Friday, August 30, 2013

PARODY: Our List

 In light of recent developments, I thought I'd trot out one of my favorites.

Our List
(Parody of “My List” by Toby Keith)

Under a spyglass paperweight
Is our list of those to watch today:
People we think are too hardcore,
People who think God loves them more.
We write their names down as we go,
But when the day is through,
There’s still a bunch we need to watch
That we ain’t got to:

Those who hate Fidel, Tea Party fans?
As bad as those who put bombs in cans.
Should we suspect those who own cats?
It’s time to take them down for that.
Those who want to build a wall
So “illegal immigrants” won’t call,
And vets returning home—they all look pissed.
Gun owners: they’re the next ones on our list.

It might change the course of things
If we can jail the whole right wing.
“Extremists” are quite dangerous,
‘Cause they’re not like the best of us.
We aren’t really confident
That they are fully wrong,
But we’d be safer, that’s for sure,
If we could get them gone.

Those who hate Fidel, Tea Party fans—
As bad as those who put bombs in cans.
Should we suspect those who own cats?
It’s time to take them down for that.
Those who want to build a wall
So “illegal immigrants” won’t call,
And those who don’t like watching gay folks kiss:
Them Christians: they’re the next ones on our list.

Pro-life nut-job whacks, blogging hacks,
Maybe even kids who won’t play jacks,
And Ron Paul fans—who likes that prat?
It’s time to take them down for that.
Watch their moves: who do they see?
And are they who they claim to be?
Surveillance for extremists we might miss.
Right wingers: they’re the next ones on our list.

Written by Alan Kornacki, Jr., and Toby Keith

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sermon for 8/25/13--Trinity 13



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

Luke tells us that the man in our text, “wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” We know what it means to justify ourselves. We know all about trying to explain why you should get away with what you did wrong. "Officer, I don't want to get in trouble with my parents so I'm trying to get home before their curfew." "Honey, I know it was expensive, but the one I have is too out of date and old so I needed a new one." "Mom, I know my grade is bad, but you don't understand how unfair the teacher is." We try to justify ourselves. It’s the most-worn tool in our belt.

But Jesus won't let the man justify himself before God. And He won't let you do it either. He won’t let you or Himself take the easy way out. Instead He rescues you from your own sinful way of thinking. And how do sinners think? Well, we say, "Love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself." Sure. I can do that. Those are good rules. The Law of God is good…but only until it gets specific—until loving God means actually being in church as often as we can; until it means confessing not just a generic God, but Jesus who is true God and man; until loving our neighbor means forgiving the people we can't stand, those who hurt us and wrong us. You might say, "Lord, You don’t know what they said and did to me!" But the truth is, it doesn’t matter what your neighbor says or does to you. It doesn’t matter how demanding God is. “For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

The way Jesus rescues us is the way the Samaritan rescues the man who is lying half-dead on the side of the road. When we justify ourselves, sin comes along and robs our self-made righteousness and leaves us for dead. What does the Law do? How do the commandments help? They don't. They just pass by on the other side. We need Jesus to come and pick us up from the muck and mire of our sins, to wash our wounds and take care of us. And He does exactly that, all at His own expense—a payment not of cash but of His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. That's the price Jesus pays. He spares no expense to rescue us and heal us. Then He brings us to the inn of His church and pours in the oil and wine of Word and Baptism and Supper, the gifts which heal us and restore us to life.

The Law condemns us because we don’t love God or our neighbor as we ought. We can’t. But Jesus fulfills the Law by being both God and man, both God and neighbor. On the cross, Jesus fulfills the Law by trusting in His Father above all things and by loving His neighbor—the world—by dying for our sins. Jesus saves us from our sins by being the One who takes on our sins. That saves us from having to justify ourselves to God on the basis of the Law. Now when we hear the Law say, "Love God and love your neighbor," we don't have to make excuses. Rather we answer truthfully, "I don't! I can’t. But my Savior Jesus has kept the Law perfectly and loved God and neighbor for me!" And now the Law becomes not a way to justify ourselves but to serve our neighbor. When you fail at that, there are no excuses and no need to justify yourself. There’s more Jesus, more forgiveness, and then more chances to do whatever your neighbor needs as God gives you ability.

