Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sermon for 9/16/18: Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Compassion and Life

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

Death is everywhere, and there’s no escaping it. The mortality rate is 100%. Death has us surrounded. And death’s grip is even greater than we think, for death creates fear in us. What scares us most is the thought that the Lord won’t come through as He’s promised, that He’ll forget us or abandon us—especially in the hour of death. So we plot and scheme either to avoid death, or to get it all and have it all before we die. Death has us surrounded.
The poor woman in today’s Gospel knows this all too well. Not only is she surrounded by the death of her only son. She is also a widow. She vividly remembers the death of her husband. She is afraid. Who will give her lasting comfort in her grief? Who will provide for her? Death has stolen her future, her hopes, her joy—and in its wake it has left nothing but fear and despair. Death is so common to us that we feel for this poor woman as she follows her son’s coffin to the cemetery. Her story is all too familiar: we know both her grief and her fear. It strikes at our very hearts.
And yet, in the very midst of death, Life Himself surrounds us. Jesus sees the woman, has compassion on her, and says to her, “Do not weep,” and then He comes and touches the open coffin, and says, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” The shadows in the valley of death are chased away, for the Light of the world has overcome death’s darkness. Fear has been chased away, for the Lord, who we thought would be slumbering and sleeping, has put forth His hand to rescue and deliver. The devil’s voice is silenced, for the Holy Spirit has brought to our remembrance every word of life, every word of promise and hope spoken by our Lord Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life.
All of this is possible—all of this is given to us—not merely because our Lord Jesus stopped a funeral procession one day, raised a young man from the dead, and then gave him back to his mother. After all, if that’s all there is to the story, where is the hope for us? Your only hope is that the Lord might magically swoop down and raise up all your dead relatives and friends right before they are buried. That’s precisely what the devil wants you to believe. He wants you to envy this widow. He wants you to think that she got special treatment from Jesus. He wants you to believe that, for whatever reason, God has let you down because no one you know has ever been raised from the dead.
You can chase away those devilish thoughts by reminding yourself that Jesus was always healing, always raising, always showing compassion. This is not just another episode in the life of our compassionate Jesus. This story also shows us His own resurrection…and yours. The compassion our Lord shows this woman is also the compassion He shows the Church. He has raised us in the font from the death of sin; He will raise us from the grave, and we shall nevermore be subject to grief, to sin, to suffering, to death. We see our Lord Jesus reaching down to us with compassion. We hear Him saying to us, “Do not weep”; and then also, “I say to you, arise.” For that is what He truly says, not just in our hour of death, but also in our time of fear—so that He might also restore, refresh, and renew us by His Holy Spirit.
In the midst of earthly death, Life Himself surrounds us, speaks to us, touches us, and raises us up. Now we can take to heart these words from St Paul: He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Or to say it even more simply, as the Church sings on Easter, “Faith shall cry as fails each sense: ‘Jesus is my confidence.’” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Sermon for 9/9/18: Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity

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God Is Faithful
Matthew 6:24-34

