Monday, October 02, 2023

HYMN: Give Ear, O Lord, and Hear My Plea

 It’s been a while since I’ve written a hymn that I thought was good. It’s been over a year, actually, and I’ve only written one this calendar year. Well, now it’s two. 

I’m at the district pastors conference for the Southern Illinois District, and we’re looking at the topic of acedia, which is translated as spiritual listlessness or spiritual sloth or the equivalent. We’ve had two excellent speakers: the Reverend Doctor Joel Elowsky, who happens to be the husband of my Seventh Grade Spanish teacher at (the now-closed) St. Paul Lutheran School in North Tonawanda, New York; and the Reverend Tyler Arnold, who was well acquainted with my vicarage bishop, the sainted Reverend Kim Scharff. Anyway, during Pastor Arnold’s presentation, he quoted Psalm 143:4, which says, “Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed.” It sparked the notion of an idea in me, and then I decided to look at the rest of Psalm 143, and it gave me a framework. This text is pretty much a paraphrase of Psalm 143 with a few additions and changes. Feedback is love.

Give Ear, O Lord, and Hear My Plea

1. Give ear, O Lord, and hear my plea.

In faithful mercy answer me.

My righteous Lord, my prayer attend,

For You alone can help extend.

2. My spirit grieves within my breast.

I groan in wretched restlessness.

My hope is lost in dark despair.

The devil stalks me everywhere.

3. The evil foe seeks my distress.

I claim myself no righteousness.

Alone, I falter, helpless prey.

I thirst for You like crumbling clay.

4. On Your great works I meditate

And on Your boundless love I wait.

Hide not Your face, but hear my wails.

Without my God, my spirit fails.

5. Teach me to walk the faithful way.

Oh, hear Your servant, Lord, and stay.

You are my shelter and my shield.

You are my God; to You I yield.

6. Upon Your servant ever shine

And bathe me in Your grace divine.

Garb me in hope and let me see

Your triumph on my enemy.

7. Revive me by Your holy name,

And free my soul from fear and shame,

That I may sing Your joyous praise

And serve my God for all my days.

LM (88 88)


Psalm 143; Acedia (spiritual restlessness), Grief

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Sermon for 10/1/23: Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity

CLICK HERE for the sermon audio.

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Ephesians 4:1-6


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


There is something in the human heart that responds to a challenge. When St. Paul appeals to us in the opening words of this text to “walk in a manner worthy,” there may be a quiet stirring of restless energy as we prepare for the challenge. We want that challenge to be something that is noble, something that will lend a glory to what is all too often the routine weariness of our lives.

But then Paul goes on to give the details of the challenge. This walk, he says, is to be done with humility, gentleness, patience, and the willingness to bear in love with others, whatever their weaknesses and failings may be. Perhaps when we hear this, the eagerness that accompanied the original challenge begins to subside a bit. Our walk of faith does not seem to be a matter of high spirituality—at least, not like the disciples experienced with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, for example. Like them, we would like very much to never have to descend again to the valleys of daily life with its disappointments and frustrating relationships.

But that is the point, isn’t it? It is in the very ordinariness of everyday life that faith matters. And in those everyday lives, it is the human relationships that end up making all the difference. We are bound together in a common humanity which is meant to mirror that unity of the Spirit, God’s great gift to His Church, to which He calls us to walk in a manner worthy of that calling.

God’s eternal purpose was a free and harmonious fellowship of His people, united in His love for them and their love for Him. Each of God’s creatures is a unique personality, but we are not meant to stand alone. We will only develop properly in close fellowship with others. This is really the essence of the family. But even more than that, we are not to be separated in this life from fellowship with God Himself. That is the most unnatural thing that can happen to us. The true life of every human creature is found only in a life of complete harmony with God.

But something has gone wrong. Each of us puts himself or herself, individually, at the center of the universe where God should be. That is what sin does. By making ourselves into little gods, we not only separate ourselves from God but from each other. For example, many of us get married so that we will not have to be alone; that’s what God designed marriage to be. And yet, so often, the moment marriage restricts what we think should be our freedom, we want to rebel. We try to force our will upon our partner, and when that fails, we rush to the divorce courts. It’s like that in all human relationships. Man rebels against his God-given nature and ends up making a tragedy of his life.

