Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sermon for 9/30/18: Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Perfect Love

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

The Lord does not play along with the Pharisees. He gives them a perfect summary of all the Law and prophets: Love God and neighbor perfectly. This ruins the test. They wanted to debate. They wanted to be dazzled with rhetoric and quick thinking. They wanted to think some deep thoughts. Instead they were exposed as sinners. The greatest commandment is not some clever bit of ethical advice with pros and cons on each side. It is simply the command to be holy as the Lord is holy: to love God perfectly and your neighbor as yourself. This kind of preaching is no fun. After all, we already know these things. But this kind of preaching exposes the heart. These are things we’ve utterly failed to do, even though we know better. There is nothing to learn or discover here except the damning truth that we are evil.
The problem is not just that we have sinned. The problem is that we cannot and do not keep this commandment at all. We never love God perfectly; we never love our neighbor as ourselves. Never. Sometimes we do nice things. Sometimes we don’t hurt other people. We occasionally refrain from carrying out the evil thoughts in our heads. But we never—never—love God with our whole heart. Never. We always keep a part of our heart for ourselves. We are always thinking about ourselves, whether or not we’re hungry or cold or bored or what we happens next. We are always looking around to see who is noticing. We want to be sure to get credit. The problem isn’t just the sins we’ve done; the problem is that we were conceived and born in sin. We sin because we are sinners. It is our most basic definition and identity. We are helpless against ourselves. Our very instincts are self-preserving, selfish, sinful.
Our Lord answers the lawyer with the Law because He wants to lawyer to feel the law and despair, so that He might then heal and restore him. And that is the point of Our Lord’s follow-up question: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?” This isn’t a test to see how clever the lawyer is, to see if he knows the Bible, or something they can debate for fun. It is an invitation. Yes, He is David’s Son but He is also David’s Lord. Jesus invites the lawyer to contemplate the saving mystery of God becoming Man. From that contemplation comes peace and joy, encouragement and hope.
Our Lord became Man to take up sin and bear it to death on His cross. He has come to do what we could and would not, what we would never do. He has perfectly loved and obeyed the heavenly Father; He has perfectly loved His neighbor. He died in perfect love for those who did not love Him. His Kingdom—given in the holy washing and renewal of Holy Baptism, the new birth and inheritance of heaven—He bestows for free. It has already been bought and paid for, prepared for those who desire it, who dare to believe it, who hear His Voice and say, “Amen.”
How is it that David’s Lord is also David’s Son? And how is it that God comes to us in bread and wine in His Body and Blood? How is it that He joins us to Him in Holy Communion? How is it that the Creator becomes of our Food and our Bridegroom? How is it that sinners are declared saints? How is it that He loves us and remembers us in His Kingdom? These are all important questions, and all of these are answered with the word “love.” The Gospel isn’t an academic topic for debate. But it does give rise to hymns and poetry, in heaven and on earth. It saves lawyers and sinners surprised to discover they need saving. This is perfect love, and it is 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.

Monday, September 24, 2018

HYMN: You Shall Love the Lord Your God.

I’m still working on my writing project: one hymn (at least) for every Sunday in the Church year in the LSB One-Year Lectionary. Each text brings me closer to completion, when I will eventually (self-)publish a booklet containing all my hymns to that point. 

This text deals with the Propers for the Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity, which includes Matthew 22:34-46. The Gospel appointed for this Sunday (which, incidenally, really is for this coming Sunday) shares the account of a confrontation with the Pharisees, who attempted to entrap Jesus in a legal question concerning which commandment is the greatest. Jesus, of course, will not be trapped. Anyway, here is my treatment of this text. Feedback is love.

You Shall Love the Lord Your God

1. “You shall love the Lord your God”;
Love, the first and great command,
Heart and soul and mind unflawed.
Only perfect love will stand.
Only One such love has known:
Love incarnate, Christ, alone.

2. And the second great command:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love received from God’s own hand,
Free to give in boundless wealth.
Truly Christ the crucified
Loved His neighbor as He died.

3. I confess, O Christ, my Judge,
I do not love as I should.
All my service I begrudge.
I grow weary seeking good. 
You allow me no vain part,
Claiming body, mind, and heart.

4. Teach me, holy Lord, I pray,
How to love as You love me,
Living blameless in the day,
Loving neighbors selflessly.
Washed in grace, I walk the vale.
Show me mercy when I fail.

