Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sermon for 1/26/20: Third Sunday After the Epiphany

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Willing

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


Did you notice the leper’s respect and humility? He does not demand that the Lord heal him. He does not presume to tell Jesus what to do. He expects nothing from Him. In fact, the leper sounds like he thinks Jesus shouldn’t heal him, as if he is unworthy of any help that Jesus might give or any word that Jesus might speak. He said, “Lord, if you are willing…”
The truth is, the leper does believe Jesus will help. If he didn’t believe, the man would never have come to Jesus or spoken to Him. The leper fully believes that Jesus shouldn’t heal him, that he has no right to ask for the Lord’s help, that he’s unworthy of even the smallest kindness. Jesus has every right to refuse him.
And the leper believes this because the leper knows himself. He knows what’s inside him, and what comes out of him: how little he truly prays, how easily he doubts, how often he’s lived by fear rather than by faith. The leper knows that his faith is weak, pathetic, barely alive. He knows he’s not worthy.
That’s exactly what the centurion says. This soldier who fears no man, who stares death in the face—this man trembles before Jesus, just like the leper. And for the exact same reasons, he says, “Lord, I am not worthy…” And how does our Lord respond? He doesn’t say, “I only help those who truly trust Me, and you don’t yet believe in Me as you should.” Instead, our Lord both hears their prayers and grants their requests. To the leper Jesus says, “I am willing.” And to the centurion He says, “Let it be done for you.”
These men certainly don’t teach us anything about boldness and confidence before the Lord. They certainly don’t teach us that we need a strong faith when we pray. Still, they teach us an important lesson. When we cry out for mercy and help; when we pray for comfort and strength; when we plead with the Lord to show us the right way or to sooth our grief; when we look for any good from God—we need to know ourselves. We need to swallow our pride. We need to crush the barriers that we’ve built so that people think we’re strong. In place of pride and self-delusion, we need to come before the Lord in true humility, realizing we deserve nothing from Him and, by all rights, He owes us nothing. We need to pray, knowing that He really shouldn’t hear us, much less do for us. We need to admit our weakness. And we need to be willing not only to say, but also to believe the words, “Lord, I am not worthy.”
By the Holy Spirit, we come to know ourselves. By the Holy Spirit, we come to know and believe that we are “sinful and unclean,” and that we sin against God “by thought, word, and deed.” And so, by the Holy Spirit, we have the courage and the faith to say, “Lord, I am not worthy,” and to pray, “Lord, have mercy.”
The Lord is always willing. The Lord goes to great lengths to help us in our need. Look at what He does for the leper. He touches him, unafraid of getting sick, unafraid of being declared unclean. Look at what He does for the centurion. The Lord immediately eases the man’s mind and calms his heart by saying that his servant is healed. The Lord is always ready, always available, always willing to have mercy.
At this altar, in this Holy Supper, the Lord lays out for you the medicine of His own holy Body and His own precious Blood. His mercy is available in the most intimate manner possible. He is willing to restore and renew and refresh your life in Him. Come. Confess your sin. Confess your unworthiness. And confess your Savior, knowing that your Lord says to you, “I am willing.” 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, January 19, 2020

Sermon for 1/19/20: Second Sunday After the Epiphany

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Wine in Plenty

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


He had been baptized. He had already called some of His disciples. And yet, at the wedding in Cana, our Lord’s hour had not come. His patient mother Mary, having waited all those years, had asked for nothing. She only made a simple observation to her Son: “They have no wine.” And for this prayer, she is rebuked: “O woman! What have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
Mary’s life is a life of faith. She must trust that God is good, even when it seems that He is not. She has no right to complain, and so she doesn’t. She recognized that He was the only One who could help. She had faith. And this is the life of faith on this side of glory. The old Adam needs to hear the Law, to be knocked down so that the Gospel might elevate the new man. This rebuke from her divine Son is not damnation. He rebukes her so that she might repent. And it works. Her faith is stronger for this preaching of the Law.
He did not promise a thing. Even so, she believes. She remembers that all things will be possible for Him. She knows that, whatever happens, He is God. He has come to save her. That is what matters. So she says to the servants, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” This is a clear confession of faith. And so it is that He relents. He makes glad the hearts of men. He brings order from chaos, joy from sadness, hope from dejection, wine from water, believers from unbelievers. He is the Creator, present in His creation to recreate it, to restore it, to redeem it! And His disciples believed in Him.
And what of us? How often have we prayed sad, melancholy prayers? Have often have we complained against God? How often have we bemoaned the fact that we are not richer, thinner, healthier, or better employed? How often have we led ourselves into the gloom of covetous depression, the jealousy that leaves us dissatisfied with what we have? How often have we moaned out the lament against the God of joy, “They have no wine”?
Repent. Repent, for we know that God is good. We know that His hour has come: nails were driven into His hands and feet, and finally a spear pierced His side; the sun went dark, the earth shook, and the dead rose. His hour is the hour He submitted to the death of the old Adam within all of us, so that the restored Adam, the baptized children of God, would live. He overcame that dark hour. He rose from the dead, giving us life and joy.
He will answer your prayers. He will even answer those you fail to pray. He prays for you! He makes glad the hearts of men. He gives wine. He knows what you need. He knows your heart’s desire. He knows what is best. He will teach you in the cross to have joy in sadness, triumph in defeat, and life in death. In your own crosses, your own suffering, your own obstacles and trials, you will learn to come to His cross. There you will find perfect joy and peace beyond measure. You will know that He is your only Joy, your only Hope. There—in Him, in His cross—you will find contentment.
He is still present in creation. He is with us always. His hour is delivered to us in the bloody water of Holy Baptism, in His crucified flesh and blood in the Holy Supper, in His Word of Holy Absolution. In these gifts, the fruits of His hour on the cross are poured forth to cleanse the dirty hearts of men, removing the sadness and the pain, making them glad again! You are united to Him in a bond that no one can sever. All good things are given to you, even His blessed Name. All shame, all guilt is removed. He does not fail. We have wine. Thanks be to God! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Sermon for 1/12/20: The Baptism of Our Lord (observed)