But God has never given up on us, and He won’t as long as time runs its course. God has always had His purpose: that all of mankind might be one unified body in Him through Jesus Christ. And that is what St. Paul is addressing in this text and throughout his Epistle to the Ephesians. God has done what is necessary to realize His purpose. In Jesus Christ, God became Man to give Himself into suffering and death so that all might have that new beginning in the forgiveness of sins. In the cross of Jesus Christ, our God has broken down every wall that man’s sin and selfishness has erected between himself and his neighbor as well as himself and God. In His resurrection, Jesus has become the Head over all things in heaven and on earth, all for the benefit of the Church. And now, through faith, we are identified with all that God has done in Christ.

If we have comprehended anything about God’s purpose for mankind, then we must realize that there comes to us no greater purpose, no higher challenge, than this one in our text. This challenge is bound up with who we are in Christ in that call God has extended to us through the Gospel. It touches on everything we are: husband, wife, father, mother, widow, widower, child, student, employer, employee—you name it. The challenge falls to each of us: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace...” We are not asked to create this unity any more than we are asked to establish our own peace with God. Christ is our peace; He is the foundation of our unity with one another and with God.

What a wonderful challenge He has set before us. And He equips us to walk in that worthy manner. Joined through “one Baptism” and the “one faith” to this “one Lord,” we have been gathered into this “one body.” This is God’s great doing. For us there remains only the great endeavor of doing all within our power, under the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit, to keep this unity which is God’s gift to us in the one Lord Jesus Christ. And we have no better means for this than the blessed Holy Supper that is offered to us: its gifts of the very body and blood of that one Lord, offered and given for the remission of our sins, given to strengthen us as we walk together worthily in Christ. 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 24, 2023

Sermon for 9/24/23: Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity

This was not the easiest sermon I've ever preached, considering the context. Still, God is good.

CLICK HERE for the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE for the sermon video.

Can You Trust God?

I Kings 17:17-24


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


We have all seen our share of suffering and grief. We’ve seen brutal murder, war, and terrorism in our lives. We’ve seen people we would consider to be good brought low by horrible diseases while seemingly awful people live carefree lives. We’ve seen the death of young children. It can be hard not to ask how you can trust a God who lets such things happen. And it’s not just a theoretical question, because these things happen all the time.

With idolatry running wild in Israel under King Ahab, the Lord announced through Elijah that there would be no rain. The idolaters may have laughed at first, but they would not have the last laugh. None of their unbelief could change the fact that the Lord remained in control. There was no rain. Elijah was affected by the resulting drought, too. As we heard last week, God directed him to a widow in Zarephath. When the prophet first met her, he asked for food and drink. She told him that she was down to her last little bit of flour and oil. Once that was gone, she truly did not know where the next meal would come from. She considered herself and her son to be as good as dead. Still, when Elijah spoke the Lord’s Word of promise to her, she had faith and obeyed. She made Elijah a loaf of bread, and still had flour and oil left over. As the days passed, there was always enough flour and oil left for another meal.

The widow was taking care of God’s prophet. Things seemed to be working out. And then, one day, her son died! Suddenly it didn’t look like such a great thing to have the Lord’s prophet so close by. This God was now costing her something. In her grief, she understandably lashed out at Elijah: “What have you against me, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son?” Perhaps you have felt this way toward God; I certainly have.

Let us be clear about this: truly God allows terrible things to happen in this world, and He does not explain Himself to us. This godless world will sneer or cynically shrug as much as it wants, but God remains in complete control of all things, no matter how it may appear. We cannot insist that He answer us. Elijah made no attempt to apologize for God or explain His ways. Elijah knew that the only answer to God is God. So the prophet took the dead boy into his room, laid the body on his own bed, and prayed the Lord to grant that this child live again. The prophet then stretched himself upon the body three times as he prayed that life come back into it. We hear in Ecclesiastes that, in death, “the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Even so, Elijah knew that this same God could give it back. He was asking God to give life in the midst of death, comfort in the midst of fear and anguish, and assurance of His love and salvation amid all her doubts. No amount of explaining could have been better than the moment when the prophet went downstairs, not carrying a dead corpse, but rather with a living child in his arms. “See, your son lives, Elijah told her.