It's easy to attempt to justify ourselves, to make excuses, to explain to God why we should be let off the hook. The Law doesn't give any wiggle room. “Love God. Love you neighbor.” If not, you're doomed. But Jesus kept it perfectly on your behalf. He's pulled you out of the ditch where sin left you to die eternal death. He's bound up the wounds that death and the devil have inflicted on you. He's died your death so that you would be free to live your life—not to impress God, but to be a blessing to those around you—again, not because it gets you to heaven, but because your neighbor needs you to. 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.

PARODY: Panicked Sunday

Faith and I were running errands yesterday morning when a familiar song came on the radio. It's already received a Lutheran treatment, but I couldn't resist. So here it is...

Panicked Sunday
(Parody of "Manic Monday")

Five A.M. on Sunday
And I hope I can finally click "Print."
I've been writing now for hours. 
I have no clue where last week went. 
I'm exhausted but
Of course there's never time for a nap. 
These are the days
When you wish you were some other sap. 

It's just another panicked Sunday--
My "sermon's not done" day--
"I'm under the gun" day--
"My cassock weighs a ton" day.
It's just another panicked Sunday. 

In the study Monday morn,
Knelt down for my daily prayer.
And then I read the lection and 
I start pulling out all my hair. 
"Law and Gospel" is open and
I read so I know how to preach. 
But come Sunday morn
You can bet I'd rather be at the beach. 

It's just another panicked Sunday--
My "sermon's not done" day--
"I'm under the gun" day--
"My cassock weighs a ton" day.
It's just another panicked Sunday. 

All of those days
Why did my pastor have to say 
I should go to sem?
(You should. You should.)
Doesn't it matter
That I thought the Yankees would have me 
Pitching for them?
Alarm rings and it's time to go.
C'mon, preacher. Let's drive off the Foe. 
Time--it goes so fast
(When there's nothing done.)

It's just another panicked Sunday--
My "sermon's not done" day--
"I'm under the gun" day--
"My cassock weighs a ton" day.

It's just another panicked Sunday-- 
My "sermon's not done" day--
"I'm under the gun" day--
It's just another panicked Sunday. 

Written by Alan Kornacki Jr. and Prince 

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Face for Radio

This afternoon I appeared on KFUO AM's "BookTalk" radio show with Pastor Rod Zwonitzer to discuss my novel Love Divine. What a ride! It wasn't my first time on the radio, though it was my first time on KFUO. I'm not all that comfortable talking into a microphone--lovely problem for a pastor to have, to be sure--but Pastor Zwonitzer made it as painless as he possibly could. I had a lot more fun than I thought I would, and I've been invited back to talk about the other two books in the trilogy!

For those of you who weren't able to listen live, here's a link to the audio of the show: BOOKTALK! Just right-click on the link and then select "Save Link As" to download the show!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sermon for 8/18/13--Trinity 12



Opening Ears and Lips

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

If you think about it, what goes on in the Divine Service is two simple things: you listen…and you speak. God's Word goes in your ears, and His Word comes out of your mouth. The Lord speaks when you are absolved, when the Scriptures are read, when the sermon is preached and when the Words of Institution are sung. This is God's Word which goes into your ears. And then that Word comes out of your mouth in the Creed, the hymns, and the liturgy. Today you get to do the two things the man in today's Gospel couldn't do: he could not hear God's Word, and he couldn't sing the Lord's praises. His ears were shut. His tongue was tangled.

This miracle isn't like the other miracles of Jesus. Here He doesn't just speak a word and the man hears. Instead He sticks His fingers in the man's ears and spits and touches the tangled tongue. He cries out His Word, “Be opened!” and the man could hear clearly and speak plainly. By His touch and by His Word, Jesus frees this man from his inability to hear God's Word. The devil would like nothing more than for this man to be deaf to God's Word and to speak nothing but mumbles. But Christ, the Son of God, destroys this power of the Devil. He opens the man's ears and looses his tongue. This miracle teaches us first of all that Christ came to save us from the Devil. He has borne your sins on the cross and by His death, He robs the Devil of any claim on you. By His sacrifice in the place of sinners, Jesus disarms Satan and rescues us from the kingdom of darkness.

Jesus is teaching us something here. Not only does He teach us that He is the Son of God who can heal a deaf man; He is also teaching us that we need our ears opened and our tongues loosed. He’s the only one who can do that for us. Isaiah prophesied that the deaf would hear; He also predicted that those who were in error would learn the Lord's teaching. Jesus opens our ears through the water and word poured on us in Holy Baptism, through the Word of Absolution, and by the preaching of Christ crucified. He touches our tongues with His own body and blood. Without the touch of these gifts, we would be forever deaf. Without the touch of Christ by His Word and Sacraments, our tongues would never confess His name. Without the Lord opening our ears and loosing our tongues, we would never be saved. But that is why Christ came. It is why He comes now by His means of grace: to open our ears and pour into them His saving words of forgiveness, life and salvation.