5. Two-fold love is satisfied
In Your holy, precious blood,
For in perfect love You died,
Cleansed me in Your crimson flood.
Only through Your love I can
Love and serve both God and man;

(c) 2018, Alan Kornacki, Jr.
77 77 77
Temporary Tune: Gethsemane (LSB 436)
Occasion: Trinity XVIII

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sermon for 9/23/18: Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity

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Sabbath Healing

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

It is lawful heal on the Sabbath. Of course it is. The Pharisees know this, but pride runs deep. Their fallen hearts wish it to be illegal, because then they would be better than Him; they would not be the most pitiful of men. But they know it isn’t illegal, and so they say nothing. They are too proud to admit they are wrong. They are shamefully stubborn. They remain in their sin. They will go to Hell rather than be humbled.
It is completely unreasonable…but it is no strange thing to us. We have watched ourselves destroy the best things in life—throwing away friendships, alienating family, all because of our pride, our ill-conceived sense of honor. We want to be self-sufficient, strong, and brave, heroes of our fantasies. But our friends see our vanity, our posturing, our hiding and politicking. If they were not forgiving, patient, and kind, we’d have no friends at all, let alone spouses, children, or employers.
We have been as silent as the Pharisees when it suited us. Our children bring home their live-in significant other for Christmas, and we all play along. We may suspect they’ll be gone by Valentine’s day, but we act like they’re married. We don’t want to cause a scene. In our pride we enable and engage in the worst sins of men. We are silent when the truth needs to be spoken. We are more concerned with the moment than with the future; more worried about publicity than the fate of our souls; more desirous of popularity with men than the love of God. Repent.
Jesus laid in the grave, His rest spanning three days, included every second of the Sabbath. All the world was silent. The would-be apostles hid in fear. It seemed as though the Pharisees had won. They had silenced God and hushed His Bride. They thought, “Now no one will dare to speak against our lies.” They thought they had won. We have sometimes acted like they did. But this is the great Truth: Jesus died and rose again to reconcile sinners to His Father. There is no other truth. This is why we cannot be silent. It is too important. We must warn those still caught in the web of death, enslaved to lust and greed and violence.
The world wants to know why we keep preaching against their pet sins. They are against murder and thievery—the obvious kind, at least. They do not mind us opposing that. But they like what they call “victimless sins.” “What does it matter,” they say, “what two consenting adults do?” “How does that hurt you?” But there is no victimless sin. Sin is always dangerous. It destroys faith. It separates men from God. It mocks His death. It is a lie. And it kills. Prostitution, cohabitation, homosexuality, pornography—these are not victimless. Both parties in these sinful activities are victims: trapped, sick, afraid, living in guilt and shame…or, worse, living comfortably in their sin. Should we be silent? Should we look the other way? Jesus asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Of course it is! This is the better way: the way of healing and grace, the way of forgiveness, the way of truth and of dying to live.
Be humbled in the cross of Jesus Christ. Let the world scoff at you, but do not let the disease of sin go unanswered. Do not be intimidated by those lying Pharisees. They did not win. Speak the Truth. Let them know that our Lord Jesus Christ invites sinners to come to Him and His Church, where He will give them Sabbath healing in Holy Absolution. This message will drive back the darkness of sin, and some will believe and thank you for it. And when someone speaks the truth to you, hear it with joy. Repent and be healed. Repent and be welcomed by your Lord Jesus Christ to this highest place of all, a place at His holy Altar to receive the medicine of immortality. God has loved sinners in His Son. Proclaim the Truth. God is not angry. He loves His children. He knows what He is doing. Christ did not die in vain. His body and blood is medicine for the soul. His mercy endures 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.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sermon for 9/16/18: Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Compassion and Life

