Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sermon for 12/16/12--Third Sunday in Advent

Pointing to Jesus
Matthew 11:2-10 (11)

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

It’s hard not to be a little envious of John the Baptist. If ever there was a man who knew his place in the Kingdom of God, it was John. Scripture had told him what he was to be. Even before he was born he leaped in the womb in the presence of Jesus, doing what he was supposed to be doing: pointing to Christ and saying, “There He is! He's the one!” His entire life was spent in preparation for his role as the final prophet of the Old Testament Church. With all that in mind, it might seem a little odd when he sends his disciples ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?

Things had been going well for John. He had been preaching up a storm, chastising religious leaders for their faithlessness, baptizing for repentance, baptizing Jesus, in fact, and witnessing the show of divine favor Jesus received from His Father. He pointed all the time to Jesus. And Jesus, of course, was doing what He was supposed to do. But then John’s faithful preaching landed him in prison. Where was the Lord with His mighty deliverance for John? It seems like everything Jesus has done has been for everyone except John! So…is John doubting? Are his disciples? Matthew doesn’t say. Either way, John sent his disciples to Jesus to ask the question. Jesus answered by pointing to the Old Testament prophecies which said what the Messiah will do: things Jesus was doing, things only God can do, things that proved Jesus is the Christ.

Even if John had doubts, even if his own disciples weren’t sure, John still did what he was supposed to do: He pointed to Jesus. That’s why John came. John was the greatest and last prophet of the Old Testament. He was the last prophet to preach that the Savior was coming. And then when Jesus shows up, John becomes the first preacher of the New Testament, pointing to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That’s what preachers are supposed to do. They point to Jesus. They say that the Savior is for you. And the answer Jesus gives to John is also for you. How do you know that Jesus is the Messiah, the One promised to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, and to all the Old Testament faithful? Look at what Jesus says and does. He heals the blind and lame and deaf. He raises the dead. He preaches the good news. How do you know that Jesus is the One? You know because Jesus was nailed to a cross and was raised on the third day.
Today is “Gaudete” Sunday. “Gaudete” means rejoice! The answer Jesus gives is meant to give you joy. Rejoice—even when faithfulness to the Word of God causes you to suffer. Rejoice—even when you have doubts. Rejoice—even when the world shows us how ugly it can be, even when we see innocent children suffer evil. Rejoice, for Jesus continues to do exactly what He came to do. He continues to heal the sick. He continues to give life in the place of death. He continues to deliver good news to poor miserable sinners. Jesus proved by His words and actions that He is indeed the Son of God. But everything He has done led to His greatest work and proof that He’s the Savior: His death on the cross to win forgiveness for you and His resurrection which raises you with Him. Despite your doubts, despite your failings, despite your sins—and, in fact, because your sins, and to get rid of your sins—Jesus does what He does: He saves sinners. Even today He baptizes sinners, raising them from the death of sin to eternal life. He speaks His Word of absolution to them. He preaches His Gospel. He feeds His bride with His body and blood! Is God still at work among us? Is Jesus still the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Absolutely! The Lord doesn’t prove Himself to be the Lord by doing things your way. He proves Himself to be the Lord by doing what the Lord does: He saves sinners. Look to the coming Savior who reveals Himself to you in His Word, and your questions and doubts will be answered.

What about John? John the Baptist is a big deal, and yet he’s also not a big deal. When he points people to Jesus, he’s a big deal. Even in his martyr death at the hands of Herod he points to Jesus. But on His own he is nothing. That’s the way it is with all the preachers the Lord sends. The big deal is that they preach Christ crucified for sinners and point God’s people to the font, the altar, and the Word, where Christ is for you. In and of themselves they are nothing. But their job is to point you to Christ. And where you have Christ, you have overcome sin and death, and you have eternal life. Rejoice—for not even the princes of this world can take that away from 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.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

HYMN: Rain Down, You Heavens, from Above

The lectionary for the Fourth Sunday in Advent in the 1-year lectionary challenged the fledgeling hymwriter in me. At this point, this is my best effort. Maybe as I grow in faith and as a writer, my best effort may eventually be better than this. We'll see. For now, here is my humble offering.

Rain Down, You Heavens, From Above

1. Rain down, you heavens, from above.
O Righteous One, come down.
Come forth, Lord Jesus, Word made flesh
With grace Your shining crown.

2. O Christ, whose mercies John foretold,
Be near to us, we pray.
Cleanse us with water, Word and blood.
Your death sin's debt repay.

3. Stir up your power, Lord, and come.
Show us Your glorious face.
Complete salvation's work in us
With all-availing grace.

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
CM (86 86)

Monday, December 10, 2012

HYMN: Behold the Promised Christ

While considering the one-year lectionary texts for Gaudete, the Third Sunday in Advent, an idea popped into my head. Based primarily on the Gospel, Matthew 10:2-11, with a little extra from Isaiah 40:1-11, this focuses (as John would have it) less on the Baptist and more on the Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

Behold the Promised Christ

1. Behold the Promised Christ
The Baptist once foretold.
Behold the Seed, fulfilling all
The prophecies of old.

2. The blind are given sight.
The lame are made to stand.
The lepers healed, the dead are raised
By His almighty hand.

3. Poor sinners, we receive
The comfort of the Word.
Go, tell the things you hear and see:
The blessings from the Lord.

4. Rejoice, both great and least.
Cry out here and abroad.
Lift up your voice. Be not afraid.
Rejoice! Behold your God!

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
SM (66 86)
Tune: ST. THOMAS (LSB 331)

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sermon for 12/9/12--Second Sunday in Advent

The Comfort of Chaos

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

The world is a mess. The rich get richer and more selfish; the poor get poorer and more selfish. The economy is in the tank; crime is on the rise. And it wasn’t any better way back when. Things were just worse in different ways. Drought, plagues, epidemics, wars, and all manners of calamity have been around since the fall into sin. The world that obsesses over its problems has taught the Church to do the same. The reason these things are going on all around us is because the Last Day is near. And Jesus has told us. So repent of not being ready. Repent of being afraid and worried. Repent of your sins.

Today we hear about Jesus showing up on the clouds of heaven with glory and the earth being shaken and everyone dropping in fright. What a terrifying prospect! But what does Jesus say about it? When you see these things happening, lift up your heads! Your salvation is near! So what if the world is coming apart at the seams? Rejoice! It means the day is getting closer when Jesus will return and rescue us from this world of sorrow and tears. And that’s the main thing we need to hear today. The Jesus who is coming back is the same Jesus who came on that donkey to be arrested and crucified for sinners. Jesus did not come the first time to save us, only to come again to condemn us. Jesus is always all about saving sinners.

Jesus gives further comfort and hope when He says, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.” Everything around us is crumbling to dust. It breaks, rusts, fades away. Still we love to attach ourselves to our stuff in hopes that it will last forever. We know it won’t. But the words of Jesus—the words that declare you washed and a child of God in Baptism, the words that declare your sins forgiven in Holy Absolution, the words that give the body and blood—these words last forever. Our Lord calls us away from the things that don’t endure, and He directs us to that which does: His Word.

Jesus talks about all these signs in the heavens. Think about this: on Good Friday, when the Son of God died for you, the skies were darkened and the earth shook. On Easter morning, the ground shook again, cracking open a tomb from which our Lord strolled triumphant. At His Ascension, Jesus was lifted up to heaven and hidden by the clouds, and the angels said He would come back in the same way. The Last Day is always connected to Holy Week and Good Friday. Between His first coming and His second coming, the Lord’s words call us in faith away from the way the world lives. The Savior of Good Friday is the Savior of the Last Day; He is the same Savior who comes now in His church to comfort you with these words, to drive from you all fear and worry, and to call you to lift up your head and be ready to receive Him. And what does that look like? Live as a redeemed child of God. Serve as the Lord has called you. Love and serve your neighbor. Be here in the Divine Service where Christ rescues you from your sins and doubts and fears and worries. Come to hear and learn His Word in His Church, for your comfort will be great.

