Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sermon for 10/25/15: Festival of the Reformation (observed)

Audio: RIGHT-CLICK to save...

Abiding in the Word

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.” That what the Lutheran Reformation was all about: getting the people back into the Word. Before the Reformation, only the clergy, some of the ruling class, and the intellectual elite could understand what was going on because the Bible, the liturgy, and everything sung during the Mass were all in Latin. Now, just because the common people couldn’t understand what was going on, that doesn’t mean the Word wasn’t able still to work in their hearts. But Luther translated into German the Bible and eventually the liturgy, and he wrote, translated and encouraged others to write and translate hymns, so the people could know and participate and live and abide in the Word of God. With the advent of the Gutenberg’s printing press, the Word of God was put into the hands of everyone who wanted it. What a wonderful blessing it is for everyone in the Church to be able to have access to the whole of Scripture. It is the gift of Pentecost all over again!

But having the Word of God so readily available has brought about problems of its own. I’m sure you’ve heard it from someone who calls himself a Christian, someone who says, “I don’t have to go to church to worship God or to hear His Word.” Usually this is followed by a speech about seeing God in the beauty of nature, about being able to read the Word at home, about not wanting to be around hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach. And much of that is true. One does not have to attend a Sunday service to worship God or to hear His Word. God is certainly present in His creation. Very rarely is a Christian household lacking a Bible. And it is most certainly true that the Church is filled with sinners who cannot perfectly live as we know we should.

But there are two problems with this way of thinking. The first is, while one can worship God and hear His Word in places other than the divine service, it’s very rare that a person who refuses to come to the divine service will actually seek the Word of God in their home—or anywhere else, for that matter. “The Word will always be there. Eventually I’ll find time for it.” But we don’t. The second problem is that the world, the devil, and even our own flesh do everything they can to keep us from the Word. Even with the best of intentions, the television, the Internet, children, phones, books, and other things are distractions for those who would worship at home.

The easiest way to abide in the Word of God is to seek that Word in a place and at a time set apart specifically for the reception of the Word, a place where the faithful gather together to be fed with that Word. If only such a thing were readily available to the Church! But thanks be to God, for He made a promise to be Immanuel—God dwelling with us—when we gather in His name. Christ has set apart men to serve in His stead to deliver His Word to us in faithful preaching and teaching and the word of holy Absolution. He applies that Word to us in the water of Holy Baptism and in His own body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. Even in the Church, we must be careful not to take the Word for granted. “Of course going to church once a month is enough.” “Oh, it’s not necessary to offer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.” “Pastor talks about the Sacraments every Sunday, so I don’t need to pay attention today.” But the Lord continues to give these gifts freely and generously—so much so that, as King David rejoiced, “My cup runneth over.”

It is much easier for us to think of abiding in a town, or in a particular house. Words do not seem like the sort of thing that we can get inside or remain in. Nevertheless, Jesus speaks in today's Gospel as if His Word is a home, a resting place, a shelter. Jesus has placed you into His Word; He has set you inside His Word; He has submerged you in His Word—after all, that is what Baptism is all about. He has put you into His Word. And having given you a place to abide in His Word, He will abide there with you. In His Word you know the truth, “and the truth shall make you free.” 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 21, 2015

Sermon for 10/18/15: Trinity XX


Right-click to save. Box has changed their interface, and I don't know how to embed anymore.


Invited and Robed

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

The parable of the Wedding Garment reminds us that those who reject God's invitation of salvation and those who would come without being dressed properly will be cast out and thrown away from the Lord. He has no use for those who despise Him and His grace. On the other hand, there is the beautiful and majestic picture Isaiah gives us: that the Lord invites us to come and to feast. He invites those who have sinned and turned away to once again cling to Him and return to Him in repentance, to know that their sins have been forgiven. Those who are sinners, who cannot save themselves, who have no hope of earning such an invitation, are brought into Christ's kingdom and made a part of this eternal celebration.

The King sends His servants out to tell people, “The feast is prepared!” Those servants who have gone out were the holy prophets of the Old Testament who called God's people to repentance and faith in His promises. Now those servants are the preachers who call us to repentance and faith. The feast that is prepared is the feast of salvation. Jesus is the Lamb, slaughtered for our celebration. It is the feast prepared the day our Lord gave His life into death for the sins of the world.

