Kingdom. Our primary goal is not to perform good works, but to receive the good works of Christ: to be forgiven, washed, fed, clothed, comforted.
Certainly, you perform good works. You serve your neighbors. God is pleased with this. He loves your good works, even when you are unaware of them. As you receive mercy, you respond with mercy to others. Your mercy is imperfect, but it is purified by grace, accepted for the sake of Christ. God uses your hands as His hands in this world. He provides for His brothers through you. You are the baptized, the blessed of His Father. He has redeemed you to bring you home. 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 13, 2018

HYMN: Oh, Be Present, God of Mercy

I’ve been thinking a lot about Compline, that prayer office in the hymnal which is meant to be prayed right before the Christian goes to sleep. It’s one of my favorite services, thought I’d never encountered it before my first weekend in seminary, when students and faculty gathered in retreat before we officially began the school year. The opening words, “The Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night and peace at the last,” prepare us both for the night’s slumber and for the slumber of our bodies in death. If you’re not familiar with the service, I highly recommend it to you. 

Near the close of the service, the liturgist leads the gathered in a series of prayers which call upon God to be present with us as we seek our rest. These are beautiful prayers, and I commend them to your consideration. They’re found on page 257 of Lutheran Service Book. I’ve wanted to adapt them for metric singing with a suitable, contemplative tune, and I finally finished assembling such a text early this morning. The suggested tune is Picardy, which is the tune most know best for the text “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” The text is a little rough, as most of my texts usually are at this point, but I’d like to know what you think of it and how you might suggest improving it. As always, feedback is love.

Oh, Be Present, God of Mercy

1. Oh, be present, God of mercy.
Night has come. The day is done.
Watch us as we sleep, and guard us
As the hours of darkness run.
We, all wearied by life’s changes,
Rest in You, the holy One.

2. Holy Lord, the world is busy.
Oh, support us all the day.
Evening comes. The work is finished.
Guard us on our homeward way.
Then, until the night is over,
Grant us holy rest, we pray.

3. Shine, O Christ, into the darkness.
Quell the dangers of the night.
Shine into our humble dwellings.
Drive the devil from our sight.
Let Your blessing be upon us,
God of God and Light of Light.

4. Dwell with those who strive and labor
In the dark while others dream.
Safeguard all who seek our welfare
While the wicked plot and scheme.
Keep them competent and faithful
Whom we honor and esteem.

5. Stay with us, O gracious Savior:
With Your Church, Your holy Bride.
Through Your Word and gifts be present.
In Your wings Your people hide.
Face with us the night’s affliction;
Now and evermore abide.

(c) 2018 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 87 
Tune: Picardy (LSB 621)

Occasion: Compline, Night, Prayer

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sermon for 11/11/18: Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Trinity