Jesus says that when you see the leaves appearing on the fig trees, you know that summer is near. The world being a mess is a sure sign our Lord is coming soon. So be ready—not by ignoring the signs or worrying over them. Be ready by being what you are: a baptized child of God. The Lord Himself has made you ready. That means when Jesus comes again, His saints don’t run and hide like the world is going to do. Instead we stand tall and rejoice that our salvation has come. We rejoice that the Jesus who came once to die and rise for us is coming back, for He is coming to make all things new and to give us eternal life! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sermon for 12/2/12--First Sunday in Advent


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

The candy corn from Halloween wasn’t even on discount before the lights were up and the Christmas music started. And while the world speeds toward Christmas, the Church begins her celebration of her new year with a reading from Holy Week. Makes sense, right? Why is it that the world is wrapping itself in glitter and ornaments, and the church is hearing about Jesus going into Jerusalem to die? Simply put, our life as the body of Christ is centered on the death of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead. We start the new church year with a reminder that the people of God waited a long time for Jesus. The world wants instant gratification with things that don’t really matter, while the church patiently awaits the coming of her Savior.

Since the Fall into sin, God promised that He would send His Son, the Seed to be born of a woman, who would save us from our sins. Advent reminds us that we’re not the only ones who have waited. All the saints who have gone before us longed for Christ to come. Our Old Testament brothers and sisters in the faith waited eagerly for the coming of the Savior. Abraham didn’t live to see it. Neither did Moses, Joshua, David or Isaiah. We rejoice that we get to see their hopes and promises fulfilled by Jesus. But now we wait for His return in glory. And since we have the testimony that Jesus was born and lived and died and rose again, we know that our waiting is not in vain because the Lord always keeps His promises. He promised to send His Son, and He did. And He promised to come again, and since He keeps His promises, we know He will come again.

But Advent also reminds us to wait. It is not for you to figure out when He will return, any more than it was up to Adam and Eve or Abraham and Sarah to fulfill the promise. And they tried. Adam and Eve thought Cain was the chosen one. Abraham and Sarah tried to force the fulfillment of the promise. No; it is for God to fulfill His promises in His time, and it is your job to wait and be ready. We know the He keeps His word. After all, the long-awaited Christ child was born. And then He grew up. He was baptized for you. He was tempted for you. He carried your sins for you. He was handed over for you. Mocked for you. Beaten for you. Spit upon for you. Scourged for you. Dragged to Calvary for you. Nailed to the cross for you. Died for you. And then He rose for you. His resurrection and ascension and all that He has done are yours. The world forgets. It rushes to Christmas and then, the next day, the toys are already forgotten and the gifts are put away or exchanged and just like that, Christmas is over. So it was when the Lord came in the flesh. His people eagerly awaited Him, and when they saw that He was no earthly king, they got tired of Him quickly and got rid of Him. But everything He did, He did for them. Everything He did, He did for you. They waited and waited, and whether they knew it or not, their waiting was not in vain. The Savior came.

Now we wait for the Lord until He comes again. But as we wait for that glorious return, He comes to us even now—not in showy ways, but in ways that are no less real. The Jesus who once came to His people in the prophecies of His Word and in a manger and on a donkey and on a cross, that same Jesus now comes to us in the font to wash and save. He comes in preaching and absolution to forgive. He comes in the Supper of His body and blood to live in us. We know that Jesus has come before. We know that He will come again. In the meantime, we receive Him in His Church, where He has promised to be. His Word and Sacraments are His pledge and promise that He will come again.

Jesus will come again in glory on the clouds of heaven with angels and the sound of the trumpet. He comes that day to raise us from the dead and give us everlasting life. On that day, all that He has done for us will be plainly seen. On that day, the sheep will rejoice and the wise virgins will welcome their bridegroom. His coming is not far away, though it may seem like it some days. In the meantime, He is right here where He has promised to be, reminding us that He is coming soon. Until that day, we live by faith. While the world rushes to prepare for a day that comes quickly and is soon forgotten, the Bride waits. Christ the Bridegroom is coming. We wait with joy. Our Lord is on His way, and He will come soon to deliver us from every evil and even from death itself. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly! In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sermon for 11/18/12--Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year


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

Hearing the text, our Old Adam takes the words of Jesus as a set of guidelines for what we should be doing so that He will allow us into heaven. We've got to get on the ball and do more to help the poor and the needy so that we will be counted worthy to enter heaven. And so we keep looking for spiritual checklist that we can fulfill: feed the hungry–check; clothe the naked–check; visit the sick–check. There, I've done my part; I'm being a Christian now. But by doing that, you are putting your faith in yourself, not in Christ. To do that is contrary to the Word of God. Let me be clear: we should help the needy and do charitable works toward our neighbor. The Fifth Commandment requires that we help our neighbor in every bodily need. But the Commandments are God's Law, and we can’t rely on the Law to save us; the Law only brings judgment. 

How, then, do we understand this aright? This is not so much about good works as it is about faith in Christ.  The focus is on Him and what He has done. Notice what Jesus says: “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Jesus isn't just talking about any old charitable deeds here, but ones done towards His brethren. So just who are the brothers of Jesus that are referred to here? St. Matthew would have us understand that these brethren are in fact the preachers of the Gospel. And the difference between the sheep and the goats is whether or not they received Jesus' brethren and believed the Gospel that these men proclaimed.

In Matthew 10 the Lord Jesus said to His apostles, “He who receives you receives Me.” The preachers who are sent with the task of preaching the Gospel—these men represent Christ. To hear them is to hear the Lord Himself, and to reject such a preacher is to reject Christ; they are called and ordained by Christ to be His representatives. When a pastor says, “I forgive you all your sins,” he is not speaking for himself, but in the stead and by the command of Christ. When he says, “This is My body,” that is not his voice, but Christ's.  And the same is true of Holy Baptism. Jesus is the one giving out the gift of salvation in the water.  The man Jesus uses to do these tasks is really secondary; he's covered in robes, wearing a slave collar, to show that he is a servant who represents the Lord Jesus Christ. To receive a preacher of Christ is to receive Christ Himself–not because of the merits of the pastor, who is among the greatest of sinners, but because Christ is truly present in the ministry of His Word and Sacraments for your salvation.

Our text is chiefly about those who embrace and those who reject the Gospel of Christ. It's not primarily a call to do works of mercy. It's ultimately about faith in the Gospel of Christ—and works are a consequence of that faith. This faith is brought to perfection on the Last Day, when the sheep seem blissfully unaware of the things they have done. True faith focuses not on one's own deeds, but on the deeds of Christ. “When did we do all these things?  All we did was believe the Gospel!” Faith forgets itself that it may forever remember and retain Christ and His eternal gifts.

Our Lord Jesus won those gifts for you by becoming needy in your place.  He was weak and hungry in the wilderness. On the cross He said, “I thirst.” He Himself took your infirmities and bore your sicknesses in His own body on the tree.  He was treated like a stranger amongst His own people. He put Himself into the bondage of your sin so that He might burst the bars of your captivity by His mighty resurrection.  Through Christ you are set free from death and the devil; you are released from your sins; you are cleansed and forgiven in Him. He made Himself to be the least of the brethren so that you might receive the greatest of His mercies. He showed the truest and highest charity, paying with His own blood to redeem you, so that you might live in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. 

