Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sermon for 6/16/19: The Feast of the Holy Trinity

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"Born from Above"

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

The Triune God was too much for him. Isaiah could not abide the presence of God’s majesty. He was only a man; he was not holy. He mourned his sinful state, his lying lips, his fearful heart. He was not worthy to sing the angelic song. He was headed for destruction. His guilt was too great. His sin was too shameful. He had no wings or fig leaves with which to cover up. There in the presence of the Truth, he could not lie about who he really was. He was exposed, vulnerable, undone.
But then an angel flew to the altar at God’s direction. He picked up a burning coal, the remnant of the burnt offering, and placed its fire to Isaiah’s lips. His guilt was removed. His sin was forgiven, for the coal touched his mouth and made him clean. Now He, too, could sing God’s praise: Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord of hosts! Now Isaiah, like the seraphim, is holy. The Almighty has declared it so. Isaiah has been redeemed. He is able to call “Brother” the One who is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Incarnate God of Moses and of Abraham, the only begotten of His Father.
How unsearchable are the judgments of God! The men who murdered His Son, who mocked His name, who hid and ran from Him—He proclaims them innocent. He makes them His sons. In their place He judges His perfect Son worthy of the price that justice demands. All the burdens of all the evil the world has withstood—genocide and abortion, half-truths, bragging and cowardice, bullying and drunkenness; all the evil in which men have engaged, all their secret sins, all their violence and their vanity; all their greed, malice, and lust—He places all of it upon the Lamb who was born to be the Sacrifice. The Father raised Him up on the cross. Look with eyes of faith to the agony of grace outside of Jerusalem. There the demons are cast out. There the snakes are driven away. There salvation is won and the lips of men are made clean. Songs of praise ring out again.
Whoever believes in the One who received the praise of the Seraphim, who sent Isaiah to foretell the Virgin birth—whoever believes in Him will never perish. He will have eternal life. No matter how bad, how despicable, how wrong or mean or stupid or lazy or negligent or resentful or lonely; whoever believes in Jesus Christ; whoever trusts in Him, true God and true Man; whoever looks to Christ, crucified and raised, despite his past crimes: whoever believes in Him is forgiven. He finds peace and comfort, hope, and joy.
Jesus Christ was lifted up and sacrificed for all the sins of the world. That is how God loved the world. That is how God has loved you. The Father gave His only-begotten Son over to the death you should have died. He declared the innocent One guilty so that He could declare you innocent and righteous. He has had mercy upon you, mercy that endures forever! He did not send His Son to condemn the world, but to save it—to save you. And so He has saved—not by works we have done, but according to His mercy. His Word creates and sustains faith in whoever believes in Him.
Today, at God’s direction, a servant of God’s Word will take from this Altar the crucified body of Christ and place its purifying fire to your lips. Your guilt is removed. Your sin is forgiven. You partake of that which was sacrificed in your place: Christ’s body and blood. It will make you clean. That which has appeased God’s wrath on your behalf will be joined to you. Thus you can sing. Like the Seraphim, like Isaiah, like Nicodemus, you are holy. You have been redeemed. You belong to God. You have been spared. You have been named by Him. You belong to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Through water and the Word, You have born from above. 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, June 13, 2019

HYMN: Be Still and Know Your God, My Soul

I've been sitting on a hymn idea for quite some time now (and boy, is my butt sore!). Sorry. I couldn't resist. Anyway, one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture is Psalm 46:10a, which says, "Be still, and know that I am God..." I've wanted to write something around this for some time. But when you think of "Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side," or you think of Luther's excellent adaptation of Psalm 46 ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"), the idea of tackling those words, "Be still," can be daunting. But last night this thought for a metrical version of Psalm 46 popped into my head, and I ran with it. Your feedback would be appreciated. 

Be Still and Know Your God, My Soul

1. Be still and know your God, my soul:
Your present Help when troubles rear. 
Though earth should move or thunder roll,
When mountains shake, you need not fear. 

