Monday, September 28, 2015

Sermon for 9/27/15: Trinity XVII


Go Up Higher
Luke 14:1-11

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

The Virgin Mary knew the kind of God her Son was, even before He was born. She sang: “He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.” She was right. Our Lord is not interested in those who are only interested in themselves. He came to put the self-important in their place and to seek the lost and humble, those who claim to have nothing but sin and wretchedness. Jesus shows us this by who He is and what He does. He is Son of the Most High. He is exalted above heaven and earth. He is the Ruler of all things. But He humbles Himself. He takes on flesh and comes to us. He through whom all things were made takes on a human nature. He who stands above the Law subjects Himself to its judgment and condemnation. He who is Life itself gives Himself into death on the cross, pouring forth His blood in a humiliating spectacle of shame and sin. He who is God Himself dies as a miserable man on Calvary. He does this so that, by conquering sin, He would be lifted up on the Third Day. He does this so that we who are made low in our sins may be lifted up by His salvation and forgiveness. Jesus is humbled so that you are exalted. Jesus is then exalted so that you may be lifted even into the heavenly places, seated with Him at the right hand of the Father!

It is Jesus who lifts you up; repent of lifting yourself up! Repent of exalting yourself in front of God and showing off in front of your neighbor, thinking God must be pleased with you because you go to church and volunteer your time here. Isn't this how we live? Don’t we try to get ahead of others? Don’t we try to get the last word in? Don’t we try to keep up with others and even pass them? Over and over, just as the Pharisees did, we exalt ourselves. We think we sparkle in God's sight because of how good we are, how holy. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let yourself be humbled. Let us who have exalted ourselves be brought low in the dust and ashes of repentance! Let us fall down before the Lord and plead guilty of all sins and put all of our hope and trust not in our own works, but the works and merits and wounds of Jesus. Fall down in repentance. Cling to Jesus who raises you up.

For indeed, the Lord exalts the lowly. He raises you up! He lifts you on high with Himself. He who was humbled by the cross and exalted on Easter now raises you up from the ashes and pit of death. Jesus, humbled and exalted for you, now humbles you in repentance and exalts and raises you up. He who healed on the Sabbath Day now comes to heal you in His gifts. At that font, you are raised up from death with water and the Word. In Holy Absolution, you are exalted and stand before the Lord as one whose sins are covered. At the altar, though you kneel in humility, you are raised up by the body and blood of Jesus that was raised up from the dead. In all of these holy gifts, Jesus is exalting you, raising you to God's right hand. By the forgiveness of sins, the Lord strips away your guilt and shame and gives you in their place His glory and righteousness. This, by the way, is why we practice Closed Communion: to teach us this very repentance and trust as Christ lifts us up. Many would presume to walk in the door and walk to the altar and take the high place at the Lord's altar. Don't do that! Let the Lord call you forward in repentance and faith to take your place—not because you choose it, but because He invites you. The Lord teaches you to sit at the lowly spot and be invited up to the place reserved for the guest of honor through His Word. And He never fails to invite you, to welcome you to this highest of places: into His presence. The Feast of Christ’s body and blood is ready. Friends, “go up higher.” 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, September 23, 2015

HYMN: Jerusalem, Christ Weeps for You

Since I like to work well ahead of the need, here's my latest hymn. It's based on the readings for Trinity X in the LSB 1-year lectionary--especially the Gospel text, Luke 19:41-48, where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and then clears the Temple of the moneychangers. Since this past Sunday was Trinity XVI, there's nearly a year to make changes if you have any suggestions for improving this text. Anyway, here it is.

Jerusalem, Christ Weeps for You 

1. Jerusalem, Christ weeps for you.
Behold your visitation!
Your debt for faithlessness is due
In awful devastation,
For Christ alone can bring you peace.
From blood has purchased your release.
But lo, you would not know Him.

2. Lord Jesus, with baptismal tears
You bathe us for salvation.
You are the Christ, the God who hears
Our ev'ry supplication.
O visit us with lavish grace,
Do not avert Your holy face,
But hide us in Your shelter.

3. Children of God, repent and live,
For Christ has come to save you.
Cry out to Him. In faith receive
The blessings which He gave you.
O hear the judgment of the Lord.
Do not reject His holy Word.
He is your vindication.

 (c) 2015 Alan Kornacki Jr.
87 87 887
Occasion: Trinity X (LSB 1-year)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sermon for 9/20/15: 125th Anniversary of the Founding of St. Peter Lutheran

This past Sunday, St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois, celebrated the 125th anniversary of her founding. We welcomed the Reverend Mark Buetow of Bethel Lutheran Church in DuQuoin, Illinois, as our guest preacher. Here's what he brought to the faithful.