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Bold Faith

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

We are bold in making big promises. But all too often we hedge on the little things. In the Confirmation vows we don’t so much as flinch as we promise to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the confession of this Church. But really…what would you be willing to give up for the sake of the Word? What would you give up so that you could hear the Gospel every Sunday? Yes, we are ready to suffer death; inconvenience is another matter. We imagine ourselves ready to be burned at the stake or shot for the sake of Jesus. But would you commit with your whole being? Would you sacrifice yourself—your ego and ambitions, your income and honor? Would you suffer the loss of everything your flesh clings to? After all, we need 200 channels on our TV. We need the hunting trophy. We need the stuff. But do we live as if we need the Church? We are ready to confess our faith before kings, but not in front of our friends. We are curved in on ourselves, weak with greed, lust, and ambition. Our priorities are right on paper, just not in our hearts. Repent. Cling to the Word of God.
Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, was heartbroken. His young daughter lay at the point of death. He said to Jesus: “Lay your hand on her and she will live.” He did so, and she lived. But what of us? What of our dying children, our broken families, our failing friendships and crumbling neighborhoods? What of our hurting souls? Will Jesus lay His Hand upon us? Or are we left with nothing more than the shadow of the Word in flesh? Has the Word made flesh become a ghost? Is the Jesus who walked the earth, who felt the nails bite into His hands, now nothing more substantial than a silent thought in our brains? No. He is flesh still. He is Man forever. He has forever united Himself to us in flesh.
The Hand that Jesus laid upon Jairus’s daughter to call her again to life is encased in bread this morning by the power of His Word. He lays His hand upon your tongue to bring you over from death to life, to rouse your sleepy faith, to forgive your sins, and make you well. He touches you, His Body to yours. He places Himself—the body that bore your iniquities and sits at the right hand of the Father—into your heart so that your hungry soul would be satisfied, so that you would be healed and whole.
In the same way, the woman who had suffered while searching for relief from the 12-year flow of blood thought to herself: “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” She came behind Him and touched His clothes and was healed. We also approach God from behind. In our sins, we cannot bear His holiness. So we touch the garment of bread in which our Lord hides His glory. He is our salvation. In that touching, that eating and drinking, the years of dying and the uncleanness are removed. We now belong. His Blood and His death have been substituted on our behalf.
Our Lord has bled and died in our place. Now, we don’t have to. After all, death is not natural. God did not create us to die. By grace, we won’t—not ever—for one who believes in Him, who trusts in the merits of His suffering, death, and resurrection, who rests in the mercy of the Almighty, who confesses Jesus as Lord, will never die. Believers don’t die. They fall asleep. Their souls rest with their Savior while their bodies wait in the grave for the resurrection and reunion to come.
Here is power for life. We live by grace. We lay all things upon the hem of His garment. And He calls us by name—and gives us His own name—so we have the life He came to give. His bleeding, His dying, His rising, His praying: these are the things that give us life in His name 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.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Sermon for 11/7/18: Feast of All Saints

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“Who Are These?”

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

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints. We celebrate both the saints in heaven and the saints on earth. We just sang: “O blest communion, fellowship divine, we feebly struggle, they in glory shine; yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.” As we sing that hymn, we can't help but think of our own family members and friends who have died in the faith, those we have loved who are now praising God with heavenly anthems more beautiful than anything that we dare to imagine. As we sing that hymn, we are reminded that, by God's grace, we will enter into that victory celebration that has no end. For our God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
The Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of this in the heavenly liturgy. We often hear people talking about the need to be multi-cultural or cross-cultural. Too often that language is used as a cover for those who would attack western culture—the supposed culture of dead, white, European males. But here in the Book of Revelation, we have genuine multi-cultural worship: those from all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues are joined together in a single liturgy, centered in the Lamb of our salvation, Jesus Christ. They do not come with many different songs; with one accord they chant, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And they are joined by the angels, the elders, and the four living creatures in the worship of the Trinity as that celestial choir sings, “Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever!” From all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues they come; but their song is singular as they glorify the eternal God who gave His Son to be the Savior of the world.
The liturgy of heaven and earth revolves around the Lamb of God. Christian worship is Christ-centered. He is present here to bless us with His words of pardon and peace. He is here with His body, born of Mary and hung on a cross, to give us His blood-bought gifts of the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. The whole Divine Service points to Him.
The liturgy does not belong to us; it belongs to the Triune God. The Divine Service is God's service to us by means of His Word and Sacraments. Salvation belongs to our God. That is what He gives us here. We do not come here to be entertained, but to be built up in faith in Jesus Christ. We learn from the saints and angels how to worship God, how to receive His gifts in faith, how to confess Him as the author and finisher of our faith.
Who are these saints? The elder before the throne tells John, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” These are the blessed ones our Lord tells us about: those who recognized their own spiritual poverty; those who mourned over their sin; those who were reviled, persecuted, and slandered for the sake of the Lord and His Gospel. The great tribulation is the life of the Christian under the cross. You see, the saints have no self-made holiness. Their holiness is the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin. They wear the white robe of His righteousness that covers their shame and wraps them up in the forgiveness of sins. Through that righteousness they have access to the presence of the living God.
“We feebly struggle, they in glory shine.” But like those who have gone before, we are saints. We are saints because the blood of the Lamb has atoned for our sin. The white robe of Christ's righteousness with which they are clothed is also our beauty and glorious dress, given us in our Baptism. They wave the palm branches of victory because the Lamb has triumphed. Death could not hold Him in its icy grip; and because He has been raised from the dead, we have the pledge of eternal life. “And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.”
Our Lord has won the victory. And we are one with our Lord Jesus. Through Him, we are also one with those who have gone before us. The Feast of All Saints gives us a glimpse of that unseen reality. What comfort that is to us who still feebly struggle! We are not alone. As we gather around the Lamb, we are surrounded by the saints who have gone before us and saints who still live on this earth. We are members of His church, partakers of the communion of saints. And we are blessed, for by the blood of Jesus, we are saints. And today we join with all the saints of all times and places in their heavenly liturgy. 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.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sermon for 10/28/18: Festival of the Reformation (observed)

