Friday, July 28, 2017

POEM: The Least of These

Not a hymn. Just a poem, but fun anyway. 

The Least of These

Oh, who would be "the least of these":
The "brothers" we despise?
And why do we ignore the Christ 
Who comes in humble guise?

Perhaps it's just the preaching slave
Who comes in Jesus' stead,
And when the Law shows us our shame, 
We hold back daily bread. 

Or maybe, when we want him to
Commune our Druid aunt,
We lose our minds and kick him out
When he says, "No, I can't."

When we, with itching ears, have made
Unreasoning demands,
Why shouldn't we just vote him out,
With Pilate wash our hands?

Have mercy, Christ, on those who claim
To praise and worship You, 
Yet treat Your stewards shamefully.
Their words do not ring true.

Lord, grant us faithful hearts to love  
The pastors You provide,
To listen to the Word they preach
And cast them not aside.

(c) 2017, Alan Kornacki, Jr.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sermon for 7/23/17: Sixth Sunday After Trinity

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Who Can Be Saved?

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

Sinners that we are, we are constantly looking for ways around the law: loopholes, exemptions, exceptions. That’s why the law books are so thick, why the legal code is so ponderous, why the lawyers are well-paid, and why new laws must be passed every day. The same is true of our attitude toward God’s Law. We’re always looking for the “It doesn’t apply to me” clause. Yet, God’s law and His commands are really quite simple. They can be reduced to one sentence: “Trust Me and so do what I say.” And how should we reply? “All the words which the Lord has said, we will do.” But we often don’t say that. Instead we wink and say, “Sure, we’ve done that. We’ve kept the letter of the law.” But don’t you know? “The letter kills while the Spirit gives life.”
Our Lord Jesus came into our world not to kill, but to give life. He did not come to add to the laws and commands of God, but to accomplish them. He did not come to add to the burdens of the law, but to give us the Holy Spirit who applies to us Christ’s fulfilment of the Law, the commandments, the ordinances, the precepts, the statutes, and the decrees of God. Jesus came in our flesh precisely because we do not keep our word; because we do not do and heed all that the Lord has said; because we come up with ways to skirt the law of God; because we do not trust the laws of God. But if you will not trust His Law, how can you believe His Gospel? If you will not be afraid of His threats, how can you be comforted by His promises? If you do not love His commandments, how can you live from His life-giving Word?
When He says, “I came to fulfill the Law,” our Lord is not thinking like us. He’s not crossing His fingers. He’s not using legal trickery. He’s saying that He did what we could never hope to do: He accomplished the fullness of God’s law. Perhaps a person might be able to keep perfectly the letter of the Law. The Pharisees certainly thought they did. But who can completely, absolutely, every minute of every day keep the Spirit? Our Lord wants you to know that He has fulfilled the Law in its fullness and spirit, but He also requires you to believe that you cannot.
If you wish to live the law of God and to do all He commands, if your heart-felt desire is to attain the kingdom of heaven and to live in God, then you must not ever, in any way, believe in yourself. If you rely on yourself, then you will not be able to resist even the smallest attack by the devil, the world, or your own selfish desires. These enemies feed on your self-delusion that you can do what God requires, even for only a moment. And in the moment you believe that, then you are lost. You have placed yourself and your self-confidence ahead of loving and trusting God above all things.
Our Lord Jesus draws out the full implications of God’s law and increases our understanding of righteousness so that we might see and know and believe and confess that we are the most vulnerable, the most helpless, the weakest—and so the person in greatest need of the Lord’s mercy. For when you hear Jesus say, “Whoever is angry with his brother”—you must reply, “Lord, who then can be saved?”
But that’s the beauty: nothing you are and nothing you have depends on anything you have done. It is all because of the Lord’s mercy. Even the good you do to others traces back to the mercy of God which Jesus died to give you; the mercy you received in the waters of Holy Baptism; the mercy which is nourished and strengthened at this holy altar; the mercy which now lives within you, which has planted God’s kingdom in your heart. That is why you live. That is why you have the hope of the resurrection of your body. That is why you look forward to the life of the world to come. 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, July 19, 2017