Why is it that we can sing the latest Lady Gaga song but can't repeat more than a few Psalms from the Bible? Why is it that we can recite whole speeches from movies but struggle to remember the Catechism? It's because those things that go into our ears are what come out of our mouth. What we hear, we speak. It's that simple. If your ears are filled with junk, junk is going to come out of your mouth. This is why we strive to be in church as often as possible: to hear God's Word and have His Word cleanse us from our sins. Here where His Word is, Christ removes the filth of our sins which stops up our ears and tangles our tongues. Here, Christ continues to open our ears to fill them with His saving words and open our lips so that we may declare His praise. That’s why in the hymn “Thy Strong Word” we pray:

Give us lips to sing thy glory,
Tongues thy mercy to proclaim,
Throats to shout the hope that fills us,
Mouths to speak thy holy name.

We arrived here with our ears filled with the trash of the Devil, our tongues tied with his lies and false promises. But by the power of the Word of God, your ears have been cleaned out and your tongue has been loosened to sing God's praise. The same Lord who opened the ears of a deaf man opens your ears and fills them with the Word that saves you, the Word that declares to you, “Your sins are forgiven!” The same Lord who loosened this poor man's tongue lets your tongue loose to confess His holy name. We hear, and we speak and sing, confessing, Behold, "[Jesus] has done all things well! He makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak!" 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.

Sermon for 8/11/13--Trinity 11


Born a Pharisee

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

Each of us is born a Pharisee. Each of us think we can please God better than anyone else. Our inner Pharisee still comes out all the time. I mean, who here doesn't think they're a better driver than most other people? Those of us who have been married for years shake our heads when a young couple divorces. Parents who raised their kids thirty years ago look down on how people raise their kids today. Those who go to church raise an eyebrow when they see the person out on the lake who wasn't in church. Every one of us has some area of life in which we're pretty sure we're doing a better job than someone else, and we look down others who aren't as good as we are.

This goes all the way back to Cain and Abel. With Cain and Abel, there are two religions. Abel's religion is the religion of a God who saves sinners by putting a lamb in their place. Cain's religion is the religion of deeds done for God. One religion receives and lives by God's grace; the other is a religion of getting yourself right with God. Those who think they can do things for God always look down on those who don't. Sometimes, like Cain did, they will even persecute and kill those who live by God's promises. This religion of Cain, the faith of the Pharisee, is the religion we're born with—the religion of the Law which clings to our Old Adam and attacks the new man in us.

This is why the prayer of the tax collector is our prayer. The tax collector knows it's not about him. His one and only hope is what he prays for: that the Lord would be merciful to him. The tax collector is praying that His sins be contained and covered by something taking His place. For Abel it was a lamb. For the tax collector and for you, it's the Lamb of God: Jesus. That's what Jesus does. He comes to cover your sins. We, like the Pharisee, want to show off according to the Law, at least the parts we think we're so good at keeping. We don’t deserve a pat on the back. We haven’t perfectly obeyed the Law—not even in those things where we think we excel. We deserve death. But Jesus comes and saves us. Jesus takes that death into Himself on the cross. He contains and protects us from God's judgment. He covers us and takes our place. That is what the tax collector is asking for, and that's exactly what the Lord provides.

Abel's worship was hearing that the lamb that was sacrificed covered his sins. Cain's worship was that he came and offered God something as if it belonged to Cain and did not already belong to the Lord. The world is full of religions whose worship services are just an exercise in looking and acting holy. Even many Christians fall into this trap when they want a worship service that is all about them and their feelings. But true worship, the worship of Abel and the tax collector, is crying out to God for mercy and having that prayer answered. Christ, by His death and resurrection, has covered your sins. And everything that happens in worship now is about that. It begins with the sign of the cross and the name of God, recalling our baptism at which our sins were washed away. We hear the Word of Holy Absolution, declaring that we poor, miserable sinners are receiving God's mercy. In the Scriptures and the sermon, it's all about Jesus saving us. Then, in the Supper, the Lamb Himself covers us again by giving us his flesh and blood as food and drink. This place where God dwells is not the place for those who look down upon others. It is the place for those who know they are already at the bottom. Here in His Church, Jesus lifts such sinners up and exalts them by His forgiveness!