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Our Heritage and Inheritance

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

We do not simply sin by mistake or weakness; we also sin on purpose. We’ve all known what we were doing and have done it anyway. We’ve sinned with full knowledge, repeatedly. We’ve heard the voice of the new man in our minds, telling us to stop gossiping, but we’ve also noted how our friends were hanging on our words, looking at us with admiration, and we wanted to keep it going. So we’ve suppressed the good. We’ve embraced the evil. We’ve harmed not only our neighbors but also ourselves. We’ve enslaved ourselves to sin and let it rule over us.
How dare we say that we have fellowship with Christ while we walk in darkness? We lie and do not practice the truth. If we are ruled by sin, we do not have fellowship with Christ. We are not His brothers. We are the sons of devil who do the work of the devil. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit. When Jesus tells us to abide in the Word, it is not simply an admonition to know right doctrine. It is an admonition to live by His Word, to obey His commandments, to love what He loves and to hate what He hates.
We Lutherans are proud of our heritage. It is a good thing to be faithful to the Word of God. But do not say, “But we have Luther for our father and we love the Gospel and have never been slaves to anyone.” You have been slaves to your flesh and your heritage. You have twisted the Gospel into an excuse to sin and dared God to notice. He notices. He is not amused. He does not think it is cute or somehow your rightful liberty. He hates gossip. He hates drunkenness. He hates lustful eyes and evil thoughts. God threatens to punish all who break His commandments. So repent. Let every mouth be stopped. May the law bring knowledge of sin to us sinners.
You have enslaved yourself to sin, but you do not belong there. Repent. Turn from your sins. If the Son sets you free by being sin and guilt in your place, by suffering your punishment in your stead, being declared guilty so that you are declared innocent, by dying and rising again for you, then you will be free indeed. You might sin, but you will not be cast aside. You are not a slave, but a son. He restores you to fellowship with the Father and even restores the marriage bed because He still loves you, no matter what you’ve done. You are a son, and you remain a son forever.
So confess your sins. He is faithful and just. He forgives your sins. He cleanses you from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His Word is not in us. So if you say you have not sinned, you go back to eating with the pigs like the prodigal son until you wake up and find the Father waiting for you. Otherwise, if you insist, you die and go to Hell. But if you confess your sins, He is faithful and just. He forgives sins. He restores fellowship. His accusations are taken from you and placed on the Son, the One who became your Brother and has declared you to be God’s child forever: forever innocent, forever holy, forever His. You walk in the light just as He is in the light, for He is the Light. You have fellowship with Him and with one another in the blood of Jesus which cleanses you from all sin. Thus you abide in His Word, in His Gospel. You are truly His disciples, His children, His Bride, and even His friends.
This is the Word of the Lord that endures forever. “We are justified by His grace as a gift received by faith.” This is the truth upon which the Reformation is founded. If Martin Luther has left us a legacy, let it be this and nothing else. 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, October 21, 2018

