Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sermon for 11/29/2020: First Sunday in Advent


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“Stir up Your Power…”

Matthew 21:1-9

 

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

 

 

Whenever we beg the Lord to stir up His power, we are begging Him to save and rescue and deliver us. He does this by holding back our enemies so that they cannot trouble us or threaten us. And then, in some wonderfully mysterious way, He somehow uses these enemies and their attacks for our good. But when Our Lord suppresses and subdues our enemies, He often doesn’t do it in the way we expect, especially when it comes to our greatest adversary, the prince of darkness. Then He comes to us—not with hailstones and coals of fire, not with a great show of force, but weak and vulnerable, ready to be beaten instead of lashing out; ready to be mocked instead of taunting; ready to be killed and not armed to kill. He does not come as a conquering hero, nor as a great general going to war, but as a suffering sacrifice.

And so, lowly, sitting on a donkey, here comes the One who is the answer to your prayers. Here is the mighty deliverance you asked for. Here is the protection from your threatening perils. And there, on the donkey, meek and mild—there is the great stirring up of the Lord’s power. It’s no wonder we’re disappointed when we pray. No wonder we feel so let down after we cry and plead and beg the Lord to smash our sinful urges, to quiet our fears, to heal us from our life-threatening diseases. We pray, demanding Alexander the Great on a mighty warhorse; instead we get a rabbi on a colt. We desire the obliteration of whatever troubles us; instead the scary thing still haunts us, and the addictive sin still must be resisted. And since we don’t feel better, since we don’t see a better life, since we are still afflicted, we falsely conclude that nothing has changed and our prayer has fallen on deaf ears.

These doubts, these fears, these false beliefs—these are the works of darkness that we must cast off. And the armor of light that we put on is the knowledge and belief that the Man on the colt is exactly who the prophet says He is. Jesus is your King; He is coming in power to save you. He is your salvation in the flesh. He calls you to believe. We so quickly judge by what we see and feel, and then we easily lose heart. Thanks be to God, for His Spirit raises up prophets and apostles, bishops and pastors, and they tell us these things so that we may hear and rejoice in hope.

By the power of the Spirit, we not only see that our prayer is answered. We also come to believe that the Man on the colt is our Lord and God who came in flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior. We believe that He safely leads us through the worst we’ve ever experienced or imagined by His suffering. We trust that, by His death and resurrection, every enemy, every fear—even the prince of darkness himself—is defeated because all things have been put under our Lord’s feet. And the Holy Spirit also leads us to believe that our prayer, while answered now, will also be fully answered when Christ comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

All this the Spirit of God helps us see and believe. But His greatest comfort is when He invites and draws us into the life of our God and King. The Spirit shows us that the bread we eat and the wine we drink is the power that our Lord has stirred up for us in His very flesh and blood to heal and deliver us, to protect and comfort us, to rescue and save us from every evil assault and every vicious doubt that assails us. And the Spirit helps us to see that what we hear and receive in the Holy Supper is precisely the help and aid that we need from our heavenly Father.

And so we pray, “Stir up Your power, O Lord.” But we also pray, “Show me Your way, O Lord; teach me Your paths.” For the Lord’s way and path is not to swoop down and conquer, but to lead and guide us through the valley of the shadow of death. The Lord’s way and path is not to magically make our problems disappear, but to use them for our good, so that we who are humbled would grow stronger and firmer in our life in Him. 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, November 26, 2020

Sermon for 11/25-26/2020: Day of National Thanksgiving

 
Remember and Give Thanks
 
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
 
“Thank you” is one of the very first things we learned to say as children, and hopefully one of the first things we teach our children to say. It is the language of being given to, the response to gifts received. Most of us still have that parental reminder ringing in our ears from our youngest days: “‘Now what do you say?’ ‘Thank you.’” God in Scripture teaches us to say “thank you” to Him. The psalms are a veritable cornucopia of praise and thanksgiving: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him, bless His name!” “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His mercy endures for ever.” “I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.”
 
Our contemporary version of Thanksgiving is much more an exercise in American civil religion with mythological stories of Pilgrims and Indians; a ritual meal of turkey, dressing, cranberries and all the fixings; and a common liturgy supplied by the National Football League or Hallmark, depending on who has the remote.
 
The Church hardly needs to be reminded by Caesar to give thanks to God for His gifts. In the Liturgy we recognize that it is “truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks...” The life of the Christian is life lived in thanksgiving for the gifts received through Jesus Christ.
 