2. Be still and know your God, my soul,
For Christ, the Lamb, now dwells within. 
Baptismal streams have made you whole. 
His blood has bleached the stain of sin. 

3. Be still and know your God, my soul,
Though nations rage and kingdoms fall. 
Your Savior’s voice will soothe, console
Your trembling by His gentle call. 

4. Be still and know your God, my soul. 
The day shall come when war will cease,
When tools of war shall burn like coal
Before your Lord, the Prince of peace. 

5. Be still and know your God, my soul:
The God whom all the nations sing,
Whom all the earth from pole to pole
Exalts as Jacob’s Lord and King. 

6. Be still and know your God, my soul,
For Christ shall give you endless cheer. 
Your Refuge and your Strength extol. 
The Lord of hosts is with you here. 

© 2019 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
LM (88 88)
Psalm 46; Cross and Comfort

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sermon for 6/10/19: Funeral of Marvin Juhl

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"Faithful Unto Death"
Revelation 2:10b

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” These words, Marvin’s Confirmation verse, are recorded in the Revelation to Saint John. Jesus told John to write these words to the troubled Christians in the Church at Smyrna. They experienced trials and persecutions in such measure that they wondered if they should continue to confess the Lord as their God. Smyrna’s Christians experienced worldly poverty, but Jesus reminded them just how rich they were in the holy things of the Lord—things like forgiveness, eternal life, salvation, hope, the Word of God, and the eternal inheritance awaiting them. “I know your tribulations and your poverty,” Jesus said to them. “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.” 

Jesus could say this to them—and to us—because He is not a God who is far off. He can say this to them because of what He has done. He can say this because He became one of us. He is Emmanuel: God with us, God made flesh, dwelling among us for our salvation. He knows our trials and struggles because He experienced them Himself. His first bed was an animal food trough. His family fled with Him to Egypt to preserve His life from King Herod. He mourned the death of His friend, Lazarus. He felt the excruciating pain of the scourge. He experienced humiliation and mockery at the hands of both the Jews and the Roman soldiers. He was forsaken by His Father. He was nailed to the cross, where He suffered and died. So when the Lord speaks these words—when He tells His people to be “faithful unto death,” when He tells them not to be afraid of the suffering to come—He speaks with authority. 

“Be thou faithful unto death.” Marvin built his life around these words. We are not here to preach Marvin into heaven, for Jesus has already done all the work; even now, Marvin rests from his labors, awaiting the resurrection to come on the Last Day, because Jesus bore all Marvin’s sins to the cross. But the Church has always looked to those who have gone before as examples of faith. It’s important for us to know that Marvin lived his faith: how he was a faithful father and husband; how he shared his gift of music; how he worked with Laborers for Christ. In all of this, he rejoiced at how the hand of the Lord upheld and sustained him. He rejoiced in the many blessings he had received from the Lord: a loving wife; faithful children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; food, shelter, clothing, and, indeed, “all [he needed] to support this body and life.” 

But Marvin especially rejoiced that the Lord made him His child in the waters of Holy Baptism. He rejoiced to receive the forgiveness of his sins. He rejoiced to be fed with his Savior’s own body and blood. These gifts sustained him throughout his life, even when his body bent and began to fail. This is not to say that Marvin was worthy of all these blessings from God, or that he had strength or reason to trust in the Lord on his own, or that he earned his place in heaven. But Marvin took the Word and promises of God very seriously. By the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit within him, Marvin was faithful until death, and now the crown of eternal life is his.