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

Death is everywhere, and there’s no escaping it. The mortality rate is 100%. Death has us surrounded. And death’s grip is even greater than we think, for death creates fear in us. What scares us most is the thought that the Lord won’t come through as He’s promised, that He’ll forget us or abandon us—especially in the hour of death. So we plot and scheme either to avoid death, or to get it all and have it all before we die. Death has us surrounded.
The poor woman in today’s Gospel knows this all too well. Not only is she surrounded by the death of her only son. She is also a widow. She vividly remembers the death of her husband. She is afraid. Who will give her lasting comfort in her grief? Who will provide for her? Death has stolen her future, her hopes, her joy—and in its wake it has left nothing but fear and despair. Death is so common to us that we feel for this poor woman as she follows her son’s coffin to the cemetery. Her story is all too familiar: we know both her grief and her fear. It strikes at our very hearts.
And yet, in the very midst of death, Life Himself surrounds us. Jesus sees the woman, has compassion on her, and says to her, “Do not weep,” and then He comes and touches the open coffin, and says, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” The shadows in the valley of death are chased away, for the Light of the world has overcome death’s darkness. Fear has been chased away, for the Lord, who we thought would be slumbering and sleeping, has put forth His hand to rescue and deliver. The devil’s voice is silenced, for the Holy Spirit has brought to our remembrance every word of life, every word of promise and hope spoken by our Lord Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life.
All of this is possible—all of this is given to us—not merely because our Lord Jesus stopped a funeral procession one day, raised a young man from the dead, and then gave him back to his mother. After all, if that’s all there is to the story, where is the hope for us? Your only hope is that the Lord might magically swoop down and raise up all your dead relatives and friends right before they are buried. That’s precisely what the devil wants you to believe. He wants you to envy this widow. He wants you to think that she got special treatment from Jesus. He wants you to believe that, for whatever reason, God has let you down because no one you know has ever been raised from the dead.
You can chase away those devilish thoughts by reminding yourself that Jesus was always healing, always raising, always showing compassion. This is not just another episode in the life of our compassionate Jesus. This story also shows us His own resurrection…and yours. The compassion our Lord shows this woman is also the compassion He shows the Church. He has raised us in the font from the death of sin; He will raise us from the grave, and we shall nevermore be subject to grief, to sin, to suffering, to death. We see our Lord Jesus reaching down to us with compassion. We hear Him saying to us, “Do not weep”; and then also, “I say to you, arise.” For that is what He truly says, not just in our hour of death, but also in our time of fear—so that He might also restore, refresh, and renew us by His Holy Spirit.
In the midst of earthly death, Life Himself surrounds us, speaks to us, touches us, and raises us up. Now we can take to heart these words from St Paul: He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Or to say it even more simply, as the Church sings on Easter, “Faith shall cry as fails each sense: ‘Jesus is my confidence.’” 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 09, 2018

Sermon for 9/9/18: Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity

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God Is Faithful
Matthew 6:24-34

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

We worry about many things. Some of these things are very important: how our children will turn out; how we’ll get by when we retire; how some relative or friend will get through a sickness or trauma; or what path the Lord is leading or dragging us down as we consider our life together in this parish. These are not small matters. But then, neither are questions like, “‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” There aren’t too many things more basic than food and clothing. And there aren’t too many things that really matter more than our children and grand-children, our loved ones, our church, and our walk within the Body of Christ. So we worry. Sometimes we obsess and fret and agonize and stew.
But what does our Lord say about all this? Once again, it seems as if He’s not listening, or doesn’t take our concerns seriously, or tunes us out. He’s going on and on about trivial things like birds and flowers: things that we never worry about, things that come and go, things that really don’t matter. And we’re still asking and praying about really important stuff. Is Jesus telling us that our important stuff is trivial? Is He saying that the things we worry about are inconsequential? Is He just brushing us off?
That’s not our Jesus. Our Jesus doesn’t treat His adopted brothers and sisters that way. And neither does His Father who is our Father. Our God is not a harsh, uncaring, selfish Father who plays with us only when it suits Him. Our Father is the picture of perfect warmth and kindness. He’s the essence of mercy and love. He never brushes us off, never leaves us to ourselves, never abandons us. We may say He does, but our lies don’t change the truth. We may turn a deaf ear to Him, but that’s not how He treats us. We may be unfaithful, disloyal, and disrespectful, but He never dishes it back to us. We think He did us wrong, but He is quick to forgive, quick to renew His Holy Spirit within us, quick to restore to us the joy of His salvation.
So then, how does He answer the things that worry us? What does the Word say? First, the prophet told us, “Do not fear. The Lord will take care of you. You may think you’re up against the wall. You may firmly believe that God has forsaken you. You may be convinced that you must take matters into your own hands, and do for yourself. But, really, there is nothing to fear. And what’s more, “The Lord will send rain on the earth.” He will send you His Holy Spirit to restore your hope, to lift your spirit, to help you look beyond the many things that trouble you. No matter what you’ve done or what’s been done to you; no matter what the future may hold for you or your children; and no matter what direction this parish may go, the Lord will continue to take care of you, blanket you with His love, and sustain and strengthen you. So do not fear. There is nothing to be afraid of—not now, and not whenever—because you stand before the Lord and dine with Him.
That’s not a brush off. That’s not our Jesus saying that the things we worry about don’t matter. That’s not our Lord making light of our real and honest concerns. He tells us how things really are. We don’t need to worry about tomorrow—or our grandchildren, or our jobs—because He holds all things in His hand. But most of all, we don’t need to worry because we can trust Him. He has already prepared His Kingdom for us. He knows all we need, and in ways we can never imagine or that never make sense to us, He is arranging everything for our salvation with Him in His holy church. He will never forsake us. He will never take lightly our prayers. And He remains faithful, now and 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.