For the Christian, every day is a day of thanksgiving. When we give thanks to God, we are confessing that God is the Giver and that we are at the receiving end of all that He gives. God doesn’t need our thanks; still, we need to thank Him. Thanksgiving is for our benefit, not God’s. It is a reminder that God is our strength, and that it is by the power and might of His merciful hand, and not our hands, that we receive all that we have.
 
At the time that Moses preached the sermon in Deuteronomy, Israel was standing on the threshold of the promised land. The rich land of Canaan was God’s gift to His people, the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was a land too good to be true, especially after 40 hard years of wandering in the wilderness. It was a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which the people would eat bread without scarcity, in which they would lack nothing. “And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.”
 
God knew the fickle hearts of His people. He knew they would not thank Him. He knew how self-centered the human heart is. So Moses said, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth.” “Remember.” That’s the key word in Deuteronomy. Remember the God who remembers you. Remember that God is the giver of the gifts. Remember to thank God for His gifts.
 
Thanksgiving, if it is to be thanksgiving to God, begins with our receiving Jesus, the Living Bread, and the gifts He died to give us, such as the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. Without these, there can be no thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving flows out of faith in Jesus Christ; His perfect life of thanksgiving lived in our place; His atoning death on the cross; His victorious resurrection that means our rising from the dead on the Last Day; and our inheritance of eternal blessing.
 
And so we will give thanks to God—today, tomorrow, and every day. We will do it as citizens of our nation, as priests to God that we all are, anointed in Baptism to pray on behalf of our neighbor. We will give thanks for every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God; for the Word made Flesh, our Savior Jesus Christ; for the good land he has given us; and for the new heaven and new earth to come. 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, November 22, 2020

Sermon for 11/22/2020: Last Sunday of the Church Year


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“The Bridegroom Is Coming!”

Matthew 25:1-13

 

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

 

 

Nature reminds us to expect endings, whether it’s falling leaves, shortened days, or the approach of snow. As we consider the end of the year and the end of all things, faith is vital. St. Paul tells us in Romans, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” With that in mind, what do you hear? Listen to the promises of God as you look forward to a new heaven and a new earth. Listen to the watchman’s cry. “Awake, Jerusalem! Arise!” 

God is calling to you today. He is calling you to cast off the works of darkness. He is calling you to rejoice in His gifts, to receive Him with thanksgiving, to look forward to His return with great joy and gladness. Jesus is coming soon, and the Last Day is your day of vindication. It is the day when your Baptism into His death truly brings you out of the tomb and into His glorious light.

God did not appoint you to wrath, as St. Paul reminds us. More than anything else in the whole world, God wants you to join Him in the eternal courts of heaven. He wants you to be with Him forever. God wants all of your sorrows gone. He wants all of your sickness, all of your heartache, all of your aches and pains of body, mind, and soul to be gone forever.

Of course, we are not given to see what great plans God has for us. But God in His infinite kindness, gentleness, and patience, comes into our world to remake what we have messed up so royally. You are Christ’s chosen one, His Bride; He will not let you go. He has taken your despair into Himself. He has emptied the cup of God’s wrath for you. And because He swallowed that bitter wine, your cup of blessing knows no end.

But God’s work is not finished even yet! He bought your life back for you by His blood, and now His great plan of heaven for you comes to you by His Word and Spirit. The invitation goes out to one and all: Come to the feast! Like the bridegroom who comes to meet His bride, we do not know the day or the hour of His returning. But imagine what a day it will be. Every wrong will be made right. Every sin will be eternally forgiven. Your hope for the future is all there in His life and blood.

On the Last Day, Christ will gather His sheep to Himself. God said through the prophet Isaiah: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying.” On the Last Day, when Jesus returns in glory, things will be so new and wonderful that we won’t remember the sin and sorrow. All that we suffer because of sin will be gone forever.

We know this by the Spirit of God, who tells this to us in His Holy Word. The wise virgins knew that the most important thing to have in their dark night of waiting was the oil of faith. They looked back at all God had done for His people. He brought them out of the slavery in Egypt. He led them by the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. He brought them into the Promised Land. He brought them back from captivity in Babylon. The Savior who did all these things will also bring you to the eternal Promised Land.