This event forms a little Old Testament Easter. The son was dead, but then he lived. Of course, this son eventually died again to this world, just as the son of the widow of Nain eventually died again. But these events meant to point forward to Jesus. See, Jesus lives! Yes, God had punished sin. He punished it fully when He laid all of it on His Son. Yet He raised Jesus from the dead; “Death no longer has dominion over Him.” Indeed, Jesus lives.

How can you trust God when He allows these awful things to happen? Put your trust in Jesus, for in Him, you live! Baptized into Christ, you have been raised with Him. And in the end, the God who raised His Son will raise you also. You live now, and you will live to all eternity! God the Father has planted this new life in you now by giving you the Word of life, the good news of Jesus Christ. He is not angry with you. He is not stringing you along, only to spring some punishment on you when you least expect it. God forgives all your sin for the sake of Christ, who nailed them to His cross. And with this forgiveness comes assurance, comfort, and life, all through God’s powerful Word. How can you trust this Lord? See, you live! It’s like the woman said to Elijah: “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the Word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” In faith, she had received through Elijah God’s assurance, comfort, and life. She was alive; so was her son.

You and I live, too. We live by faith. When tragedy strikes—and you know it will—don’t dwell on how unfair it may be. Don’t tell yourself this shouldn’t happen to you or your loved one. Don’t try to figure out how you messed up. Above all, don’t run away from God. Instead, run to the God who has clothed Himself in flesh and blood. Listen to the God who died and rose again. Like the widow in this text, the Lord has given you new life through His Word. He has sustained your every step along life’s way. Whatever happens in this world, God stands ready to keep giving you life, now and forever, in His risen Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. See, Christ lives! And because He lives, so do you! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 


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

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Sermon for 9/17/23: Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity

 CLICK HERE for the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE for the sermon video.

Come and Die
I Kings 17:8-16

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

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Though these are hard words to hear, they could not be more true. Four times in the Gospels, our Lord tells His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him. Our view of the cross is shaped by two thousand years of history. We think of what Jesus accomplished with His death on the cross, and that perhaps allows us to think of it as something less than a cruel instrument of execution. Only criminals who had been sentenced to die for the most heinous crimes carried crosses. And so, what Bonhoeffer said is absolutely correct, even as stark and abrupt as it sounds. When Jesus tells us to take up our cross, He is calling us to come and die.

Elijah’s words to the widow at Zarephath probably sounded just as harsh. He saw that the widow and her son were starving. He knew that little oil and flour remained. He knew that he was asking her to give him all that she had. Still, he said to her, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And for her part, the widow knew that the prophet’s command was the Lord’s command. In her ears, it must have seemed like he was saying, “Obey my words even though they will kill you.” The Word of the Lord is often like that. His holy Word of Law kills us whenever we hear it. We never live up to its perfect standard of holiness and love. If we were truly obedient to the Law of God, we would never put our own life before the lives of others; we would never doubt God’s love or worry about the future. But too often, we seek our own good first. We doubt God’s love; we look to our friends, our family, our jobs, our bank accounts for the peace and security that can really only come from God. And in these difficult economic times, our lives are often clouded by fears about the future, and we can sometimes wonder if we really will be provided with all that we need.

God’s Word of Law can only kill us. Not only are we not God, we are not godly either. We oppose God’s will at every turn, and our doubts and fears make it clear how little we actually believe what the Lord has promised in His Word. Our bodies of sin and doubt and fear must die. They must be nailed with Jesus to His cross. When Christ calls a man, He truly bids him to come and die. Our sinful flesh must die with Jesus on the cross. It must be buried with Him in His tomb.

All of this is bound up in Holy Baptism. It is in Baptism that your sinful flesh has been nailed to the cross. The word to the widow of Zarephath does not end with, “Bring me a morsel of bread.” After the widow honestly lays out her fears before the prophet, Elijah says, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” Nor does the Word that God speaks to you end there, either. Just as the Lord drowned your sinful flesh in the waters of your baptism, so also He has raised you to new life in Christ.

When you are facing death, it is hard to see God as your creator who loves you, who sustains you, who provides for all your needs. Death makes the love of God seem like a lie. We are always coming before God, asking, “What have you done for me lately?” When we say this, we are forgetting that every breath we breathe is a gift from God. But even in our unbelief and ingratitude, God is still gracious to us. Elijah’s answer to the widow was the promise that the Lord would provide for her. It was more than she could expect; it was more than she deserved. But that is God’s way: He simply gives the gift because of who He is. He is loving and merciful. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He provides for the birds. He clothes the lilies of the field in splendor. There is nothing that falls outside the protection of His gracious and generous hand.