You have heard the Word, preached to you by Christ’s faithful “brethren”—men like Pastor Welp and those who have followed him. You have received their preaching as the preaching of Christ Himself. On the Last Day, Jesus will certainly say to you who believe, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” It's all a gift, given to you through the merits of 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, November 11, 2012

Sermon for 11/11/12--Third Last Sunday of the Church Year

Signs and Warnings

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

We have begun the countdown to the end of the Church Year, when the Church turns its attention to the Second Coming of Christ and to the new heaven and the new earth. But until that day arrives, the Lord warns that there will be false messiahs and false prophets running around in this world, seeking to deceive God's people and steal them away from Him. So He warns you not to believe it when you hear preachers who point to some messiah who is not the real one. As sincerely as you warn your children away from strangers, hear the Lord's warning today. His Words will save you!

The thing about false prophets is that they try to look and sound like Jesus and His preachers. Every day people are fooled by preachers and religious leaders who sound like they are preaching Christ but really are not. People especially fall for what looks like miracles and signs done by those who claim to be Christ or represent Christ. The devil’s greatest tactic in opposing Christ is not by sounding like he's against Christ—though he does that too. But more effective is when Satan tries to sound like he is Christ. Consider the golden calf. The people made the calf, and then Aaron said, “Tomorrow is a festival to the Lord!” It was an idol, a false god, but the Lord's name was attached to confuse the people and lead them astray! So it is with false prophets today: they'll sound a whole lot like Jesus and Christians—so much so that many will follow their lies.

But there is a difference between false prophets and the true Christ. The True Jesus is the Son of God who is also true man who saves you from your sins. Did the golden calf rescue the Israelites from Egypt? No; the Lord did! Jesus Christ is true God and true man who died and rose for our salvation. That is not what you will hear from false teachers. False prophets will tell you what your itching ears want to hear: that the life of Christians is a life of ease, that God wants you to be wealthy in the things of this world, that your best life is now. What you won't hear from the false preachers is that Christ came to be made sin for you. On the cross, He was cursed for your sins. Your sins are so awful that the Son of God had to shed His blood and die to get rid of them. Christ does not save you by showing you how to live or by teaching you some path to inner peace or anything else like that. He is your Savior hanging the cross on Calvary and bleeding and dying for sinners—for you. He rose from the dead to raise sinners—to raise you. His death and resurrection for sinners set Christ apart from every impostor.

So how do you tell the difference between the impostors and the real deal? Christ has given you His Word and Sacraments; by those alone you know Him. By those alone you have His forgiveness. Christ tells you to hear and believe His Word, not look for miraculous signs. If a preacher doesn't preach Christ crucified and risen for the remission of sins, then run from him. If a preacher denies Baptism's power to save you, run away! If a preacher doesn't point you to the body and blood of Jesus given in His Supper, then close your ears to what he preaches! A false preacher will direct your attention away from God's Word in the Scriptures, away from Baptism and Absolution and the Holy Supper. The false prophet will astound with his exciting teaching, his wonderful and fake gifts of prophecy and knowledge, his wealth, his charisma—even with miracles which seem to confirm that he is authentic. But if he does not preach Christ crucified for sinners, then don't believe him! Run away! Close your ears! My brothers and sisters in Christ: the Lord has given you His Word. He gives you forgiveness at the font in Baptism and from the lips of your pastor and at the altar of His Supper. Cling to those things, and you will not be led astray.

When Christ returns, you will know it without a doubt. Until then, the devil and his preachers will impersonate Christ and try to fool you. But don't be fooled! You are washed in water and the word, fed with the body and blood of Christ, and declared forgiven! Only the true Jesus who has made you His own gives that to you. He will keep and protect you from all the devils out there who will try to steal you away from Him. Devils will fill the world, eager to devour you. Jesus says there will be. But resting in His Word, they will not overcome you. Until that great and glorious day when the new heavens and the new earth will come, the Church prays with the saints of all times and places: “Amen! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               

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

Monday, November 05, 2012

ONE THING'S NEEDFUL released today!

Christmas has come to Narnia! Er...umm...okay, so that was a bit dramatic.

I'm sure you know how aggravating it is to start reading a book, only to realize it's one of a series, and the complete series hasn't been released yet. I've been there myself, and it makes my teeth itch. Well, the wait is over. "One Thing's Needful", the third and final book of the "Thy Strong Word" series, has been released today! It is available in Kindle and print formats.

Pastor Justin Corwin of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Carousel, New York, and his wife, Detective Beth Corwin of the Carousel Police Department, find themselves in the midst of tribulation. Beth's body has betrayed her, making an unwanted surgery a necessity. Justin is dealing with uncertainty regarding his effectiveness as Pastor and as Chaplain of the Carousel Fire Department. Both of them are finding that it's not as easy to live their God-given vocations as they had hoped. Will they require a change of scenery to again find the joy in the Lord which seems so hard to obtain?

My intention in writing these books was to make sort of a poor man's "Hammer of God". They're about vocation and Lutheran apologetics, with a touch of romance and at least a little humor.

If you've read the first two books, it's time to complete the set. If you were waiting for the last book to be released, it's time! If you're looking for a Christmas gift for a friend, this could be what you've been seeking.

Click the link to find links for all three books in both formats: CLICK HERE!

For those of you who are waiting for the ePub versions, send me an e-mail, and I will make arrangements with you. You can reach me at revalkorn AT gmail DOT com. (Sorry. Trying to block the spammers!)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

HYMN: A Son Abides Forever

This idea popped into my head as I was writing my sermon for this past Sunday, on which we observed the Festival of the Reformation. Based on John 8:31-36 and Revelation 14:6-7, this hymn focuses on the central theme of the Reformation: faithfulness to the Word of God. It's a little rough, so any advice would be appreciated.

A Son Abides Forever

1. A son abides forever,
Remaining in the Word.
In faith shall nothing sever
Disciples from their Lord.
We thank you, Holy Jesus,
Who from our sin released us.
God's children are restored.

2. Fear God and give Him glory.
His judgment hour is nigh.
Adore and serve Him only--
He is the Lord Most High.
Tell ev'ry tribe and nation
Of Him who won salvation
And lives that death would die.

3. All glory to the Father,
All glory to the Son,
All glory to the Spirit--
Almighty Three-in-One.
All worship and thanksgiving
To God from all things living
While endless ages run.

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
76 76 776

Sermon for 11/4/12--Feast of All Saints (observed)


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

Like much of Scripture, the Beatitudes are not easily understood. There have been as many interpretations of the Beatitudes as there have been interpreters. The most obvious interpretation is that these are principles for Christian living, moral lessons for your best life now. Rationalists have seen them as a structure for establishing a humane society—which ignores the fact that these were given only to Christians. But if they’re not either of these things, what are they? The answer is found in what they are named. A beatitude refers to a state of blessedness, and blessedness is something we can never give ourselves. It must come from outside of us.

Perhaps the problem is that the Beatitudes are given by Jesus in a scene that reminds us of the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai: a divine revelation of truth from the mountainside. But Jesus is not a new Moses; He is the fulfillment of what was given through Moses. And the Beatitudes are not a new Law or new interpretation of the old Law. The beatitudes are pure Gospel! Look no further than the word “blessed.” There are no threats in the Beatitudes. There is no admonition. They are words of promise, and so they are descriptions of what we are by grace as Christians. When we hear the words of the Beatitudes, we hear them as descriptions of who and what we are.

But when we take an honest look at ourselves, we see that we are none of these things. We are not poor in spirit; we are prideful and full of arrogance. Though we do mourn, our mourning is self-indulgence, a way of drawing the sympathy of those around us. We are not meek; we are brash and loud and disrespectful, especially when it comes to how we think God has been too hard on us or is giving us too much to handle. We do not hunger and thirst for righteousness; we satisfy ourselves with material wealth and instant gratification. We are not interested in showing mercy—unless, of course, someone has shown it to us first. We are certainly not pure in heart; it doesn’t take the Shadow to know what evil lurks in the hearts of men. We are not peacemakers; we carry our grudges like badges of honor. And we are never in the mood to be persecuted; the Christian faith should make us comfortable, at ease. How can the Beatitudes be speaking about us? We aren’t these things…and yet we are. How can this be?

