Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sermon for 7/29/18: Ninth Sunday after Trinity

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Faithful Stewardship

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

When someone places his possessions under a caretaker or steward, it is because of necessity or convenience. The person cannot take care of everything by himself, or maybe he doesn’t want to be bothered. But in the case of our Lord, it is quite different. The Lord God appoints men as caretakers of His stuff not because of necessity or bother, but because of pure grace and mercy.
Nothing in this world is really ours. Everything we have belongs to the Lord, and He entrusts it to us for a time, given into our care so that we would use it in thanksgiving according to our needs, or distribute it to our fellow servants according to their needs. It is not good stewardship to misuse the stuff of the earth or to hoard it, to vandalize or waste it. Gluttony is a sin as sure as sloth. We must render an account of our stewardship when Lord comes. Who has been a faithful caretaker? Who has never eaten when he was full? Who has never withheld his surplus from his neighbor? Repent.
Stop your envy and jealousy. Stop your greed and covetousness. Stop judging the stewardship of others. A tractor is not worth its price to me. But I am certain I spend more on books than most of you would, and maybe that would seem wasteful to you. How we spend God’s money is our stewardship. Each family is different, deriving a different amount of pleasure or use out of different things. But don’t make rules for everyone else where the Scriptures have left us free. Exercise stewardship according to your own situation and wisdom. Be humble and modest as one who has failed again and again to be a good steward. Repent.
The Lord does not condone thievery. The unjust steward in the parable was a bad steward. He wasted the master’s stuff. That is a form of theft. Employees who do not work a full hour steal from employers who pay by the hour. Workers who waste material are guilty of stealing. Scripture condemns this. But Our Lord condones and even praises the injustice of stewardship in the parable when the once-wasteful steward now gives away the goods, where he cancels debts owed to his master.
So if Our Lord does not condone thievery, what is He condoning? He is condoning grace. The King of Heaven is not like the rulers of the earth. He does not give us stewardship because He is too busy to take care of it or because He finds it a bother, but because He is gracious and merciful. He gives us a part in His kingdom. He gives it for our joy. And His Kingdom does not run on the economies of men, but the economy of grace. He loves to give away His Kingdom. He is a vineyard owner who pays those who work one hour as though they worked all day. He is a shepherd who has found a lost sheep and shows his joy by throwing a banquet that costs more than the sheep. He is a landowner who sends His Son for the workers to kill so that He might hand over to them the inheritance of His murdered Son.
This is grace. He gives us for free what we do not deserve and could never earn. He gives us His Kingdom, His name, His love. He says to those who squandered their lives, those who are not good or faithful, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” God is merciful; He paid your debt in the death of His Son. He is not angry. He loves and delights in you.
Now the risen Lord, in perfect stewardship, pours out His lifeblood for you, His body and blood to eat and drink to cancel all sin, shame, and guilt. He is not wasteful, yet the cup overflows. He gives more than you need. He is not wasteful; He is extravagant in His generosity. You don’t just eat to live; you feast. You revel in the gifts the Lord bestows. 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.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

HYMN: How Blessed Are My Eyes, O Lord

My work to assemble a hymn text for every Sunday in the 1-year lectionary continues. With this text, I now have seven more Sundays to complete, and there are a few I would like to review or improve. This particular text is for the Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity, the account of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:23-37. The opening of the story is Jesus telling His disciples, Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” That ties in so well with the account that follows that I felt the need to tie it all together in the hymn text. What do my eyes see? They see God’s grace apparent in my life. What do my ears hear? They hear the word of Holy Absolution; they hear the Gospel preached to me. (Incidentally, a discussion about pastors without calls and pastors under attack reminded me that it truly is a blessing to bear the cross for the sake of Jesus. Yes, sometimes I need to be reminded.) And because of what I see and hear in my own life, that brings me to my neighbor and even to my enemy, and I share the love and mercy of Christ with them. Here is my attempt to bring it all together. Let me know what you think.

How Blessed Are My Eyes, O Lord

1. How blessed are my eyes, O Lord,
To see the things You let me see:
To see abundant grace outpoured
For all my neighbors and for me;
To see myself garbed all in white,
Reflecting Your own holy light.

2. How blest, my eyes, to see the strife,
The cross which I am called to bear.
You never promise easy life
But never fail my load to share.
Oh, grant me joy in ev’ry test
And trust to know Your will is best.

3. How blessed are my ears, O Lord,
To hear the promises fulfilled
Which You have spoken in Your Word:
My Savior speaks, my fear is stilled.
My tongue rejoices to repeat
Your holy Gospel pure and sweet.

4. How blest, my ears, to hear the wails,
Yes, even from my enemies.
The love You show me never fails 
To raise me from my bended knees.
Grant me the love to serve my foe,
That he Your boundless grace would know.