Sermon for 7/16/17: Fifth Sunday After Trinity


The Sinner’s Fear

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

Peter was afraid. When he saw the catch of fish—how great it was, and how miraculous the miracle—then he was afraid because he knew he was in the presence of the Son of God. And so down on his knees he went. And up went his prayer, his cry for help. He was not sarcastic. He was not demanding. He did not try to spin things so that he was in control. He was not manipulative. He simply said, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Peter confessed who he truly was—a sinner. He confessed that he was unworthy to stand in the Lord’s presence. And he confessed that his labors, his fishing skills, his wit, his wisdom—they all added up to nothing. This catch of fish was entirely the Lord’s doing, and it was marvelous in Peter’s eyes. And while it astonished him, it also scared him. He was afraid. Peter was afraid of standing before the living God. It’s not that Peter was afraid of what God might do to him. Peter was afraid because Peter knows himself. Peter knows that he doesn’t deserve to be in the Lord’s presence. He knows that God in the flesh is slumming, visiting the little people.
Some would say that Peter was suffering from low self-esteem. Others would say that Peter was emotionally distraught and not in his right mind. Still others would say that Peter was making a fool of himself. And some might say that Peter was overwhelmed by the power and majesty of God. But in truth, Peter says what Cain should have said; what Saul should have said; what Judas should have said. And Peter says what King David said, what the Apostle Paul said, and what all the saints and martyrs have said. Peter says what should be in our heart and mind when we cry out, “Lord, have mercy”; or when we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.” Peter’s prayer is not the whine of a whimpering coward; it is the truthful confession of a man who sees his Maker and, at the same time, sees himself.
Listen to what Peter says, because his confession belongs in your mouth. And it doesn’t take a miraculous catch of fish for you to realize it. As you examine your life according to the Ten Commandments, you recognize yourself for what you really are. You are a sinner. Like Peter, you know you don’t belong in the presence of the Lord. Like Adam and Eve, you hear the Lord, and you hide from Him because you know you are naked in your sinful nature; you know that you are no longer the “very good” creation He made you to be.
You’ve heard Peter’s confession of sin, and you recognize it as your confession, too. With that in mind, listen to what Jesus says to Peter and to you: “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid—not because there is nothing fearful in God; and not because your fears are misplaced. But do not be afraid, for He has taken into Himself your sin and your death. Do not be afraid, for He has restored the relationship between God and man by drawing you into Himself. Do not be afraid, for He is your Life—so much so that your sinful self has being drowned in His undying love and mercy in the waters of Holy Baptism. And do not be afraid, for He is your Strength, your steady Rock, your Salvation, your Hope, your Consolation, your Joy.
So what are you afraid of? Losing father or mother or children? Are you afraid of what life in the Church means, what sacrifices it requires? Are you afraid of the journey or that you will sin? Listen again to your Jesus: “Do not be afraid.” You have nothing to fear. He knows what you are. He knows you will sin. Our Lord forgives you. He washes you clean. He welcomes you into communion with His holy Church. So do not be afraid. He has come to be Immanuel—God with us—God with His people 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.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sermon for 7/15/17: Funeral of Barbara Lampe

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Out of the Depths

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text is Psalm 130. 

Imagine being in a small boat on the ocean in a storm, and the waves swallow the boat in an instant. One minute you are safe inside the boat, and the next moment you are swept away. While drowning is not a pleasant death, you usually don't have a whole lot of time to worry about it. But what if your boat is sinking slowly over the period of years? The water slowly creeps up from ankles to knees. After a year it gets to be waist deep, then slowly rises to the chest. Then it reaches the neck. Any higher and the mouth will have to be closed. But as long as one's nose is in the air, one can stay alive. That’s the kind of experience the Psalmist describes.
That's what it must have been like for Barb in the last years of her life—only instead of it being water that rose up to overwhelm her, it was Alzheimer's. Alzheimer’s is a disease which takes away your memory. It affects language skills and decision-making ability. It impairs judgment, attention, and other related areas of mental function and personality. Eventually your body even forgets how to breathe.
Perhaps the greatest frustration for those who spend time with an Alzheimer’s patient comes from trying to make a connection with them. You know that this is the person you love, but they often don’t recognize even their own children of spouse. But Barb was a Christian, made a child of God through Holy Baptism. God had made a connection with her through His Son in those holy waters. He placed on Barb the spotless white robe of His perfect righteousness, and nothing could take that away from her: not Satan, not the disease which took so much else from her, and certainly not death itself. While Satan used this illness to take from Barb’s mind the knowledge of the Lord, nothing could remove from her soul the washing of Baptism and the mark of one who has been redeemed by Jesus Christ. All along, even when she knew nothing else, Barb’s soul cried out, Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice! Lord, my mind has been taken from me, but I belong to you.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, hear the Good News: Jesus, the Son of God, your Savior, takes the guilt, the shame, and the punishment of all your sins of thought, word, and deed, and He carries them to the cross. He pays the eternal price for them. The wrath of God is released upon Jesus instead of on you. His blood cries out for your pardon: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is the price of your sins. This is what your salvation is worth to the Father. He marks you as His own and makes you His child in Holy Baptism. And He sends His Word and His messengers to proclaim it. When the pastor, speaking for Jesus, says to you, “I forgive you all your sins,” Jesus cleanses your soul. Jesus announced your complete forgiveness when He said, "It is finished!" And like He did for Barb and for all who know Jesus as their Savior, He has given His life to you so that you will live with Him forever.
The strength to remain faithful unto death is the strength that the Lord gives through His Word and Sacraments. The Psalmist prays, “O Israel, hope in the Lord. For with the LORD there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel From all his iniquities.” This is the promise Barb clung to when she knew so little else. This is the promise which has been fulfilled for her as she rests from her labors. And this promise is also for you as you await the reunion with Barb and with all those you love who have gone before us in the faith. 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.