Sermon for 10/21/18: Twent-First Sunday After Trinity

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The Word Is Enough

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

We know the nobleman’s son is healed. But the man himself doesn’t know. Jesus tells the man that his son is alive. The man does not know if his son will still be alive when he gets back to home. Jesus could have very well have meant that the nobleman was wasting his time seeking signs and wonders; he should go home while his son still lives, before it is too late. The man’s son is alive for now in Capernaum, yet the man is in Cana.
The surprise is this: Jesus says to the man, “Your son lives,” and this word causes the nobleman to believe. In this Word from Jesus, the nobleman learns to leave Capernaum for good. He stops trying to get the Lord to come to his house. He believes. It is a remarkable thing. Jesus hasn’t promised him anything, and yet the nobleman believes. Jesus merely states the reality: “Your son lives.” The nobleman gets no sign or proof; He gets the simple statement that his son is currently alive. But the Lord’s statement tells the nobleman that life is in our Lord’s hands; it tells the man that our Lord has compassion. Jesus knows the man’s son. He gave him life and He sustains it. He knows whether the son is alive or dead; He cares. It is not a sign or a wonder for the nobleman. It just a statement: Jesus is the Lord of life.
This Word Jesus speaks bestows faith and confidence in the nobleman. Jesus is good, no matter what happens. The nobleman stops looking for signs and wonders. As Job confessed, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” The man’s son lives. That is a gift from the Lord. “Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” His son may yet die. The Lord may take him away; even so: “Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” This is faith. Now the nobleman is seeking the Kingdom and not signs and wonders. Now he knows that Jesus is the Lord of life. He goes home in faith. He accepts that the Lord will work all things for good.
The man still desires time with his son on earth, of course, but he also trusts that the Lord is good. Even if he doesn’t get time on earth, he will get time in heaven. This life is transitory, temporary—the mere wink of an eye when compared to eternity. If the nobleman must mourn, he will mourn. But he will not despair. The Messiah has come. He has laid down His life as a ransom. He pays the price in blood for the nobleman and for his son. Even if his son dies, his son lives. That is what Jesus said, and it must always be true. “Your son lives” means your son will always live.
This is important for us, too. We live on that road between Cana and Capernaum. We’ve all prayed for all sorts of stuff—most significantly the lives of our loved ones. Mostly that gift hasn’t been given. We’ve gone back home with nothing more than a statement from Jesus: “Whoever believes in Me will ever die.” We’ve all suffered; barring return of our Lord, we will continue to suffer the death of our loved ones. We beg Him to come, to bring healing our loved ones. He says, “Your loved one is My loved one, baptized into My Name. He lives. That is enough. Believe and go.”
And off we go. No proof. No miracle. Apart from Christ, there is only death. If Christ says the boy lives, he lives, even if he dies. That has to be enough—not just for the nobleman, but also for us. And it is enough. The nobleman goes back to Capernaum. He leaves Cana, where water was changed into wine. While we abide in this dying place, we come to our own Cana, where blood hides in wine, and we find not just our loved ones who have gone before us in the faith; we also find here Our Lord Himself, where He has promised to be. This is the House of the Lord. For the time being we must go back to our own Capernaum. But we go in faith, with the Word of Jesus: “Whoever believes in Me will never die.” God be praised, it is enough. 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, October 14, 2018

Sermon for 10/14/18: Twentieth Sunday After Trinity

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Honored Invitees

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

The servants are sent out into the streets to invite as many as they find, both the good and the bad. No respect is paid to rank, class, or privilege. Everyone, apart from works or genealogy, gets the same invitation. In a world with no free lunches, the offer of an endless banquet in paradise seems too good to be true. But it is true. All things have been paid for; all things necessary have been sacrificed. The meat, the milk, the wine—the best parts are on the table. It is prepared for you with no cost to you. It is pure gift.

But many reject the invitation. They know the invitation is from the King, but they don’t care. They hate the King. They want to rule themselves. Some don’t believe the invitation is actually is from the King; some deny that a King exists. They have lived in delusion for so long that it has become comfortable. They are afraid of change, afraid to risk anything, afraid to come out of the darkness and be exposed. They don’t want to be noticed. They want to hide, keep their blemishes secret, and pretend they are better than they are. They are afraid to face the Word of God.

That is because the Word of God is a threat. The Word of God wields divine power. It changes things. It kills…and it makes alive. What they have always thought is wrong. What is comfortable, what makes sense, what they know from experience—all of it is wrong. What they think about God, what they think about man, what they expect from life—all of it is wrong. God beckons them to a position of vulnerability, of faith in things that they cannot see. But what they can see—a man hanging on a cross, His followers persecuted and martyred—that, they do not like. So they scurry back to the darkness. They think they made the wise choice. But the wisdom of men is folly, and the foolishness of the cross is the only true wisdom.

