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.