But while we are on this side of eternity, we look forward with all the saints to the new heaven and the new earth. Of course, the Bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Himself, gives us a taste of the eternal wedding Banquet at His Table this day. We feast here with Moses, Elijah, Mary, the Apostles, and all the saints who have gone before us, united in our Lord’s body and blood. Baptized and redeemed, you are invited, welcomed, and seated at the Table.

God’s mercy is for you, and until you are permanently joined with all of Christ’s Church in eternity, rejoice and look forward to that great Day. Do not let these gray and latter days weigh you down. Your life is one of praise, for His life is in you even now. Look up! Behold! Your Bridegroom, your King, is coming! 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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Rejoice, O Zion! Sing! Now Available


I started writing hymn texts in 2009. I’d been writing poems and song parodies for years, but it wasn’t until I was a pastor without a congregation that I tried to write a hymn text. I’d written a hymn parody in response to apostasy within the Lutheran Church, and someone made a comment that such a serious topic deserved a serious response instead of a mocking response. So I wrote my first original hymn text, “Lord Jesus Christ, Preserve Your Church.” It’s not a particularly exciting or profound text, but it was at least adequate and proclaimed the truth. 

Eleven years later, I’ve written over one-hundred texts. Some of them are better than others, but all of them proclaim the truth of the Word of God in a simple way. I like to think I’ve grown as a writer over the past ten years. And while confidence has never been my strong suit, I believe God has given me this gift, and I believe I’m not supposed to hide it under a bushel. I’ve shared my hymn texts with you here on my blog. Now I’m sharing it with the world, at least in a small way.

Today marks the release of my first compilation of hymn texts, Rejoice, O Zion! Sing! With 102 hymn texts addressing the readings from every Sunday of the One-Year Lectionary as it is found in Lutheran Service Book (and numerous readings from the Three-Year Lectionary), as well as saint days, events in the life of the Church, and other occasions, readers—and, of course, singers—will find words to express the joy that have in the salvation won for them by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I was blessed that the Reverend William Weedon, former Director of Worship for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, provided the foreword for this collection. In it he states, “I would argue that what sets a good hymn apart from the pack is that, while it certainly contains both factors (poetry and teaching), it actually is composed out of a sense of awe, and invites those it encounters into that awe. Hymns that succeed most profoundly allow us to catch a glimpse of some marvel of God in Christ and to join the Church in bowing before it, and in giving God thanks and praise in the Holy Spirit. This royal way is what Pr. Kornacki has excelled at in his hymns collected into this present volume.”

For those who purchase this volume, permission is given to reproduce the texts and any original tunes (with one exception) for family or congregational use. I like to think I’m not a narcissist, but I would like to share this gift God has given me with the Church. I pray and hope that those who purchase Rejoice, O Zion! Sing! will find it useful as a tool for prayer, worship, and catechesis.

Rejoice, O Zion! Sing! is available now in print and Kindle editions.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sermon for 11/15/2020: Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

 

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“We Will Both Do and Hear”

Matthew 25:31-46

 

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

 

The children of Israel made a solemn oath at the foot of Mount Sinai after Moses delivered God’s Ten Commandments. “Everything that God has said, we will both do and hear.” After they were rebuked for their idolatry with the golden calf, they finally understood that the Word of God is not like our words. The Word of God reshapes your life, your soul, your whole being. No longer can you do what you please apart from the Word of God. You are called to live against your base desires, against what your Old Adam wants. You are called to live the life God has given you instead of the life you choose for yourself. You are called to live this life by faith until you are welcomed into the life of the world to come.

“Everything that God has said, we will both do and hear.” We recently heard that the Law is about love: love for God and love for neighbor. The faith in God which you demonstrate with your love is most clearly shown, most plainly lived, in how you treat others. The life that is in you—the life by which you love God and your neighbor—is the life of Christ. You received it from the Father through the sacrifice of His Son in the waters of Holy Baptism, and He continues to feed that life within you through the ministry of the Holy Spirit through His Called pastors. It is a life that lives for the Father from every Word the Spirit breathes. It is a life that lives for that Word, confident that what the Lord says is for your good.