5. I beg You, guard my eyes and ears,
And let your oil of life abound,
So when offense and evil nears—
Indecent sight, satanic sound—
The medicine You give will be 
The wine of immortality.

(c) 2018 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
88 88 88
Temporary tune: ALL EHR UND LOB (LSB 948)
Occasion: Trinity XIII

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sermon for 7/22/18: Eighth Sunday After Trinity

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

“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven.” We need to let these words have their way with us. The common view of heaven is that all decent people go there when they die. It is not so. It is not the repository of all the dead minus the Hitlers and Bin Ladens. It does not matter how pious or sincere or good a Muslim or a Bhuddist or a Mormon is. No one comes to the Father except through the Son. There is no other name under heaven by which men are saved. More than that, not even everyone who is baptized will enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Repent. Heed the warning. Sin is a wily seductress. She corrupts the hearts of men. She turns fathers and husbands into cowardly, lying sneaks who seek their thrills in the dark and destroy their children and their wives. It is not merely the arrogant or the rich or the weak who are susceptible. It strikes clergy and laity, men and women, adults and children, rich and poor. It turns them inward, fills them with anger, lust, and greed. It never delivers. It never satisfies. It only breeds discontentment and hardens consciences. Repent. Pornography kills. Gossip destroys. Pride crushes all virtue. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Repent. Now is the hour of Salvation. Tomorrow it may be too late. Repent.
No man can stand against the Law. It is a standard, a demand, too perfect and holy for us. Any comparison we make with our lives is damning. It always accuses us. We are fallen, sin-infected. That is why we are tempted to flee from the Law or make up new Laws that are easier to keep. But that does not remove the Law’s condemnation. It is just another excuse. It is just a temporary delusion that will be stripped away in Hell’s fire. Repent.
Those who are saved, those who enter the kingdom of heaven, are not saved by saying, “Lord, Lord.” They are saved when our Lord says, “You are forgiven. Take, eat. Go in peace.” They are not saved by prophesying, casting out demons, or performing other wonders. Those who are saved are passive. They do not save themselves. They are saved by the Lord. He is the Actor. He is calling their names.
Where can those weary of the Law’s demands and their failure find rest? Find your rest here, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has come into the world and taken up your Flesh in order to fulfill the Law for you. He has not come to condemn or to accuse you. He has come to save you. He has reconciled you to the Father. He has declared you righteous. He has intervened on your behalf. He has called you by name, brought you to Himself through the waters of Holy Baptism. He has planted and nourished your faith. He pardons your sin, removes your guilt, and welcomes you into the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, into His kingdom.
The will of the Father for you is that you turn from sin, repent, confess, and throw yourself upon His mercy. His will is that Jesus does your work and pays your penalty so that you would get the benefit and reward. Those who do the Father’s will—that is, those who are washed in Christ’s Blood, who eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus—enter and abide in the Kingdom of heaven. By grace they call Him, “Lord,” but only after He has called them by His name. You are there now, in the kingdom. For behold, the Kingdom of heaven is within you. It is Jesus Christ. You are His Temple, His chosen vessel. Jesus Christ abides in you, and He will not let you go. 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, July 15, 2018