Remember that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. First and foremost, the Beatitudes describe Him. He was truly poor in spirit, humbly becoming Man to save us. He mourned the sin that afflicted creation, and was comforted in knowing He would redeem His creatures. He was truly meek, allowing men to do their worst to Him without flinching. He hungered and thirsted for righteousness, and, indeed, came to fulfill all righteousness. He was merciful in all ways—look at the cross and try to deny His mercy. He was pure in heart, always in communion with the Father, always doing His Father’s will. He was the great peacemaker, for He reconciled man to God through His blood. And He was persecuted to make us righteous.

Jesus was and is all of these things; we are none of them. And yet, in Him we are all these things too. This is the great paradox St. Paul described when he said of Jesus, “He was made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” All that we are, He took upon Himself and bore it to death on the cross. In return, He gave us all that is His—His innocence, His blessedness. In Christ, we are everything the Beatitudes depict. This is our blessedness, and it comes as every blessing does: as a gift.

On the Feast of All Saints, our thoughts often and rightly turn to those who have gone before us—mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends and congregation members like Adele, Karen, David and Tillie—all the faithful of the Lord who have lived and died, clinging to their Baptism. In one respect, our lives are diminished by their passing, for we have lost something we will not regain in this life. But our faith has been strengthened also, for we commend them to the One who is the Resurrection and the Life. Surely they are saints. But so are we. The difference between them and us is not one of blessedness. The difference is that we see the truth of the Word of God dimly, as St. Paul wrote, through a dark glass. We continue to walk by faith; they see our Lord and the truth of the Word of God clearly. Or as we just sang, “We feebly struggle; they in glory shine. Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine. Alleluia!”

We share blessedness with all the saints of God. We are His blessed ones, forever united with all who have called upon our Lord Jesus Christ by faith—“with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.” And we sing together our praise to the Lamb who was slain, evermore praising Him and saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory; Hosanna in the highest!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sermon for 10/28/12--Festival of the Reformation (observed)

Slaves and Sons

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

Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” It would not be a mistake to say that these words explain the central truth of the Reformation. Abiding in the truth of the Word of God was Martin Luther’s main point. That main point was reflected in his translation of the Holy Scriptures into German, so that anyone—not just the clergy—could read the Bible. That main point was reflected in Luther's Catechism, written so that anyone could understand and teach their children the basic doctrine of the Bible.

Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Sadly, the people who heard Him took offense to His words. The astonishing thing is that those who took offense were those described as “those who believed Him.” But if they truly believed Jesus, why would they be offended by what He had to say? And the answer is simple: though they believed what Jesus said to them, their confidence was in their ancestry, their heritage. “We are Abraham’s descendents,” they said. Abraham was their idol; it was as if he was a god to them, and their heritage as his sons was their salvation.

Many of you have been Lutherans since the day you were baptized as an infant. Some of you come from generations of Lutherans. Some of you are descendents of founding members of St. Peter. Some of you even attended our day school. You know the Bible, the Catechism, and the great hymns of the faith. You’ve learned the truth of the Word from your parents and from faithful pastors and teachers. You come to this place to hear the truth. You sit in your pew and you listen as your pastor preaches the Law to you and then speaks to you the comforting message that Christ has delivered forgiveness to you through His death and resurrection. You come here to return to your baptism through repentance and faith. You come here to hear the word of Holy Absolution, spoken to you by your pastor as by Christ Himself. You come here to receive in your mouth the body and blood of Jesus Christ, given and shed for you. You have a heritage of faith, and that’s a wonderful blessing from the Lord.

And yet…and yet, there are times when the message is not what you think you should be hearing. Your pastor preaches, and you can’t help but think that the sermon is being preached to the choir, that there’s no need for the pastor to preach to life-long, every-Sunday churchgoers the way he does to real sinners. It makes you uncomfortable, for example, when he speaks of individual confession and absolution. It irritates when he preaches about the Lord’s Supper on days when it’s not offered. His message makes you squirm in your pew because he’s telling you that ‘the way things have always been,’ the way your parents and grandparents did things, does not cut it as a reason to refuse the gifts of God. “But isn’t it enough that St. Peter has been a faithful outpost in Campbell Hill for nearly 125 years?” “Isn’t it enough that our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has been bringing the Word to our country and the world for 165 years?” “Isn’t it enough that, 482 years ago, Martin Luther gave us a theological heritage?” These earthly institutions become idols, slave chains that bind you to sin. Being called “Lutheran” or even “Christian” cannot save you. Many who claim those names have abandoned the Word. Neither Martin Luther nor CFW Walther can free you from slavery to sin. Membership here does not give you an eternal heritage.

Only the truth of the Word of God sets free repentant sinners. That is the true, eternal heritage we have as sons of our heavenly Father, disciples who abide in the Word of God. Our true heritage as sons is that our Father’s dwelling place is our home as well. The Divine Service is our family gathering. In this house we are clothed with the white robe of Christ’s righteousness in Holy Baptism. In this house we are fed with the body and blood of Christ, our Brother—a meal which fully nourishes us and quenches our thirst. Our Father spends quality time with us in the Word, where Christ’s faithful preachers share our family history, telling us the good news of how our Brother took our sins upon Himself, bearing them to the cross, suffering and dying in our place, and then raising us up with Him in baptismal waters. That sacrifice has broken the chains that bound us to sin.

The Gospel is an offense. The Word of God will never be popular in the eyes of the world. The children of the world are happy to be slaves. They have their reward: earthly treasures of fame, popularity, and fortune—all of which will fade away, all of which leave them as slaves of sin. But as sons of our heavenly Father, our heritage, our eternal inheritance, is freedom from sin and a place in the house of our heavenly Father. “The Kingdom ours remaineth.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.              

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

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sermon for 10/21/12--Trinity 20

The Wedding Banquet

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

The imagery of marriage is one of Scripture’s richest and most beautiful pictures of the relationship between God and His people.  It is expressed frequently in the New Testament as an image of the “marriage”, if you will, between Christ and His Church.  We see this as early as Jesus’ miracle at the Wedding at Cana.  But this was also a picture not unknown to the Old Testament.  Now and again, the prophets would speak of God as the “husband” of His people, which meant, of course, that they were like a “bride” to Him.  He would love them and care for them and provide for them, and they were to honor and love Him in return.  And when they would not, it was as if they were committing adultery; evil, treacherous, destructive, and even self-destructive.  And that is how this text finds Israel.  She has had the invitation for years, but has made one excuse after the other to justify her spiritual adultery.  The succession of servants sent by the king with his invitation have been met with anger and spite; they were treated shamefully, and some were even killed.  Finally, the patience of the king ran its course.  Angrily, he sent his troops to kill those who had murdered his servants, and then burned their cities to the ground.

Keep in mind that this feast was not just any feast.  It was a marriage feast, and a royal one, at that.  It was a feast given by the king for his son, the prince.  It was a feast to end all feasts.  To be invited to it was a mark of profound privilege; to reject such an invitation was an offense like no other. The meaning was plain for those who would see it.  Jesus Himself was their last invitation.  If they rejected Him, they would suffer the consequences of that rejection.  To spurn the personal invitation of the king, delivered by his son, would be the height of arrogance.  There would be no more invitations.  