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

We worry about many things. Some of these things are very important: how our children will turn out; how we’ll get by when we retire; how some relative or friend will get through a sickness or trauma; or what path the Lord is leading or dragging us down as we consider our life together in this parish. These are not small matters. But then, neither are questions like, “‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” There aren’t too many things more basic than food and clothing. And there aren’t too many things that really matter more than our children and grand-children, our loved ones, our church, and our walk within the Body of Christ. So we worry. Sometimes we obsess and fret and agonize and stew.
But what does our Lord say about all this? Once again, it seems as if He’s not listening, or doesn’t take our concerns seriously, or tunes us out. He’s going on and on about trivial things like birds and flowers: things that we never worry about, things that come and go, things that really don’t matter. And we’re still asking and praying about really important stuff. Is Jesus telling us that our important stuff is trivial? Is He saying that the things we worry about are inconsequential? Is He just brushing us off?
That’s not our Jesus. Our Jesus doesn’t treat His adopted brothers and sisters that way. And neither does His Father who is our Father. Our God is not a harsh, uncaring, selfish Father who plays with us only when it suits Him. Our Father is the picture of perfect warmth and kindness. He’s the essence of mercy and love. He never brushes us off, never leaves us to ourselves, never abandons us. We may say He does, but our lies don’t change the truth. We may turn a deaf ear to Him, but that’s not how He treats us. We may be unfaithful, disloyal, and disrespectful, but He never dishes it back to us. We think He did us wrong, but He is quick to forgive, quick to renew His Holy Spirit within us, quick to restore to us the joy of His salvation.
So then, how does He answer the things that worry us? What does the Word say? First, the prophet told us, “Do not fear. The Lord will take care of you. You may think you’re up against the wall. You may firmly believe that God has forsaken you. You may be convinced that you must take matters into your own hands, and do for yourself. But, really, there is nothing to fear. And what’s more, “The Lord will send rain on the earth.” He will send you His Holy Spirit to restore your hope, to lift your spirit, to help you look beyond the many things that trouble you. No matter what you’ve done or what’s been done to you; no matter what the future may hold for you or your children; and no matter what direction this parish may go, the Lord will continue to take care of you, blanket you with His love, and sustain and strengthen you. So do not fear. There is nothing to be afraid of—not now, and not whenever—because you stand before the Lord and dine with Him.
That’s not a brush off. That’s not our Jesus saying that the things we worry about don’t matter. That’s not our Lord making light of our real and honest concerns. He tells us how things really are. We don’t need to worry about tomorrow—or our grandchildren, or our jobs—because He holds all things in His hand. But most of all, we don’t need to worry because we can trust Him. He has already prepared His Kingdom for us. He knows all we need, and in ways we can never imagine or that never make sense to us, He is arranging everything for our salvation with Him in His holy church. He will never forsake us. He will never take lightly our prayers. And He remains faithful, now and 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.

Monday, September 03, 2018

HYMN: O Christ, You Chose the Servant's Place

Continuing with my project of writing a hymn for every Sunday in the Church year for the 1-year lectionary from Lutheran Service Book, this text is based on the Propers for the Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity. This is the account of Jesus healing the man with dropsy on the Sabbath as found in Luke 14:1-11. After He heals the man, our Lord gives the Pharisees a lesson in humility. As is usually the case, I struggled with where to begin. As is usually the case, I finally decided the best place to start is with our Lord. (Would the writing process go quicker if I always started there?) Anyway, here it is. Feedback is love.

O Christ, You Chose the Servant’s Place

1. O Christ, You chose the servant’s place
In joining Your creation’s race.
You showed Your great humility
In bearing all my sins for me.

2. Bring me before the mercy seat
To beg forgiveness at Your feet.
Unworthy of Your love, I pray:
Give me a heart made new each day.

3. To sinful man you speak a word
As sweet as any man has heard.
You raise me from my fallen state
And save me from my hell-bound fate.

4. In all I do and think and say,
Lead me to walk the lowly way,
To solely trust Your holy blood
To bring good fruit to spring and bud.

5. Teach me in humble love to seek
And serve the lowly, poor, and meek.
Help me in ev’ry time and place
To share with all Your boundless grace.

6. O Christ, You chose the servant’s place.
Until I see you face to face,
I pray for true humility,
To love as You have first loved me.

© 2018 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
LM (88 88)
Occasion: Trinity XVII

