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