It’s easy for us to look at this parable in a detached sort of way.  After all, we are those who were out on the thoroughfares, as the parable describes it, those in the streets to whom the king sent his servants with the invitation.  The feast was all prepared, but there was no one to enjoy it; no one to share the king’s joy in the marriage of his son.  That is where we come in.  The invitation has gone out to others.  They are called the Church, literally, the “called-out ones,” those whom the king has called to fill up His banquet hall.  But, are we not faced with the same danger that overcame those who were first given the invitation?  Don’t we find excuses to turn a deaf ear to the king when he calls out to us?   Don’t we find it too easy to neglect that invitation that is always new and always fresh with its promise of the king’s blessing?

Consider the man who tried to crash the party without the appropriate wedding garment.  Today, entrance to a great feast would be gained by means of an engraved invitation, most likely. In this instance, the king gave to each one invited a garment that would be instantly identifiable as his; there would be found his name or his mark, something which would set his garments off from all others.  

And that is just what we have been given.  We have been “clothed with Christ”, St. Paul said.  His reference was to Holy Baptism.  In Holy Baptism we have been named with His name.  We are unmistakably identified with our Lord Jesus Christ, set apart by Him for a life that is eternal.  But, what happens all too often is that Baptismal faith is not fed and nourished.  It is not sustained with the Word of God and prayer, and thus withers up and dies like a branch that is severed from the vine.  And only because of neglect, only from taking for granted the king’s invitation, not taking seriously his wish to bring us and to keep us at his eternal feast.

Does this, in any way, describe where you are at this moment?  Is it possible that, though you may be here frequently, still you have, in truth, neglected the invitation of the Lord to enjoy His eternal feast?  There is one above all, and that is the feast our Lord spreads at His table for us, the blessed meal of His holy body and blood, a “foretaste of the feast divine,” as it sometimes called.  And that it surely is!  As we confess in the liturgy, it is that point at which we join with angels and arch-angels and the whole company of heaven.  It is a preview of the marriage feast of the Lamb, whose Kingdom will have no end.

If you have neglected this invitation, here is where to make amends.  The wedding garment you were given in Holy Baptism still bears His name.  It is still the guarantee of your entrance to the eternal feast.  As you confess your sins and have received the Lord’s word of absolution, come to this table and partake of the very body and blood of the Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world.  Even now He prepares that eternal feast of His love and joy for you, and you are an invited and welcome guest at His table.  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, October 17, 2012

HYMN: Your Sins Are Now Forgiven You

It may be a little ambitious, and I don't expect to be done any time soon, but I've embarked on a project to write a hymn for every Sunday of the Church Year in the 1-year Lectionary as we have it in LSB. I already have a bit of a head start from hymns I've already written, and I don't mind using work I've already done on a new project (since this isn't school and I'm not passing it off as new work anyway). 

My latest is based on the readings--especially the Gospel--from this past Sunday, the Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity. The Gospel is Matthew 9:1-8, and, as is revealed by the repeated theme, my text focuses especially on verse 8: "Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men." As always, I'd appreciate any feedback, as this is a very raw first draft.

Your Sins Are Now Forgiven You

1. "Your sins are now forgiven you.
Arise and go your way."
Our Lord, who bears the keys to death
Holds all sin's might at bay.
He speaks forgiveness unto us
Who sin and sin again.
All glory be to God on high
Who gives such pow'r to men.

2. He bore our sins unto the cross.
He paid redemption's price.
He showers us with grace through His
Atoning sacrifice.
As God and man He knows that we
Are paralyzed by sin.
All glory be to God on high
Who gives such pow'r to men.

3. Authority to loose our sins
Belongs to God alone.
But Christ, who intercedes for us
Before the Father's throne,
Calls men to serve, and in His stead
They preach God's grace again.
All glory be to God on high
Who gives such pow'r to men.

4. All glory to the Father be,
Who sent His Son to save.
All praise to Christ, our Paschal Lamb.
His life He freely gave.
All praise the Spirit, working faith
In blood-bought, baptized men.
All glory be to God on High
Eternally. Amen.

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
CMD (86 86 D)

Sermon for 10/14/12--Trinity 19

A Man Forgives

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

Jesus forgave and healed a paralyzed man. The scribes were outraged because only God can forgive sins. But the crowds were amazed, and they glorified God who had given such authority to men. What amazed them, even more than seeing a paralyzed man suddenly able to walk, was that a man could forgive sins. With that forgiveness, every accusation of the Devil against the forgiven man is dropped. That's what forgiveness does. It turns everything around. It rescues us from eternal punishment, cancels every accusation, destroys all evidence for our judgment and transfers us from the darkness of eternal despair to the everlasting life and light of God Himself. The Jews thought only God could do that, but here was a man doing it! Of course, as we heard last week, Jesus is true God and true man. But this is the same authority Christ then gave to His church. 

The center, the big deal of the Christian faith is the forgiveness of sins purchased for us with the blood of Jesus. The paralyzed guy and his friends come so that Jesus can heal him and make him walk. But Jesus gives him something extra. He forgives the man's sins, granting him everlasting life. Jesus is all about forgiving sins. Sins bring condemnation. They are the reason we are separated from God. But Jesus came to forgive sins, to cancel debt. This forgiveness comes at the price of Jesus' blood. On the cross, Jesus has our sins. Every last thought, word, deed and curse upon us is taken by our Lord and washed away by the blood He sheds. Every last accusation of the Devil is turned aside. Every punishment of sin is lifted from us because Jesus is now the lightning rod of God's judgment. By His death, Jesus takes away sins. By His resurrection He triumphs over death. Sin has been overcome. 

And then Jesus makes sure that this forgiveness is delivered to us and bestowed upon us. How do we get this forgiveness? How does what happened at the cross become ours? Praise be to God who has given such authority to men! By the hand of your pastor, you were washed at the font with God's Word and water. By the mouth of your pastor your sins are forgiven every time the absolution is spoken either publicly or privately. By the hand of a man, your pastor, Christ places His body and blood into your mouth for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. The same thing Jesus says to the paralyzed man is the same thing you pastor says: Your sins are forgiven. When your pastor, called and ordained by Christ, preaching and teaching Christ's word, forgives you your sins, then have no doubt that they are forgiven. How can this be? It is so because God has given such authority to men! The forgiveness your pastor speaks to you is Christ's own forgiveness. What Jesus won at the cross, it's your pastor’s job to deliver and give to you. Our Lord doesn't keep you guessing as to whether you sins are forgiven. He speaks His word of forgiveness plainly through the mouth of your pastor who says, “In the stead and by the command of Christ, I forgive your sins.”

But there's more. The authority given to men to forgive sins is given to you, too, because you are a new creation in Christ. You have the same power, from Christ Himself, to lift the burden of sin from others. Think about this carefully! Parents, when your children are crushed by the wrong they've done, scared that you don't love them, worried that they're out of the family, forgive them! Lift from them the burden of wondering whether their sins have made your and God stop loving them. Husbands and wives, when your spouse is troubled that whatever they've done or failed to do means you have every right to stop loving them and throw them out the front door, then forgive them! Lift from them that burden of their sins which brings them to despair. Lift them up with such forgiveness as you have received, that they are comforted. Pay close attention to people around you. You will see that most are struggling with the burden of their sins. Something they've done. Something they've failed to do. The devil can get at consciences so easily, fooling people into thinking their sins are enough for God to stop loving them and have nothing to do with them. As a baptized child of God, do your job! Exercise the authority Christ has given to cast down Satan and rescue sinners: tell them that their sins are forgiven. Forgive them if their sins are against you and deliver to them the forgiveness of Christ. When someone sins against you and they tremble to seek your forgiveness, give it gladly! And rejoice that Christ has given such authority to you! Receive the forgiveness Christ has for you so that in confidence you may forgive others with that same comforting gift. 