Thanks be to God: a few are so desperate, so lonely, so tired, so hurt that they come anyway, despite the foolishness. They are the meek. But they inherit a kingdom. They are brought into the wedding hall, clothed with righteousness, and embraced as long-lost children. They are home at last. The loneliness and heartbreak, the weariness and fear, the frustration and pain of their time in the kingdoms of men is removed. They have been found and restored, forgiven and cleansed, filled with joy.

Repent. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Hear His Word, and your soul shall live. Let His Word have its way with you. Let God speak for Himself. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. But His Word is Truth. It does not lie. It is good. It will accomplish that for which it was sent. Let it break your heart and change your mind. Let it make you vulnerable. Allow yourself to be lonely outside of this fellowship. Be weary enough, hurt enough to give up on your own strength; then you will be strong. In defeat you will find victory; in hunger, satisfaction.

You are a citizen of the Kingdom by virtue of the invitation. It doesn’t matter if you were good or bad. You are His. He has bought you. That is what matters. What you are displaces what you were. But you are still in a foreign land, and there is temptation along the way. Many beckon to you from their dark doorways, and some have been seduced into depravation. Be warned. Be vigilant in prayer. Forsake the ways of men. God has placed way stations like this along the way for you, places of His presence, of His Word and Sacrament, of His regenerating love. God is here for you.

And there is one more surprise. When at last you arrive at the wedding hall, you will find that you are not merely a guest, an honored niece or nephew, even a brother of the Bridegroom. You are the very Bride, the one for whom He did it all…the one He loves. 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, October 07, 2018

Sermon for 10/7/18: Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Specific Grace

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

What Jesus said to the paralytic caused real concern to the Scribes present in that house. They took His words at face value. This fact can seem strange to our postmodern ears. We are tempted to think that religious speech is generic, not to be taken too literally, if it would offend. When we hear pastors or teachers, we filter their words through our own understanding of how things are. It is expected that religious words should be general, all-inclusive, because we don’t want to face differences in theological thought. We don’t want to have to tell someone they’re wrong. And no one can tell us that we’re wrong.
The Scribes in the house with Jesus that day knew at once that He was being specific. He meant what He said. He called those who heard Him into question: their faith and the way they practiced that faith; and the ideas, words, and actions which flowed from their faith. What Jesus said cut through to their hearts; it made them uncomfortable and angry. With Jesus there is right and wrong, black and white, sin and forgiveness. There is no gray.
You would do well to listen to Jesus and to take Him at His Words. Our Lord said to the paralytic: “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  “You are let loose from your sins.”  What He says is what we call Absolution. Absolution is not saying that this man is excused from what he has done and been. Absolution is not saying that this man was not really guilty, or that he was somehow not responsible. And He certainly is not saying the man should simply ‘forget it’ or ‘learn to live with it.’ When you and I speak of forgiveness, we usually have one of those in mind. Just think for a minute how you responded the last time someone apologized for what they had done or said that hurt you. You probably told them to forget about it, that it was not all that serious, that the effect of their action was not that significant. You probably said, “It’s okay,” even when you knew that it wasn’t okay. Maybe you said, “No big deal,” when it was a big deal to you. That is not Absolution. Forgiveness is costly to give, because it gets to the heart of the matter. Jesus forgives. Real forgiveness is costly. Our lives are never the same when we have forgiveness. Jesus takes the sin of the sinner upon Himself and lets it do its deadly work to Him. Your sins are forgiven when they are put to death in Christ.
Jesus absolves the paralytic. He does not forgive him for being a paralytic, as if our offense against God was that our bodies are weak and our minds are not all-knowing. The paralytic is more than a paralyzed man; he is a sinner, just as we are sinners. Our greatest need is not the healing of our bodies, the mending of our marriages, or the reconciliation of our relationships with our parents or our children. Our greatest need is the forgiveness of our sins. That’s the heart of the matter, and Jesus always sees through to the heart. Those three little words—“I forgive you”—can heal family feuds, hurting marriages, damaged friendships, and broken homes. They can heal the people giving them and the people receiving them.
Jesus speaks these words to you, and then He puts those words in your mouth in His body and blood in the sacrament. And soon, in His time, He will call you to rise from your bed and to go to your heavenly home. Soon all of your physical infirmities will be taken away and you will again be whole and perfect. Here and now He speaks and invites you to receive the forgiveness He won for you. He came to give it because He loves 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.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sermon for 9/30/18: Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Perfect Love