It is absolutely certain that God will always give us what we need. What is not so certain is what that will look like in the end. When we suffer, God’s provision for us is still there, though it is often hidden. Sometimes it is not revealed until years later, and then sometimes it is not revealed in this life at all. But all things that are needful for us have been provided. God has taken all your sin, all of your suffering, and all of your fear and doubt, and laid them on the shoulders of Jesus. And your Savior has taken all of those things to the cross and there has suffered and died for them.

In place of your fear and doubt, Christ has won for you life and salvation and forgiveness. All of these things are certain because God Himself has accomplished them for you. There is nothing for you to fear. There is nothing for you to doubt. There is only Jesus, Your Savior, who has borne your sin to the cross and has given to you the anointing oil of Holy Baptism and the bread of His Holy Supper. And these gifts, with all their blessing, will not run out until you are safely with all the saints, the angels, and with God Himself, forever and ever. 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 10, 2023

Sermon for 9/10/23: Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

 CLICK HERE for the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE for the sermon video.

Walking in the Spirit

Galatians 5:16-24


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


         The central truth of the Christian faith is that lost and condemned sinners are saved eternally—not by obedience to God’s Law but through faith alone in Jesus Christ, who has won righteousness and eternal life for us by His obedience and death. No book of the Bible speaks of this precious truth more clearly than St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. The apostle pleaded with these Christians to remain in that Gospel they had learned from him. False teachers had invaded their churches, insisting that faith in Christ was not enough to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Salvation, they said, required obedience to the Law.

But it doesn’t work that way. The teaching that we are saved by our good works does not promote more good works. No, it makes us into hypocrites. It enslaves us. The Law only threatens with death those who don’t obey it. It cannot change our hearts so that we can love God and our neighbor as we should. It can only condemn us for disobedience. The simple truth of the matter is that the pure Gospel of justification by faith alone is the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to live God-pleasing lives. The Law cannot and will not make us good. The Gospel can, and it does. And so, when St. Paul tells us to walk in the Spirit, he is simply telling you to trust in Jesus Christ our Savior. He is telling you to consider yourself a Christian. Consider who and what you are. You belong to Christ. You are clothed in His righteousness. You have His Spirit living within you. So walk in that Spirit. Fix your eyes and your hearts on the Savior who died for you, and you won’t fulfill those desires of the flesh.

There is a war that rages inside of every Christian. We have the Holy Spirit within us by virtue of our baptism into Christ. But we also have the flesh, the old sinful nature that clings to us until the day we leave this earth behind. That is why St. Paul says, “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” The flesh wants to please itself. It despises God’s Law and hates the Gospel even more. This is something we must understand because, if we don’t, we will be led into a false belief. Our sinful flesh wants exactly the opposite of what the Spirit wants, and it will be that way as long as we live. Now, if you are distressed because you want to do what is right, but you find yourself falling into sin, take heart. This is not a sign that you are not a Christian; it’s a sign that you are, because the Spirit and the flesh cannot tolerate each other!

But if you are perfectly at peace with yourself; if you don’t have any spiritual conflict at all; if you think that you are living the holy life God called you to live, it’s time to take a serious look at yourself. If you think you can live your Christian life here on earth without experiencing any spiritual conflict, you are sorely mistaken. Walking in the Spirit means that we take stock of who we are. We are Christians. Through Holy Baptism, we have been called out of the darkness of sin and death into the light of God’s eternal, saving truth. The Law cannot condemn us, but only because we have Jesus Christ who faced the condemnation of the Law in our place. You are still tempted by the works of the flesh, and you can easily fall into them, for which you repent and renounce your sin. That’s the battle! But here is a very important point. Falling into temptation and sin is one thing; embracing sin and claiming that it is good is something quite different. The Spirit fights against the flesh, and as long as that spiritual warfare continues, faith is alive.

And yet, we fail in all of this, don’t we? The works of the flesh rise up to claim us. The works of the flesh are obvious, the apostle says. They are obviously wrong. But what does the flesh in its arrogance do? That old unregenerate, corrupt, and incorrigible flesh takes what God has established, twists it into perverted forms, and then claims that God is pleased with it. And that is why the road to hell is paved with the works of the flesh. In the end, they are only bitter and hateful things, with no forgiveness from God for the sin with which these works are filled.