Christ's word of forgiveness, spoken to us by men, truly rescues us from our sins and makes us, like the paralyzed man, leap up and glorify God. And just as the paralyzed man could now walk and go home, so now we, forgiven of our sins, go home to be with Christ. Let us glorify God, who has given such authority to men! 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, October 10, 2012

Sermon for 10/7/12--Trinity 18

Son and Lord

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

If Jesus is David’s Lord, how can he also be David’s son? The religious leaders of Jesus’ day didn’t even try to answer. And because they couldn’t understand, they wouldn’t believe that Jesus was the Savior. What about you? Can you answer that question? This question separates Christians from non-Christians. It’s the question which shows whether a person’s religion is about them or about the Lord. How can Jesus be David’s Lord and a descendant of David? Here’s the simple answer—and I hope it sounds very familiar to my catechism students: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.” As God, He is David’s Lord. As a man, he is the descendant of David.

That’s all well and good, but what does that have to do with the commandments of which Jesus speaks? He says that you are to love God and love your neighbor, and He adds, “On those two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” What hangs on those commandments? Jesus does! When He hangs on the cross, He’s hanging on “Love God” and “Love your neighbor.” Those two commandments judged and condemned Him for your lack of love for God and your neighbor. But also while hanging on the cross and dying for our sins, Jesus is keeping those two commandments. On the cross, He loves His Father above all things and is obedient even unto death. And on that cross, since He’s dying for you, He is loving His neighbor. The Law is God and neighbor. The Savior is God and man. What Jesus does on that cross has everything to do with who He is as both David’s Lord and David’s Son.

Some want to imagine that Jesus is only God. He is high and exalted and almighty. How are we supposed to relate to a God who is pure awesome holiness when we’re just miserable sinners? They are disgusted to think that God could become man and take on human flesh. They believe that should be beneath Him. But a timid God doesn’t save us. Our Lord must become man to be human like His creatures and take what is ours—our sin and death. On the other hand, some think that Jesus was just a man. But no mere man can save you. No man’s sacrifice can be for the whole world. No mere man can overcome the devil and death. Jesus wasn’t just a moral example. He is the God-man Who gave Himself as a sacrifice for us so that we may have eternal life.

It is so easy to look at Jesus and see what you want to see. But my brothers and sisters in Christ, you are Christians because Jesus is God and man. Jesus is not so big that He has nothing to do with you. He is not out to get you. He doesn’t see you as small and insignificant. And He is not so small that He is unable to handle all your sins, worries, doubts and fears. He knows your doubts and fears, your struggles and temptations. As a man, He faced them, too. But as God and man both, He knows your struggles, your needs, and your sins, and He has the power to overcome them

So how can Jesus be David’s Lord and also His son? Because Jesus is true God and true man. There He is, keeping the commandments. There He is: the sacrifice for our sins. There He is: the salvation of the world. He is your confidence that you are the Lord’s forever. In a world where every man tries to be “god” and every so-called god is really just a man, the true God becomes a real man and loves God and neighbor perfectly. He dies on the cross and rises again, and in doing so He takes away your sin and gives you life. At the font and the altar, this God-man comes to you, washes you, and lifts you from your sins to be with Him. He feeds you and promises to raise you to everlasting life on the last day. He who is David’s Lord is our Lord, and He who is David’s son has made you a child 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 will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

HYMN: See the Son Arise with Healing

I enjoyed an introvert's holiday today. I spent most of the day huddled in my office, working either silently or with some quiet music playing in the background. I was looking through the Propers for upcoming Sundays in the Church year, and I came upon the Propers for the Second Sunday in Advent. An idea popped into my head to blend the readings together, and I ran with it. As always, any feedback would be appreciated.

See the Son Arise with Healing

1. See the Son arise with healing,
All His righteousness revealing
For the saints who fear His name.
They shall prosper without measure
Who in Christ have found their treasure.
They shall ne’er be put to shame.

2. Sun and moon and all creation
Wait in eager expectation.
Nations rage in deep distress,
For the Son of Man is coming.
With His pow’r the earth is humming.
Lo, He comes to curse and bless.

3. Yet the proud the Lord will chasten.
They have spurned their own salvation
Given by the Lord Most High.
In that day the Christ will snare them.
Cares and drunkenness—beware them,
For the Son of Man comes nigh.

4. Stir our hearts and make them steady,
That we might be ever ready
To prepare Your blameless way.
Cleanse us, Lord, to serve You solely.
Make us humble, pure, and holy
For that great and glorious day.

© Alan Kornacki, Jr.
887 887

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sermon for 9/30/12--Tnity 17

Healing on the Sabbath

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

Why can’t just anyone commune in our churches? Why must they be baptized and learn the Scriptures and the Catechism and be confirmed? Why must they be examined and absolved by the pastor before being given Christ's body and blood? The answer to all this is given in the Gospel: You don't just come in and go straight to the head of the table as if you belong there! Rather it is Christ who invites you to His altar and supper. Jesus uses the example of the Pharisees and experts in the Law who would throw a dinner and then they would all scramble to sit up near the host instead of farther away. The closer you sat to the guy throwing the party, the higher your social status. For the Pharisees, a dinner was a chance to show off how important you were. For the Pharisees, the Sabbath was a chance to show off how religious you were. For many people, going to church and receiving the Sacrament is the same thing: it's a chance to prove to others how pious you are. It's an opportunity to remind God how lucky He is to have you show up for church! But that's not what the Sabbath is all about.

The Sabbath is the day for hearing God's Word and being healed from our sins. For the Pharisees, the Sabbath is a day to act religious and holy. For Jesus, the Sabbath, like any other day, is an opportunity to speak God's Word and heal those who are sick and hurt by their sins. The reason to come to church is not to impress God, but to receive from the Lord the forgiveness we need—without which we will perish eternally. The Sabbath is all about Christ healing people. The Sabbath is all about the Lord taking the broken and the humble and bringing them to the place of honor while taking those who are proud and religious and haughty and knocking them down. For those who are humbled by the preaching of repentance, the Lord brings healing and an exalted spot at the table. Those who in their pride need no repentance, the Lord casts aside. In short, the Sabbath, our Sunday liturgy, is not about us telling God what we're owed. It's about the Lord telling us what He has given us in Christ.

That's the problem with sinners. We like to make going to church a work that we do to show we're religious—just as the Pharisees would never think of the Sabbath as a day for healing. We figure we had better show up because that's what's expected of us. Worse, we think that because our name is on some membership list somewhere or because we call ourselves Christians, that we are entitled to just walk into God's presence and expect Him to acknowledge us. That is not repentance and faith. That is pride and arrogance. But in truth, you have no worthiness. Learn the repentance that brings you to the foot of the table, the worst place, the place you deserve. Leave it to Christ to lift you up and bring you higher.

You see, Christ is the very person of whom He speaks. The Father prepares a wedding feast. Does Christ jump to the head of the line? Does our Lord shove everyone else out of the way and put Himself first? Does Jesus come into this world to dethrone kings and emperors and take their place, lording it over the world? “I'm Jesus! I'm the Son of God. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” No. Jesus comes and takes the lowest place. Born in a barn, raised in the backwater of Galilee, He never has power or money or any of those things the world prizes. But then He goes to the cross. There, on the cross, He is condemned as a common criminal and judged by His Father as the worst and only sinner. There, on the cross of Calvary, Jesus is the lowest, the most despised, the most humble, the worst, the weakest, the least. There, He has the lowest place of all. By taking that place, He takes our sins on Himself and takes them away by His bloody death. Then what? Jesus says, “Take the lowest place and then you will be asked to come up higher.” So Jesus defeats sin, death and the devil. He rises from the dead. He ascends and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Christ has been brought up from the lowest place—suffering for our sins—to the highest place: the right hand of the Father. He has been crowned with all glory and majesty and honor. As Saint Paul writes, “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So He lords it over us now, right? Not at all! He is lifted up so that we are lifted up with Him!

Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles Himself will be exalted.” We who have been humbled in our sin are now with Christ who is seated at the right hand of God! If the Sabbath for you is nothing more than showing off your religion, then repent! If you expect you are owed the Sacrament but don't want to learn Christ's Word and Catechism, then repent! Be humbled. If, on the other hand, you are humbled by your sins and recognize your unworthiness, then rejoice! For Christ has lifted you up. Having been brought from your sins in humble repentance, hear again the Lord's invitation to come up higher. Come now to the feast, be welcomed as Christ's holy guests and be given the gift once more of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. 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 23, 2012

Sermon for 9/23/12--Trinity 16

Power Over Death

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

Jesus walked up to the open coffin, and everyone stopped. He said to the woman, “Do not weep.” Then He told the boy to get up. That is how our Savior deals with death: He treats it as a nothing. There was weeping and wailing and a widowed mother burying her son. And Jesus just strolled up to the coffin and brought the boy to life. It’s as if He has power over death, as if death must yield before him. And it must. Death runs from Christ because He defeated death. He died on a cross with our sins. But on Easter, the third day, death flees from Him. Jesus is alive. Death is powerless before Him.

The one thing that the world cannot control is death. You could probably argue that there are plenty of non-Christians out there living happily without any sort of faith at all. But they will face death. Death can come without any warning. The world fears death. It spares no expense trying to avoid it or overcome it. But it can’t. And every person—the poorest and the richest, the oldest and youngest and even the unborn—eventually will be lowered into that hole or shoved into that vault or poured into an urn. There are no exceptions.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where the Christian faith matters most. Many religions have morality. Even people without religion have some sort of right and wrong. There are many who seem to get along just fine in this life without any reference to God or faith. But the great equalizer is death. And for death, for which the world can’t find an answer, we Christians know the truth: Death is defeated. It’s not natural. It’s not a natural part of life. Death is an enemy, but it’s an enemy that has been defeated. When it all comes down to it, nothing in this world can answer the question of what happens when we are put into the ground other than the Christian faith: namely, that on the Last Day we will be raised up again and live forever.

Death may seem a long way off, but we know it can come at any time. In order to teach us not to fear death or think that it’s the end or buy into the world’s silly idea that it’s just a part of life, Jesus rescues us from it. The young man of Nain is an example of this. Jesus touched the coffin, spoke His Word of life, and handed him to his mother. He does the same thing for you. You were born into this world dead. But at the font, Jesus spoke His Word and raised you from the dead. And then He handed you over to your holy mother, the Church, who cares for you in life and when you die. Your whole life in Christ is a denial of death. Now, we don’t pretend we’re never going to pass away. But we do deny the power of death. We deny that death is the end of our lives, that it will keep us down. Against all these things Jesus’ victory over death and your Baptism into that victory mean you have the victory over death as well.

When Jesus raised this widow’s son, the people were amazed. They said, “God has visited His people.” That’s what happens when God shows up. He takes your sin and your death into Himself and gives you life. He raises the dead and gives them to their mother. He gives you victory over death by your Baptism and His Body and Blood, and He puts you into the care of your mother, the church. And on the last day, He will speak to you in that hole in the ground or that urn on the shelf and say, “I say to you, arise!” And you will rise. You will live forever in the new heaven and earth that your Father has prepared for you. “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The Lord has conquered death, and it no longer has any power over 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.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

HYMN: The Blood of Martyred Children Cries

Here is my latest work. It's meant for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, celebrated on December 28, the day the Church commemorates the martyrdom of those children murdered by King Herod when he sought to kill the Christ child. The text is Matthew 2:1-18. As always, any feedback would be appreciated. (NOTE on 12/28/12--Edited to add verse 7 about abortion.)

The Blood of Martyred Children Cries

1. The blood of martyred children cries.
Innocent, Rachel's children die,
Victims of Herod's heedless rage.
War on the helpless he did wage.

2. The wise men from the East drew near.
"We seek the King of Israel here.
Lo, we have seen His glorious star
And come to worship from afar."

3. Then Herod, with a troubled mind,
Asked his advisers Christ to find.
"Seek Him in Bethlehem," they said,
"Who would be King in Herod's stead."

4. He sent the wise men to the Child
To lead him to this King reviled.
But they returned a diff'rent way.
His dreadful plan was held at bay.

5. He schemed to murder Jesus still,
His earthly kingdom to fulfill.
Blameless young boys he put to death,
Robbing them of their life's last breath.

6. We thank You for the Innocents,
Martyrs for Christ without offense.
Grant that we share their holy rest,
Clothed in Christ's perfect righteousness. 

7. Protect Your own dear children, Lord,
From those who wield abortion's sword.
Teach us to love what You create
And keep all life inviolate.

8. We praise you, Father, holy Son,
And Holy Ghost, forever one.
To You all laud and honor be
Now and for all eternity.

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
LM  (88 88)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sermon for 9/9/12--Trinity 14

Where Jesus Is
Luke 17:11-19

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

What lesson does Jesus want to teach us when He says, "Where are the other nine? Did only a foreign Samaritan come back to give glory to God?" Is Jesus upset because they didn't come back and say "thank you?" Was He disappointed in their parents for not teaching them better manners? Is our Lord insecure? None of the above. Rather, Jesus wants to teach us, as the one Samaritan leper learned, that to glorify God means coming back to where Jesus is for more good gifts and blessings.

Let that sink in for a moment. To glorify God, to give God glory means to be where Jesus is, receiving His gifts. That means you are glorifying God right now because you are here where Jesus is giving out His gifts. Jesus isn't glorified when we tell Him how great He is. He's glorified when He gives out His forgiveness and life and salvation and we receive His gifts by faith, trusting that He always has more for us. To glorify God is to daily live in the promises of your baptism. To glorify God is to say "amen" to the forgiveness of the absolution. To glorify God is to hear the reading and preaching of His Word which calls you to repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. To glorify Christ is to kneel at His altar, receiving His body and blood as the gift that heals us from our sins just as He healed the ten of their leprosy. To give God the glory isn't just to say that He's great, but that He's great because He saves sinners.

When we think of God's glory we usually picture the Lord seated on the throne in heavenly splendor. The disciples saw that when Jesus was transfigured. That reminded them that Jesus is indeed the God who made all things and rules over all things. But His biggest display of glory was the one nobody realized at first: the cross. The truth is, the big deal about God isn't that He can be shiny and mighty or heal people. The big deal about God is that He became man to suffer and die for your sins and wash them all away by His blood, and then on the third day rise triumphant from the grave. In other words, the truest glory of God is not that He looks like we imagine God should look. It's that He takes what belongs to us—our sins—and saves us by His death and resurrection. The big deal about God is that He is not afraid to get near lepers and sinners and heal them.

Now don't misunderstand me. We should give thanks to God. We should always in our hearts and with our mouths give thanks to the Lord and acknowledge that He is the One from whom we have every good gift. “In everything give thanks.” But we need to learn that Jesus with these ten lepers isn't teaching us that He's a God who has to fish for compliments as if we exist merely to make Him look good. Rather, the Lord does what He does to make us look good, to have us stand before the Father clothed in His own righteousness. Christ became man and went to the cross because we need Him to take away our sins. We need Him to heal us and forgive us and take care of us, and that's exactly what He does.

The problem with the other nine lepers isn't that they weren't happy or grateful. They just didn't seem to need Jesus beyond getting their leprosy cured. It's the same for us. When we seem to get what we need from the Lord, it's easy for our prayers to fall off or for us to pay less attention to the Word of God. Until we need Him again. Repent! Repent of thinking you only need the Lord when something's wrong. In Christ you have a God who is there for you all the time. He always has more gifts, more forgiveness, more of his Word, more comfort, more peace. With Jesus there's always more. And like that Samaritan leper, we return here to receive what He has for us.