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Baptized into Christ

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


Baptism is one of the most despised and forgotten gifts that God gives to His children. Many Christians believe and confess that Baptism means nothing. It’s just an outward show. It doesn’t do anything. The only way you’re saved is if you put some effort into it. If you prove your piety, if you work at your salvation, then God will bless you. Even in some Lutheran churches, Baptism doesn’t really mean anything in your life. Often the font is hidden in a closet. The idea of remembering your baptism or trusting in God’s promises given there are smiled at and tolerated by a few, but they go on their merry way, believing that salvation is all about what they do. They live in fear of never being good enough for God.
How can we so forget God’s promises in Baptism and act as if they don’t matter to us anymore? The biggest part of the answer is that we simply don’t believe that we’re missing much. At our Lord’s Baptism, the heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, and the Father speaks from heaven and says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Because of His baptism, the Father says the same to you in your baptism. But those words will mean nothing to you if you do not believe that heaven is closed to you without them. If you believe that you are basically a good person; if you believe you are good enough for God; if you believe that God is satisfied with your attempts to follow His Law perfectly; if you truly believe that you are good enough to gain heaven on your own, then you don’t need baptism. It is just water, nothing more.
The devil and the world want you to believe that message. Your enemies want you to believe that the most important thing is that you forgive yourself, find peace with yourself, be your best you. And when you can be happy with yourself and forgive yourself, then things are good in the world. Do not believe the lie. You can’t forgive yourself. By definition, forgiveness must come from outside of you. You may lie to yourself, but you can’t lie to God. He sees all and knows all. There is no hiding from Him. And He demands perfection, which you cannot possibly accomplish. Repent of your so-called self-forgiveness. Repent of believing you can live without God.
Suddenly, in light of God’s Law, Baptism is much more important. When you realize that you have rebelled against God; when you recognize that you are in the clutches of sin, death and the power of the devil; then God’s Word to you is sweeter than anything else you have ever heard. God says to you, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That is God’s work in you.
The only way that you are saved, the only way you have a right relationship with God, is because of His great love for you. And He gives that to you in your baptism. This is the bath which washes away your sins and presents you in the blood-washed robe of Christ’s righteousness: spotless, clean, holy before His heavenly throne. This great work which He does for you literally opens heaven for you. It is your key and door to eternal life. St. Peter says in no uncertain terms, “Baptism now saves you.” Your sins are washed away. Satan is crushed under your feet. Death has no power over you! You can look at the grave without fear, for Christ has opened the gate to paradise.
This is the beauty of Holy Baptism. Look upon those waters as proof that God loves you and wants only what is best for you. When your heart and soul doubt God’s love, look to your baptism. When Satan tempts you to abandon Christ, look to your baptism. And when death and the world assail you, look to your baptism! The world may despise the gifts God gives you in His holy waters, but you know better. In the face of these enemies you can cry out:

There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
Even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ;
I'm a child of paradise! 