Sermon for 9/2/18: Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

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

            The Apostle Paul just told us, The works of the flesh are evident: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” In other words, we should avoid Synod and District conventions.
While I like to make fun of church politics, the truth is, the works of the flesh are evident at Synod and District conventions. But they are also evident at our Voter’s assembly meetings and, even more significantly, in our homes and schools and workplaces. Wherever two or three fallen sinners gather together, there will be hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, and the like. We know the danger, but we still sin. Do we dare take an examination of our lives? Who has not looked with lust in his eye? Who has not grown angry in his heart? Who has not felt the pang of jealousy or covetousness? These are the works of the flesh—of our flesh. And those who practice them do not inherit the kingdom of God. Repent.
The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Is that what outsiders would report at our conventions and meetings and dinner tables? What about the neighbor children who throw their trash into our streets and fields, who torment our pets? What do they find when they come knocking, while their ball rests in a pile of broken glass on our dining room table? Do you give them love, joy, and peace? I know you love your friends. What about your enemies? What about those who mistreat you? What about those whose pierced noses and tattooed bodies disturb you? Repent.
The Samaritan leper returned to worship Jesus. He was a foreigner, doubly cursed by birth and disease to be an unclean outsider. He was healed by the Word of Jesus, and faith sent Him back for more. He knew the works of the flesh in his rotting skin. He knew love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in Jesus, the dwelling place of God among men, who healed him with a Word.
The life of faith we live is not a life of perfect works for all the world to see. The works of the flesh are evident in us to the eyes of men. Our life of faith is an on-going struggle with healing, forgiveness, and thanksgiving. We are not those who say we have no sin. We are those who confess our sins and receive forgiveness. We wait on God and trust His Word. He says we are His children. He has marked us with His Name and resurrection. We have known the fruits of the Spirit and receive foretastes of them. But we don’t always see them. We confess them by faith, not by sight. The creation groans in eager expectation of the time when the good works in you and all the fruits of the Spirit will be evident in you, when the works of the flesh will be destroyed and forgotten forever. Until then you live by faith. That is what faith expects; that is why faith prays and waits.
The Samaritan found a family in God. He believed, and so he returned to Jesus. Faith always wants more. Faith always returns to Jesus. And the Spirit is alive in you. He has brought you here, where Christ is, where He commands the sins of His people to depart, where He speaks His Word for healing and cleansing. He may even attend the occasional convention and voters’ meeting. You’re no better than the leprous Samaritan, but God loves you. He makes you righteous in His blood. He provides the faith that makes you well. He sends the Spirit who sanctifies and keeps you. Against such there is no law. 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, August 26, 2018

Sermon for 8/26/18: Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost (B)

I’m on vacation right now, but I’m always a sucker for a congregation who needs a pastor to fill in for them during a pastoral vacancy. This morning it was my privilege to preach at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in North Tonawanda, New York. (I was going to share a pic, but the photo interface on Blogger with iOs is **horrible.**)


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

The problem is not that the disciples didn’t wash their hands. The problem is that they didn’t wash their hands according to the tradition of the elders, which was a special kind of ceremonial washing. The scribes and Pharisees take offense because the disciples don’t wash their hands the right way. That phrase “tradition of the elders” has a certain ring to it. It sounds very official and very noble. It sounds like a good thing. The problem is that the hypocrites among the scribes and Pharisees studied Holy Scripture and the “tradition of the elders” in order to determine what they could get away with and still consider themselves righteous according to the law. They were interpreting the law in the way they wanted to interpret it and condemning everyone who did not agree with them. Does that sound familiar? It should because our culture still does that today. 

Jesus quickly showed that these scribes and Pharisees valued their tradition above the Word of God. He even showed how their traditions allowed them to violate the Word of God as given to Moses. The scribes and Pharisees were teaching and practicing a man-made religion instead of the faith given by God. Jesus calls for faithfulness to God, not just an outward obedience. Jesus is the “old-fashioned” ultra-conservative doctrinal purist we love to hate, always taking His hearers back to the Word of God. Not all traditions are harmful, but any tradition which distracts from the Word of God and the gifts our Lord died to give us, we must set them aside for our good. 

The words Jesus spoke to the scribes and Pharisees bring us to ask some very uncomfortable questions. Do I worship God with my lips, but reject Him in my heart? Do I express my own ideas as true doctrine? Do I have any traditions that reject or distract from the Word and commandment of God? How often do I behave exactly like the scribes and Pharisees, becoming offended by every little thing while I myself ignore the Word of God? Sinners that we are, the answers to those questions make us just as uncomfortable as the questions themselves. 