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

The Lord does not play along with the Pharisees. He gives them a perfect summary of all the Law and prophets: Love God and neighbor perfectly. This ruins the test. They wanted to debate. They wanted to be dazzled with rhetoric and quick thinking. They wanted to think some deep thoughts. Instead they were exposed as sinners. The greatest commandment is not some clever bit of ethical advice with pros and cons on each side. It is simply the command to be holy as the Lord is holy: to love God perfectly and your neighbor as yourself. This kind of preaching is no fun. After all, we already know these things. But this kind of preaching exposes the heart. These are things we’ve utterly failed to do, even though we know better. There is nothing to learn or discover here except the damning truth that we are evil.
The problem is not just that we have sinned. The problem is that we cannot and do not keep this commandment at all. We never love God perfectly; we never love our neighbor as ourselves. Never. Sometimes we do nice things. Sometimes we don’t hurt other people. We occasionally refrain from carrying out the evil thoughts in our heads. But we never—never—love God with our whole heart. Never. We always keep a part of our heart for ourselves. We are always thinking about ourselves, whether or not we’re hungry or cold or bored or what we happens next. We are always looking around to see who is noticing. We want to be sure to get credit. The problem isn’t just the sins we’ve done; the problem is that we were conceived and born in sin. We sin because we are sinners. It is our most basic definition and identity. We are helpless against ourselves. Our very instincts are self-preserving, selfish, sinful.
Our Lord answers the lawyer with the Law because He wants to lawyer to feel the law and despair, so that He might then heal and restore him. And that is the point of Our Lord’s follow-up question: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?” This isn’t a test to see how clever the lawyer is, to see if he knows the Bible, or something they can debate for fun. It is an invitation. Yes, He is David’s Son but He is also David’s Lord. Jesus invites the lawyer to contemplate the saving mystery of God becoming Man. From that contemplation comes peace and joy, encouragement and hope.
Our Lord became Man to take up sin and bear it to death on His cross. He has come to do what we could and would not, what we would never do. He has perfectly loved and obeyed the heavenly Father; He has perfectly loved His neighbor. He died in perfect love for those who did not love Him. His Kingdom—given in the holy washing and renewal of Holy Baptism, the new birth and inheritance of heaven—He bestows for free. It has already been bought and paid for, prepared for those who desire it, who dare to believe it, who hear His Voice and say, “Amen.”
How is it that David’s Lord is also David’s Son? And how is it that God comes to us in bread and wine in His Body and Blood? How is it that He joins us to Him in Holy Communion? How is it that the Creator becomes of our Food and our Bridegroom? How is it that sinners are declared saints? How is it that He loves us and remembers us in His Kingdom? These are all important questions, and all of these are answered with the word “love.” The Gospel isn’t an academic topic for debate. But it does give rise to hymns and poetry, in heaven and on earth. It saves lawyers and sinners surprised to discover they need saving. This is perfect love, and it is for 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, September 24, 2018

HYMN: You Shall Love the Lord Your God.

I’m still working on my writing project: one hymn (at least) for every Sunday in the Church year in the LSB One-Year Lectionary. Each text brings me closer to completion, when I will eventually (self-)publish a booklet containing all my hymns to that point. 

This text deals with the Propers for the Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity, which includes Matthew 22:34-46. The Gospel appointed for this Sunday (which, incidenally, really is for this coming Sunday) shares the account of a confrontation with the Pharisees, who attempted to entrap Jesus in a legal question concerning which commandment is the greatest. Jesus, of course, will not be trapped. Anyway, here is my treatment of this text. Feedback is love.

You Shall Love the Lord Your God

1. “You shall love the Lord your God:”
Love, the first and great command,
Heart and soul and mind unflawed.
Only perfect love will stand.
Only One such love has known:
Love incarnate, Christ, alone.