To be sure, this life in Christ is not an easy route. There are plenty of distractions, many roadblocks, numerous burdens and crosses, griefs and heartaches, trials and afflictions. And the Lord lets you face these tribulations so that you are humbled, so that you might listen better to Him, so that you would trust Him more surely, so that you keep focused on heaven and the one thing needful, so that you do not become lost along the way. To guide and lead you in this life of Christ—and to accomplish in you His salvation—our Lord uses His called and ordained servants of the Word. Through them, our heavenly Father feeds your hunger, quenches your thirst, takes you into His family, clothes your nakedness, visits you with the medicine of immortality, and comes to your rescue and aid in the prison house of sin that you've made for yourself. Our Lord blesses you by doing for you what you cannot do for yourself. Our Lord blesses you by giving you what you do not deserve from His hand, but what He desires to give you nevertheless. Most of all, our Lord blesses you by planting you in Him and by planting Himself in you so that now you get His benefits and inheritance—all because He lowered Himself to take on your nature so that He might raise up your human nature to be like His. And because He has served you in your time of need, you now serve your neighbors in their time of need.

Our constant prayer is that the Lord would continue this ministry among us—not according to the severity of His judgment, but according to His mercy. That prayer is the prayer of the whole church in heaven and on earth until the Last Day. On that day, people are divided by the Lord. He does not divide them on the basis of what He says, for what He says never changes; His mercy endures forever. Rather, our Lord separates the sheep from the goats on the basis of how they lived what they have heard through His Called servants. Through them, the Lord does His work for you. By His grace, you become partakers of the Lord's divine nature. By grace you have a portion in the kingdom of heaven. 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 08, 2020

Sermon for 11/8/2020: Third-Last Sunday of the Church Year

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I'm sorry. I thought I had the video issue fixed, but I cannot find the video file on the camera's memory card.

 

The End Is Near

Matthew 24:15-28

 

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

                  

The end is near. And it sure seems like the end times right now, doesn’t it? We have a virus that has sent us scurrying into the dark recesses of our homes for over six months, crippling our economy, sending us into hospitals, and turning us into hermits. Over thirty named tropical storms have sprung up this year, including numerous hurricanes that have landed on United States soil. We have Asian murder hornets making their way to our country. We have a crisis of addiction to painkillers. Cases of depression and anxiety, sometimes leading to suicide, have risen at an alarming rate. And of course, one can’t forget all the drama of this election cycle. This year has been a collection of disasters and nightmares.

And then there are the false teachers and messiahs Jesus warns about, with their shiny teeth and their private jets. Self-proclaimed Christian preachers are leading people to hell with false teachings. Perhaps you’ve heard the preacher who claimed that Jesus took His own life on the cross, which means to him that it is okay to commit suicide. Perhaps you’ve heard that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Perhaps you’ve heard the Pope himself proclaim that you don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven. They all sound terribly convincing, and they all claim the authority of the Word of God, even when what they say is against what the Lord has revealed to us in His Word.

Disasters, diseases, and false prophets: all of these things cry out to us that the end is near. The fact of the matter is, Satan didn’t give up on you the day you were baptized. Baptism painted a huge target on your back, as far as the devil is concerned. Jesus wouldn’t remind you of these flashy false teachers if there was no chance that they would make any progress with you. Their words are seductive and tempting. If there was no way they could lead you away from Him, He would have ignored them completely. If the signs had no chance of leading you astray, He wouldn’t mention them to you. The world around you is intriguing. You want to look a little more closely; you want to listen a little bit longer.

But what is a Christian supposed to do in the face of these flashy, seductive teachers? Run to your Baptism! You already have the truth. It is right there on your forehead and over your heart: the mark of one redeemed by Christ the crucified. Nothing the world has to offer is more powerful than what those bloody baptismal waters did to you. Nothing those false teachers can promise you can be better than what Jesus has already delivered to you. Even so, you will be tempted. You will look at what the world uses to distract you. When that happens, return to the font. Remember what that water and Word has done for you. You have already been rescued from Satan. You have been taken up in God’s strong arms and put in His kingdom. Rest in the arms of your Lord and listen when He speaks to you, because He will never lie to you. He will never deceive you.

                   The end is near. The signs are evident, and they are all around us. The false messiahs, the false teachers, they will try to mislead you, even from within the visible Church on earth. But you do not face these things alone, and their siren song is not the only voice you hear. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.” As we wait for that wonderful Last Day, look to Christ, for He will never let you be ashamed. Do not be afraid, for our Lord Jesus is returning soon. “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.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

HYMN: Standing Before the Throne of Grace

It seems almost absurd. More often than not, when I attend Circuit or District meetings, it seems I come up with an idea for a hymn, an idea that refuses to be set aside. Yesterday was no exception. The message during worshipone of two, actuallyexamined All Saints. I'd read a sermon by the Reverend D. Richard Stuckwisch that morning, and those two factors forced an idea into my head. Focusing on the Epistle appointed for All Saints, Revelation 7:9-17, with help from Hebrews 12:1-2, this text thanks God for the faithful witness of those who have gone before us in the faith and asks God to strengthen us for faithful service as He did for them.