Although the scribes and Pharisees were indeed foolish with their washing rituals, there is a kind of washing that God did give for all people. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This Baptism, this washing, is not a “tradition of the elders.” Instead, it is the Word of the Christ who is both God and Lord. 

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” These words teach us that the washing of Holy Baptism joins us to the cross of Christ. This washing which He earned with His suffering and death on the cross “works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.” 

The scribes and Pharisees were right in thinking that washing was important. They were wrong in thinking that it was the washing of the “tradition of the elders.” The important washing is the washing away of sin for the sake of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. We do not need to make up new laws or traditions that we can keep in order to earn our salvation. The Holy Spirit delivers the forgiveness of sins, won for us by Jesus Christ, through the washing of Holy Baptism. This is no mere tradition; this is a gift from God, one that serves for our eternal good. 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, August 19, 2018

Sermon for 8/19/18: Twelfth Sunday After Trinity

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

Be opened. Hear the Word of God. Peace is not found in lying about what the Bible says or pretending that God is different from how the Bible describes Him. Faith is not the vague notion that there is a god up there somewhere who thinks that I’m special, but who doesn’t care enough to actually tell us who He is. Yet all those things have seemed more attractive to us than the Truth. But the sin of self-deception never delivers as promised. Giving in to temptation is never without consequences, without lingering diseases and worries, without fear and shame, without danger or cost. A moment’s indiscretion, a bit of selfish indulgence and self-promotion, and we suffer through another failure of our own design; we wind up hurting those we love the most.
It is precisely into this mad world that our Lord Jesus Christ inserted Himself. He stood alone. Even the weakling felt powerful against Him and abused Him with glee. Still, He came. He came for the very people who sought to hurt Him. While we were jockeying for seats at Satan’s table, Jesus Christ bought us back at the terrible cost of His own Life. He submitted to death so that we would live. He came and endured our hatred and violence as a sheep to the slaughter, never complaining. He came to seek and to save, to rescue and to redeem, to give His life in exchange for yours. The Innocent suffers in place of the guilty; the Righteous dies for the unholy. He sacrificed Himself in your place. Through that cruel execution He has taken on your guilt, your shame, and your death. He took it all to the grave and buried it there.
You don’t need to look after yourself. You don’t need to protect your own interests. You don’t need to stand up for your rights or honor. You don’t need to be pretty, get good grades, be a star athlete, or popular. Jesus loves you. That is enough. He has taken care of everything.
So what happened to the deaf man by the Sea of Galilee? His friends brought him to Jesus. They didn’t just change the name of the problem and pretend that that was enough. They didn’t tell him God wanted him that way and that he should get used to it. They brought the man to where he could get help; they brought Him to Jesus. And Jesus put His finger into the man’s ear, spat, and touched his tongue. And at the hand of Jesus, the deaf man was free to hear God’s Word and proclaim His praise. Jesus broke the chains of death. He stopped the cycle. He restored His good creation.
That is who Jesus is. That is why He came. Peace is created by the forgiveness won on the cross, and it passes all understanding. It is not ours to manipulate. Likewise, peace and unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ can only be created by God. It will only be fully realized when we are taken from this valley of sorrows. Faith is the ultimate gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the conviction that the Holy Trinity has worked out salvation for you for free; God will at the end bring us to everlasting consolation.
When Jesus invades your personal space and sticks His finger into your ear, it comes away dirty, with who knows what gross thing on the end of it. That is a little embarrassing, a little uncomfortable. But when that gunk has been removed and He is revealed to you according to His mercy, you hear the Shepherd’s voice with your ears, saying: “I love you. I forgive you. Be mine.” That moment of embarrassment you feel as you confess your sin is worth it, no matter how many times. He removes that shame along with sin, and you are free to sing His praise. Come. Stick out your tongue. Have the body of Christ placed upon it. Be opened. 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, August 12, 2018