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, January 05, 2020

Sermon for 1/5/20: Epiphany of Our Lord

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Joy for Gentiles

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


The Church has spent these past twelve days celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord. For some, the fervor of that celebration has remained high. For some, it has waned. And for many, even among us, Christmas ended the moment the gifts were opened and the meal was done, and all that remains is a weary resignation, relief that it’s over. But the celebration of Epiphany is an opportunity to rekindle our joy, to renew our worship of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The little Babe born in Bethlehem is not simply the Messiah for the Jews; as the angels shared, the Savior would be for “all people.”
That evidence is given in the Magi who saw the star in the East, who followed the guiding of that Star, who arrived in Bethlehem so that they could worship Christ as King. The arrival of these Magi shows us that this promised Messiah is born to rescue and deliver and restore all men to communion in God. The star leads them for our sake, so that we might see that the promise to the Jews now extends to all peoples. We are now able to be numbered as children of the Father.
So let us celebrate today with great and holy joy. Today we see that we too are children of the promise, descendants of Abraham by the power of the Spirit. Now we also, standing alongside the Magi, get to adore the Christ Child, not simply as the Creator of the universe, but also as the Savior of all those who pin their hopes to Him. What Isaiah says has come true: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy; they rejoice before You.
This is the day that Abraham saw, and rejoiced to see, for in the Spirit, Abraham saw that his children would be children both of blood and of faith. Like his physical descendants, these foreign children would be blessed by his ultimate Son, Jesus. King David also saw rejoiced to see this day; he prophesied, “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” And in the Magi, David’s prophecy is fulfilled; the Lord’s Word is proven to be true and dependable.
So let us join King David in singing to the Lord, “For He has done marvelous things; the LORD has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”
So let us be full of joy and rejoicing today. Let us imitate these steadfast and righteous Magi. Truly they are Wise Men, since they seek the Christ, the power and wisdom of God. And let us imitate their humility and faith. For in humility they prostrated themselves before the Holy Child; and in faith, they offered back to Him what He had first given them, trusting that He would receive their sacrifices and bless them. And finally, let us imitate their obedience and perseverance. For no matter what happened along the way, no matter how many hurts they suffered or how many barriers they encountered, no matter how much the devil tried to deceive them in wicked King Herod, these Magi let nothing stand in the way of worshiping their Lord and King.
Come and kneel before Him in joy. Though we are gentiles by flesh, in Christ we have become children of Abraham and, more importantly, children of the heavenly Father in Holy Baptism. He has made Himself known to us in His Word. He reveals Himself to us in flesh, just as He did to those wise men so long ago, though hidden now in bread and wine. Come and be refreshed by your Lord. Come and have your joy renewed. 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, December 29, 2019

Sermon for 12/29/19: First Sunday After Christmas

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The Temple in Flesh

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


The Temple in which Our Lord was presented was not the Temple of the Old Testament, the one built by Solomon according to Divine command. That had been desecrated and destroyed. The Temple of the presentation, where Simeon sings his song, was the one built by wicked Herod. Even so, God sanctified that Temple. He made it His place. The blood of animals was spilled there in the place of men’s, as the wages for sins. The aroma was pleasing to God. He chose to dwell there among His people with His gracious, merciful presence.
But Temple was no more permanent than the roving canvas Tabernacle of Moses we heard about on Christmas morning. The Temple in which Our Lord was presented and laid into Simeon’s arms was eventually destroyed. It no longer exists. It has been gone since the year 70AD. And even if a Temple like Herod’s is built today, God will not dwell there. That Temple has served its purpose. God has raised up for Himself a Temple which men did not build, but that men did tear down. That Temple is Jesus, God dwelling among His people in flesh. That Temple was rebuilt on the third day, and men will never tear Him down again. This living, eternal Temple is the only one that counts, for Jesus has fulfilled those Old Testament Temples.
Jesus is the place of God’s gracious presence among His people. He is Immanuel, God with us, God as one of us for our salvation. He is the Passover Lamb that takes away sin—and not just the sins of those whose doors are marked, but the sins of the whole world. It is His blood sprinkled upon us which makes us clean and declares us righteous. He stands between us and God’s perfect Law, our Shield and Protector. He intercedes for His beloved even while teaching them to pray. He is the consolation of Israel, the redemption of those who believe.
He is not bound to time or space, but He bound Himself to the stuff of Mary’s womb that He might bleed and die and rise again to recapture men for Himself. Now His humiliation is ended. As a Man, as Mary’s Son, our Brother, He always and fully uses His Divine rights and power. As a Man, God dwells in the hearts of men, making them the temple of His Holy Spirit. As a Man in flesh, He is present in bread and wine to join us to Himself in a sacramental union that defies our intellect but satisfies our faith.
God has called you to be where He is, where He has said He will be for you by grace. That doesn’t mean that you will experience an emotional high when you encounter Him in Word and Sacrament. He does give us those times, and we give thanks when they come. But ours is a life of faith, which means believing in His Word and promises. Even when we feel cold inside, even numb with self-pity, we live by faith; we trust God’s Word.
The birth and death and resurrection of Christ our Lord was for your eternal peace. Time is not without an end, and neither is your sorrow or your pain. It will not last. Christ lives. He is coming back. For now, while we wait, He is here for you in the places that He has promised to be: His Word, His body and blood, in Holy Absolution. This is the Temple in flesh, put into you this morning by way of the mouth, that you yourself would become what He is: the place where God is present. You are His own beloved in whom He is well pleased. You are the dwelling place of His Spirit. Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead, the Temple not built with hands, is presented here this very day, just as He was in Herod’s Temple so long ago. He is presented for you—always for you. Here is your peace. 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, December 25, 2019

Sermon for 12/25/19: The Nativity of Our Lord

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Rejoice!