Sermon for 7/15/18: Seventh Sunday After Trinity

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Not By Bread Alone

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

How is it that the multitude that came to hear Jesus found themselves so utterly unprepared for basic bodily needs? How is it that they were drawn out three days without food and would have died of hunger on the way home? Jesus was certainly aware of what was happening. He did not warn them. He gave them no lectures on earthly wisdom and preparations. After all, it was not sinful pride and self-reliance that has caused this situation at all. They were caught because He who feeds the birds of the air and fishes of the sea had purposely drawn them out. It was His words, His teachings, that caused them to forget all other things. His words and His teaching were responsible for the seemingly hopeless situation.
And in this very context, as the responsible party, our Lord tells the disciples: “I have compassion on the multitude.” But how? Why did He not tell them before it was too late? A hundred days’ wages would not buy sufficient bread. How can such a crowd be satisfied? God in His wisdom turns the world’s wisdom on its head. His compassion is not some bleeding heart sympathy, but a sincere and lasting love, a genuine concern for the ongoing reality and eternal fate of mankind. This compassion caused our Lord to place these hearers into such dire straits. There in the desert, with grumbling bellies and too far from home to return, they know their helplessness. The hunger that gnaws at the 4000 is the mark of death. They must eat or they will die. There is no place for them to turn. They cannot provide for themselves. They are helpless.
The words of Jesus—words that lifted the crowd out of this mundane existence so much that they forgot all other things—now seem to turn on them. Now more than ever they realize their frailty, their inability, their weakness. In contrast to the serenity of Jesus and His perfect obedience, their guilt shows forth like a beacon in the dark of night. And so it is that the Lord provides, as the Lord always does, and by His grace and mercy they realize it and give thanks for it.
We are the frailest of God’s creatures. We cannot reliably eat raw meat; we cannot draw nutrition from grass. We are the only animal on earth requiring clothing for survival. Despite all that, we are also the proudest of His creatures. While the donkey knows his master, we rebel against the goodness of God. We think ourselves good and wise, when the truth is that we are nothing of the sort. We boast in our supposed common sense. But our street smarts quickly evaporate in the middle of the night when the car breaks down in a bad part of town and the cell phone is dead. Our vaunted common sense is evident in our blasphemy towards God’s creation in the name of love: our failed marriages, our troubled and gender-confused children, our murder of the unborn, our blind acceptance and approval of everything our Lord names as sinful and harmful.
My brothers and sisters in Christ: repent. Be emptied of yourself and your sinful pride. Feel the hunger pangs that cannot be satisfied by earthly bread. Turn to the God of compassion, the God who provides the Ram in the thicket that takes our place. Find in Him the peace the world cannot give. Rest in the forgiveness of sins, for you are precious in God’s eyes. There is nothing for you to do. Your King serves you a Feast in this wilderness: His very body and blood, given and shed for you. He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, and He gives you His righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Lose yourself in His words and promises. Let this be your sustenance and joy all the days of your life, for our Lord will gladly supply all you need—both for this life, and for 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.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Sermon for 7/8/18: Sixth Sunday After Trinity

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True Religion

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

The Law of God is relentless toward sinners. It is impossible for fallen men. It is summarized in two commands: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.” And the judgment for breaking the Law is heavy. “Whoever breaks the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” And that’s the truth. According to the old Adam, you are least. You are not better than anyone. In keeping the Law of God, in teaching the Law of God, in being mindful of the Law of God, you are the least, except for your pastor, who is even worse. You stand convicted by the very words that you use to judge one another.
When we pray for God to graft in our hearts the love of His name, an increase in true religion, nourishment, and mercy—as we pray in the Collect—we are not praying for the Law. True religion for sinners is never found in the Law. This fact contradicts every other religion in the world. It even contradicts most other Christian denominations. True religion is found only in Christ, who fulfilled all that the Law and Prophets have recorded. It was Jesus who preserved every tiny bit of the Law for Himself.
The Law has been satisfied, fulfilled, and completed for you. But it has not been abolished. It is still binding. It is still how God desires us to live; it describes the best, healthiest, and happiest way to live. When we break it, there are consequences. People get hurt. Our lives are made more complicated and disappointing. Despite the promise of your temptations to make you happy, they leave you empty and lonely. Faith is weakened. Sin is dangerous and deadly. But still, it is just sin. And we who have been born from above by water and the Spirit are not slaves to sin. We are anointed by God. Christ our Lord died to sin and has been raised again. We have been joined to that death, buried in the waters of Holy Baptism with Him, and raised up again to life with Him. We have been made His: living and pure. We live, day-in and day-out, in the forgiveness of sins; in the daily rhythm of drowning the old Adam and the daily emergence of the new man through Confession and Absolution; through hearing God’s Word and eating His Supper. You are not above the Law, but you are freed from its condemnation. There is nothing left to pay back. The treasuries of heaven which we inherit in Christ have filled us with the hope of the glory to come and eager expectations for the Day of His return.
Because of this, you can confess: “The Lord is our strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed.” You—anointed, redeemed sinners—are loved by the Lord your strength. You are invited to cry out to the Lord your Rock, for He is not silent concerning the certainty of your salvation. He hears and answers the prayer of the faithful. Be afraid no longer. The Lord is your strength and your shield. If you feel that you are not worthy of Christ’s love…well, you’re right. But His love for you is not based upon your worthiness. It’s based upon His pure love for you. If you feel sorrow over your past sins, then rejoice. This is a gift from God to keep you from falling into those sins again. As baptized Christians, you daily participate in His death and resurrection, returning to your Baptism in confessing your sins and receiving forgiveness from Him. By consuming His Body and Blood in the Sacrament, you are intimately connected with Him and with everyone who has received His grace with thanksgiving. Together with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we cry out, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” 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 04, 2018

HYMN: My Eyes Are Downcast in My Sin

I have to admit, I’ve been stuck on the Eleventh Sunday After Trinity for a while now. I’ve had notes for this text for three months, and it wasn’t until this week that I’ve had any more than an opening line for this hymn text. In fact, I’ve written two texts I hadn’t even considered since I started my process for this particular Sunday of the Church year. Sometimes it just works out that way; inspiration can come when you least expect it, by means you wouldn’t usually consider. Anyway, beng unable to fall asleep for some reason, the progress I’d made on this text last night continued during the hours I’d normally be sleeping. (I hate it when my brain won’t shut up at night, but sometimes it’s useful, especially since I have today off.)