2. And the second great command:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love received from God’s own hand,
Free to give in boundless wealth.
Truly Christ the crucified
Loved His neighbor as He died.

3. I confess, O Christ, my Judge,
I do not love as I should.
All my service I begrudge.
I grow weary seeking good. 
You allow me no vain part,
Claiming body, mind, and heart.

4. Teach me, holy Lord, I pray,
How to love as You love me,
Living blameless in the day,
Loving neighbors selflessly.
Washed in grace, I walk the vale.
Show me mercy when I fail.

5. Love’s dual Law is satisfied
In Your holy, precious blood,
For in perfect love You died,
Cleansed me in Your crimson flood.
Only through Your love I can
Love and serve both God and man;

(c) 2018, Alan Kornacki, Jr.
77 77 77
Temporary Tune: Gethsemane (LSB 436)
Occasion: Trinity XVIII

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sermon for 9/23/18: Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity

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Sabbath Healing

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

It is lawful heal on the Sabbath. Of course it is. The Pharisees know this, but pride runs deep. Their fallen hearts wish it to be illegal, because then they would be better than Him; they would not be the most pitiful of men. But they know it isn’t illegal, and so they say nothing. They are too proud to admit they are wrong. They are shamefully stubborn. They remain in their sin. They will go to Hell rather than be humbled.
It is completely unreasonable…but it is no strange thing to us. We have watched ourselves destroy the best things in life—throwing away friendships, alienating family, all because of our pride, our ill-conceived sense of honor. We want to be self-sufficient, strong, and brave, heroes of our fantasies. But our friends see our vanity, our posturing, our hiding and politicking. If they were not forgiving, patient, and kind, we’d have no friends at all, let alone spouses, children, or employers.
We have been as silent as the Pharisees when it suited us. Our children bring home their live-in significant other for Christmas, and we all play along. We may suspect they’ll be gone by Valentine’s day, but we act like they’re married. We don’t want to cause a scene. In our pride we enable and engage in the worst sins of men. We are silent when the truth needs to be spoken. We are more concerned with the moment than with the future; more worried about publicity than the fate of our souls; more desirous of popularity with men than the love of God. Repent.
Jesus laid in the grave, His rest spanning three days, included every second of the Sabbath. All the world was silent. The would-be apostles hid in fear. It seemed as though the Pharisees had won. They had silenced God and hushed His Bride. They thought, “Now no one will dare to speak against our lies.” They thought they had won. We have sometimes acted like they did. But this is the great Truth: Jesus died and rose again to reconcile sinners to His Father. There is no other truth. This is why we cannot be silent. It is too important. We must warn those still caught in the web of death, enslaved to lust and greed and violence.
The world wants to know why we keep preaching against their pet sins. They are against murder and thievery—the obvious kind, at least. They do not mind us opposing that. But they like what they call “victimless sins.” “What does it matter,” they say, “what two consenting adults do?” “How does that hurt you?” But there is no victimless sin. Sin is always dangerous. It destroys faith. It separates men from God. It mocks His death. It is a lie. And it kills. Prostitution, cohabitation, homosexuality, pornography—these are not victimless. Both parties in these sinful activities are victims: trapped, sick, afraid, living in guilt and shame…or, worse, living comfortably in their sin. Should we be silent? Should we look the other way? Jesus asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Of course it is! This is the better way: the way of healing and grace, the way of forgiveness, the way of truth and of dying to live.
Be humbled in the cross of Jesus Christ. Let the world scoff at you, but do not let the disease of sin go unanswered. Do not be intimidated by those lying Pharisees. They did not win. Speak the Truth. Let them know that our Lord Jesus Christ invites sinners to come to Him and His Church, where He will give them Sabbath healing in Holy Absolution. This message will drive back the darkness of sin, and some will believe and thank you for it. And when someone speaks the truth to you, hear it with joy. Repent and be healed. Repent and be welcomed by your Lord Jesus Christ to this highest place of all, a place at His holy Altar to receive the medicine of immortality. God has loved sinners in His Son. Proclaim the Truth. God is not angry. He loves His children. He knows what He is doing. Christ did not die in vain. His body and blood is medicine for the soul. His mercy endures 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.