Hear the Lord's warning. There are those who despised that invitation; some assaulted the messengers and even killed them! The King will have justice. He musters his army to kill those murderers and burn their city! This is a prophecy. For centuries, the Lord sent His prophets to remind His people, the physical children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that their Savior was coming. He reminded them to turn away from false gods. But when that time finally came, rather than welcoming their Savior, they crucified Him. And even when He had been raised from the dead, those people still persecuted and killed the apostles who preached Christ. What was the result of their rejection? In the year AD 70, the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem. Oh, it's there today, but can there be any greater insult to the Jewish people than that a Muslim mosque sits where their temple used to be? This is a warning, dear Christians, of what happens to those who despise the Lord’s gracious invitation and want nothing to do with Him.

The Wedding Feast of God's Son is the feast of salvation given on the day that our Lord meets with His Bride, the Church. It is the banquet in which the Son of God is main course, who gives us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. It is this feast of which we have a foretaste in the Holy Supper of our Lord. Brothers and sisters in Christ, you are invited. You have been brought to the feast, to Christ's kingdom and church. He has invited you, the good and the bad, all of us who are sinners and unworthy to be here. We don't have to earn our place. We don't have to create some kind of holiness. All is prepared by the Lord Himself. He offers His Son as the sacrifice. His Son gives Himself as the main course. And yet the Son is the Bridegroom for whom the Feast is given! You don't have to cook or clean or get your life straightened out in order to be in attendance! The Lord has brought you here to celebrate with Him the marriage feast of His Son, your Savior. Our Lord gives His church the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation for free! You don't have to earn it. You don't have to pay for it. There aren't any conditions or qualifications. He's accomplished your salvation on Calvary. He brings you into His church to receive and enjoy His salvation. He prepares you for the Last Day when the final and eternal Wedding Feast begins. There is nothing for you to do but live in it.

When you were baptized, you were brought into the Lord's kingdom and given a wedding garment. But there was a man at the wedding who wasn't wearing one. There's no reason he shouldn't have had one on. But he didn't. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord gives us everything! Only in our sin would we cast off the baptismal robe of Christ’s righteousness. The Church on earth is full of people who have been brought in but who refuse to wear their wedding garment. They want to be members of the Church, but they don't want to learn God's Word, receive the Sacrament often, confess their sins and trust in Jesus. On the Last Day, the Lord will ask them and they'll have nothing to say, no confession to make. The Lord doesn’t make anyone wear the righteousness He died to give them. But He gives it freely. The wedding garment is already yours! Don't ever take it off or throw it away! Rejoice to stand before you heavenly Father dressed as Christ!

Everything is ready! The Lord all prepared. Come and eat and drink without cost! Come and receive Jesus and the forgiveness of sins! Come and rejoice to be the Bride of Christ. Come and receive all of the gifts Christ has for you with no strings attached. You've been given the invitation. You've been brought to the Wedding Feast of Christ! Rejoice! You are welcome here. 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 20, 2015

HYMN: Behold, the Lamb's Own Wedding Feast

I'm continuing to work my way through the Sundays of the LSB 1-year lectionary, writing hymns as I go along. I seem to be working behind, but there's no rush. Anyway, the Gospel appointed for the Twentieth Sunday After Trinity is Matthew 22:1-12, the Parable of the Wedding Feast. I chose to focus on the wedding garment especially, the baptismal robe of Christ's righteousness which covers our unworthiness. Here it is. Any feedback is appreciated.

Behold, the Lamb's Own Wedding Feast

1. Behold, the Lamb's own wedding feast
Prepared for bad and good.
All praise to Christ, the Groom divine:
To Christ, the holy Food.

2. The King in mercy sends His slaves
To call and bring me in.
He does not ask my piety.
He does not seek my sin.

3. I am a poor, unworthy guest,
No holiness to trust.
My deeds and words are filthy rags.
They rot and turn to dust.

4. But now I dress in holiness,
No longer smeared with mud,
For Christ, my Robe of righteousness,
Has washed me in His blood.