Jesus rescues us from being Pharisees. He rescues us from being the kind of people who lift ourselves up and put others down. He rescues us from thinking we are better than others. Instead shows us that He is the one who is perfect and righteous for us. Jesus has taken your place and covered your sins just as He has every other person. This means that both you and the person you thought was beneath you are perfect and holy in Jesus. Just as He did for the tax collector, the Lord has you covered. 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, August 08, 2013

Sermon for 8/4/13--Trinity 10



The Day of Visitation

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

It is the image of irony. Thieves gathered in the Temple, the dwelling place of God on earth. Meanwhile, God in the flesh was on Skull Hill, where thieves were crucified. While the clergy of the Jerusalem made plans to destroy Him, Jesus spoke the judgment of God that Jerusalem would be destroyed. The people who need a Savior want to save themselves; the Savior gives His life for those who cannot save themselves. That's how it has always been. The Lord raises up the lowly and humbles those who exalt themselves. You will either be destroyed in your sin and unbelief or you will die with Jesus. Jesus only declares this judgment upon Jerusalem and clears out the temple because He wants to save sinners. You can't be saved if you refuse His Word, if you refuse Him, if you refuse His Father. Jesus weeps because He knows so many will be destroyed when He came for the sole purpose of saving them. We sinners hear this Gospel lesson and think, "Yeah, Jesus! You tell 'em!" and then go right on sinning and despising God's Word! We think it’s no big deal whether or not we show up for church, whether or not we send our children to Catechism instruction, whether or not we grow in God's Word. With that kind of thinking, there is nothing but "not one stone upon another.” It's all coming down.

The religious leaders of the Jews think that everything will be fine if they can just get rid of Jesus—and we think the same. Things can continue as they’ve always gone, and we can take comfort in our false prophets and false gods: the ones who preach that it doesn't matter what you believe, the ones who preach that Jesus just loves everyone without any mention of sin. Such sinners need to get rid of Jesus, to destroy Him. So He goes willingly to be destroyed—brought down, nailed to the cross, lifted up to be mocked and ridiculed. What a strange way for God to save people—but that’s precisely how it is! In fact, the only way for us to escape destruction is for the Son of God to die. He must bear our sins like a lamb and bleed out and die. He must be the one who is killed by His enemies: by you, the very sheep He came to shepherd. And that death is the death that saves you.

The destruction of Jerusalem is sad. But the truth is, the judgment of God is nothing else than giving unrepentant sinners what they want. They didn’t want Jesus? That’s fine. They don’t have to have Him. But that means they’re on their own. Christ was crucified for all sinners, and those who die with Him in Baptism and who daily kill their Old Adam in those waters through repentance and Confession are not destroyed but saved. They are lifted up by grace in the forgiveness of sins. Jesus died to save you. Jesus died so that sin, death, and the devil cannot destroy you. He died so that you will live.

The great sadness is that Jerusalem didn't recognize the day of her visitation, the arrival of God in the flesh. But you know exactly when and where the Lord shows up for you: at the font in your baptism; in His Church where His Word is preached and taught and you are forgiven of your sins; in the Supper where He is truly present in His body and blood to be with you and in you, to forgive you and give you life, to raise you from the dead and give you eternal life. There is no doubting where the Lord is: He is right here for you! Where these gifts are rejected and ignored and despised, God has nothing but judgment and destruction. But where those gifts are received in faith, there is nothing but grace and mercy and forgiveness and life. Here, in His Church, is the place of the Lord's visitation, where He is present among His people. And when He is present, it's always to save 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, August 01, 2013

2013 Reading List: July

Twenty-four books in July, mainly because I did a lot of sitting and waiting--some in hospitals, some in my study, and a lot in bed while I waited for the MichaelBug to fall asleep. That puts me well over one-hundred for the year and on pace for two-hundred-nine. About half of this month's books are Young Adult books, but the book that really sticks out is On Writing by Stephen King, which I highly recommend--though I don't think I read a clunker all month. Anyway, here's the July list.