Sermon for 8/12/18: Eleventh Sunday After Trinity

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Only Human

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

The Pharisee’s mistake was in thinking he didn’t need mercy. Even though he credited God with making him so good, he mistakenly thought the blessings he enjoyed—especially having been spared the worst and most destructive vices of men—meant he was free of all vice. He knew that God had blessed him. God had even made him wise and generous enough to tithe from all that he had.  But he put his trust in those blessings, and so they became curses, tools of Satan. They deceived the Pharisee into thinking he had favor with God and that his works were good enough.
No man except our Lord Jesus Christ is righteous in himself. We have all sinned. Even our good works are tainted. We’ve never done anything with absolutely pure motives. We want to be noticed and honored. We want credit. But that is not the worst of it. It is not simply that we’ve had less than perfect motives when we’ve done good things. We’ve sinned. We’ve lied. We’ve cheated. We’ve stolen. We’ve wasted. We’ve been negligent. We’ve lusted. We’ve been angry. We’ve gossiped. Think of a single morning at work or school. What skirt swooshes by or a well-developed set of abs is glimpsed and your mind stays focused? What petty insult is breathed by a co-worker or boss, a comment of no consequence, and your heart does not fume with anger? How many new cars do see without a twinge of envy in your heart? Sins are no stranger to us. We sin in our minds and hearts at an alarming rate, but we excuse them almost instantly. “I’m only human,” we say.
Repent. Humans are supposed to keep the law. Sins destroy faith. Sins destroy families. You endanger everything you love, everything that is good in your life, by sin. Repent. Prayer the prayer of the tax collector: “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” Trust not in yourselves or your wits or your family or your fortune or even your church. Trust in Christ. He is righteous. He has kept the Law. He is merciful and His mercy endures forever. You have no right to it. You cannot earn it or buy it. You cannot make it. But He gives it as a gift, out of grace, because He loves you.
Here is the great the irony of Christianity: those who are now without sin—those who have been baptized and belong to Him, such as you and the believing tax-collector—they feel their sin. You have no sin in Christ, but still you feel your sin. You do what you do not want to do. And you say “Amen” to God’s Law. You confess you are a sinner. But those who are in sin, who embrace it and seek to justify themselves—like the Pharisee, like most who wallow in celebrity—they are satisfied and comfortable. The devil doesn’t bother them.
That is how it is in the Kingdom of God. It is a Kingdom of reversals and irony. God became Man. Life became Death. He who knew no sin became sin. The instrument of tortuous execution is made from dead wooden limbs; it has become the Tree of Life. This loving Shepherd looks at a pool teeming with man-eating piranhas, and—mystery of all mysteries— He loves those slimy, scaly monsters. He loves us. He lies down in the pool. He gives His life for us.
Come, then, you sinners—tax-collectors and Pharisees alike—come and feast on Christ the Lamb. Come like the tax-collector, with your pain, your fear, your worries, your shame, your loneliness, your failures and disgrace. Come to where God promises to be, where He extends His mercy, where He gives Himself to you in His body and blood. In this Holy Supper, become the Temple of His Holy Spirit. Go home justified. You’re in good company. Your righteousness is not your own, but it lasts forever, and no one can take it away. 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, August 06, 2018

HYMN: Christ the Lord Says, “Do Not Weep”

The raising of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) is a powerful text, demonstrating our Lord’s power over death itself. The Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity is an interesting mix of readings, with the OT text also the account of a resurrection, this one performed by God through the prophet Elijah. The Epistle is Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians to persevere in tribulation. All three are beautiful texts, which means there are a great many directions in which a hymnwriter could go. I chose to focus on the Lord’s consolation to the widow—“Do not weep.” And indeed, this is more than comfort, for He proceeds to give her reason to restrain her grief. That same comfort is for us, too, and that’s where I chose to take my text. As always, feedback is love.

Christ the Lord Says, “Do Not Weep”

1. Christ the Lord says, “Do not weep,”
To the mother in her mourning.
Though in death her son does sleep,
See, new life is surely borning.
Comfort in His Word of peace:
His compassion will not cease.

