Friday, September 29, 2017

HYMN: My Heart, O Lord, Is Grieved

I apologize for how long it has been since I've posted. I still have some sermons to post and will see about getting that done when I can, but I'm not really in a position to post them at the moment. Life has taken an odd and unfortunate turn, and I may say more about it later.

But in the midst of this odd and unfortunate turn, I've had some time--time to think, time to pray, and time to do a little bit of writing. Most of it has been for church things--my congregations, my circuit, my district--but life events have also inspired another  hymn text. This one is based on the propers for the Ninth Sunday After Trinity, and particularly the Epistle, I Corinthians 10:6-13. It also expresses some of what I'm feeling in this unexpected and unfortunate turn in life. 

Feedback is love. So are prayers.

My Heart, O Lord, Is Grieved

1. My heart, O Lord, is grieved,
Weighed down by cares and blame.
My fear and trust in You have failed.
My head is bowed in shame.

2. Surrounded by the world,
In torment from my grief,
Temptation is my legacy,
My woe without relief.

3. I bow before my Lord.
My guilt has humbled me.
O Christ, I call Your holy name.
I beg You, hear my plea.

4. Oh, save me by Your name.
Acquit me by Your might.
Display Your mercy unto me
And arm me for the fight.

5. When darkness overwhelms,
Oh, be my light of grace,
And vindicate me by Your blood
Which sin cannot displace.

6. And when temptation comes,
When terror grips my heart,
Sustain me as I face the test
Of Satan's fiery dart.

7. O God, my faithful God,
My Helper and my Shield,
You are the Way of my escape,
O Christ, true Grace revealed.

(c) 2017 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
Occasion: Trinity IX; Affliction and Temptation; I Corinthians 10:6-13

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sermon for 9/17/17: Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

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

            When we pray for God to give us an increase of faith, hope and love, we are admitting that we fail in faith; that our hopes are often wrong-headed; and that our love is self-serving. Our prayer admits that we too often take matters into our own hands without patiently trusting the Lord to be our defense; that our hopes and desires are set on gratifying our passions and what we believe is fair; that love for others—especially those who hurt us or hate us—often gives way to anger and hatred.
            And so we pray precisely because we do not love what He commands;  because we confess that, apart from His endless mercy, we will not obtain the inheritance, the kingdom, the life He promises. And we pray because, by fulfilling our flesh, we have sinned against the Spirit. And we pray because we give into hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, and envy; and because we sincerely desire to partake of the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
            Our prayer must always be, “Lord, have mercy.” For if the Lord does not have mercy, then faith, hope and love vanish. For who will want to believe in a God who treats us like we treat each other? Who wants to hope for God’s justice to be as strict and quick as ours? And who can love a God whose love is as self-centered as ours?
            So it is the Lord’s mercy we seek when we pray—a mercy that does not deal with us as we deserve; a mercy that overrides His anger and ours; a mercy that squelches our meanness and gives birth to true brotherly love; a mercy that betters us; and most of all, a mercy that gives us an increase of faith, hope and love.
            But our ingratitude and even our abuse of the Lord’s costly mercy does not stop His mercy; it does not turn Him against us. He does not undo what He in mercy has done. The lack of thankfulness of the nine lepers who did not return did not bring back their leprosy; they were still healed. They tasted the Lord’s mercy, although they did not savor it.
            But to those who return in praise and thanksgiving; to those who sacrifice their notions, passions and ambitions; to those who offer the Lord all they are and all they have in appreciation for the mercy they have received—they receive from the Lord not only mercy but also His blessing; not just the things that make for this life, but also the things that usher us safely into the Kingdom of heaven. This leper who returns, this Samaritan, cares less about being certified “clean” than he does about worshiping the Lord Jesus who healed him. So he returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. There, by that humble act, you see the Holy Spirit at work. There you see a man who confesses that he is undeserving of any gift from God and who begins to live from the mercy he has received. For living in the Lord’s mercy begins not by doing for others, but by receiving more and more from the Lord’s hand, to partake in the love, the forgiveness, the compassion, the strength, and the mercy that Our Lord Jesus is and gives.
            And then the Spirit works again—so that you are merciful, just as your heavenly Father has been merciful to you; so that you lay aside all grudges, all notions of revenge, all hatred, all ill-speaking; so that you live not to gratify your lusts and desires, but to walk in the Spirit with the saints toward the kingdom which is your ultimate goal. Toward this end, may the Lord continue His mercy to us, within us, and among us. 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.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sermon for 9/10/17: Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Mercy for Enemies

