Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sermon for 6/28/15: Trinity IV

Nice to have the audio back. I added some adlib near the end, so the transcript is lacking.




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

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” What is mercy? Maybe it’s easier to say what mercy is not. Mercy is not giving someone what they deserve. Mercy means that you know exactly what someone else has said or done to hurt you, and if things are right and fair, you know precisely what they deserve. And yet, you choose to show mercy to them. You forgive them. Perhaps you even absorb yourself what they should have received.

So when Jesus says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful,” He is first speaking Law to us. This is how we are to be. Do this. Be merciful. But He knows perfectly well that we are not merciful, but in fact we are often full of judgment and anger, and at times even hatred toward our fellow human beings. How many times have you sat in this church, listening to God’s Word of grace and mercy, while your hearts were full of anger and judgment, even toward someone who may have been sitting near you? How many times have you looked at others, secretly with contempt, thinking that you are really a better Christian than those who don’t do as much as you do, or whose life is a mess, or who have created some kind of scandal, or whatever it may be? Every time this happens, you are forgetting this word of mercy.

Look at what Joseph said to his brothers: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” This is what Jesus meant when He said: “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” None of us stands in the place of God when it comes to passing judgment on others, especially the motives of others. It is not my job to stand as judge and jury over my fellow Christians. God is the judge of all. While we must strive to remain faithful to the Word of God, while we must endeavor to teach our neighbors what it means to be faithful, our place as Christians is to remember that we, too, are poor, miserable sinners, no better off than anyone else.

When we judge others, we do it on the basis of a corrupted and limited vision. I look and see what I don’t like in someone else, and then I condemn him or her for it. But our Father in heaven knows all and sees all. There is no sin that goes unnoticed, no misdeed that is lost. He knows all your faults, down to the very end. Even so, God is merciful! He doesn’t give you what you deserve! He doesn’t give you eternal death. He gives life in Christ, a life that is rich and full of blessing. In Holy Baptism, in the Absolution that is given your sins, in the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, in every word of the Gospel that goes in your ears, you are receiving the mercy of God! He gives you mercy! His judgment against sin has already been carried out against His Son! He doesn’t condemn you; He forgives you! He gives You Himself. He gives you that measure of grace and mercy that has no end.

Now what does this mean for you in the real world? It means everything! It means that here, in this place, you receive the one thing you need more than anything else; the mercy of God. Here your troubles are not glossed over, nor are they held up as a kind of spectacle to shame you. Here in this place, your heavenly Father gives you this great gift of mercy, so that your sins are forever washed away. He also gives you that mercy so that you may cover your neighbor’s sins, speak well of your neighbor, so you may say everything in the kindest way.

To some, I suppose, all of this is old news. “I have heard all of this before, pastor. Tell me instead how I can be a better parent; how to manage my money; how to manage my anger—you know, something really practical like that.” But as important as those things may be, the truth is this: what you need more than anything else is the mercy of God. And like the love of God, His mercy knows no boundaries; it will give you the peace of God for which your heart longs. That is why we earlier joined the Psalmist in saying: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Receive the mercy of God this day, in His Son, Jesus Christ, and know and live that life of peace with the God of mercy. 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.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sermon for 6/21/15: Trinity III

Sorry for the delay, but it: I finally got the computer to edit audio!



Opened Arms
Luke 15:11-32

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

Jesus isn’t looking for the righteous. Jesus came to save sinners. After all, those who aren't sinners don't need a Savior. But wait! Aren't all people sinners? The Bible says so, but we tend to think we’re pretty good people. But we are sinners. Sinners don't fear, love and trust in God as they should. Sinners despise their neighbor and put themselves first. Those who confess that they are sinners recognize that they deserve nothing except the wrath of God. They know that they have nothing going for them but God's own mercy in Jesus. On the other hand, those who have no need of repentance don't think they're such bad people. They’re pretty sure they've got God all figured out and are pretty good at doing what He says. Jesus can't help those who believe they’re sinless. They will be on their own on the Last Day.

Those who are sinners crowd around Jesus to hear Him and His Word. Those who have no need of repentance complain that Jesus receives and eats with such people. But Jesus came to save sinners, to call them to repentance. And what is repentance? Repentance means being turned around. It means that the Spirit, by the preaching of the Word, turns you away from your sins to faith and trust in Christ. Repentance is the Lord's work. You can't repent on your own. You can't decide to turn away from your sins. Christ Himself calls you away from your sins by His Word and Sacraments.