Monday, September 03, 2018

HYMN: O Christ, You Chose the Servant's Place

Continuing with my project of writing a hymn for every Sunday in the Church year for the 1-year lectionary from Lutheran Service Book, this text is based on the Propers for the Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity. This is the account of Jesus healing the man with dropsy on the Sabbath as found in Luke 14:1-11. After He heals the man, our Lord gives the Pharisees a lesson in humility. As is usually the case, I struggled with where to begin. As is usually the case, I finally decided the best place to start is with our Lord. (Would the writing process go quicker if I always started there?) Anyway, here it is. Feedback is love.

O Christ, You Chose the Servant’s Place

1. O Christ, You chose the servant’s place
In joining Your creation’s race.
You showed Your great humility
In bearing all my sins for me.

2. Bring me before the mercy seat
To beg forgiveness at Your feet.
Unworthy of Your love, I pray:
Give me a heart made new each day.

3. To sinful man you speak a word
As sweet as any man has heard.
You raise me from my fallen state
And save me from my hell-bound fate.

4. In all I do and think and say,
Lead me to walk the lowly way,
To solely trust Your holy blood
To bring good fruit to spring and bud.

5. Teach me in humble love to seek
And serve the lowly, poor, and meek.
Help me in ev’ry time and place
To share with all Your boundless grace.

6. O Christ, You chose the servant’s place.
Until I see you face to face,
I pray for true humility,
To love as You have first loved me.

© 2018 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
LM (88 88)
Occasion: Trinity XVII

Sermon for 9/2/18: 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.

            The Apostle Paul just told us, The works of the flesh are evident: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” In other words, we should avoid Synod and District conventions.
While I like to make fun of church politics, the truth is, the works of the flesh are evident at Synod and District conventions. But they are also evident at our Voter’s assembly meetings and, even more significantly, in our homes and schools and workplaces. Wherever two or three fallen sinners gather together, there will be hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, and the like. We know the danger, but we still sin. Do we dare take an examination of our lives? Who has not looked with lust in his eye? Who has not grown angry in his heart? Who has not felt the pang of jealousy or covetousness? These are the works of the flesh—of our flesh. And those who practice them do not inherit the kingdom of God. Repent.
The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Is that what outsiders would report at our conventions and meetings and dinner tables? What about the neighbor children who throw their trash into our streets and fields, who torment our pets? What do they find when they come knocking, while their ball rests in a pile of broken glass on our dining room table? Do you give them love, joy, and peace? I know you love your friends. What about your enemies? What about those who mistreat you? What about those whose pierced noses and tattooed bodies disturb you? Repent.
The Samaritan leper returned to worship Jesus. He was a foreigner, doubly cursed by birth and disease to be an unclean outsider. He was healed by the Word of Jesus, and faith sent Him back for more. He knew the works of the flesh in his rotting skin. He knew love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in Jesus, the dwelling place of God among men, who healed him with a Word.
The life of faith we live is not a life of perfect works for all the world to see. The works of the flesh are evident in us to the eyes of men. Our life of faith is an on-going struggle with healing, forgiveness, and thanksgiving. We are not those who say we have no sin. We are those who confess our sins and receive forgiveness. We wait on God and trust His Word. He says we are His children. He has marked us with His Name and resurrection. We have known the fruits of the Spirit and receive foretastes of them. But we don’t always see them. We confess them by faith, not by sight. The creation groans in eager expectation of the time when the good works in you and all the fruits of the Spirit will be evident in you, when the works of the flesh will be destroyed and forgotten forever. Until then you live by faith. That is what faith expects; that is why faith prays and waits.
The Samaritan found a family in God. He believed, and so he returned to Jesus. Faith always wants more. Faith always returns to Jesus. And the Spirit is alive in you. He has brought you here, where Christ is, where He commands the sins of His people to depart, where He speaks His Word for healing and cleansing. He may even attend the occasional convention and voters’ meeting. You’re no better than the leprous Samaritan, but God loves you. He makes you righteous in His blood. He provides the faith that makes you well. He sends the Spirit who sanctifies and keeps you. Against such there is no law. 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.