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

The Lord does not give His mercy to those insist they ought to have it. He gives His mercy solely from His fatherly, divine goodness, without any merit or worthiness in us. “His mercy is on those who fear Him.” He gives mercy to those who see no way out. He gives it to lift up those who have been laid low—the penitent sinner, the hopeless parent, the blind, the leper, the unloved and disrespected and despised and guilty. These are the people who fill pews. These are the people who pray, “Lord, have mercy.”
The young lawyer was blinded by his pride. He would not see that he was in need of the Lord’s mercy. It was pride that drove him to stand up, believing he was better than others—even better than Jesus. It was pride that caused him to think that he could trap Jesus. It was pride that urged the lawyer to believe that he had already succeeded in loving God with all he was. So it was the man’s pride that Jesus used to trap him.
To omit mercy in dealing with neighbors; to omit mercy by refusing to forgive as the Lord has forgiven you; to omit mercy by insisting that others meet your conditions; to omit mercy by shoving aside those who don’t please you; to omit mercy by refusing to see that anyone you come into contact with is your God-given neighbor—that is where this young lawyer stumbled, where his pride threatened his inheritance of eternal life. So did the lawyer beg for mercy? He would never stoop so low.
But we cry out for mercy. So when we go down on our knees and plead for the Lord to overlook our sins, when we sing, “Lord, have mercy upon us”—do we let the Lord’s mercy stop with us? Do we let it die within our hearts by storing up anger or resentment? Do we live only for ourselves? The Lord gives His mercy for only one reason: so that it has its way with us, so that His mercy is lived in through us toward everyone—without demands, without conditions, without envy, without pettiness.
That is what the Good Samaritan does. And this Good Samaritan is none other that our Lord Jesus. Just as the Samaritan poured on his enemy the healing medicine of oil and wine, so our Lord pours over us His watered blood in Holy Baptism and then nurses us back to spiritual health with His Body and Blood. Just the Samarian carts the man off to the inn so that he might safely be cared for, so our Lord compassionately and willingly sets us within His holy Body, the Church, so that His preaching and sacraments would see us safely to the kingdom of heaven.
The Good Samaritan is the very picture of our Lord Jesus. Yet with this parable, Our Lord is also telling the young lawyer—and us—that the Samaritan is equally the very picture of our life in God. For we are to “be merciful, just as our Father also is merciful.” “For if you will not love your brother, whom you can see, how can you love God, whom you have not seen?” So we are to love all people, even our enemies. You are to bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” So we show mercy to our brothers and sisters in Christ who sin against us, to the atheist who wants us to keep our mouths shut, and even to the radical Muslim who wants us dead.
And let us remember why we cry out for and rely upon our Lord’s mercy: He is truly “ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness and great in mercy. Even to sinners like us who deserve from Him nothing but punishment and hell, Our Lord readily and mercifully gives us His Holy Spirit so we live in Him and His abundant mercy, even as He lives His love in and through us toward all men. 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, September 03, 2017

Sermon for 9/3/17: Twelfth Sunday After Trinity

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A New Creation

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

Mark is the only Gospel that records for us the details of Jesus’ encounter with this deaf man, this man whose friends brought him forth so that Jesus could give Him a blessing. And what a blessing he received! Jesus spoke the Aramaic word, “Ephphatha!” which means, “Be opened!” And the ear in which Jesus had placed His finger was opened! He spoke the Word, and His Word made it happen! What a blessing that deaf man received from Jesus! And you receive the same blessing from Jesus today!
That word, “Ephphatha,” is the same Word that Jesus speaks today to each and every one of us. We are all born with the inability to hear the Word of God. When God created man, man had perfect hearing, of course; Adam and Eve listened to every Word from God with loving obedience and carried out God’s commands perfectly. But Satan got Eve and then Adam to listen to his words rather than God’s Word.
Only God’s Word has the power to create. Any other word is a destructive word. Think about the destruction our ungodly words of gossip cause, destroying good reputations, changing the way you look at people. Think about the damage we cause when we speak a word of judgment against another person, breaking that person’s trust in us, radically altering that relationship. And just as destructive was Satan’s word of deceit in the ears of Adam and Eve. The devil’s false doctrine left us completely deaf to God’s Word, and the man unable to hear God’s Word about his sinful condition is also not aware of sin’s wages.
But thanks be to God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. “He has given me my body and soul, my eyes, ears and all my members…and still preserves them.” He who created our ears knows how to re-create those ears and restore our ability to hear His Word. The Son of God, who participated with the Father and the Spirit to create of the world, came into the world in the flesh of man to re-create man’s fallen flesh. Jesus is the Word of God in the flesh, who came to live life fully by the Word of God for all, who came to suffer the full consequences of our inability to hear and obey God’s Word, suffering the sinner’s death and the sinner’s Hell for us. In doing all of this, the Creator once again was at work, restoring His creation by the forgiveness of our sins in Christ Jesus. By His life and death and resurrection from the dead for us, our salvation is complete. Nothing more needs to be done for our salvation; Jesus has done it all for us!
That Word of Jesus Christ has come to us today. It comes to us in the Word that is joined to the water of Holy Baptism, entering our ears, washing away everything that had been blocking them from hearing His gracious Word. The Word of Jesus comes to us, joined to the bread and wine at the Lord’s Table to be the very Body and Blood of the Christ Himself, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
The Word of God with all its creative power comes to us through the Words of Holy Scripture. It creates in us new life—a new life of faith for all of our days. In this new life we hear God‘s Word with loving obedience, carrying out His commands by His Holy Spirit. Having been washed in Christ’s blood, we are a new creation. We no longer speak our own destructive words. We share His Word with others in speech and in deed, so that, by our testimony, all the world might join us around the heavenly throne of Christ Jesus. And that is a powerful Word! 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.