HYMN update 2: Saints of God, the Devil, Prowling

I'd updated this text once before, and it was better than where I started, but there was still a lot of Yoda language (backwards talking). I've updated the hymn, cleaned it up a little, fixed some of the Yoda speak (leaving it only where the emphasis strengthens the text). The last update can be seen here.

I Peter 5 and the Sermon on the Mount influenced this text. I wanted to talk about persecution and how the three Persons of the Trinity answer it. Whether or not I succeeded, well...I'll leave that for you to say.

Saints of God, the Devil, Prowling

1. Saints of God, the devil, prowling, 
Seeks God's children as his prey.
All his demon horde is howling
With no mercy to display:
Tempting, blaming, sin-befouling. 
Who on earth can win the fray?

2. Saints of God, our holy Father, 
Looking from eternity, 
Saw our fall, and He would gather 
All who see the foe and flee. 
He sent Christ to be our Brother;
He sent Christ to set us free. 

3. Saints of God, the Son, our Savior,
Born of woman, born of God,
Bore the brunt of man’s disfavor,
Bore the curse: death’s savage rod.
Now death’s sting is gone forever.
Overcome is Satan’s fraud.

4. Saints of God, the Spirit crying
Comforts us in ev’ry need.
Death, the world, the devil’s lying
Fall before the Church's creed.
Now the Spirit, ever vying,
Calls God’s children free indeed.

5. Saints of God, our flesh betrays us.
See the prince of earth cast blame.
All who hate the Word would slay us,
Sentence us to angry flames.
Though they beat us, mock, or flay us,
We still bear Christ's holy name.

6. Saints of God, the world deplores us.
Rage and spite, our earthly lot.
Boldly face the cross before us.
Let the faithless scheme and plot.
We, though all the world abhors us,
By Christ’s holy blood are bought.

7. Saints of God, though death comes near us,
Blessed are we to face the blade.
Rise to pray. The Father hears us.
Tremble not! Be not afraid!
Sing for joy! The Lord will cheer us
With white robes which never fade.

∆ 8. Saints of God who live hereunder,
Hail Him with the angel host.
Martyrs, make your praises thunder:
Sing the name of which we boast,
Worshipping in endless wonder
Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

© 2014 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 87
Suggested Tune: Ascended Triumph
(LSB 491, © 1973 Henry Gerike--ask him for permission to use)

PUBLIC DOMAIN TUNE: Westminster Abbey (LSB 914) 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sermon for 7/9/17: Fourth Sunday After Trinity