5. The wedding banquet is prepared,
And You have honored me
By making me a welcomed guest
To feast eternally.

6. O holy Father, mighty King;
O Christ, the Bridegroom Son;
O Holy Ghost: all festal praise
While endless ages run!

(c) 2015 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
CM (86 86)
Tune: Consolation (LSB 348)
Occasion: Trinity XX (LSB 1-year)  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Ten Years

October 12, 2005 was the worst day of my life. I've told the story before: how my district president called me aside at the end of the district church worker conference to tell me he was placing me on Restricted Status with the possibility of removing me from the clergy roster; how the senior pastor called me on the way home to tell me I was required to be present at a meeting; how the president of the congregation told me the congregation's elders voted to demand my resignation, and how they'd withhold any severance if I were to resist; how I called my wife, 28 weeks pregnant with our twins, and decided with her to resign; how, with my wife 32 weeks pregnant, we moved out of the church's house at their demand, making the long trip to Louisiana from Ohio; how I remained on Restricted Status for 10 months, even though the district president made the decision that my offense was an error in judgment, not gross misconduct that merited removal from the clergy roster; how I spent four years, seven months, and four days without a parish to serve.

That was ten years today. That's a quarter of my life so far, give or take a few months. My life and the circumstances in which I find myself today have improved dramatically over the course of those ten years: the birth of the twins; my eventual employment at the Amelia Community Center; preaching in numerous churches in Louisiana (and one in Mississippi); receiving the Call to serve as pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois; the love my family and I have received in our five-plus years here. I am, to put it mildly, content to be serving and living where I am.

Nevertheless, there are scars that remain from those dark days. My cynicism toward and distrust of Synodical bureaucracy remains, though it has been tempered at least some through the faithful service of my current district president. My discomfort on the days of congregation meetings is palpable, though the leaders and members of my current congregation have never given me reason to worry that they intend to seek my departure--if anything, the opposite is true, and the threats to keep me superglued to the pulpit should I try to leave are heartwarming. My anger and hurt and shame regarding the events that transpired with the leaders of my previous congregation, though less heated, crop up unexpectedly. (I saw a picture yesterday which was taken in the fellowship hall of that church, and my reaction was visceral. That was the room where the meeting took place, where I was forced to resign. That's what I call fellowship!) Fighting that anger is a common battle for me. There have been times I've felt I've won the battle, let it all go, but then the anger roars back. It is a common topic when I visit my Father Confessor. And those are just my issues. My family has their own to deal with as a result of our years in exile. You'd think that after ten years, after spending more than five of those years back in parish ministry, these things would just go away. Then again, as my friend Sandra said, "PTSD is the gift that keeps on giving."

Still, hindsight being what it is, I can see blessings now from those days that I was blind to back then--or if not blind, I did not appreciate them as I should have. I was able to be a full-time father to my twins for nearly a full year. When I finally did find a job, it was one in a field in which I had experience, one which kept my mind active, one which allowed me to accept the invitations I received to preach. And those invitations were plentiful--indeed, I think the pastors and congregations occasionally invented opportunities to ask me to visit. I won't spend the day enumerating each blessing--there are too many to count!--but I'm in a position to appreciate them more now than I had graciousness to do so at the time.

And now I'm also in a position to do some good. I wrote a book about my experiences (and the experiences of other pastors who, like me, found themselves on the outside looking in). Though Lutheran Purgatory: Pastors Without Calls has been ignored and in some cases ridiculed by many of those who most need to take it to heart, it has brought awareness of the greater problem of how we as members of the body of Christ treat our brothers and their families in these difficult circumstances, and the sale of this book has allowed me to raise some money to support my brothers and their families in times of need. I was asked by the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations to present at their annual conference on this subject, and as the opening speaker I had the opportunity to set the table for the rest of the presenters. (You can listen to my presentation by right-clicking this link and saving to your own computer.) This is a subject our Synod now realizes is a troublesome one, one that gives lie to the idea that we're in koinonia (fellowship--what we've taken to calling our "life together"), that we are earnest and quick to display our diakonia (service--what we call "mercy") toward each other. I hope that our Synod in convention next summer will act to address these issues and will respond appropriately to what the Synod's task force on this issue brings to the table, whether their report deserves praise and action or rejection and re-tasking.

Ten years. It's strange to think of how my life and the lives of my family members has changed over that time, how our time in exile has affected us. But one thing that has remained constant in all of this, the good, the bad, and the ugly, is that God has remained good to us. Whether or not the wounds fully heal here in time, the Day is coming when the wounds will be healed, when we will finally be fully at peace with the events and the people. God grant it for the sake of His Son, Jesus.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sermon for 10/11/15--Trinity XIX

Please ignore the part of the audio where I completely space on the meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed.