The holy, Christian church. It was there long before. It was there in Solomon’s day. He rejoiced that his Father David was a part of it and he called upon the Lord to continue it. And that was long before there was ever a St. Peter Lutheran congregation in Campbell Hill. And it will be there until Jesus comes again, even if this particular congregation is gone. It will be forever, for St. John saw it in his vision of things to come: the holy church, prepared as a bride for her Bridegroom, Jesus. And when Solomon prayed, the Lord was there, right there, among His people, in that Temple. And in the resurrection and the age to come, St. John sees in his vision that the dwelling of God is with men. God Himself, right there among His people. That’s how He did it in Solomon’s day. That’s how it will be in the new heavens and the new earth. That’s how God rolls. He dwells in the midst of His people. That’s why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. So there it is long ago, the holy church. In the age to come, the holy church. And for this little slice of the past 125 years, the Lord, dwelling among His people in THIS place, Campbell Hill, Illinois, St. Peter Lutheran congregation. That is a gift. Today we give thanks for the these 125 years but not ONLY for those 125 years. We give thanks for the Lord who is here among us as He has always been for His people, long before this congregation was gathered and, we pray, still until He comes again on the Last Day.

It was Peter who, by the Father's leading, confessed that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God." So, he's a good one to name a  congregation after. For 125 years, St. Peter's confession has been, well, St. Peter's confession. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That is the confession upon which Christ builds His church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Think of that! The Jesus whom St. Peter confessed and who St. Peter's has confessed for these 125 years is the same Christ longed for by the Old Testament people of God. He is the same Son of God who was present in the flames of glory at Solomon's Temple. He is the same Jesus who took on flesh in time and was born of the virgin. The same Jesus who was handed over, mocked, beaten, spit upon. The same Jesus who was scourged and crowned with thorns. The same Jesus who was crucified on Calvary and laid dead in the freshly cut tomb. The same Jesus who rose the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father. The same Jesus who did all that for sinners. For you. For the people of St. Peter who have gone before. For you here now and for those yet to come. That's the Jesus Peter confessed and it's that Jesus who is among His people in His church. That's the same Jesus who established this church here, 125 years ago, built on that confession. And it's a congregation against which the gates of hell can't prevail. The Kaiser going to war couldn't destroy it. Neither could a Great Depression. Or Nazis. Or the threat of nuclear bombs. Or terrorists. Or bad farming years or synodical crises or anything else. Because this is Jesus Christ's little flock and He Himself is here among you.

Now the temptation is to look back and make this gift about yourselves. This is YOUR church. It may have been your PARENTS' church. Even your GRANDPARENTS' or GREAT-GRANDPARENTS' church. There is the lure to look back and say, "Yes, we built this. We have taken care of it. We have preserved it. Pastors have come and gone, people have joined or left but we, here, the members today, this is our church." You would be wrong to say that. Christ built this church. It is His church. YOU are His church. And He built it through His Word which was delivered by faithful preachers over a century and a quarter and by which He called and gathered His saints here. And He cared for this church through its members and their offerings and gifts so that the pastors were cared for and the building and grounds maintained. All gift. But a gift from Christ, not the reason for the gift. There is also the temptation, as there is in everyday life, to look back on the "golden age" and compare it to today. To say that the congregation is shrinking or dying or wasn't what it used to be. That would be wrong too, because that still makes it about you. And about people. Instead of about Jesus. Here we repent of making the church about us at all and learn to believe that where His gifts are, Christ’s church is, Christ is and whether there are two or three hundred or just two or three, there He is dwelling with them in His Word and gifts and smashing in Hell's gates and overthrowing the devil's kingdom. Repent of making the church YOUR church; rejoice that because it is CHRIST'S church, it cannot be overthrown.

And so it goes. Jesus dwells here. Right here in little ol’ Campbell Hill, Illinois. For 125 years, He has been coming to this font to wash away sins by water and His Word. For 125 years He has been telling sinners, “I forgive you all your sins.” For 125 years, He has been coming to this altar in His body and blood to forgive sinners and promise them that He will raise them up on the Last Day. For 125 years, the Lord has been joining men and women in holy marriage, comforting the loved ones of those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, teaching the Faith of Christ, catechizing the young and old, comforting sinners who are in distress and who mourn and who struggle and who need the Lord’s Word to instruct and guide them. And, for the next however many years--the Lord grant that it’s 125 and more!--He will continue to wash away sins, absolve sinners, and feed His church with His flesh and blood. And so we ask with King Solomon: Can God indeed dwell on earth? Yes He can and He does! In the womb of the Virgin, in the flesh of His human nature. And until He comes again, He dwells in His church, where the water, Word and Body and Blood are. And of all the many places around the world that He is, it is also right here. St. Peter Lutheran Church, Campbell Hill, Illinois, where not even the gates of hell prevail against it. Because this church is Jesus Christ’s. HIS house. HIS gifts. And you, HIS people. For 125 years and counting. Happy Anniversary in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Sermon for 9/6/15: Trinity XIV