We fall into sin. So what do we do then? We reclaim our inheritance in God’s Kingdom by reclaiming the promise of God in our baptism, where we daily drown that old sinful nature, that a new man may arise to live before God in righteousness and purity, as Luther says. There God joined His name to ours and claimed us as His own. There He washed us in the blood of the Lamb. There He joined us to the crucifixion and resurrection of His own dear Son. And that is who we are: forgiven of all sin, walking in the Spirit, rejoicing in the privilege of being children of 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 keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Sermon for 9/3/23: Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity

 CLICK HERE for the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE for the sermon video.

The Good Neighbor

Luke 10:23-37


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



Consider the futility of this lawyer’s words. He wanted to test the Lord. He wanted to see if Jesus would meet his standards. He asked: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” But that question revealed far more than he intended. He thought he was being clever, but in fact, he showed his ignorance. Was there ever so naive a question from the lips of men? No matter how good you are, how badly you want it, how sincere you are, or how hard you work, you cannot inherit eternal life. After all, you weren’t born into it. You can’t do anything to inherit something. Inheritance is always the gift of birth.

Added to that, our Lord does not really take well to testing. He turns the question back to the lawyer: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer wants to know what to do, and the Law certainly tells him that. And to his credit, the lawyer answers Jesus without hesitation: “Love God and love your neighbor.” How easy it is to spit out these orthodox cliches. “Love God and love your neighbor.” We learned that in the Catechism. But then our Lord says, “Do this and you will live.” Do you hear the condemnation in those seemingly innocent words? Not one of us could dare say, “I have done it. I have loved God and my neighbor perfectly and without fail.”

Test the Lord, and you wind up in serious spiritual trouble. “Do this and you will live.” These words are actually a threat. The lawyer hadn’t done this; he hadn’t kept the Law. Apart from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, no man has ever kept the Law. No one has done this, and so no one should live! There is no Law that accuses us more, no Law that makes us rage with more fire against God’s judgment. This lawyer is dead, and he knows it. He is afraid. But like the good lawyer he is, he looks for a loophole in the Law. He asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

Every Sunday School student knows the answer to the question: “Everyone is your neighbor.” Everyone. There are no exceptions. You have no excuse, no boast to make, and no one to blame. It is your fault, because if everyone is your neighbor, and you must love them all as the Law demands, then there is no hope. There is no comfort found in the Law. We get from the Law what we deserve. We have not loved God or our neighbor, and according to the Law, we will not live.

But Jesus does not answer that question from the Lawyer. Instead, He tells a parable, and then asks the lawyer which man in that parable was neighbor to the man in need. In the Good Samaritan, we see pictured that One who is nothing but mercy. He did what we could never do: He perfectly kept the Law. The priest and the Levite who walked on by could do nothing. But the Good Samaritan knew the cost, and He went into the ditch to get us anyway. He paid for everything, and He is coming back to redeem us finally and fully from this world of sin and death.

Then Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” Does He mean that we will live if we help the man we find in the ditch, if we love all neighbors as ourselves? If Jesus means that we must simply return to the Law, then we are right back where we started, and this parable would serve no other purpose than to further condemn us. It would show us nothing about grace and the kingdom of heaven. But that cannot be the meaning of this parable. Jesus never leaves His people without hope. So then, what does “Go and do likewise” mean? It must mean this: “Go and be neighbored, be rescued by the One who shows mercy.” Yes, I know this is not the usual way we see the interpretation of this parable. You can check all the commentaries—even some of the Lutheran ones—and they will not interpret the parable this way. But Luther did. And he got it right. Don’t forget the lawyer’s original question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” That’s the question Jesus answered. There is nothing we can do. But at the same time, there is nothing we have to do.

Jesus, the Good Samaritan, is your neighbor. He has done what you and the Law could never do. He has had mercy. He didn’t have to. He was free of any obligation. But He was moved by His own compassion. He paid the price for all that was necessary to heal you. And that is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. It is like an unexpected rescue from death by an outsider who, for reasons beyond human understanding, perfectly loves His Father, and He perfectly loves His neighbor. We see the Law fulfilled for us; we see the rescue we have received through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We see the One who loved us all the way to the cross. He is Christ, the good Samaritan, the good Neighbor: the One who had mercy. 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, August 30, 2023

Synod Convention 2023 in Review

I wanted to take a little time to let all the stuff sink in. I didn't want to write immediately, because the cynic in me would have gone out with guns blazing. I hope I have a little more perspective on the whole thing now. Here is what I'm sending to the congregations in my circuit.