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


Christ is born. God has come to dwell among us in flesh as a Man. The angels sing. The shepherds wonder at such mercy. Heaven praises God for this incalculable love, beholding the mystery of Love in the flesh. God’s will is always good, and it is His will to redeem men. For our salvation He chooses to dwell among us, to endure suffering, pain, and death. He does this so that we who were humbled by our sin would be lifted up.
This mystery is beyond all of creation’s understanding. The angels cannot comprehend it. Shepherds quake. Mary ponders. God’s ways are far beyond our understanding. Do not ask how this can be. Where God wills, the order of nature is overturned. He who parts the Red Sea, who multiplies the loaves, who calms the wind and waves—it was His will to become Man. And so Christ is born of a virgin. He becomes a Man, yet He never gives up His divinity. He is now and ever will be Man, even as He was, is now, and ever will be God. The Man who was crucified and died, who rose and ascended, sits at His Father’s right hand. This is our exaltation and our hope.
His Incarnation did not cause Him to forsake the angels. He has not deprived them of His care. Though He is a Man, He has not ceased to be God. He still loves what He created. He never stops sustaining and caring for all of it, which He did even while on cross. He is God and Man, one Christ, perfectly united in will and desire with His Father and the Spirit.
So come and adore Him, for He is Christ the Lord. He saves us from our sins. He delivers us from death. He is our God and our Brother. He lifts fallen humanity. He makes us free. God has become a Man! He has picked up His cross. He has taken the bitter cup of wrath. He has endured the worst that Hell could do. He has quenched all its hatred in His holy blood. Rejoice!
But “rejoice” seems too weak to convey the praise that bursts out of us whose consciences have been cleansed by His Word, whose guilt and shame is gone. We are forgiven. The Light has shined in our darkness. He has rescued us from eternal torture for the sake of His grace. What words, what music can contain our joy? Rejoice! Give thanks! Adore Him!
Are you struggling with grief? Come and adore Him. Grace will not make you forget what you have lost. You are still allowed to miss and mourn your loved ones. The joy of Christ is meant to give you comfort. We have God with us in the flesh, who knows our suffering and grief, for He felt it Himself. And so we do not mourn as the world mourns. We have hope.
Our feasting tables will not be the same this year as they were last year. Death and divorce, arguments and betrayal have altered them. And they will not be the same next year as they are today. Even so, rejoice! Adore Him! God is Man in Christ, and He is good. His mercy endures forever. Our dead will not stay dead. Because Jesus lives, they live. We trust even now that God will work good in everything, even in our grief.
Your pain will not endure. Your loneliness and sorrow will pass. Even heaven and earth will pass away. Nothing lasts forever…nothing, except for the mercy of our God in Christ. The trumpet will sound. The dead will be raised. We will be changed. We will be as we were meant to be. All sadness will end. For our God is a Man! Christ is cradled in the Holy Scriptures. He is cradled in the bread and the wine by which He gives us His body and blood. We are joined to Him by faith through grace.
Rejoice, O Christian! Sing with the angels. Whatever burdens might be yours, rejoice that Christ is born. He brings peace on earth and goodwill between God and man. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Rejoice! Adore Him! Christ the Savior is born. 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, December 22, 2019

Sermon for 12/22/19: Fourth Sunday in Advent

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“Peace on earth…”