Mercy and Faith

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

“Faith alone.” “Faith saves.” These statements were foundation stones of the Reformation, and they are most certainly true. But they are also often misunderstood. The point of ‘faith alone” is not that faith is alone, but that faith saves without works. Works are the fruit of faith, not the cause. Love doesn’t form faith. Faith forms love. The thankful leper returns in love. But Jesus does not say to him, “Your love has made you well.” His faith saved him. Still, having faith, he could not opt out of having love because faith always loves. Faith is never alone. His love was evidence of the faith that caused it, a joyful response to being saved by faith.

And thus, faith made him well, and we rightly say, “faith saves.” But even that, on its own, can be misleading. Faith in itself is nothing. Saying “faith saves” is like saying “forks feed.” That is true only when forks convey food. Faith saves only when faith confesses Christ. To say that another way, faith is the instrument of God’s grace. Faith is not a work. It is not something we do. It is not intellect or understanding. It is not conscious thought or will or even a decision. Faith is that trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ, trust which God creates by grace to give His grace to us. In other words, He gives the fork along with the food. Holy Baptism is the perfect example of this. Baptism creates faith in the one being baptized as God bestows His grace and forgiveness, and the faith God creates then receives what He gives.

Those nine lepers who were cleansed but did not return, did they have faith? We cannot answer that question with absolute certainty, for we cannot read the hearts of others, but it would seem that they didn’t. It seems they did not confess Jesus Christ as God in the flesh who had come to save them. They might have thought that cleansing them of leprosy was all He could do or all they needed. Perhaps some even thought that they had cleansed themselves. That’s not as strange as it may sound. All over the world, people will be fed by the generosity of God, with the food and the forks He gives. But how many of them will recognize the source of their sustenance? How many will give Him thanks? How many will, instead, take the credit themselves? Only one leper in ten returned.

The one who returned did so because he recognized that Jesus is God. He came back to worship Him. And that is what faith does. Faith always comes back for more. That is what faith always wants. It is nothing in itself, so it seeks to be filled with Jesus, with His grace, with His forgiveness, with His mercy. Faith is sustained and remains through Jesus.

But we should also notice this. These ten lepers stood off in the distance, as the Law demanded, and cried out to Jesus for mercy. They just wanted help. They were beggars, and they weren’t about to be choosy. They would beg from anyone who might be able to help them. Whatever it was they wanted, and whatever it was they meant when they asked Jesus for mercy, it must have been disappointing to them when His response was, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” What kind of mercy is that? If you know the Levitical Law Jesus was applying here, then you know that He was sending them to where God promised to be present in His mercy. But even so, when do we ever pray for God to provide for us through means over time? When we stand at the bedside of a loved one and ask for healing, aren’t we praying for God to answer that prayer immediately? “O Lord, grant me patience by putting me through long, hard years.” “O God, make me wise at the end of my life through lots of suffering and poverty?” Even if we are too cynical to expect it, we want a miracle! That’s not to say that God no longer works miracles, but we all know that is not His normal way of getting things done.

Things were probably much the same for these lepers. They wanted help right away. They wanted something done immediately. But Jesus sent them to the priests. Is it all that surprising that they had difficulty believing it was Jesus who healed them? But that is the way our Lord works. He is the Lord of creation. He works in and through creation. He has come in the flesh to restore His creation, not to overthrow it. And faith alone is able to recognize that the Lord is the provider, the giver, the healer, through all of these means. Everyone who eats a meal today will do so by the providence of God. But who will recognize it as such and receive it with thanksgiving?

Such faith saves and heals. It comes not by our efforts; it comes from above. It comes through hearing. It is spoken into us by the Word of God in the water of Holy Baptism. It is fed and sustained in the Lord’s Supper. What God reveals is that He is our God; He is for us. He has paid the price of our sin in His Son, to make us clean and to make us well. That faith alone saves. It saves because it receives the grace of God. Faith receives what God gives: forgiveness of sins and the fullness of life with Him. 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.