The wasteful son lives a sinful life. When the bottom falls out, when he has to eat with the pigs, finally he realizes he can’t clean up his own mess. The only one who can fix his broken life, the only one who can love him, the only one who can restore him, is the same man against whom he sinned: his father. But he still thinks he can do it his way. He plans his fancy speech. He chooses his own position in the household.

But that’s not the way the father works. Before the son can approach the house, the father comes running to meet him. Before the son can do any more than confess his sin, the father restores him. He dresses him in the finest robe and prepares the fanciest of feasts—not because the son deserves it, but because the father loves his son that much. And our Father works the same way. The Lord comes to us through the water and Word of the font. Christ seeks us out and restores us by the preaching of the Gospel and the speaking of holy absolution. Christ provides His own body and blood as a rich feast for us to eat and drink. These things are His gifts for sinners. Those who have no need of repentance have no need to be baptized or absolved or fed with Christ’s body and blood. They may as well stay away. But you, sinners: if you have nothing going for you but Jesus, come to hear Him. Live in your baptism and feast at His Supper. That's what Jesus has for sinners.

If you don't have need of repentance; if you think you've got God all figured out; if you're convinced you're not perfect but you try hard; if you think you’re basically good—or at least, you're better than most other people; if you think God must be happy that such a person like you goes to church; then repent! Either weep and despair of yourself, or recognize that Jesus didn't come for you because you apparently don’t need His help. But if you know you are a sinner—if you don't love God as He commands; if you don't love your neighbor like you should; if you know that you deserve nothing from God but His eternal wrath and condemnation—then rejoice! Rejoice, because it is for such sinners that Jesus has come into this world. Through the merits of His Son, our Savior, Jesus, the Father runs to greet you with His hands outstretched to welcome you into His kingdom, to receive you with the fine baptismal robe of Christ’s righteousness, to welcome you to the rich feast of His own Son’s body and blood. What was lost, now is found! 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, June 14, 2015

Sermon for 6/14/15: Trinity II

I hope to have the audio going by the time we get back from vacation. *sigh*

Desiring the Feast

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

When our Lord prepares a feast of salvation for the whole world, not many people want to come and receive it. From the very first moment of sin in the Garden of Eden, our Lord promised a Savior. Then, at the right moment, He sends His Son into the world. The Father sacrifices Him on the cross, just as the Passover Lamb was sacrificed, so that Jesus Himself, the Son of God, would be our feast. Christ is given into death and raised from the dead so that He might be our Bread of Life. The Lamb has been slain. All is prepared. The Feast is ready. It is a feast prepared by the Lord for you.  

Even though what our Lord gives us is so much better than a pizza from Shiloh Tavern or a steak from Newell House, even though the Lord's feast gives us life and salvation, people don't want it. The world doesn't care. My brothers and sisters in Christ, don't you wonder why, if we have the Gospel here at St. Peter, more people don't join? We know we are surrounded by so many who are hungering and thirsting for something more in their lives. But where are they? But that's the wrong question! Jesus isn't telling this parable to those who are outside of the church but those who are inside it. When someone at the Pharisee's dinner shouts, "Blessed is the one who eats bread in the kingdom of God," Jesus tells them that they don't really want bread in the kingdom of God. They've got a bunch of other stuff they would rather do than actually come to Lord's feast. We could go on all day about the people out there who don't think they need Christ and His gifts. But do we, God's own people, really want His gifts? Think about this: What is enough to keep you from the Lord's house and His gifts? What is going on in your life that would bring you to toss aside the Divine Service? What keeps you from crying out for the body and blood of Christ every Sunday? What’s most important to you? 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus does not teach us in His parable that having a field or oxen or getting married are bad things. He's not saying that going on vacation or playing sports or going fishing are bad things. But when anything else becomes more precious, more important, more desirable than Christ and His gifts, they've become our idols. They will become our excuses for not coming to receive the Lord's gifts. We must all learn to recognize that we are not in Christ's church because we somehow deserve a place, as if the Lord needs us to show up for His sake. We need to be here because the Lord has invited us and lavished His gifts upon us.  