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


The best time to hear about a Savior is when you are a prisoner. No one is more receptive to the promise of freedom than a slave. Most of us will never know the feeling of being bound by iron chains, but there is more than one form of bondage. It is easier to bend metal bars than to free yourself from lust or selfishness or malice. Nothing locks you down as firmly as guilt. As heirs of Adam’s rebellion, we are all enslaved—not only by sin, but by the decay of death which corrupts every aspect of human existence. Life on earth is not the garden of delights it was meant to be.
It is a sign of wisdom when a person begins to know the world for the cruel, merciless place it is. And this awakening, without the context of Christian hope, is devastating. You won’t achieve most of your goals; you won’t realize most of the things you hope for; people are essentially selfish; the world does not care. These are the realizations that drive people to drugs or alcohol or illicit sexual encounters, to gambling and addictions, to other forms of escape.
For several weeks or months, we have been preparing for Christmas. For many of us, that means spending money we don’t have. Soon we will be gathered around trees in our living rooms: exchanging gifts, drinking eggnog, taking pictures while we gush over clothing and trinkets and gadgets we don’t need and will never use. Then the excitement will be over, and for many of us there will be a sense of letdown as we go back to our routines. We do not see peace on earth; there is no goodwill toward men.
The Christian never feels truly at home in this world. We are always strangers in a strange land, pilgrims journeying to a better destination. But there are many signs along the way to tell us that we are getting closer to our destination. And by the grace of God, we see indications of the beauty and glory of that future home.
Everything in this world that can be called good is a glimpse of something better. Music that makes you tap your toe, strong coffee on a cold morning, being hugged unexpectedly, the inviting comfort of a soft bed, being entranced by a well told story, seeing your child’s face light up, the loyal companionship of a dog: all those things are merely shadows of something more substantial to come.
John the Baptist lived to point us to Jesus, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” There is no recorded incident of Jesus turning a sinner away. Jesus never refuses a sincere plea for deliverance or redemption. He will never turn you away. He gives you all you need for this body and life. He gives you all you need for the life of the world to come. He hears your prayers, and He answers them for you in the best way possible. His good and gracious will is always done, and it is always best.
God has seen your situation. He has heard your weeping. And He has answered. The eternal Son of God has stepped down from His mighty throne to become one of us. He had no sin of His own, but He took upon himself the full guilt of the sin of all—a scene so repugnant that even the sun turned dark and the earth shook. All this Jesus did willingly, out of supreme love for you. The Father’s wrath has been extinguished, exhausted upon the Son, so that we who are in Christ would be pardoned and cleansed, set free from all condemnation. Truly He brings “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”
So come to the Lord’s Table. Receive the medicine of eternal life. Sing praise to God, for Jesus is coming! He is coming to set you free. He is coming to take you out of the valley of the shadow of death, and you will dwell with Him in glory forever. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly! In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sermon for 12/15/19: Third Sunday in Advent

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Hear and See

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


John the Baptist receives the highest praise given to any man. Jesus calls John the greatest. Yet even the greatest of men is still a man, still infected with Adam’s curse. John’s greatness is the greatness of grace, of what God had done in him and for him. He is a prophet of the most High. Indeed, he is the culmination of all prophets. He calls stiff-necked, hard-hearted men to repentance. Yet above all, he brings Good News from God. He announces the Messiah and gives voice to the Church’s new song: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
John has faith. He held this faith already in his mother’s womb. He leapt for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice, for in her womb, his Savior had taken up flesh. This faith was made perfect in Christ, just like ours. He sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Maybe he sent his disciples to Jesus for their sake. Maybe they were doubting. John sent them to the Source.
But John was a man, a sinner. He knew doubt and fear. Perhaps his time in a prison cell made him wonder if his divine Cousin really was the Promised One. If that is the case, then we get a remarkable glimpse into the greatness of John. Faith is like courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, courage is acting, doing what needs to be done, despite fear and with knowledge of the danger. In the same way, faith is not the absence of doubt; it is believing and clinging to God’s Word despite doubts and in the midst of danger, with the ever-present reality of earthly consequences, trusting above all that God is good and will not let us down. The greatness of John’s faith is not demonstrated so much in his martyrdom, but in where he looked for answers. He looks to Christ. That is faith as only God can give.
And Jesus, in his great compassion, did not disappoint. He gave John an answer custom made for the last and greatest of the prophets: “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” The prophecies, even John’s, are all fulfilled. Jesus has done what He came to do.
We, of course, are not sending notes to Jesus from prison. We could be home, warm in bed. Are we here this cold December day to hear the Word, to be broken and healed, to confess and be forgiven? That’s exactly why were are here, and that is always worth getting out of bed for! But if John was not worthy to untie our Lord’s sandals, then certainly we are not worthy to eat Christ’s body and blood, to approach Him so boldly in prayer! But by grace—always by grace—ours is the Kingdom of heaven.
What John for all his greatness could not obtain by right or power has been given to you as pure gift, the inheritance of the baptized. Jesus Christ, God with us in flesh, is your Lord. Your heavenly Father has given you His Holy Spirit; by His grace you believe His holy Word. You embrace it. You rejoice in it. You hunger for it and are satisfied. You are His children, His heirs. He has removed all guilt and shame from you. He has bestowed His holy Name on you. He gave His very life for you. You will soon leave these doubts and weaknesses behind and come to the loving arms of your Savior. Your warfare is ended. Your iniquity is pardoned.
Look and see: “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” The Messiah was born for you. He died and rose for you. He is coming back for you. You will see Him with your own eyes, and your throat will fill the night with songs of praise and joy. 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, December 08, 2019