Forgiveness Is Like This

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

Jesus looked at the paralyzed man and said, “Take heart! Your sins are forgiven you!” Did the man ask for forgiveness? Did he tell Jesus he was sorry for his sins? No. Jesus just forgave him. The Pharisees exploded. “This man blasphemes!” Blasphemy is lying in God’s name. They made this charge because they believed Jesus had no business forgiving sins. Only God can forgive sins. Forgiveness is between a person and God, and they believe you have to go through the routine to get your forgiveness. Some people believe that if a person sinned right before he died, and he didn’t have a chance to ask forgiveness, he would go to hell. They act as if Jesus isn’t really a Savior! God doesn’t work that way. But that’s how people believe who live as slaves of the Law. It sneaks into the church, too, where people believe that the forgiveness Christ gives has conditions and requirements, that forgiveness isn’t yours until you ask for it or decide you want it.

Look again at that paralytic. He can’t get up and walk to Jesus. His paralysis is an example of our standing before God. We don’t come to Jesus. We don’t approach Him. We must be brought to Him by the Holy Spirit so that He can speak His Word of forgiveness. And Jesus does His forgiving without consulting us or drawing up a list of demands. “Your sins are forgiven you.” From the cross He says, “Father, forgive them.” In fact, the whole cross and Good Friday work of Jesus is this forgiveness for which we do not and cannot ask. God doesn’t wait until the world realizes it needs a Savior. Jesus doesn’t wait until we ask nicely. He comes and does what He does, suffering and dying and being the Lamb of God without our asking. He accomplishes our salvation before we even knew we needed saving. We like our sins too much to think they need forgiving. So Jesus comes and pays for our sins before we even knew they needed to be forgiven.

And that’s how we come into the church. We’re brought like the paralytic. We are carried to the font—either by our parents and godparents, or by the Holy Spirit, working through the pastor who speaks God’s Word. You are brought in here like the paralytic, and at the font, maybe even when you didn’t understand a word of it, your Lord declares, “Your sins are forgiven.” You are here in the Divine Service. The pastor declares that your sins are forgiven. Maybe you don’t remember all your sins. Maybe you weren’t even paying attention when we confessed our sins. But Jesus gives it to you freely: Absolution and the Supper, given for sinners without any merit or worthiness in you. This is not a party that you can sneak into; this is a meal, a feast, given for sinners, given by Jesus to forgive your sins—each and every one of them: the ones you know and don’t know; the ones you ask forgiveness for and the ones you don’t remember.

You can live as if that forgiveness isn’t true. You can live as if that forgiveness needs to be asked for first. You can live as if your sins don’t belong to Jesus. That’s the way the Pharisees work. That’s true blasphemy. Real unbelief is to think your sins don’t belong to Jesus. But they belong to Him now. He took them from you. That’s why He tells you they are forgiven. And that is what church is all about. That’s what the Christian life is all about. It’s not that we don’t sin, but that we live knowing our sins are His. He’s taken them; He will never give them back. He will never condemn you for them. He gives you forgiveness before you wanted it or asked for it. He comes to where, like Adam and Eve, you hide in your naked shame, and He says to you, “Your sins are forgiven you.” That’s how Jesus works. 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, October 10, 2015

Sermon for 10/4/15: Trinity XVIII

Forgot I hadn't posted this yet. Sorry for the delay.




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

People want to be religious because they think that, by figuring out some law and rules and commandments, they can live their lives the right way. People want a religion that spells out exactly how they should live. They want rules and guidelines so they know how to stay on God's good side. So Jesus boils it all down to two: Love God and love your neighbor. So how is that going? We like to say we love God, but there is usually a long list of people we can't stand. The thing is, you can't love God if you don't love your neighbor. That’s why the world can't stand religion: it's got too many rules we can't keep! We believe wrongly when we think that the Bible is about the Law and how we can live a good life. Now don't get me wrong: the Bible certainly gives us the Commandments, and the Commandments teach us how to live. But they don't give us the ability or the power to do keep them. When we break them, all they do is condemn us!