And the Lord knows this. That's why He throws the banquet. He knows that we are poor, miserable, hungry sinners who need to be fed and nourished by His Son. Why do you suppose that we don’t ask for "daily bread" until the Fourth Petition in the Lord's prayer? The Lord knows that, even more than stuff in this world, we need His name to be holy among us, His kingdom to come, His will to be done. What is most important of all things is that we hear His Word, that we live in our Baptism, that we be absolved from our sins, that we eat and drink the feast of Christ's flesh and blood. Brothers and sisters, here in the church, the Lord has prepared a rich feast for you. Here He freely seats you at a banquet of salvation: you are washed for dinner at the holy font. You are seated in the place of honor by the words of holy absolution. Then in the sermon, the special of the day—Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for sinners—is described. Then you come to the main course, the feast itself: Christ Himself and His body and blood given and shed for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  

The day will come when Jesus comes back. He tells us that on that day, none of those who were invited and refused to come will be invited back! There's no chance to take back your excuse that you don't want the Lord's gifts. This is why we practice closed communion. The altar is closed to those who don't want to learn God's Word or repent of their sins. It is a warning that a time will indeed come when the Feast is closed off. Never run from the feast. Never desire to be excused. Come and feast upon Christ Himself, His Word and body and blood. Come as beggars, rejoicing to be brought in to this feast which we do not deserve, but which God spreads for us in Christ. And look forward to the day our Lord will return for His Bride and we shall rejoice to celebrate the eternal wedding feast prepared by the Father for His Son and the Church. 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.   

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sermon for 6/7/15: First Sunday After Trinity

Still trying to install the audio software on my computer. Sorry.

In Abraham's Bosom

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

What is it that saves Lazarus? Why does he end up in the bosom of Abraham? To be in the bosom of Abraham means to receive God's promises. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. St. Paul later writes that all who believe in Christ are sons of Abraham and heirs of the promise. We don't have to save ourselves from sin and death. God Himself will do it by sending His own Son in the flesh. To be in the bosom of Abraham means nothing other than to be in Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, do you hate your neighbor? Do you hate your brothers and sisters in Christ? The simple fact is that if you see them in need and do nothing for them, you hate them. St. John tells us that in his epistle. Maybe the Rich Man prayed for Lazarus. Maybe you pray for your neighbors and others in the church who need help. That's good. But if you see a brother in need and you don't help, then you are no neighbor. There's no reason to believe the Rich Man was anything other than a religious man. He probably went to synagogue and maybe even gave lots of money. Like the Pharisees, he probably made it very clear how much he believed in God and how hard he worked to obey the law. And all the while Lazarus is having his sores licked by dogs out at the gate. What about us? Do we actually love others with our words and actions, or do we just talk like we do? Abraham's rebuke of the rich man is a strong one: "You had your good things in life, but now you are tormented."
But here's the real kicker! We all have enough to repent of when we fail to serve others. But when we do good works, then do we suppose that God is pleased with us? What if we take the things God has given us and do some good with them and then suppose that we're pretty good Christians? This is what the Pharisees did: they took God's Word as a guide to how they should live, and when they lived that way, they were proud of themselves. Then they could claim that if a man was poor, it was his own fault for not following God's Law the right way. Just like the TV preachers today who tell you that if you think happy thoughts and try to be good, God will bless you and give you all kinds of goodies. There is no end to our ability to take what good comes to us as an indication of how good we are. You know the saying: "God helps those who help themselves." But the Lord most certainly does not work that way.
Brothers and sisters, we must learn to be as Lazarus, having no faith in anything of this world, confessing that we have no claim on God. Lazarus had nothing in this world going for himself. All he had was the Lord. And that certainly didn't get him anything in this life, did it? But it brings him to eternal life. We have nothing but what the Lord gives us. Whether it's our material goods or forgiveness and eternal life, everything is His gift to us. We must again confess that even if we have nothing in this life, we have His water and His word, we have His Gospel, we have His absolution, we have Jesus' body and blood. Poor Lazarus begged for scraps from the rich man, but here, in Christ's church, you have a feast laid before you, a feast that is your confidence and certainty against all suffering and misery in this life. 
It's easy to take the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus as some kind of moral lesson about how being rich is bad and being poor makes you somehow more blessed in God's sight. Instead, we learn repentance for taking anything God gives us and turning it into something that is only good for us, a false god and idol. We learn the repentance of despising God's Word and learn to trust that Word which gives us Jesus. But we also learn that being in Christ means we are so free that we may spend what is given to us for the good of others. And being free in Christ means most of all that you are safe in the bosom of Abraham: now and forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Monday, June 01, 2015

Sermon for 5/31/15: The Feast of the Holy Trinity

Still no audio. Sorry.