Sermon for 12/8/19: Second Sunday in Advent

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“Stir Up Our Hearts”

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


We pray: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord.” But that is a dangerous prayer, for hearts are not stirred up with comfort foods and soft music. We do not pray: “Lord, give us a warm, fuzzy feeling in our bellies; make our lives comfortable and leisurely; make us popular with the boys.” We pray that God would stir up our hearts, that He would disturb us, that He would prod us into action. Hearts are stirred up by an earnest call to repentance, with a hearty dose of reality. “Stir up our hearts” is a plea for God to end our complacency, to defeat our laziness, to overcome our apathy. We ask Him to intervene for us against our own sinful flesh.
While we wait for our Lord’s return, our danger increases. We must continue to endure temptation. Salvation is closer now then when we first believed. But do we have the same zeal we had then? It is easy to grow weary, to allow ourselves to be seduced by the devil. He’s so persuasive. “Why fight me? Why work so hard? Why care about what God? Does He really care for you? Take care of yourself. Live for today.”
But that is most certainly the way of death. Stir up our hearts, O Lord, against our own flesh! Man does not live by statistics and financial reports. He does not find favor in the eyes of God by finding favor in the eyes of men. The baptized children of God live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. My brothers and sisters in Christ, there is your safe harbor. All other things will wash away. Nothing else will endure. But the Word of God will. It never lies, never changes, never stops, never fails.
And so we pray: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son.” On the great and dreadful day of the Lord, the Son of Man will indeed come in a cloud with power and great glory. The Muslims, the Buddhists, those Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and all those who thought they could come to God apart from the Son, will no longer be able to deny His power and authority. Satan’s many masks and false names will finally be stripped away. Then the pagans and heathen—they will know whom they’ve been worshiping all these years, but it won’t do them any good; they shall be burned up. But to you who fear the name of the Lord, who trust in the mercy of the God born of Mary, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. Look up. Lift up your heads. Your redemption draws near. Your suffering, your trials, your troubles, your grief—all of that will end.
The decisive battle for your soul has already been won. The Father has pardoned you for the sake of the suffering and death of His innocent Son. The Spirit of God abides in you. Still, the devil fights on. It is a dangerous, deadly battle. But the end is certain. Fear not. Christ has not died in vain. The devil, that liar and the father of lies, is already defeated. Jesus died and rose again for us and for our salvation. He reconciled all mankind to His Father. The kingdom of heaven is open to all believers. Blessed are all those who trust in Him, who find their rest in Him, who confess His holy name. They shall not be disappointed.
And so we pray: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord!” Prepare us by Your grace. Receive us now and when we die through forgiveness and mercy. Secure us in this free salvation unto the end. Feed us with your body and blood. Make us your own! Come, Lord Jesus! 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, December 05, 2019

HYMN: Lord Jesus Christ, On You I Wait

As I continue to run back through the texts I wrote for the 1-year lectionary, one Sunday for which I found my first text inadequate was the Last Sunday of the Church Year. It's not a bad text, but I felt it was weak. So I decided to try again. Instead of focusing on the Gospel appointed for that Sunday, I looked at the Epistle: I Thessalonians 5:1-12. The themes of darkness and slumber and their opposites caught my eye, along with the Day of Judgment, of course. Paul's words to the Thessalonians are full of comfort, and I hope my text reflects that.

Anyway, because I only really like three of the tunes for the CMD meter (86 86 86 86), I also wrote an original tune for the text, called "FAITH ALLISON" in honor of my wife. Robin Fish, who has written original tunes for me and has harmonized others, wrote accompaniment for the tune.



Lord Jesus Christ, On You I Wait


1. Lord Jesus Christ, on You I wait.
In You I put my trust.
Oh, save me from the sinner’s fate
When I return to dust.
The Day is surely drawing near:
The great and awesome Day
When faithless fools will quake in fear
While saints make glad display.

2. The Judgment Day is soon, I know.
The end is coming fast.
The signs and wonders surely show
The pledge fulfilled at last.
You spread Your grace abundantly
In paying sin’s dread price.
You died my death and set me free:
A cross-borne sacrifice.

3. The world denies that You will come,
Indulging lust and sin.
They scorn the Word and soon succumb.
Corruption burns within.
The deeds of darkness dim their eyes.
In ignorance they sleep.
Then You will come to their surprise.
The death they sowed, they reap.

4. Temptation, doubt, despair, and death
Assault me and assail.
Oh, shield me with baptismal faith;
Your grace will never fail.
Forbid that I should slumber, Lord,
In false security.
But keep me steadfast in Your Word
To trust You patiently.

