Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This past week, Faith and I drove up to Campbell Hill, Illinois. There is a healthy amount of discussion as to whether or not a pastor should visit a congregation which has extended a Call to him, but there isn't really a clear-cut answer. I never visited Zanesville before I accepted the Call to serve there, and though I do not blame that lack for the way things turned out there--after all, everyone puts their best foot forward with a planned visit--sometimes I wonder what might have happened if I had visited. (I sometimes allow myself the luxury to think about things I can't change.)

I had my response pretty much set by the time we decided to take our trip, and I didn't really expect anything we saw there to change my mind. The drive itself was lovely, though we were a little early to catch the fields in their vibrant greens. But even lovelier than the drive were the people we encountered. It started with the Buetow family. Pastor Mark Buetow, his wife Susan, their three daughters, and Aslan the cat warmly welcomed us into their home for the first two nights. Pastor Buetow and I have known each other for a long time. In fact, when Faith and I decided to move to Louisiana in 2005, I called Pastor Buetow, and he provided spiritual care for us. He's a good man, though Faith believes he consumes a little too much red food dye. He's also the vacancy pastor for St. Peter Lutheran Church, and he was able to give me extra information about the congregation. As for Faith, she and Susan are both homeschool mothers, and they had developed an online friendship that bloomed during our visit. Their daughters are lovely young ladies--taking after their mother, thankfully, in their temperament.

On Thursday we went to church at St. Peter. We started with the dinner beforehand, meeting and greeting those who had come to eat and to worship. We'd let them know we were coming, and we were greeted with love. The church itself is beautiful--I'll let the picture above speak louder than any words I could add. And the people? I've lived in rural Missouri and rural North Dakota, and there is a certain mentality to the rural being. There's a certain calmness, a generosity of spirit, that seems almost innate. That's not to say that city folk aren't generous, but it seems to be a way of life here. (I'm already speaking as if I'm there.)

On Friday, Faith and I had dinner with a group of leaders from the congregation. After the delicious meal, we did introductions, and then, after a brief discussion, I announced that I was officially accepting the Call to serve as Pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church. This was the first time I'd ever been able to witness the reaction when I announced a decision like this, and the relief and the applause were a welcome and soothing balm. They handled well the news of Michael's autism. They'd started renovations on the house, and they sought our input on what we'd like to see done. It was as if we were already there--and though we had to come back after worship on Sunday, in a way it feels like we're already part of the life of the congregation. And I suppose we are. Thanks be to God for such faithful and loving people to serve with and to serve!

For those who are interested, President Herb Mueller of the Southern Illinois District will be installing me as St. Peter's pastor on May 16 at 7 PM. Pastor Buetow will be preaching. Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod pastors who attend are invited to participate. May 16 is the Seventh Sunday of Easter, so be prepared with your white stoles.

Thank you for your support and prayers over the pastor four years, and thank you for your continued prayers for myself, my family, and the St. Peter congregation.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hymn: As Strode the Christ to Cross and Grave

For a number of years now, I've had it in mind to do a sermon series based on the eyewitness testimony given by those who witnessed Jesus as He made His way to the Place of the Skull. I'd thought about calling it, "Sermons from Christ's Enemies"; but then it occurred to me that not all of those whose testimony was given were speaking or acting from enmity. The woman who anointed His feet with oil, for example, did not act out of anger or fear. The thief on the cross went so far as to defend Christ from a fellow criminal's words. Not being in the parish for the past four years, and not having much say in what was chosen as a sermon series the two years before that, I've never written the sermon series.

But then I started to look at the same theme with the thought of writing a hymn. After a few abortive attempts, this is what I've come up with, set to the tune of "From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee". And who knows? Maybe that will be my Lenten sermon theme next year.

To God alone be the glory.

As Strode the Christ to Cross and Grave

1. As strode the Christ to cross and grave,
The blind men stood before Him.
"Lord, Son of David," they did rave,
"Have mercy!" they implored Him.
Hail, Jesus, David's greater Son,
Who, in His love, heals everyone,
Delivering God's mercy.

2. "'Tis better that one man should die
Than die our holy nation."
When Caiaphas these words did cry,
He prophesied salvation.
Though speaking as Christ's enemy,
Unknowing, he spoke faithfully.
Christ died to save all people.