Jesus said, “I will give you the crown of life.” He won that crown for you by wearing the crown of thorns. By His innocent suffering and His atoning death on the cross, the holy Son of God shedding his blood for you, Christ Jesus paid the price you owed, died the death you deserve, and obtained the forgiveness you so desperately need. This promise is for you. Of course, just as this was true of Marvin, you cannot remain faithful by your own power—nor could the Christians in Smyrna or any of the other Christians who have died in the faith down through the centuries. Faithfulness only comes by the power of the Holy Spirit, both in good times and in bad. That power of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit you have received in the waters of Holy Baptism—will give you the faith to cling to the words and promises of God. The Lord is faithful. And in His promises and gifts, He will strengthen your faith through all adversities and temptations. The Lord does this through His Means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments. Through these gospel means, the Lord of the Church sustains His people.
So “do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” Do not be afraid of illness. Do not be afraid of death. Do not be afraid of the grief that you’re experiencing right now. Marvin was a blessing to you, and it’s okay to miss him. Do not be afraid, for the Lord is with you. The One who died in agony on the cross knows your pain, your suffering, and your grief; He will neither leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid to mourn, but do not mourn like those who have no hope. Our risen Lord is with you, and He will send His Spirit to comfort you, to sustain you, to keep you steadfast unto death. By the grace of God, just like Marvin, you will receive the crown of 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.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Sermon for 6/9/19: Pentecost

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Love and Peace

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

The world has made an idol of love, an idol far surpassing the tower of Babel. Individuals and the powers that be have applauded things which God’s Word calls sin. Living together outside of marriage is considered love; homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, open marriages, and divorce are considered love; the desire for worldly power and wealth is considered love; abortion and euthanasia are considered love. The world has always welcomed such idolatry, from Adam and Eve’s desire to be like God, to Babel’s attempt to raise itself to the heavens, and even today, to the new Illinois abortion legislation, the most permissive in the nation, making murder legal right up until a baby is born. The world kneels willingly at the altars of these abominations. Even worse, it invokes the name of Jesus in support of this idolatry. “Jesus is love,” they say, “so of course He condones everything we do in the name of love.” To Satan’s delight, the world has turned away from God and His Word, and so the world doesn’t know peace. Even Christian congregations and denominations fall into the world’s trap.
Jesus turns worldly love on its head. He says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…” This means true love is obedience to everything our Lord has given you in His Word. We have forgotten or ignored the Law of God: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” How do you love God? You listen to His Word and live lives according to that Word, repenting when you fail. How do you love your neighbor? You share that Word of God with your neighbor and encourage him to live accordingly. You wouldn’t willingly swallow poison; why would you want your neighbor to do so? If something is eternally deadly—make no mistake: living in unrepentant sin is eternally deadly—then wouldn’t you warn your neighbor about it in as loving a way as possible? Such love won’t always end well for you here—some with whom you share this message may come to hate you—but it is the truest love you can share with them.
This is what Jesus does. The Church is born by the Word, not by the passion or plans of men. The Word draws sinners out of death, darkness, and chaos; it leads them into life, light, and order. This Word created all things. This Word became Man and dwelt among us, so that He might rescue and recreate you. This Word is the truth. He calls you to new birth, to new life. He gives you peace in His name.
Pentecost is the beginning of this world’s end. It is the undoing of the curse of Babel. It is the reuniting of brothers and sisters, no longer divided by ethnicity, language, and economics. Living in the Word, you are made one in Christ, no longer separated by sin. God has made a people for Himself in the waters of Holy Baptism. He has forged you in forgiveness and cleansed you with His blood. The Spirit has called you by the Gospel: the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has gathered you around the Word. He has enlightened you with His gifts. He sanctifies you in His Word of truth. Our God named you in Baptism with His own name. He has declared you to be His people. He will not let you go. So it is that you are here today. You are the rightful heirs of Pentecost. You are heirs of His Word. You are heirs of His peace. For now, while you wait, living in these days of conversion and mission, looking forward to the new heaven and new earth, you rejoice in the peace that is already yours. He gives His peace to you, peace which the world does not know and can never give. This peace passes all understanding; this peace will never end. 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, June 02, 2019