5. “Lo, I am coming soon,” You say.
Your Word is firm and clear.
“Lord Jesus, quickly come!” I pray.
I know the Day is near.
And as I wait expectantly,
Awake and in Your light,
Your body and Your blood shall be
My comfort and delight.


© 2019, Alan Kornacki, Jr.
CMD (86 86 86 86)
FAITH ALLISON
Occasion: Last Sunday of the Church Year; End Times


Monday, December 02, 2019

Sermon for 12/1/19: First Sunday in Advent

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Knowing and Understanding

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


In Jesus, the power of God is hidden in weakness. His wisdom is hidden in foolishness, His riches in poverty. God is a Man, flesh and bone. He dies our death. His life becomes our life. Justice condemns the Innocent One in mercy. The Holy One of God becomes sin. He rides into Jerusalem as the Ransom. He breathes His last, but the devil is undone. Hell’s walls are demolished; the flaming sword of Eden is extinguished. The angel of death passes over. Who can know and understand the ways of the Lord?
The donkey seems to know. He knows his Master. The children know, too. They sing God’s praise in the Temple. They ask Him to save them. The Temple veil knows its part; having nothing more to hide, no longer separating God and man, it rips in two. And the centurion knows; at the death of Jesus he confesses: “Surely this is the Son of God.” Who knows these things? No one but God knows, truly. Yet He reveals Himself to men, and with Him all things are possible. And through the grace of the Holy Spirit, you know, too. God’s grace is sufficient.
Jesus comes in power, but He is known in weakness. He is the Lord of Life, but we celebrate the victory won in His death. He came before; He will come again. First He came in humility; this time He will come in glory. Every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess, “Jesus is Lord.” And all the sons of God will be revealed. All the universe will know what the angels already know. The dogs and trees, rocks and birds, will see the hope within you, your lamp burning with the oil of faith. They will see the blood-washed children of God; they will see you as the child of God in whom the Father is well-pleased. And so we pray: “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins, and save us by Your promised deliverance.”
Jesus comes already now. He comes, His power hidden in weakness. It is not the power of might and strength as the world counts such things. It is the power of love, of deliverance and protection. It is the power of sacrifice. This grace has made Him your Lord. He rules in you through forgiveness. He comes in humble ways, so that you would look upon Him and not be destroyed. God has a face. By faith you gaze upon the face of the Child born of Mary, the face of a Man. And though He was despised and rejected, He is beautiful to you. His feet, pierced and scarred, are most beautiful, for He brings Good News from God. He has reconciled you to His Father. He has opened heaven to you. He fulfills His promise. He keeps His Word. He is your God, and you, by grace, are His people, His beloved Bride. He comes now in power. He is not a god who looks on from a distance. He is our present, promise-keeping God.
A Man sits at the right hand of God and rules the Universe. He is God and Man, and through Him all mankind is welcome in heaven. He is in heaven, but He is also present here. He is hidden in and under bread and wine, in the voice of His messengers, in His Name. He is seen by faith; He reveals Himself to you in His Word and gifts. Who can understand such things? The donkey can, and the children, the Temple veil, even the Centurion. And by the power of the Spirit, you know and understand. God Himself makes you worthy. His grace is sufficient. You see His face and live. 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 28, 2019

Sermon for 11/27-28/19: Harvest Festival/Day of National Thanksgiving


Eat, Drink, Be Merry 

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



You are more than the sum of what you own. To illustrate this truth, this warning, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool. The rich man’s land produces so richly that he doesn’t have enough room to store it all. So he decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. Then he gives one of the silliest speeches in Scripture: “Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry”—as if that what life is all about.

God has the final word in the parable. “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” There’s nothing inherently evil about relaxing, eating, drinking and merriment. But the rich man expects his riches to take care of his soul. Saving souls is the work of God. That is the rich man’s problem: he has made his wealth into a false god. When God requires his soul that night, it does nothing for him in the Judgment. So the rich man is more than the sum of what he owns. Possessions cannot prevent his death; when he dies, they do nothing for his soul.

The parable is a clear warning: beware the sin of greed. Obsession with possessions is a terrible temptation. It leads you to value things over God. It leads you to put your trust in things that fall apart and pass away. It tempts you to resent God if you don’t have all you want. It seduces you to believe that your soul is good in God’s eyes because you have enough things. Greed is a dangerous idol, and it’s never satisfied: the more you have, the more you want.

You don’t even have to have possessions to be guilty of the sin. While the rich man in the parable already has all sorts of wealth, Jesus tells the parable because of a man who desires wealth. This whole thing begins with someone saying to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” It’s a family squabble, with an inheritance to be shared. Yes, God provides all things, but Jesus isn’t there to divide out the family farm. He hasn’t come for such temporal things. He’s come to do what goods and grain, what relaxing and eating and drinking and merriment can’t do: He’s come to save souls for eternity.