2. Christ the Lord says, “Do not weep.”
He has halted death’s procession.
Here the Shepherd finds His sheep,
Brings to life His dear possession.
With one Word is grace revealed:
“Rise,” says Christ, and death must yield.

3. Christ the Lord says, “Do not weep.”
He Himself from death has risen.
He has paid death’s wages steep,
Freeing us from Satan’s prison.
Death has lost its fearsome sting,
Powerless before the King.

4. Christ the Lord says, “Do not weep.”
Now, with sorrow, hope is springing.
Death no more our joy can keep.
Saints their Savior’s praise are singing.
Christ will wipe our tears away
As we rise to endless day.

5. Christ the Lord says, “Do not weep.”
Confident of resurrection,
For a time we wait, asleep.
Raised, we wear our Lord’s perfection
In baptismal robes of white,
Basking in our Savior’s light.

(c) 2018 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
78 78 77

Occasion: Trinity XVI

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Sermon for 8/5/18: Tenth Sunday After Trinity

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

Our Lord took up our flesh and became human like us. He knew hunger and thirst and grief. At the very least, he buried St. Joseph, His step-father and caretaker. He knew also betrayal from friends, prejudice, and irrational hatred. He knew all the sorrows, pain, and losses of men. But the worst of all this was not when they stretched out His arms and bent back His wrists to drive nails through His flesh. It was not being hoisted up so that He had to lift Himself up and tear at those nails for each breath. Even as His life ebbed away among the jeering and the blasphemy, what hurt most was that He was rejected by those He loved. They did not want His gifts.
They did not seek the things that make for peace: nails and thorns, scourge and spear. The great irony is that the chief priests and scribes sought to destroy Jesus. They could not stand His teaching. They knew it was true. They knew He spoke with authority. There was nothing contrary to Moses or the prophets. No one could argue with Him. He even slipped through their traps of logic and ethics. Nor could they dispute or deny his miracles. They could not find any moral failure in Him at all. Imagine a man in whom there was no sin, in whom there was no error, who was going about helping people, healing them. Why would you want to destroy Him? Because He was perfect and they were not. Because His Word cut at their hearts, it endangered their place in society. He called them to give up their lives, and they didn’t want to. He held up the Law as a standard, and they knew they had failed. They were guilty and ashamed. The accusations were too true and too many and they knew the Law would destroy them. So they sought to destroy it. They sought to destroy Jesus in order to be free of the Law, free of God’s demands, free of accusations and the curse.
Here is the irony: it worked. They meant it for evil; He meant it for good. They did it in hate; He suffered it in love. They did it so that they could sin without judgment or punishment; He did it to forgive their sins and create in them a new heart and life for God. The things that make for peace—nails and thorns, scourge and spear, two cruel logs hoisting the Word of God up from the earth—this satisfied the demands of Justice. He suffered being forsaken by the Father to draw all men to Himself. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There is the peace that passes all understanding.
Now is the hour of visitation for you. No one knows what the future holds. Repent. Amend your ways and your doings. God has good things for you. Don’t trust in the lying words of your heart, words which tell you, “Calm down. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re not half as bad as some others.” Remember Jerusalem and repent. Your sins are many and frequent. Call upon God. He will hear your voice. Confess. Ask for forgiveness. Cast your burden upon Him. He will sustain you. Swing open the doors of your lips and Christ will enter in, whip in hand, to drive out everything with which you have defiled yourself. His Body and His Blood will purge your soul and cleanse your heart. He is long-suffering, patient, gracious, and merciful. He loves you. He will redeem your soul in peace. He will save you and your children, gathering you to Himself and covering you with the wings of His Holy Spirit. This great, suffering God has always loved you. He never holds a grudge. It is not too late. He wants you even now and is eager to be your God and dwell within you. Jesus, alive forevermore and at the right hand of God, is your Advocate and Defender. He 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.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sermon for 7/29/18: Ninth Sunday after Trinity