3. “Innocent blood have I betrayed,”
Said Judas to the plotters.
Our own destruction Jesus stayed
Through blood poured out with water.
That sinless blood makes our robes white
And saves us from death’s endless night.
That blood has bought our pardon.

4. Pilate before the priests proclaimed,
"I find no fault in Jesus."
All said, who should be greatly shamed,
"Naught but His death appease us."
Still, Pilate knew His innocense.
He gave up Christ at truth's expense.
Thus death became the judgment.
5. The crowd cried out, "Then be His blood
On us and on our children!"
God saw His Son's great crimson flood,
Heard those words, and fulfilled them.
That sacrifice atoned, and thus
The blood of Christ now cleanses us.
The stain of sin is ended.

6. The thief with Christ knew his own guilt,
And of it made confession.
Yet in the Lord his hope was built
Who would forgive transgression.
He prayed, "O Lord, remember me."
No matter how near death we be,
Christ shows His grace and mercy.

7. "Truly this man was God's own Son,"
The soldiers said in wonder,
As death's fierce power was undone,
The veil now torn asunder.
May we, with those who saw, believe
The saving work which Christ achieved
For us and our salvation.

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 887

And the sermon series layout:

Witnesses on the Road to Golgotha
Midweek Lenten Series

Midweek 1—John 11:45-53
Caiaphas: vv.1, 2, 7
Midweek 2—Matthew 27:1-10
            Judas: vv.1, 3, 7
Midweek 3—John 18:33-40
            Pilate: vv.1, 4, 7
Midweek 4—Matthew 27:15-26
            The Mob: vv. 1, 5, 7
Midweek 5—Luke 23: 33-43
            The Thief: vv. 1, 6, 7

Midweek 6/Good Friday—Matthew 27:46-54
            The Centurion: vv. 1, 7

Friday, March 19, 2010

CALLED and Ordained (and HYMN)

As I write this, it's been four years, five months and seven days since I've been a parish pastor. It's been an interesting period--as in the old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." We moved to Louisiana from Ohio. We had the twins. We've lived in three different houses and two towns. I've weathered two hurricanes. I've been running a community center for the past three years. It's been a strange interlude.

Though I haven't been in the parish, the pastors and congregations down here in southern Louisiana (and parts beyond) have kept me fairly busy. I've preached for thirteen different congregations, averaging about one preaching opportunity every three weeks. I've been blessed to officiate at three baptisms (including those of the Wonder Twins). I've done three funerals. I've administered the rite of Confirmation at three congregations for seven young Christians.

I've also participated in the installation of three pastors. I've enjoyed doing so, but those events were especially trying for me, wondering if I'd ever again find myself being installed as a parish pastor. Those events led to long sessions of storming the gates of heaven, begging God to find a place for me.

After four years and five months, God has finally, resoundingly, in His own gracious timing, answered these prayers in the affirmative. The Holy Spirit has led the saints of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois, to extend to me the divine Call to serve as their next pastor!

I don't know a lot of details as I write this--the paperwork is en route--but Faith and I are very excited about this opportunity. I am ready and raring to serve. If everything works out the way I think it will, my last day at the community center will be April 30.

Please keep the Kornacki family and the saints of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois, in your prayers.

In honor of this occasion, I have paraphrased Psalm 43 and set it to a hymn tune. (By the way, yes, I do realize I tried rhyming "off" and "truth". *sigh*)

Vindicate Me, Lord My God

1. Vindicate me, Lord my God!
'Gainst the nations plead my cause.
Save me from the foul and flawed.
To my enemies give pause.
O my Lord, deliver me.
E'er my strong defender be.

2. Lord, why do You cast me off?
My oppressors cause me grief.
Lead me in Your light and truth.
In You let me find relief.
I will seek Your altar, Lord,
Always joyful in Your Word.

3. Why, my soul, are you cast down?
Why cannot my soul find peace?
Let my harp Your praises sound,
For in You I find release--
You, my hope, O God of grace;
You, my hope, I seek Your face.

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
77 77 77
Tune: Gethsemane (LSB 436)