Sermon for 6/2/19: The Ascension of Our Lord

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The Right Hand of God

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Most people seem to think that after Christ’s ascension, He is not around anymore. He is far away. Wherever the “right hand of God” is, it cannot be nearby. People think they're just sort of on their own, maybe with some help from the Spirit, until Jesus comes back. But this is exactly what the Scriptures do not teach. The Ascension of our Lord means that our Lord Jesus has gone to the Father. As He told us Himself, He goes so that He can send the Spirit, by whose preaching Jesus is with His church. St. Mark writes this very thing: “After this He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And the Apostles went out preaching everywhere, the Lord working with them.” Jesus is at the right hand of God, which means Jesus is present wherever His Gospel is preached.
Satan would love to snatch you and your righteousness away from Jesus, but the devil is powerless now that Jesus has ascended. Your sins are forgiven. Jesus paid their price. Nothing stands between you and God anymore, for Jesus as both God and Man sits at “the right hand of God.” He has raised humanity to dwell with God in His glory. If the devil wants to get to you, he must go through the risen and ascended Son of God Himself. Jesus sends the Apostles into the world to preach this, because the world thinks that God will love you if you live a good life. The world imagines, when it even acknowledges sin, that you have to do something to make up for your sins. But the world can't figure out the Gospel. Only the Lord can reveal it and accomplish it! The world doesn't know anything about grace or mercy or the forgiveness of sins. So the Lord sends His preachers into that dead world with the Word of life, the Good News of sins forgiven.
By the preaching of the Gospel and by the water and the Word, the Spirit makes disciples out of sinners in the world. And just as the world knows nothing about what the Gospel is, so also the world knows nothing about faith. When Jesus says, “whoever believes,” He means a trust that clings to Him and to His gifts. The Bible says that, when the Lord went on high, He gave gifts to men. These are the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, given through the preaching of the Word, the water of the font, the words of absolution, and the body and blood of the Supper. To believe means to trust that you have nothing going for you but Jesus and those gifts which give you Jesus. To a world that is dead in trespasses and sins, Jesus doesn't just send some knowledge about a far away God; He actually delivers repentance and the forgiveness of sins through His preachers.
The Ascension of Our Lord is a big deal. When Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father, what He's really doing now is going all over the earth through the preaching of the Gospel. While He was visible to human eyes, He was there in Judea. Now hidden to our eyes, He is everywhere the Gospel is preached to the ends of the earth. When He seems to be going away, He's actually present everywhere. The Ascension is your guarantee that Jesus Himself is forgiving and saving sinners where His Word is preached and His sacraments given. With these gifts, Jesus makes you His own, raises you from the death of sin, seats you in the heavenly places, and works all things for your good until He returns again. Jesus died for you. He rose for you. And His ascension is for you, too! You have heard of His Ascension today. Now, like His disciples who went to the Temple, praising and glorifying Jesus, you also come to His house, full of joy, ready to receive His good gifts in which He is present with you again…for as He sits at “the right hand of God” for 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 will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sermon for 5/26/19: Sixth Sunday of Easter