August 31, 2023

Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

As the duly elected voting pastoral delegate of the Southern Illinois District’s Electoral Circuit 9 to the 68th Regular Convention of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, it is my duty to offer a summary of the convention to those who selected me. You can find a number of viewpoints concerning the events of July 29-August 3, including a fairly comprehensive report on the results through Synod’s newspaper, the Reporter. As you may recall from my 2016 report, I must admit that I'm a little cynical about church politics—maybe more than a little cynical about church politics—so that will likely color my view of what took place.

The election of the President of the LCMS took place electronically in the month of June, and at that time the Reverend Matthew Harrison was re-elected to his fifth term. I believe President Harrison was the best candidate available. He is both a gifted theologian and a responsible churchman. I don't always agree with his decisions, but that would be true even if, God forbid, I was the one making the decisions.

Elections took place throughout the convention. In Synodical elections, one votes based on the biographies provided by the candidates. If you're fortunate, you know some of the candidates personally. In some cases, you seek the opinions of those who have personal knowledge of the candidates. Concerning the candidates with whom I had personal knowledge, the ones elected were people I trust. As is the case with any other kind of election, one must pray for those elected and hope they serve with integrity under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

As far as the resolutions go, every convention has things that seem vital and things that seem like a huge waste of time. As a church body, we like happy news to fill the pages of the Reporter. Still, some of the resolutions had the potential to raise blood pressure, and it seemed from time to time like some delegates were playing parliamentary games to unduly slow the proceedings. But for the most part, the convention conducted its business at a deliberate pace and with a great deal of agreement in most matters.

Perhaps the most contentious matter brought before the convention was the attempt of the leaders of Concordia University Texas (CTX) to remove themselves from the authority of the LCMS. As I understand it, they don’t mind being aligned with the Texas District of the LCMS, but they don’t want to be under the direct authority of the LCMS as a whole. Whatever their motives, their actions are, in effect, an attempt to steal the Concordia University Texas name, reputation, and property which belong to the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The President of CTX spoke at the convention, and he apologized for causing offense, but neither he nor the others involved have repented of their actions. The Synod in convention voted to call these leaders to repentance and urge them to return CTX to its rightful authority. (Since the convention, these leaders of CTX have refused to seat the rightly elected Regents elected to the Board by the convention. This is not an act which demonstrates repentance.)

In the midst of our grief over the discord with CTX and the closing of a number of Concordia University System (CUS) schools—Bronxville (New York) and Portland since the last convention—the Presidents of the remaining Concordias (besides Texas) spoke of their desire to be “more faithful and more tightly tied to the church, her confession, her teaching.” This was the end result of over two years of monthly conversations with the Synod Board of Directors, the CUS board, and the Presidents and Boards of Regents for the various CUS schools regarding the relationship between the CUS schools and the LCMS.

We also addressed Church fellowship. With great joy, the LCMS recognized and declared altar and pulpit fellowship with five bodies: the Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Sudan/Sudan, the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, the Lutheran Church of Uganda, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine, and the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sri Lanka. Declaring altar and pulpit fellowship means that the LCMS is in full doctrinal agreement with these bodies. On a more solemn note, we also recognized the severing of altar and pulpit fellowship with the Japan Lutheran Church, a body which has officially begun to Ordain women into the Office of the Holy Ministry in opposition to the clear Word of God.

We heard about the current and growing shortage of clergy available to fill vacant congregations along with the growing shortage of Church-trained teachers for our schools, and we were introduced to the Set Apart to Serve initiative to address these shortages by raising up young men and women from an early age to meet these needs. We discussed matters of ecclesiastical supervision, which determines how district presidents interact with the pastors and congregations under their care. We also addressed various social issues—race, sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy, mental illness, persecution against those who live their lives in Christ, among others—seeking to approach these matters in God-pleasing ways,

The worship opportunities were excellent. Pastor Sean Daenzer, the LCMS Director of Worship, put together a splendid collection of services to remind the delegates that “we preach Christ crucified” in the midst of all the politics and bureaucracy. 