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Faithful Stewardship

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

When someone places his possessions under a caretaker or steward, it is because of necessity or convenience. The person cannot take care of everything by himself, or maybe he doesn’t want to be bothered. But in the case of our Lord, it is quite different. The Lord God appoints men as caretakers of His stuff not because of necessity or bother, but because of pure grace and mercy.
Nothing in this world is really ours. Everything we have belongs to the Lord, and He entrusts it to us for a time, given into our care so that we would use it in thanksgiving according to our needs, or distribute it to our fellow servants according to their needs. It is not good stewardship to misuse the stuff of the earth or to hoard it, to vandalize or waste it. Gluttony is a sin as sure as sloth. We must render an account of our stewardship when Lord comes. Who has been a faithful caretaker? Who has never eaten when he was full? Who has never withheld his surplus from his neighbor? Repent.
Stop your envy and jealousy. Stop your greed and covetousness. Stop judging the stewardship of others. A tractor is not worth its price to me. But I am certain I spend more on books than most of you would, and maybe that would seem wasteful to you. How we spend God’s money is our stewardship. Each family is different, deriving a different amount of pleasure or use out of different things. But don’t make rules for everyone else where the Scriptures have left us free. Exercise stewardship according to your own situation and wisdom. Be humble and modest as one who has failed again and again to be a good steward. Repent.
The Lord does not condone thievery. The unjust steward in the parable was a bad steward. He wasted the master’s stuff. That is a form of theft. Employees who do not work a full hour steal from employers who pay by the hour. Workers who waste material are guilty of stealing. Scripture condemns this. But Our Lord condones and even praises the injustice of stewardship in the parable when the once-wasteful steward now gives away the goods, where he cancels debts owed to his master.
So if Our Lord does not condone thievery, what is He condoning? He is condoning grace. The King of Heaven is not like the rulers of the earth. He does not give us stewardship because He is too busy to take care of it or because He finds it a bother, but because He is gracious and merciful. He gives us a part in His kingdom. He gives it for our joy. And His Kingdom does not run on the economies of men, but the economy of grace. He loves to give away His Kingdom. He is a vineyard owner who pays those who work one hour as though they worked all day. He is a shepherd who has found a lost sheep and shows his joy by throwing a banquet that costs more than the sheep. He is a landowner who sends His Son for the workers to kill so that He might hand over to them the inheritance of His murdered Son.
This is grace. He gives us for free what we do not deserve and could never earn. He gives us His Kingdom, His name, His love. He says to those who squandered their lives, those who are not good or faithful, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” God is merciful; He paid your debt in the death of His Son. He is not angry. He loves and delights in you.
Now the risen Lord, in perfect stewardship, pours out His lifeblood for you, His body and blood to eat and drink to cancel all sin, shame, and guilt. He is not wasteful, yet the cup overflows. He gives more than you need. He is not wasteful; He is extravagant in His generosity. You don’t just eat to live; you feast. You revel in the gifts the Lord bestows. 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, July 26, 2018

HYMN: How Blessed Are My Eyes, O Lord

My work to assemble a hymn text for every Sunday in the 1-year lectionary continues. With this text, I now have seven more Sundays to complete, and there are a few I would like to review or improve. This particular text is for the Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity, the account of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:23-37. The opening of the story is Jesus telling His disciples, Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” That ties in so well with the account that follows that I felt the need to tie it all together in the hymn text. What do my eyes see? They see God’s grace apparent in my life. What do my ears hear? They hear the word of Holy Absolution; they hear the Gospel preached to me. (Incidentally, a discussion about pastors without calls and pastors under attack reminded me that it truly is a blessing to bear the cross for the sake of Jesus. Yes, sometimes I need to be reminded.) And because of what I see and hear in my own life, that brings me to my neighbor and even to my enemy, and I share the love and mercy of Christ with them. Here is my attempt to bring it all together. Let me know what you think.