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The God Who Hears

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Our culture is devoted to hope, but we are short on conviction. Superstition still dwells in our hearts. We want to believe that we can be accepted to Hogwarts or Starfleet Academy. We want to believe that we can choose our own genders, and everyone must submit to our choice. Popular opinion is that anything is possible; reality shouldn’t get in the way. Believe what you want about cancer, the holocaust, or JFK, but nothing should be held rigidly, and certainly we shouldn’t believe anything to the exclusion of other opinions. Absolute truth and reality are allowed no place today.
When we find ourselves in a crisis, we are sorely tempted to call together all the leaders of all faiths and have them pray to the pantheon of gods, hoping that one of them will do the job. Or maybe we are hoping that the gods would all get together and cooperate, like comic book heroes who usher in a new utopian age of tolerance and prosperity. Prayer in such a context, even if one calls on the name of Jesus, is not prayer to the Triune God. Our God will not share the stage. He is not one among many. He is not ethnic. He is not satisfied to be the chief god, like Zeus. He is the only One. There is no other God. When Moses asks, “Who shall I say sent me?” He says, “I AM.” Prayer in any other name than the name of Jesus is idolatry. He ate with repentant sinners, but He refused to answer Caiaphas and Herod.
Jesus tells us to call upon His Father as our Father. He is the One who hears the prayers of His people, for He is our God by grace. He is everyone’s God, but not everyone knows or confesses Him. In the end, everyone will know. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess—in heaven, on earth, and even in hell—that Jesus is Lord. To pray to the Father through the Spirit in the name of Jesus is to confess that Jesus is Lord. That confession cannot stand alongside the idea that Jesus is merely a false teacher from Nazareth who was executed as a criminal and who is still dead. It cannot stand with the idea that Jesus is merely a misunderstood prophet of Allah. Prayer in the name of Jesus cannot stand with witch doctors and shamans who peer into the intestines of animals. Prayer in the name of Jesus must condemn those demonic lies.
Jesus is the real God. He will tolerate no pretenders. The One who makes us His in the waters of Baptism hears and answers our prayers. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. But He is good. His mercy endures forever. God’s will is always done, and His will is always good. And even when it seems bad to us—when loves ones get sick, when children are murdered in schools, when our hearts hurt with the pain of our sin—even when it means suffering shame and hatred from the world, heavenly hindsight will reveal that God’s will is always perfect. What He wills is exactly what God’s children need.
Pray for what you desire. You do not need to worry about forming the perfect request. Even before you ask, your Father knows what you need. You do not approach an angry God, but a God who welcomes your petitions, your praise, and your thanks for the sake of His Son. Through Christ, the heavenly Father is your Father who loves you.
You are not alone in prayer. God speaks in His Word. With that holy, inspired, inerrant Word, God reveals His good and gracious will for you. He exposes His loving mercy and kindness. He provides friends, family, food, all things. But most of all, our God—the One who provided the ram in the thicket so that Isaac would go free—He has provided His Son as a perfect sacrifice in your place, giving you that same Son to you in His Body and Blood. By His Word, He provides. He forgives. He renews. He hears…and He answers. 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.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sermon for 5/19/19: Fifth Sunday of Easter

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Called, Gathered, Enlightened, Sanctified

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the waters of Holy Baptism, you receive the Holy Spirit. You should remember from your Catechism that “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” That is what the Holy Spirit does; it is His work. That is what Jesus tells His disciples. Honestly, though, this is not what usually comes to mind when talk turns to the Holy Spirit. Mention the Holy Spirit, and most think of televangelists, faith healers, speaking in tongues, special knowledge, and those who say, “God spoke to me in my heart.” All of that misses the real work of the Holy Spirit and destroys the Gospel.
Baptism, Absolution, the Word proclaimed and preached, and the Lord’s Supper: these are the Means of Grace, the things through which the Spirit works. Everything else which people claim is the Spirit’s work is a man-made idol. Baptism is where sinners, condemned to death and hell, are buried with Christ into death and raised with Him to walk in new life. It is with water dripping from your head that you received the Holy Spirit with all of His gifts: victory over death and devil, forgiveness of sin, God’s grace, and life in Christ. God makes Christians by water and Word. Faith and life do not come by the ears of God being filled with our words of promise, for those words are worthless and weak. Faith comes when you hear the Word and promise of God, for those words and promises are most certainly true.
You don’t have to be good to go to heaven. In fact, you can’t be good. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus says, “I came to seek and save the lost”— condemned sinners. Through the goodness and mercy of the Father, for sake of His suffering, dying, and rising Son, eternal life is yours as a free gift, delivered into your ears by the preaching and work of the Holy Ghost.
The holy Christian Church on earth is the hearing Church, not the seeing Church. The Word of God is first and foremost preached into the ears, not delivered into the eyes. This is preaching and Absolution. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” When you come to the altar, looking with your eyes, you see only bread and wine. But if you listen with your ears, then you behold Christ´s body and blood for you to eat and to drink for the remission of sins. Witness a Baptism with your eyes, and you see plain water. Listen with your ears, and you hear the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Ghost.
The Church lives by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We live by faith. So if you wish to see Jesus, then stop relying only on your eyes; put your trust in what your ears hear. Just as the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, received Jesus into her womb by the preaching of the Holy Spirit in her ear, so too our Lord Jesus dwells within you by the work of Holy Spirit, who preaches Christ into your ears.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ: You have been declared righteous for the sake of Jesus, who went to the Father through suffering, death, and resurrection. You are righteous because He put your sin to death on the cross. You are righteous because He gave to you His righteousness in the waters of Holy Baptism. You are righteous because He is your Mediator with the Father in heaven, imploring the Father to see in you the perfect righteousness of His Son. You are righteous because the Holy Spirit preaches the righteousness of Christ into your ears and into the very depths of your being, so that you may live eternally. 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.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sermon for 5/12/19: Fourth Sunday After Easter