  1. Quinn, Caisey. Girl with Guitar. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  2. Kurtz, Katherine. The Harrowing of Gwynedd. Ballantine Books, 1989.
  3. Kurtz, Katherine. King Javan’s Year. Ballantine Books, 1992.
  4. Kurtz, Katherine. The Bastard Prince. Ballantine Books, 1994.
  5. Kurtz, Katherine. The Deryni Archives. Ballantine Books, 1986.
  6. Bates, Sarah. For Now and Always. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2011.
  7. Bates, Sarah. Choices. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2011.
  8. Bates, Sarah. Always and Forever. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2011.
  9. Kurtz, Katherine. Deryni Rising. Ballantine Books, 1970.
  10. Bates, Sarah. Family Ties. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2012.
  11. Bates, Sarah. The Ties that Bind. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2012.
  12. Bates, Sarah. Someone to Love Me. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2012.
  13. Bates, Sarah. The Right Time. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2012.
  14. Bates, Sarah. The Very Thought of You. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  15. Bates, Sarah. The First Moment. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  16. Kurtz, Katherine. Deryni Checkmate. Ballantine Books, 1972.
  17. Kurtz, Katherine. High Deryni. Ballantine Books, 1973.
  18. Peters, Paul Michael. Peter in Flight. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  19. King, Stephen. On Writing. Scribner, 2000.
  20. Kurtz, Katherine. The Bishop’s Heir. Ballantine Books, 1984.
  21. Kurtz, Katherine. The King’s Justice. Ballantine Books, 1985.
  22. Stahl, Shey. Delayed Penalty. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  23. Kurtz, Katherine. The Quest for Saint Camber. Ballantine Books, 1987.
  24. Gough, James. Cloak. WiDo Publishing, 2011.

Sermon for 7/28/13--Trinity 9


Unrighteous Mammon

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

It was quick thinking. This manager knew how to make this world work for him. This steward was about to be fired for faithless service, so he used his position while he still had it to worm his way into the hearts of those who owed his master. Ethical? Absolutely not! But certainly it was clever. The master could do nothing but commend the servant for his shrewdness. So where is Jesus in all this? In order for this steward to be useful to others, he must die to himself. He must lose his position and be nothing, become so free that he can make the debts of those who owe his master decrease.

As long as your life is about you, it's not about the good of others. All that God gives you, you will waste and squander for yourself. But when there is nothing to lose, we learn to take what is the Lord's and use it for the benefit of others. That is our life as Christians! We take what is the Lord's—our money, goods, health, whatever it is—and reduce the burdens of others. That's especially true of forgiveness. Christ saves us from our sins, not for our own sakes, but so that we can splurge on forgiveness for others. It was only when the Master was ready to fire the steward that the steward was of any use to others. It's only when we realize that being a Christian isn't about getting ourselves into heaven that we will learn to be free enough to live for the sake of others!

Now what happens after the steward cheats his Master and cuts all those bills? The Master praises Him! Then Jesus says to make friends with unrighteous mammon! What does it all mean? Christ is exalted because He suffered and died. He rose again and He conquered death. The Son of God, who was treated by the Father as if He were nothing but a sinner and crook, is put at the Father's right hand in all glory and majesty! Even though Jesus is not actually selfish, He acts by grace so unselfishly as to accomplish our salvation. When the steward was dead to his master, he was good for others. When Jesus is as nothing on the cross, He is our salvation.

He has a rich abundance of forgiveness, and we—sinners who don’t deserve forgiveness and didn’t earn it—are free to be generous with our Master’s forgiveness. We have the authority and power through our Baptism into Christ to reduce and eliminate the debts of others! Because we have died in Christ and been raised, we are now free to “squander” forgiveness with all those we meet. Has someone sinned against you? Do they “owe” you because of something they've said or done to you? Take their bill and write it down as if it were nothing. Take the debt their sin has accumulated and tell them they don't owe you a penny! Present them before God as someone who has no debts of sin but has been marked “paid in full.”

We love to take Christ's forgiveness and and live as if it's only for us. The Steward, when he was cast out, dead to his master, learned to live as if the goods were really there for others. By Baptism, Absolution and the Supper you have forgiveness heaped upon you. You need never fear the Lord's displeasure. You need never fear that you do not having a place with God. Your place has been secured by the dead and risen Jesus! And now, living in you, Christ lives to give those gifts away. He will always provide you what you need for this body and life and for the life to come. We have died and risen. We who were going to lose our place are now commended in Christ. Now, with Christ living in us, there's no more trying to serve God and mammon. The only one left who can benefit from your good works is your neighbor. Come forward to receive the body and blood of Christ, the free and undeserved gift of the Master's forgiveness, distributed by an unworthy steward to the Master's debtors. As God has blessed you with His good gifts, He also uses you to bless others so that they too may live forever. 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.