So Jesus warns, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness.” And then He adds, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” We should expand that, too, because you’ll covet and be greedy for more than grain and goods. You are more than your popularity. You are more than your looks or fashion sense. You are more than your health. You are more than the knowledge you’ve gained, or the peace within your family, or the goals that you’ve attained, or the promotions you’ve received, or the items you’ve crossed off your bucket list. Still, you are tempted to covet all of these things: to believe that they are what give you life and quality of life, to believe they are good for your soul. But none of these things give life to your soul. Flee these temptations, and repent when you give into them. All of these things are false gods when you put your trust in them, and putting your trust in them reveals even more about you than greed or covetousness.

The Lord gives you so much more than the abundance of your possessions or other things that will pass away that. He gives you gifts that do not pass away. He gives you life that does not pass away. Jesus became flesh and went to the cross for you. He died for you, bearing your sin—including greed and covetousness and every evil desire. He died your death for you, so that you might not go the way of all things in this world which pass away. He rose again to give you eternal life with Him. He has made you a child of God in Holy Baptism, so that now you are an heir of the kingdom of heaven.

You still have the specter of death hanging around, but you also have hope in Christ. Where you worry about what you do not have, you consider the lilies of the field and the sparrows of the air, knowing how much the Lord cares for them: because you know that Jesus didn’t become a lily to redeem lilies or a sparrow to redeem sparrows. He became man to redeem you: and if He redeemed you at the cost of His own blood, He will not fail to give you forgiveness and life.

Your life isn’t the sum total of your possessions. The Lord is your life and your salvation. Eternal life is yours because Jesus pours out abundantly on you the riches of His grace, so that you are forgiven for all of your sins. Thanks be to God for such bounty! 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 24, 2019

Sermon for 11/24/19: Last Sunday of the Church Year

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Watch

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


Since the fall into sin, we are corrupt, defiled, and wicked. The ways of men are betrayal, greed, and violence. Our thoughts and secret desires are nothing short of shameful. Our most natural speech is full of lies, gossip, and slander. We are comfortable in our sin, and we are quick with excuses and blame. Oh, we can pretend to be good, to be nice. When it comes to spirituality, we are capable of putting on a dazzling show. We can feign any virtue: compassion, righteousness, patience, faith. And if our fragile masks hold together, we can fool men into thinking that we are honorable and decent. If we are willing to lie to ourselves—and we most certainly are—we might even fool ourselves. But with even a cursory glance, we will be discovered. None of us has a pure heart.
And God sees into our hearts. He demands perfection, and we have failed. He doesn’t care how much you give, how many hours you volunteer, or who your parents are. It doesn’t matter what hardships and obstacles you’ve had to deal with, what pressures and troubles you’ve suffered. Your excuses and bragging must disappear when confronted with the truth. God has written the Law into the hearts of man. That Law is indisputably good. It is what we know we should obey. But it is not what we have done. It does not describe who we are. We have broken it. We have behaved with cruel selfishness. All those born of women stand guilty, condemned by the Law, without any excuse.
Repent, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man comes. You cannot stand on your own works, by your own earnestness or sincerity. You cannot excuse away your failures and weaknesses. Be wise with the wisdom that expects the return of the Christ.
In the Gospel, all the virgins, wise and foolish alike, slept. They were all weak. They all failed to keep a perfect vigil. Measured by thoughts, words, and deeds, all had the outward righteousness of virginity, but all were equally foolish in their inability to keep alert with lamps burning. But there was a distinction between them—not of righteousness, not of intent, but of faith. For despite their weakness, five of them, by grace, even in the midst of their sleepiness, clung to the hope that the Bridegroom would return. This didn’t make them better than their sisters. It just made them believers. And in the end, that is what makes the difference.
God in the flesh, who wed Himself to humanity, will return. The judgment will be decided by the condition of the heart, not on tainted works. And the only way to have a pure heart, to face this judgment eagerly and with confidence, is to have a heart that has been washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, a heart that abides in forgiveness through the cross of Jesus Christ. Trust in Jesus. Expect His return and praise His Name. You will be with Him forever. He has taken up your sins and crucified them. In Him you are perfect, chaste, and without guilt. He accepts you and welcomes you into the Wedding Hall. Rest confident and eager in Him.
What a glorious future you have! What joy awaits you! Be eager in Christ, for the end is drawing near. He beckons you to the communion of saints. Watch in prayer. Watch with His holy Word ringing in your ears. Watch with His precious body and blood upon your lips. Stand innocent in His death, full of repentant joy and expectation. For the Lord is coming 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.