It's an early draft. Feedback is love.


Standing Before the Throne of Grace
 
1. Standing before the throne of grace,
Gathered in a mighty cloud,
Gazing at their Savior’s face,
Saints and martyrs cry aloud:
“Father and the Lamb, we raise
Songs of glory, thanks, and praise”
 
2. These are the blood-washed, robed in white,
Robed in Christ’s own righteousness,
Who have conquered in the fight:
Saints in gleaming, glorious dress,
Serving God both night and day.
He wipes all their tears away.
 
3. In life they faced the daily test,
Trusting in the Lamb alone.
With their Savior now, they rest;
He has claimed them as His own.
Faithful through the earthly strife,
They receive the crown of life.
 
4. O Holy Father, till our death,
Grant that we, like saints before,
Live by faith with ev‘ry breath,
Trusting daily ever more.
Help us to confess Your name,
Free from fear, despair, and shame.
 
 
© 2020 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 77 77
WIR GLAUBEN ALL (Metrical) (LSB 953)
The Feast of All Saints; Baptismal Life

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Sermon for 11/1/2020: Feast of All Saints


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"Blessed"

 

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

 

 

When the Apostle John was granted a vision of heaven, one of the most striking things he saw was the depiction of the saints. “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” The saints are not shunted off into a corner while the angels and archangels glorify God. The saints are right in the middle of things, singing praise to God through whom they have received salvation.

Today we remember those who have gone before us in the faith—those saints who are gathered around the throne of the Lamb. And yet, we do not remember them for their sake. They don’t care about the honors humanity would bestow upon them. Instead, we remember them because of the One who has done all the work for them, the One who died to win salvation for all mankind, the One who sent the Holy Spirit upon the Church so that the gifts of forgiveness and life would be given to us, even though we have no merit or worthiness on our own. Still, Jesus doesn’t need our praise any more than do the faithfully departed, though He is pleased to receive it for our sake.

So why do we remember the saints if it doesn’t do them or Jesus any good? We remember the saints because, by their faithful example, we learn from them to live by faith. More importantly, we remember them because we see the love of God in their lives—how God in His great mercy called our sinful ancestors to repentance and gave them new and contrite hearts; how God looked upon them and both promised and delivered salvation to them, no matter how ugly their sin, no matter how fouled their hearts without Him.

So if Jesus is the One doing the work, why do we consider the saints to be “blessed?” We must remember that it is our Lord, first and foremost, who is the Blessed One. From there, the blessing He speaks does its work on all people, giving holy lives that live from and in Our Lord and the blessing He is and the blessing He gives. We are poor in spirit before God because Christ made Himself poor in spirit for us. We are meek because Christ humbled Himself. We are filled with the righteousness of Christ in the waters of Holy Baptism, where we received the spotless, gleaming, blood-washed robe of His righteousness.

This is not a blessedness that you earn. It is not a blessedness you live up to. It is not a blessedness that kicks in only when you’ve met the conditions. It is simply blessing, with the heavenly gift clearly and forthrightly attached. What our Lord becomes, what He takes in, what He endures, what He suffers and buries deeply within His own body, what He makes and calls His own—that is what He blesses. And you are a member of His body, made a member of His body in the waters of Holy Baptism.

Because you often stumble and fall on your walk of faith; because you quickly fall into temptation; because you easily fall prey to your bitterness, your anger, your weaknesses—you need examples to inspire you and to help you see that the blessing applies even to you. That is why our Lord raises up saints: they are models of how our Lord’s blessing shapes you. They show clearly through their life and death what our Lord’s blessing gains for you.