The Only Way

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

If you remember studying fractions in school, you may recall the concept of the lowest common denominator. Say you have one quarter of a pie and one half of another, and you want to know if you have a whole pie. You have to add the two together. But first you have to make the numbers into a form that can be added. One half of a pie is two quarters. So you add the two quarters of the one pie to the one quarter of the other pie, and you see that you have three quarters of a pie.
Many who call themselves Christians--including many who call themselves Lutherans--treat the doctrine of the Church the same way. After all, we all want to get along, right? Jesus knew there would be divisions in the Church, but His intent was that all believers would be as one, even as He and the Father are one, as He prayed later in John's Gospel. But many within the Church try to create artificial unity. Christians of different denominations disagree about things. To create unity, these denominations figure out where they disagree, and then they disregard those things as unimportant. I believe that Jesus is truly present in the Lord's Supper, but you think He meant He would be present spiritually. Can we agree that our salvation does not depend on how He's present? Yes? Then let's get rid of that. See? We're more unified than we were two minutes ago! This also works when dealing with people of other faiths. You eliminate all the differences until you reach unity...also known as the lowest common denominator.
Unity in the Church is a good thing, but not at the price of doctrine. When speaking with our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often easiest and safest to repeat that popular lie, “We all pray to the same God.” Much less popular and much more offensive are the Words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” These words divide the Church. Like it or not, those are the Words of Jesus. Like it or not, those Words speak about Baptism. 
The unbelieving world wants nothing to do with God’s miracle of Baptism because the unbelieving world wants nothing to do with Christ. Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” Meanwhile, the unbelieving world looks for a compromise. We must defy the world and proclaim the salvation that comes through Christ alone. As you are about to confess in the exclusive terms of the Athanasian Creed, "It is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man… who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead." 
Today is Trinity Sunday. Today we must hold the faith of the Scriptures, even in defiance of our own reason and senses and experiences. We would choke on the Words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, especially where He says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  We all know of children who have died before birth, and therefore, before Baptism. We may even know children who were born but did not receive the Sacrament of Holy Baptism before they died. We have no choice but to commend such children to the Lord of Hosts, who abounds in mercy and compassion and steadfast love. Christ Jesus died and rose for the sins of the whole world—your sins, my sins, and even the sins of those whom we lose in utero. The blood of Jesus could not be delivered personally to them through Baptism, it is true, but the Triune God is greater even than Baptism. We must leave such exceptional cases to God. The Christian faith stands in defiance even against the reason and the senses of the Christians.
God has His own work to do, and we are not qualified to do His work or to judge how He does it. Instead, the Triune God gives us work to do. God tells us to cling to the Faith as He has given it to us. Our job is to confess, “Thus says the Lord,” and to do so without hedging, without wavering, without apologizing. The Scriptures teach that God wants all people to be saved. Today’s Gospel declares that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, whose forgiveness is now for you and for me and for all people. 
Ours is not a God who can be molded or shaped. We cannot cut and paste Him to fit our desires. On this day, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity, let us cling to the faith which was given to us by the Holy Spirit in our baptism. Let us confess God as He has revealed Himself to us in His name, the name into which we have been baptized and united with Him: 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.

HYMN: O Holy Spirit, Fix Our Eyes on Jesus

It's only taken six months for me to write another hymn. Considering the fact that it took me 35 years to write the first one, six months isn't so bad, I guess. Anyway, this is a Pentecost hymn, one which could also be used as the opening hymn at the beginning of any service.

O Holy Spirit, Fix Our Eyes on Jesus

1. O Holy Spirit, fix our eyes on Jesus,
Who gives forgiveness, all without our merit,
Who died and rose to win for us salvation.
Come, Holy Spirit.

2. O Holy Spirit, sanctify Your people:
Washed in Christ's blood and robed that we may wear it.
Give us right judgment. Help us to be faithful.
Come, Holy Spirit.

3. O Holy Spirit, speak through faithful pastors.
Preach out the Word so all the world may hear it.
Kindle with love the hearts of all Your people.
Come, Holy Spirit.

4. O Holy Spirit, in our grief, give comfort.
We mourn our sin; by grace we need not fear it.
Grant us Your peace and joy in our forgiveness.
Come, Holy Spirit.

5. O Holy Spirit, fill us with the Gospel.
You show us love and teach us how to share it.
Turn ev'ry heart to cling to Christ, our Savior.
Come, Holy Sprit.

(c) 2015 by Alan Kornacki, Jr.
10 10 10 5

Occasion: The Feast of Pentecost
Texts: John 14:23-31, Psalm 104:30, John 15:26