How Blessed Are My Eyes, O Lord

1. How blessed are my eyes, O Lord,
To see the things You let me see:
To see abundant grace outpoured
For all my neighbors and for me;
To see myself garbed all in white,
Reflecting Your own holy light.

2. How blest, my eyes, to see the strife,
The cross which I am called to bear.
You never promise easy life
But never fail my load to share.
Oh, grant me joy in ev’ry test
And trust to know Your will is best.

3. How blessed are my ears, O Lord,
To hear the promises fulfilled
Which You have spoken in Your Word:
My Savior speaks, my fear is stilled.
My tongue rejoices to repeat
Your holy Gospel pure and sweet.

4. How blest, my ears, to hear the wails,
Yes, even from my enemies.
The love You show me never fails 
To raise me from my bended knees.
Grant me the love to serve my foe,
That he Your boundless grace would know.

5. I beg You, guard my eyes and ears,
And let your oil of life abound,
So when offense and evil nears—
Indecent sight, satanic sound—
The medicine You give will be 
The wine of immortality.

(c) 2018 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
88 88 88
Temporary tune: ALL EHR UND LOB (LSB 948)
Occasion: Trinity XIII

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sermon for 7/22/18: Eighth Sunday After Trinity

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

“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven.” We need to let these words have their way with us. The common view of heaven is that all decent people go there when they die. It is not so. It is not the repository of all the dead minus the Hitlers and Bin Ladens. It does not matter how pious or sincere or good a Muslim or a Bhuddist or a Mormon is. No one comes to the Father except through the Son. There is no other name under heaven by which men are saved. More than that, not even everyone who is baptized will enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Repent. Heed the warning. Sin is a wily seductress. She corrupts the hearts of men. She turns fathers and husbands into cowardly, lying sneaks who seek their thrills in the dark and destroy their children and their wives. It is not merely the arrogant or the rich or the weak who are susceptible. It strikes clergy and laity, men and women, adults and children, rich and poor. It turns them inward, fills them with anger, lust, and greed. It never delivers. It never satisfies. It only breeds discontentment and hardens consciences. Repent. Pornography kills. Gossip destroys. Pride crushes all virtue. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Repent. Now is the hour of Salvation. Tomorrow it may be too late. Repent.
No man can stand against the Law. It is a standard, a demand, too perfect and holy for us. Any comparison we make with our lives is damning. It always accuses us. We are fallen, sin-infected. That is why we are tempted to flee from the Law or make up new Laws that are easier to keep. But that does not remove the Law’s condemnation. It is just another excuse. It is just a temporary delusion that will be stripped away in Hell’s fire. Repent.
Those who are saved, those who enter the kingdom of heaven, are not saved by saying, “Lord, Lord.” They are saved when our Lord says, “You are forgiven. Take, eat. Go in peace.” They are not saved by prophesying, casting out demons, or performing other wonders. Those who are saved are passive. They do not save themselves. They are saved by the Lord. He is the Actor. He is calling their names.
Where can those weary of the Law’s demands and their failure find rest? Find your rest here, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has come into the world and taken up your Flesh in order to fulfill the Law for you. He has not come to condemn or to accuse you. He has come to save you. He has reconciled you to the Father. He has declared you righteous. He has intervened on your behalf. He has called you by name, brought you to Himself through the waters of Holy Baptism. He has planted and nourished your faith. He pardons your sin, removes your guilt, and welcomes you into the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, into His kingdom.
The will of the Father for you is that you turn from sin, repent, confess, and throw yourself upon His mercy. His will is that Jesus does your work and pays your penalty so that you would get the benefit and reward. Those who do the Father’s will—that is, those who are washed in Christ’s Blood, who eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus—enter and abide in the Kingdom of heaven. By grace they call Him, “Lord,” but only after He has called them by His name. You are there now, in the kingdom. For behold, the Kingdom of heaven is within you. It is Jesus Christ. You are His Temple, His chosen vessel. Jesus Christ abides in you, and He will not let you go. 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.