So let us thank our Lord for the godly faith and holy virtue He has lived in the saints and martyrs who have gone before us. For even now, as we say ready ourselves to feast on the Lamb at the throne and receive into our bodies His holy life once again—even now, the saints and martyrs who have gone before us in the faith, together with the angels and archangels, join us in rejoicing, in our song of praise and thanksgiving to the God who makes us blessed. 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 25, 2020

Sermon for 10/25/2020: Festival of the Reformation

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The Word Endures

John 8:31-36

 

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

          

“The Word of the Lord endures forever.” The prophet Isaiah wrote those words, and Peter repeated them in his first epistle. It only makes sense that this Old Testament truth would be repeated in the New Testament. The eternal faithfulness of God’s Word is the center of the Gospel. Almost from the very beginning, mere moments after Adam tasted the forbidden fruit, God promised His fallen children that He would send a Savior. And in the fullness of time—certainly not in the impatience of Eve’s time, who thought her son Cain was the promised Seed—in God’s perfect time, the Father sent His Son to crush Satan under His feet. Two millennia later, we gather in this place to rejoice in the fulfillment of that promise for us. We rejoice to receive the Spirit-inspired eyewitness accounts of Moses, the prophets, the evangelists, and the apostles, because “the Word of the Lord endures forever.”

The world and even some within the Church rail against that saying. Jesus tells His hearers, “The truth shall make you free.” But just as Satan deceived Eve into believing that she and Adam would not die if they ate the fruit, the world would have you believe that our God surely could not have meant that abortion is sinful. Certainly God wouldn’t say that it is sinful to give in to the lusts of the flesh. Certainly God would say that one may rob from the rich if one then gives to the poor. At best, condemnations God speaks against sin are considered to be the errors of translation; more often, they are considered the women-hating and bigoted ramblings of the patriarchy disguised as God’s Word; most often, they are considered lies. Even within the Visible Church on earth, some have set aside the Word of God in favor of whatever the world views as loving. They have willingly chained themselves as slaves of sin. They cannot free themselves, and they don’t desire their freedom; they are proud of their chains.

But “the Word of the Lord endures forever.” The Word of God was transmitted from ear to mouth before there was a written language. The Word endured through Israel’s slavery in Egypt. The Word endured through the captivity of God’s Old Testament people in Assyria and Babylon. The Word endured through the persecution of the early Christian Church. The Word endured through the abuses of the Roman Church before the Reformation. And the Word of God endures even today, no matter how hard the world tries to stifle it, no matter how much the Pope tries to steal its power for himself, no matter how diligently the social justice movement tries to pervert its message.

The work of the Church today is to continue to abide in the Word of God. We must cling to it, even if it costs us our lives! Just this week, a Swiss missionary in Africa named Beatrice Stockli was shot to death after four years as a prisoner of Islamic extremists. That’s always a possibility for those who abide in the Word of God. But even in four years as a prisoner of Islam, this woman had her freedom in the Word of God. Not even the prospect of a martyr’s death could force her to abandon the Word of God. She was faithful unto death; the crown of life is her eternal reward. Sin cannot hold her. Death cannot touch her. She will awaken on the Last Day to be welcomed with all the faithful into the eternal Marriage Feast of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

And that promise is for you, as well. Nothing in this life can steal that promise, that crown, from you. The coronavirus cannot touch it, nor can any illness of body or mind. That promise is not affected by who wins the presidential election or which party holds a majority in Congress or the Supreme Court. Not even death can pry it from your hands. That Word of God, that eternal promise, belongs to you; it is your birthright in the waters of Holy Baptism. The truth has set you free. Nothing in all creation can change that, for the truth will endure for far longer than this world will last. “The Word of the Lord 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.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sermon for 10/11/2020: Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Perfect Obedience; Perfect Love

Matthew 22:34-46

 

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

 

 

“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On those two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” The Law is all about love. Jesus is saying here that everything the Law and the Prophets teach is summarized by those commandments: to love God and to love each other. The words “Law and Prophets” summarize the Old Testament, and the Old Testament points to Christ. So when we hear those words in the New Testament, they point us to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of the Seed, the One who will crush the head of the satanic serpent. When we hear “Law and Prophets,” we should think, “This is talking about Jesus.”

Perfect obedience to the Law means that one must love God and neighbor perfectly. In perfect love, the young Jesus stayed in the Temple while His parents traveled back toward Nazareth; He was doing the work to which His Father appointed Him. In perfect love, Jesus called sinful men to be His disciples. In perfect love, He rejected the temptations of Satan in the wilderness. In perfect love, He healed the blind, the lame, the leper. In perfect love, He drove the moneychangers from the Temple court. In perfect love, He raised the dead. In perfect love, He called a Samaritan woman a little dog. In perfect love, He prayed for His disciples, knowing Judas would betray Him, knowing Peter would deny Him, knowing the others would abandon Him. In perfect love, Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for sin to the very dregs. In perfect love, He hung on the cross at Golgotha. He was hanging on the Law, judged there by the Law. There He died for every sinner. He died there for you and for me and for every person who has ever neglected to love God and neighbor. He died there in perfect innocence, the only man ever to perfectly love God and neighbor.