What does Jesus want us to learn from His words? Learn that He alone is the one who can save us, heal us, and forgive us—and not just when we're in trouble but always. There is never a time when we don't need to be healed from the leprosy of our sin. There is never a time when we don't need the Lord's grace and mercy. And so we come to Jesus in His church—not to show off that we have good manners or to tell Him how great He is. We come to receive what He has for us. And what He has is water, word, body and blood: forgiveness, life and salvation. We praise Him for that and glorify Him as we receive His gifts with joy. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               

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

Sermon: The Funeral of Tille Gerberding

A Future of Peace
Psalm 37:37

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  Our text is Tillie’s Confirmation verse, Psalm 37:37.  We consider this verse:

Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the future of that man is peace.

Thus far our text.

Our Gospel for this past Sunday was the parable of the Good Samaritan. You may recall the tale: how a man is beaten by bandits and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite, seeing the man, pass by on the other side of the road, lest they become ritually unclean. Finally a Samaritan, an enemy of the Jews, passes. He sees the man on the road, takes him to town on his own donkey, tends the man himself, and provides for the man’s further care. The Samaritan was the true neighbor to the beaten man, even though he was supposedly an enemy to him. The priest and the Levite, men who knew the Law of God and should have been willing to help the man, passed by him, making themselves dead in sin in their desire to avoid a moment of ritual uncleanness.

The example of the Good Samaritan illustrates what David meant when he wrote, “Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the future of that man is peace.” Certainly the Samaritan was upright; he demonstrated love toward his neighbor by helping him when no one else would dare to help—not even those considered most upright in the eyes of the world. And it makes even more sense when we realize that, when Jesus is talking about the Good Samaritan, He is really talking about Himself. No one can perfectly love his neighbor except for Jesus. And so, when we sinners try to love our neighbors, it is only by the power of Christ within us through the waters of Holy Baptism that we succeed.

The psalmist tells us that the future of such a person is peace. I know that I’m preaching to the choir when I say that Tillie Gerberding demonstrated the love of Christ throughout her life. So if the future of the blameless and upright is supposed to be one of peace, then why did she suffer so long? Why was so little of her later life spent in the nursing home in pain? Why didn’t she get to experience the peaceful future that David says is the reward for such a life?

The unfortunate truth is that, as loving and as generous and as compassionate a woman as Tillie was, Tillie was also a sinner. Sinners suffer and die—not because God wants us to suffer or die, but because through our sin we have brought death upon ourselves. Sin demands payment, and that payment is death.  This is what our hearts fear when we see death at work among us, and it is good that we do. We know then that whether we live or die is a question that is taken out of our hands.  We cannot stop our death; we cannot save ourselves.  And that moves us to recognize that, unless God has an answer to our sin and death, there can be no hope for us.

It is our supreme joy that God does, indeed, have the answer to sin and death. Someone else has paid the price for our peace, and that was our dear Lord Jesus Christ.  The price was His own life. The purchase price of our peace was the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our only Savior. Our sin has been met with His redemption. Our death has been met and overcome in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He died, and He has risen from the dead! Our sin could not hold Him forever. Death could not bind Him in the grave. He came out of His grave alive, with the promise that those who live and believe in Him will never really die, but will live in the hope of the resurrection, when all our bodies will come out of their graves, and the bodies and souls of His faithful ones will live eternally in peace with Him.

How, then, does His life become our life? How does his righteousness make for our peace? When all else fails, our Baptism remains. On those days when Tillie could not recognize what was going on around her, she remained a baptized child of God. When our ears can no longer hear God’s Word, when our eyes can no longer see the altar of His presence, when our bodies fail us, when our minds can no longer comprehend, Baptism remains. In Holy Baptism our Lord called us by name and made us His own. We die with Him in those waters. Our sin drowns. And just as Jesus has risen, He raises us with Him into new lives, blameless lives in Christ, lives that, even when our bodies die, will go on forever. That is our future peace. That does not give us a license to sin or to live in sin, but we have the comfort that, when we repent of our sin, it is forgiven, no longer held against us.

As we await that day when His peace becomes fully ours—as it has now for Tillie—let us take our comfort in the fact that, in Holy Baptism, He has called our names and linked them forever with His own. Because we are His, there will be no trouble—not the battle of living, not the struggle of dying, not the fight with grief—that will ever overcome us and take us away from Him. Tillie was a baptized child of God, and He has now given her in full that peace which the world cannot give, the peace which is her legacy as a child of God. As baptized children of God, that peace is your legacy, too, your inheritance from your heavenly Father. 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 02, 2012

Sermon for 9/2/12--Trinity 13

“Do This and You Will Live”

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

‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” That is the summary of the Law of God. Love God; love your neighbor. “Do this and you will live.” There are lots of preachers out there who will tell you that if you have faith and if you try hard and if you learn the life-enrichinging principles they teach, that you'll be able to keep God's Law. We like to think it's just a matter of making good decisions so we'll be able to love God and love our neighbor.

But to see what the Law apart from Christ looks like, just look at the priest and the Levite. Seeing a guy half-dead in a ditch, they pass by on the other side of the road. When we take the Law—love God, love your neighbor—and we give it a go apart from Christ, this is where we end up. Like the young expert in the Law, we try to justify ourselves. We show God how good we are by doing the commandments. But when someone falls into a ditch by their sins, we don't pull them out. We pass by on the other side. Husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, dear Christians: do you think that you can despise each other and still claim to love God? Do you think that you can hold a grudge and be angry at someone and still say you love God? You can't love God. You can't love your neighbor. You can't get yourself out from under the judgment of the Law. When you think you are demonstrating love as you are commanded, Satan beats you up, robs you, and throws you in a ditch. The Law won't do you any good there.

But then, along comes the Samaritan. The Samaritan, despised by the Jews, sees the poor man in the ditch and saves him. Who is that Samaritan? Who could possibly live the Law like that? That's Jesus keeping the Law. He comes to rescue sinners who have been tossed aside by the Devil, robbed of righteousness and left for dead. Jesus comes to keep the Law to save us. He comes to love God and to love His neighbor.

How can that be? Look at what the Creed teaches us about Him. Jesus is true God, begotten of the Father, and He also true man, born of the Virgin Mary. That makes Him both God and neighbor. When the Father commands the Son to save sinners, Jesus does it. He goes to the cross for you. He hangs there for you. He dies there for you. Jesus is crucified, bearing the wages of sin, perfectly loving God in His obedience and perfectly loving His neighbor in His sacrifice. The Law is fulfilled. There, on that bloody cross, God and neighbor are loved perfectly by the Savior who is God and Man. He perfectly keeps the Law. He saves the man in the ditch. It is Jesus who loves God and loves His neighbor.

That perfect obedience, that salvation, that perfect love is given to you. It is given when Jesus, the Good Samaritan, pours His healing medicine on you in the waters of Holy Baptism. He carries you to the Inn, His holy church, where puts you under the care of His innkeeper, the pastor who Jesus sets apart to care for you until He comes again, leaving your pastor the Word and the Sacraments to provide for your health.

Have you loved God and your neighbor as you are commanded? Of course not. The Law shows us so. But Jesus kept the Law perfectly. He loves God the Father and He loves His neighbor. He has put His perfect obedience on you in Baptism and has fed you that obedience in His body and blood in His Holy Supper. Do you love God and your neighbor? In Christ, the answer is yes. Christ within you has kept that Law. This is what St. Paul means when He says that the Law kept us under sin until the time of the Promise. By itself, the Law condemns us. But in Christ, the Law is kept. Your sins are forgiven. That's the rescue the Good Samaritan has given you. To tell you, “Do this and you will live,” is now nothing more than to tell you that Christ lives in You for the benefit of your neighbor and the glory 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 will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.