As I said, this text is for the Eleventh Sunday After Trinity in the 1-year lectionary. This is the text which covers the Pharisee and the tax collector, Luke 18:9-14. If you look carefully at what I’ve written, you will see the influence of the Introit, the Collect, the Old Testament text, the Gradual, and the Epistle, as these texts all line up quite well thematically with the Gospel.

Here it is. As always, feedback is love.

My Eyes Are Downcast in My Sin

1. My eyes are downcast in my sin.
O Lord, in mercy, hear me.
I have no righteousness within.
Nothing that would endear me.
I am a sinner, yes, the chief.
I cannot earn my own relief.
To You I make confession.

2. Sin lies in wait outside my door,
Seeking to rule and take me.
Humbled, repentant, I implore:
Savior, do not forsake me.
To you, my Lord, my Rock, I cry.
Helpless, to Your sweet grace I fly.
Oh, hear my supplication.

3. In love You hear and intervene.
You give Your life to save me.
Your holy blood has washed me clean.
Sin can no more enslave me.
Baptismal waters soothe my soul.
You speak the Word to make me whole.
You speak and I’m forgiven.

4. Lord Jesus Christ, the sinner’s Friend,
I trust Your pardon surely.
And when, at last, my life shall end,
My soul shall rest securely.
Then You shall raise me once again
To live within Your endless reign
And sing Your praise forever.

(c) 2018 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 887

Trinity XI

EDIT TO ADD: RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save and see an original tune and arrangement for this hymn, written by Theo Kavouras. Lovely tune!

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Sermon for 7/1/18: Fifth Sunday After Trinity

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Abundant Mercy

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

By our way of thinking, the blessing of God never seems to come when we want it. By our way of thinking, God’s answer to our prayers never seems to come when we need it. We cry out to the Lord especially in our hour of need, and we pray most earnestly and most fervently when we are in crisis. At that moment, we are sure God is not listening, that His blessing will not come right then and right there. But because we need to remember that God does listen, does do for us, and does bless us even when we can’t see it, even when we’re desperate—that’s why we pray. Despite what we think in our direst moments, God’s mercy precedes our prayer. God’s blessing comes even before we pray. His compassion overshadows us and surrounds us even before we see the crisis, even before we think to pray. That’s true of us. And that was true of the disciples.
They were fishermen who had toiled all night and caught nothing. No doubt, they were frustrated beyond measure. After a long hard night, they had nothing to show for it. So they gave up, brought their boats in, and let Jesus borrow them so He could preach. He got into Simon’s boat and sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. Then He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Think about it for a moment. These fishermen—Peter, James, and John—they had spent all night fishing. They were frustrated and exhausted. They were in no mood to mess around again—especially at the wrong time of day and in the wrong place in the water.
But by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Simon and the others believed Jesus. They heard His outlandish command, and they did it. They did not fight or resist or walk away. They said what every Christian should say: At Your word I will do what you say.” They were blessed beyond measure. Our Lord is merciful to them in a way they didn’t imagine, and at a time they didn’t expect. So merciful was He that they caught enough fish to tear their net. They got another boat and filled that one too, so much so that both boats began to sink. This is how our heavenly Father is with His mercy. He doesn’t skimp. He doesn’t give us only so we get by. He overwhelms us with His kindness. He is abundant in His blessing. He gives more than we know what to do with, more than we need—more than enough.
And then it hits us: we do not deserve any of our Lord’s mercy. We are unworthy of any compassion from our Lord. We grumble and complain instead of trusting and receiving what He gives. We want something else; we want more, instead of receiving with thanksgiving whatever our Lord gives. And we even curse what our Lord gives us for our blessing.
When that happens, when it hits us that we are unworthy of our Lord’s mercy, then we should imitate Simon Peter. When Simon saw the catch of fish, he fell down at our Lord’s feet, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” But just as Peter’s knees hit the ground, the Lord surprises him once more with His mercy. He says, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” That’s how it is with the Lord’s mercy. It goes more deeply than we can imagine; more deeply than we ever dared to hope.
It is no mistake that this happens over water, for we first meet our Lord’s mercy in the waters of Holy Baptism. And it is no mistake that this story climaxes with the Lord saying, “Do not be afraid,” for that is what He says to us in Holy Absolution. God’s mercy comes to us in ways we would never expect, in amounts beyond our wildest imagination. 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.