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

“Be merciful just as your Father also is merciful.” This is what Jesus requires of you. But it’s not easy. Mercy requires that you always act for your neighbor’s welfare without considering yourself. Mercy demands that you seek only to serve others. Mercy insists that you be quick to forgive, slow to get angry. It demands that you bear no grudges. Mercy teaches you to suffer undeserved punishment quietly, to shoulder the blame for wrongs you have not done—and even wrongs that have been done to you. Mercy orders you to love the unlovable, to help those who abuse you, and to reach out to those who spitefully and meanly mistreat you.
That is what your heavenly Father has done for you. That is what our Lord Jesus endured for your sake. That is how the Holy Spirit deals with you. You were not turned away from the waters of baptism. And even though you continue to abuse God’s kindness, He does not refuse to forgive your sins. And the Holy Spirit still gathers you within the Church, still invites you to pray to the Father, and still allows you to partake of God when you turn to Him in repentant faith. In fact, the Lord eagerly waits to embrace you, to shower you with the riches of His mercy—riches you don’t deserve.
Do you see, then, how mercy goes? Mercy requires you to lose yourself entirely, to give yourself over to another—even a stranger—without any hesitation, without any question, without any fear, without any vengeance, without any thought for your own well-being. After all, that is what our Lord Jesus did. And He is the Mercy of God in the flesh. But who can “be merciful just as your Father is merciful?” Does that not ask the impossible? Does that not demand that you somehow become like God?
That is precisely the point. Our Lord is not demanding that you be something you cannot be. He is not commanding you to change yourself from imperfection to perfection. He is not ordering you to change from creature to Creator, or from human to divine. Rather, our Lord is urging you to become more and more what you already are.
And who are you really? By God’s grace, you are a child of the heavenly Father. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, you are born of God. And by the kindness of the Holy Spirit, you are no longer a child of disobedience, a child of fear, a child of rebellion, a child of slavery to sin and death. Instead, you been freed to live in holiness and righteousness. You have been delivered to live without fear of being short-changed or abused. You have been rescued to live as you ought to live. You have been freed by the Spirit to live the mercy that Jesus lives in you.
So Jesus is saying that you should become merciful, just as God your Father has been merciful and gracious towards you. Become as merciful as Jesus has been to you. He became what you are. The Son of God joined your death-riddled, sin-filled flesh to His holy and life-giving divinity. In the unity of His Person, He joined God and Man, joining you to Himself. He did this so that in His Body you would become what you can never be apart from Him: so that you would become the mercy that He is.
So become merciful—that is what the Mercy of God urges you to be. Become merciful—that is what the Spirit of Mercy invites and implores you to be. Become merciful—that is why Mercy died and rose, why He ascended, why He then descended into the font and continues to descend upon this altar in His body and blood. Our Lord Jesus comes to you in His Supper so that you would become the person He died for you to be: a child of the Father who resists the evil spirit of revenge, who strives in Christ Jesus to live the spirit of patience and love that He has graciously given to 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.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Sermon for 7/2/17: Third Sunday After Trinity

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Father and Sons

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

Parables tell a story which is meant to teach. The stories Jesus tells are all very straight-forward. These are not fairy tales. They use real-life circumstances and characters, such as rich men and thieves, birds and flowers, land purchases, lost coins, precious pearls, sheep, and dysfunctional families. That doesn’t mean you’ll always understand or agree with exactly what the parable is teaching, but the hearer is presented with a lesson in straightforward language. Parables are about everyday life, and because this is the case, it’s easy to see yourself in the parable. Even the Pharisees recognized themselves in many of the parables Jesus taught. They understood where they fit in the story being told. They knew what Jesus was trying to get through to them.
We so often focus on the younger son and his sins of greed and wastefulness. And we do find it easy to relate to him. The younger son has his feel-good story: his arrival at rock bottom; his repentance; his tearful reunion with his father. The older son has anger and frustration, and he feels his anger is just because he’s the one who has been a faithful son and servant to his father throughout this whole sordid affair. But they have this in common: both believe that their father's love depends on what they do. Both believe that their place as sons depends on their obedience. The younger son believes he has forfeited his place because of his sins. The older son believes that he's more of a son than his brother because he's been working hard in the fields. Therefore, he should be favored because he's earned the right. 
Both arguments make sense, but both of them insult the father's love. The younger son says, "My father's love is conditional. He cannot love me as a son because I have sinned. He will only help me if I earn it." The older son says, "My father's love is conditional. He should love me more because I've earned more." They come at it from opposing directions, but both are saying that their father's love is limited, conditional.
The father of the parable is none other than God the Father, and those two sons are very much like the tax collectors and the Pharisees. On the one hand, penitent tax collectors might well be tempted to think, "I have sinned against God so much that He will only forgive and love me if I prove that I am worthy. Once I earn it, then He will forgive me." On the other hand, the Pharisees are tempted to believe, "God loves us so much more than those tax collectors because, while they've been living a sinful life all this time, we've been hard at work to keep the rules." But they have this in common: they both believe that God's love for them is based upon their performance. It makes sense to sinful ears; but it also says that God's love is conditional.
When you were a child, what did you do to earn the right to be a son or daughter in your family? Did you pay dues? Take vows? Sign a contract? No. You did absolutely nothing. You were born—given unearned life—and that is how you became part of the family. When you obeyed your parents, were you more of a son or daughter? No. When you disobeyed them, were you less of a son or daughter? No. You suffered disapproval, but you were still part of the family. You could remove yourself from the family, but you could not earn a place in the family. In the same way, the Lord says to you, “You are mine.” You belong to Him because His Son Jesus paid the price for your salvation by His death on the cross. He had made you His child in the waters of Holy Baptism, where that salvation was applied to you in the water. He brings you to the family meal at His holy Table. You can’t do it; He did it for you. You are a beloved child of God, forgiven of all your sins. He will always keep a place for 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.