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Your Endless Joy

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

On the night when He was betrayed, on the night in which He instituted the Sacrament of the Altar, our Lord prepared His disciples for His departure with the promise of return and of joy. They were puzzled by it, and so our Lord explains further: “…You now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” He is speaking of the specific sorrow that the disciples will have at the crucifixion.
But we do well to apply this to ourselves and to the sorrows we endure while awaiting His return. The present is full of our transgressions. By our sins we have burnt bridges with family and friends, employers and neighbors. We’ve succumbed to temptation and hurt the ones we love the most. Our words have been spiteful, sarcastic, and mean. Our service to God and our neighbors has been resentful. Our spirits may be ashamed of what we are doing, but we do not resist. Repent. Turn away from your fleshly desires. Remember that this is not your home. Let the pain and sorrow you experience now sharpen your focus upon the joy to come.
This life is temporary. It seems long, but when we look back, we will see that it was brief. Our joy will be complete; no one will take it from us. Hang on. Jesus Christ did not die and rise in vain. It will end soon. And when the going gets tough, in the waning hours of darkness, in the midst of your watch, know that you will mount up on wings like eagles and soar. Soon, you will leave all this tribulation behind. You shall be free! No more pain, no more suffering, no more shame or regret, no more past, no more sin. You will be free of your Old Adam. God’s grace cuts the cords which bind you. The payment for your selfishness has been paid. There is nothing left but the waiting. God loves you in Jesus Christ; He will bring you to Himself. For His own reasons, from His own goodness, without any merit or worthiness in you, He loves you. He calls you by name. The inheritance of the righteous is rightfully yours, for you are His. You need not defend yourself, look after your rights and honors, or be insulted by the stupid behavior around you. Patience is learned in the cross, for there we see that nothing else really matters. You are free from those who hurt you, free from the devil’s accusations, free from death. Jesus Christ Himself is your Defender, your Advocate, your Friend. He never sleeps or grows faint. Let Him worry about you. Who would dare to stand against you? These labor pains are not punishment. Rather, they are the proof of His love.
While you wait, knowing that your time is coming and that nothing else matters, our Lord gives you a foretaste of that joyous Feast to come. Be strengthened, encouraged, and refreshed for your labor. Eat His Body and drink His Blood to sustain you. Your sins are forgiven. Here is your strength to carry on. Here is hope for the future. Here is peace for the tired, troubled heart. Here is unity with Christ crucified and raised, and through Him you have unity with the fellow confessing pilgrims on earth. No longer are these neighbors considered strangers; they are now your brothers and sisters in Him, for faith is thicker than blood. And you also have unity with the confessing cloud of witnesses that even now surrounds you and prays for you. This is the promise of joy to come, so that you would endure in confident hope and faith. So do not be afraid. Do not mourn like those who have no hope. Fear not. In a little while you will see Him and your joy will be complete. And no one will take it from 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 will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

HYMN: Your Word, O Lord, Has Caused Offense

It’s strange how it always happens, but every time I’m at a district pastors conference, I write a hymn. This time is no exception. We’re listening to an excellent presentation from the Reverend Doctor Mark Rockenbach, and I’m taking pretty good notes, but I also had an idea pop into my head for one of my two remaining Sundays of the Church Year for which I hadn’t yet written a text. Actually, the topic of the presentation led to this text, as we’re talking about comforting the people of God. The Third-Last Sunday of the Church year is the dreaded “abomination of desolation” text, Matthew 24:15-28. How does God comfort and protect His people when He is dishing out judgment? He sends His Word to His people. The Word offends the world, but it brings comfort and hope to the holy flock. 