It’s important to understand our Lord’s words the right way. He says that everything in the Law and the Prophets hangs on these two commandments. When Jesus says "the Law and the Prophets," He means the Word of God, Holy Scripture. He means Himself. So when Jesus says that the Law and the Prophets—which mean Jesus—all hang on the commandments, He's talking about His own death on the cross. The Law itself says, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree." So Jesus does not mean that the Bible tells you how you can save yourself. He means that He Himself will hang on the judgment and curse of the Law against sin when He hangs on the cross. The cross is death. Death is the curse, the sting of the Law. Jesus receives that curse when He hangs on Calvary. This means the Bible and true religion are not about the Law teaching us how to live. They are all about Jesus living and dying for us upon the very Law that we could not keep! This is why He asks those Pharisees whose Son the Christ is. To save us, Jesus can't just be some guy. Only the Son of God, the one who is true God, begotten of the Father, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary, can save us from our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, since Jesus hung on the cross, since He hung upon the judgment and damnation of the Law, since He hung on the tree of death to give us life, do not hang your hopes on the Law! Don't try to think of a way to please God by how you live! Instead, hang your hopes upon Jesus! Hang your faith and trust upon Him. Jesus hung on the Law in your place. At the holy font, in the water and word of Holy Baptism, the Lord Himself hangs His name on you to mark you as His own, one who is redeemed by Christ. In the Absolution, our Lord hangs on you His Word that declares you are forgiven and your guilt has been pardoned. In the Sacrament, Christ Himself takes the same body that hung on the cross and the same blood that poured out on the cross and gives them to you as the sure and certain promise of forgiveness, life and salvation, upon which you can hang all your hope and faith.

The Law will sound good only as long as you can keep it. The moment you break God's commandments, the Law will leave you hanging. But Jesus was nailed to the tree to hang on the Law for you, and you are saved. No longer do you have to figure out which commandment is most important; no more trying to figure out how much good you have to do. You have Christ, the Son of God, who hung on the cross for you. Upon Him everything hangs. Upon Him everything depends. Your salvation hangs on Jesus, who sits at the Father's right hand, and who makes a place for you there 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 will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen. 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

HYMN: Rejoice! Rejoice, O Heaven

I'm currently at the Southern Illinois District fall pastoral conference. Our worship during this event is based around the readings for the observation of St. Michael and All Angels. An idea popped into my head, and I ran with it when I had some free moments. This hymn is based primarily around the Epistle appointed for the day, Revelation 12:7-12. This isn't one of those mighty hymns dealing with the glory of the angelic band. We have those already. Anyway, here it is.

Rejoice! Rejoice, O Heaven

1. Rejoice! Rejoice, O heaven
And all who dwell therein,
For Satan is defeated;
Thrown down is death and sin.
(refrain) O holy Lamb, our praise,
For You have sent Your angels
To guard us all our days.

2. Saint Michael and his angels
Have quelled the dragon's might,
And Satan, ancient serpent,
Is banished from the light.

3. No longer can he harm us
With any charge or lie.
Salvation and the Kingdom
In glory have come nigh.

4. Though Satan's wrath is burning,
Behold, his time will cease.
Fear not! The day is coming
Of everlasting peace.

5. O Triune God, all glory!
Our gratitude we sing
With martyrs, saints, and angels
To Christ, the angels' King!

(c) 2015
76 76 6 76
Tune: ES IST EIN ROS (Isorhythmic) (LSB 383)
Occasion: St. Michael and All Angels

Friday, October 02, 2015

HYMN: Hear, O Lord, My Anguished Cry

Between the mass-murder in Oregon and other events yesterday and lately, my heart and mind have been heavy. I was brooding over Psalm 86, particularly verses 1 and 14. This is the first draft resulting from those broodings:

Hear, O Lord, My Anguished Cry
(written on the occasion of the mass-murder 
at Umpqua Community College in Oregon)

1. Hear, O Lord, my anguished cry.
Sin and death have brought me grief.
To Christ's holy wounds I fly:
Water, blood, my great relief.
Send Your Spirit! Dry my tears!
Answer me, O God who hears!

2. Hear, O Lord, my fervent prayer
For my neighbor and for me.
Evil seeks me everywhere.
My own flesh won't let me be.
I am weak; temptation nears.
Strengthen me, O God who hears!

3. Hear, O Lord. My own words fail.
In Your Word I find my rest.
Do not let the world prevail.
Do not leave Your child oppressed.
Shield me from the demon jeers.
Shelter me, O God who hears!

4. Hear, O Lord. I call Your name.
You alone I trust for peace.
Though the devil seeks my shame,
You cause all my fears to cease.
Even when my own death nears,
I will praise the God who hears.

(c) 2015, Alan Kornacki, Jr.
77 77 77
Occasion: Persecution, Temptation