But just as He hung on the Law because we had broken it, Jesus fulfills the Law by hanging on it too. There, on the cross, Jesus shows He perfectly loves God the Father more than all things by being obedient to His Father's will. But He also perfectly loved His neighbor—you―by dying for your sins, by taking them away, by leaving them on the cross. The One who is God and man in one Person perfectly loves God and His neighbor by hanging on the Law's cross. There, on Calvary, your Savior died for what you did and did what you could not do. There the Law is fulfilled. There the Law is satisfied. There your salvation is accomplished by the innocent Lord who put Himself under the Law for you and who fulfilled the Law for you.

How do you know the Law had been fulfilled? Your Baptism says so, because Jesus places His perfect love on you in the blood-washed baptismal robe of His righteousness. His Body and Blood say so, because you receive the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith in that holy Food. His Word says so, because He reveals Himself as the innocent Sacrifice, the Scapegoat who bears our sins for us. His Word and Sacraments are the testimony that His obedience to the Law counts for you and your neighbor. He has fulfilled that Law for you.

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. By themselves, these commandments convict you because you have not kept them. But in Christ, those commandments are kept; your sins against them have been erased. In living perfect love for God and for you, He has given you His perfect obedience and love. Come and receive perfect love at this altar, a gift given you from Christ Himself. 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 04, 2020

Sermon for 10/4/20: Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity

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Exalting the Lowly




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




 Today you have been invited to a Feast. You are invited to be an honored guest at the marriage Supper of the Lamb. You have been invited to take a seat at the Lord's Table. Though not a lesson in table etiquette, it is true that Jesus teaches that we should take the lowest place when we are invited to such a Feast, so that, when the Host comes, He may say to you, “Friend, move up higher.”

I have already said that this is not a lesson in manners. So what does this mean? How do we take the lowest place at the Lord's Table? This is a meal for sinners, and we are each one invited to take the seat of lowest honor by crying out to God and confessing that we are the chief of sinners. Examine yourself according to the Ten Commandments, and you will find that you are full of death and sin. Confess your sin to Him. Hold nothing back. Every indiscretion you think you have kept hidden behind the closed door of your room or in the silence of your heart, lay it bare before Him. Beat your breast and say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” Approach the Lord's Table in humility and with the shame that ought to accompany someone as dirty and disgusting as you know you are. Take the lowest seat, the seat of dishonor. You know it is yours. You know you belong there—if, indeed, you belong at the Table at all.

It is then that the Host of the feast, the Lord Himself, comes to you and calls you “Friend.” That one word alone is worth the price of admission. The Lord of Heaven, the righteous King of kings, calls you, a poor sinner, His own friend. “Friend,” He says, “move up higher.” That's what is happening in this Feast of the Holy Sacrament. The Lord Jesus Christ calls you His “friend” and showers ever-increasing honor on you. While any seat at this Table is an honor and a gift of grace, He lifts you from the lowest seat, the place of dishonor and sin, the place of those who show up late or who have tried to honor themselves and have been humbled. He invites you to sit in a higher place. He takes your hand and starts leading you up along the length of the banqueting Table, your honor increasing with every seat He passes. Still He leads on. Angels look on in wonder. Any minute the Host will decide that this seat is high enough for you, but He just keeps leading you closer and closer to the head of the Table. Finally, there are no seats left, except one. It is His seat, the seat of greatest honor at the Father's right hand. “I want you to have My place,” says your Savior. “I have won it for you.” Once again He fulfills His mother’s words: “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly.”

 Jesus earned this privilege for you by fulfilling His own words. He put Himself in the lowest place in order to save you. He who is the Almighty Son of God, having taken on your humanity, was born in a lowly manger, lived as a poor and humble carpenter, had no home of His own during His ministry and no place to lay His head. He finally died the way the worst of criminals died: by being executed on a cross. Christ didn't claim glory and honor for Himself; He laid aside His majesty as King of creation to be crowned with thorns and to be made the Lowest of the low. All this He did for you. He received the punishment you deserved so that you would be released from your sin and set free. In Christ, the humble Redeemer, you now are forgiven. Jesus has fulfilled these words for you: “He who humbles Himself will be exalted.” In Christ, you are always welcome at this Table; you are His honored guest. 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.