Anyway, here is my text, to the tune to which we sing “I Walk in Danger All the Way.” Feedback is appreciated.

 Your Word, O Lord, Has Caused Offense

1. Your Word, O Lord, has caused offense
To people worldly, broken.
The sons of men refuse the sense
Of all the Christ has spoken,
Indulging sinful wills,
Inviting Satan’s ills.
The godless spurn all holy fear.
The end is surely drawing near.

2. Your Word, O Lord, has caused offense.
False prophets seek to lure us
From our baptismal innocence
And from Your truth obscure us.
Our own defense must fail;
You only must prevail.
We trust in You, O Savior dear.
The end is surely drawing near.

3. Your Word, O Lord, has caused offense.
Your children face temptation.
The Gospel is our sole defense
From anger and frustration.
The world seeks our defeat;
Your Word is comfort sweet
When worldly foes would mock and jeer.
The end is surely drawing near.

4. Your Word, O Lord, has caused offense,
Your cross a sign of loathing.
But through Your Passion you dispense
Our white baptismal clothing.
Your blood has made us clean
Of all our sins obscene.
The grave has no more power here.
The end is surely drawing near.

5. You Word, O Lord, has caused offense.
The day, we beg You, hasten!
And should we fail at Your expense,
Don’t hesitate to chasten.
The signs are plain and sure.
Oh, grant us to endure,
To trust Your Word and persevere.
The end is surely drawing near.

(c) 2019, Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 77 88
Occasion: Trinity XXV (3rd Last Sunday of the Church Year); Persecution; The World

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Sermon for 5/5/19: Third Sunday of Easter

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Hear and Follow

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

On this side of glory, our faith lives alongside of doubt. The devil doesn’t need to plant it in us. He just needs to water it. Jesus says, “My sheep know My voice. They follow Me.” And it doesn’t take much to get us thinking, “Do I really know His voice? Am I really following Him?” Doubt wants proof. How much have we done? Can we be recognized in this world  by our love? The truth is, we can’t. Sinners that we are, we have blended all too well into the ways of the world. Repent. You have not been good enough. Your life does not show your faith so much as it shows your sin.
So repent…but then tell doubt to shut up. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He lays downs His life for His sheep. He has met His Father’s wrath. He pays for your sins, your doubts. There is no one left to accuse you. You are righteous because Jesus has declared you to be so. He has substituted His life for yours. He has risen from the dead for your justification. He is the Good Shepherd. He didn’t only defeat death by His death; He also rose again to usher you into the green pastures of heaven, to bring you home. He loves you. You know His voice. You hear it now. You love it.
It seems strange to us, but doubt is actually evidence of faith. Your doubts are the pinpricks of conscience. As your faith in Christ grows, you become ever more aware of your sins and the weakness of your faith. Doubt is evidence that you are engaging the enemy inside yourself. If you were not engaging the enemy, you would not care. You would feel no worry about it.
If this is hard for lay people to hear, it is torture for pastors. No faithful pastor in Christendom can hear our Lord’s words about hirelings and not squirm. Every faithful pastor knows he does not live up to his own preaching. Every pastor has counted the cost. Every pastor has considered how we might package the message to be successful and make the people like us. The spirit indeed is willing. But the flesh? The flesh knows who writes the checks, and the pastor likes to be able to feed his family.
But this doesn’t just apply to the clergy. You have all stood up here at the front of the sanctuary and have made promises you haven’t kept. You have promised to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the faith. You’ve made huge, impossible promises at Confirmation, at your weddings, at the baptism of your children. This hireling bit applies in the first place to pastors, to be sure, but it doesn’t stop there. When the wolf comes, hirelings also run away from their wives, children, and neighbors. It’s not just the pastors who squirm.
But we have the grace of God. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The promises of God are not about good sheep, but a Good Shepherd who is faithful, who has made a promise that cannot be broken, who cleanses you in Himself. Nothing can separate you from the love of God—not your sins, your failures, your imperfect faith, your broken vows, or even your doubts. He has placed His promise upon you, baptizing you into His Name. He would have you be part of His flock. Death has no claim upon you. Hell has no way to hold you. You are His sheep, clean and pure by grace. He loves you. He laid down His life you. He comes to you in His Holy Supper. He feeds you with Bread from heaven in His very Body; He washes you anew in His Blood, which He pours out for you.
You are His sheep. You hear His Voice. You love it. You love Him. You desire to be with Him. Even in the midst of your doubts, your struggles against the fallen flesh, you love Jesus. You rejoice in this forgiveness because you know your Shepherd and He knows you. That is why you are here. You are His sheep. And you need fear no evil, for He is Your Good Shepherd. 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.   