The next convention is scheduled for 2026, and it will be held in Phoenix, Arizona. While I’m always happy to serve when selected, I hope you’ll select someone less sensitive to the extreme summer temperatures in Phoenix!

If you have any questions about the convention or how I voted, I will happily give an account. The peace of the Lord be with you.

Respectfully in Christ,

Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr.
Voting Pastoral Delegate, SID Electoral Circuit 9

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Sermon for 8/27/23: Twelfth Sunday After Trinity

 CLICK HERE for the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE for the sermon video.

Willing to Hear

Isaiah 29:18-24


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


Reading is actually a relatively recent thing, as far as daily life is concerned. Before the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in the mid-fifteenth century, there were very few books to be read. Most books before that were hand-written, often by monks in a monastery. Most people in those days weren’t even able to read. So how did people learn? They learned by listening. Family elders would speak their family’s history; priests would speak the Word of God as they had received it; and the people would listen and learn. So it’s more than a bit ironic that, in our day, with printed Bibles available everywhere, Biblical literacy has probably never been at such a low level. We may know the words, but we have a severe lack of understanding of what the Bible actually teaches.

As important as reading is, our greatest need is to hear. As valuable as reading can be, it does not replace hearing. The Bible never says that faith comes through reading. Rather, Paul tells us that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Yes, you should read your Bible constantly. The printed Word is a wonderful gift of God. But reading the Word of God is not a substitute for hearing that Word preached and taught. In the Scriptures, hearing is consistently how the Holy Spirit works the miracle of faith.

We need to be hearers. The problem the people of Israel had was more serious than that of the man in our Gospel. The man’s inability to hear was serious, for sure, but the deafness of those who are unwilling to hear is even more catastrophic. It is rebellion against God. It is the rejection how God would forgive and change them. And that refusal to hear the Word of God brought about Israel’s terrible troubles: their exile, the desolation of their homeland, their enslavement to the “terrible” and “scornful one,” as Isaiah described Israel’s enemies. God called to them; He pleaded with them; but they would not hear.

We are in the presence of the Great Physician of body and soul. And if we are really hearing, then we know that this diagnosis is not only Israel’s; it is our disgnosis, as well. God’s diagnosis in every divine service is a challenge to our hearing. Our need is to hear Him. But how often is our participation in the Divine Service little more than that of a bystander. And what is worse is that we hear this diagnosis and then reject it saying, “It’s really not that bad. I can hear well enough, at least, to get by.” Can you imagine that man in the Gospel angrily pushing Jesus away, remaining willfully in his silence? The deaf cannot hear. Like Israel, we all too often will not hear. We need God to do something that is truly miraculous to change us into hearers of the Word. We need it each time the Word of God reaches out to us.

The deaf shall hear...” That is the promise of God. The way it happened for the man in the Gospel recalls how it has happened for us. This man had friends who brought him to Jesus. For most of you, it was parents who brought you to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, where you were not only forgiven of sin and given life, but where your ears of faith were opened that you might hear the voice of your Savior. For others, it may have been a friend or loved one who brought you to hear the same Savior.

The power to hear; the power to believe; the power to live as a child of God—this power is available for all. It is offered now, in this moment of hearing the Word, to each of us. Our ability to hear is God-given, a gift of grace. Recall those words from the Small Catechism: “I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel...” Our ability to hear comes from God speaking to us. By the way, this is one reason why it is of the highest importance that little children are in church every Sunday. Each Sunday they are exposed to the liturgy, which is one of the most effective teachers of the Church. Even before they are able to read for themselves, the Word of God in the liturgy is teaching and nourishing their baptismal faith. Don’t think that, just because little ones cannot read or verbally respond the way adults can, the Holy Spirit is not teaching them in this way. He has ways of teaching we cannot comprehend—and not only for children, but even for the oldest among us.

This is the secret of how we are to hear in the Divine Service. The opening versicle of Matins displays this secret: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” We consciously converse with God in Scripture reading and sermon, in hymn and prayer. And then, with open ears, hearts, and lips, we receive the warning against spiritual deafness, and then gratefully receive the Gospel Word of forgiveness and life. Having heard the Word about our weakness, we hear the Word of grace. The deaf hear, the dumb speak, and, as Isaiah said, “The humble shall increase their joy in the Lord.” 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.