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sermon for 4/28/19: Second Sunday of Easter

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Scarred for Life

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

            We broke His heart upon the cross. After our betrayal, weak-willed and sleepy, we doubted and we feared. We are not worthy of His patience or His mercy. The sacrifice was too great! It shook creation and blotted out the sun. But even in His anguish and His sorrow, His love was pure. It did not waver. It never faltered. He gently gave what we had no right to demand, what we sought to steal by force and violence. He prayed for us to the very end. And the “prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Our Lord poured out His life that we would have it and live. From His holy wounds—from the nail prints and His pierced side—comes our hope and our life.
Thomas was brought back to faith by the scars in Jesus’ hands, feet, and side. Those holy scars restored faith, but not because they prove that Jesus is the One who was crucified back from the dead, that He who died that brutal and merciless death outside the city gates is risen and lives. They do demonstrate that. But so does His eating broiled fish and walking through stones and doors and across the waves. Those scars restore faith because they are the doorway of grace.
His blameless flesh was wounded. But the blood of God came forth to answer all of hell’s demands. No one took His life from Him. No one could. After all, He is God. But He gave His life. He laid it down as a sacrifice. He appeased His Father’s wrath. He stopped the devil’s accusations. He gave peace and hope to men. From those holy wounds, from the scourging and the thorns, from the nails and the spear, and out of death’s tomb comes the salvation of the world. The Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, is alive, and we are saved.
Three days after He died, He entered that upper room where He had given His body and blood. He did not come to rebuke them, but to deliver the peace He had won for them. He breathed His Holy Spirit upon them. He sent them out to bestow that Spirit, to forgive sins, to enlighten the hearts of men, to preach the glory of the cross and the beauty of those scars.
The Church, in existence already in Eden, was established in its final form that Easter evening. Its mission and purpose was clear: forgive sins. The Apostolic Office was established so that men would stand in the stead of Christ and deliver His blood—not as a sacrifice to the Father, but as a gift to His people. Now all believers eat the Bread of Life, the flesh of Christ. They are united to Him through that gift. Those sent men speak Christ’s words. They forgive sins. They make alive in Holy Baptism. They preach the Word. They preach Christ crucified and risen. They preach the fulfillment of all salvation. Their preaching forgives sins and reconciles men to the Father.
This is the Ministry that God provides even today. The men who fill that Office are not any better than the fearful disciples who hid behind locked doors. They have their personal doubts, their acts of cowardice and betrayal, their self-centered worries. But through these weak earthen vessels, God’s Kingdom expands. His Word shines forth despite their weaknesses. Sinners are baptized and absolved. God’s people hear the Word and receive the Body and Blood. Their sins are forgiven. Whether these pastors understand it or not, the Word of God goes forth and faith is born. And the gates of hell shall not overcome it, for Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
Our Lord bears His scars even now. They are not meant to induce guilt or sorrow. In fact, the opposite is true. Those scars testify on our behalf before the Father that Christ has paid the price of our sin with His blood. Those scars are for us the constant reminder of His love. And as they did for Thomas, those scars inspire us to worship and pray: “My Lord and my God!” 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.