Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sermon for 12/29/19: First Sunday After Christmas

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The Temple in Flesh

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

The Temple in which Our Lord was presented was not the Temple of the Old Testament, the one built by Solomon according to Divine command. That had been desecrated and destroyed. The Temple of the presentation, where Simeon sings his song, was the one built by wicked Herod. Even so, God sanctified that Temple. He made it His place. The blood of animals was spilled there in the place of men’s, as the wages for sins. The aroma was pleasing to God. He chose to dwell there among His people with His gracious, merciful presence.
But Temple was no more permanent than the roving canvas Tabernacle of Moses we heard about on Christmas morning. The Temple in which Our Lord was presented and laid into Simeon’s arms was eventually destroyed. It no longer exists. It has been gone since the year 70AD. And even if a Temple like Herod’s is built today, God will not dwell there. That Temple has served its purpose. God has raised up for Himself a Temple which men did not build, but that men did tear down. That Temple is Jesus, God dwelling among His people in flesh. That Temple was rebuilt on the third day, and men will never tear Him down again. This living, eternal Temple is the only one that counts, for Jesus has fulfilled those Old Testament Temples.
Jesus is the place of God’s gracious presence among His people. He is Immanuel, God with us, God as one of us for our salvation. He is the Passover Lamb that takes away sin—and not just the sins of those whose doors are marked, but the sins of the whole world. It is His blood sprinkled upon us which makes us clean and declares us righteous. He stands between us and God’s perfect Law, our Shield and Protector. He intercedes for His beloved even while teaching them to pray. He is the consolation of Israel, the redemption of those who believe.
He is not bound to time or space, but He bound Himself to the stuff of Mary’s womb that He might bleed and die and rise again to recapture men for Himself. Now His humiliation is ended. As a Man, as Mary’s Son, our Brother, He always and fully uses His Divine rights and power. As a Man, God dwells in the hearts of men, making them the temple of His Holy Spirit. As a Man in flesh, He is present in bread and wine to join us to Himself in a sacramental union that defies our intellect but satisfies our faith.
God has called you to be where He is, where He has said He will be for you by grace. That doesn’t mean that you will experience an emotional high when you encounter Him in Word and Sacrament. He does give us those times, and we give thanks when they come. But ours is a life of faith, which means believing in His Word and promises. Even when we feel cold inside, even numb with self-pity, we live by faith; we trust God’s Word.
The birth and death and resurrection of Christ our Lord was for your eternal peace. Time is not without an end, and neither is your sorrow or your pain. It will not last. Christ lives. He is coming back. For now, while we wait, He is here for you in the places that He has promised to be: His Word, His body and blood, in Holy Absolution. This is the Temple in flesh, put into you this morning by way of the mouth, that you yourself would become what He is: the place where God is present. You are His own beloved in whom He is well pleased. You are the dwelling place of His Spirit. Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead, the Temple not built with hands, is presented here this very day, just as He was in Herod’s Temple so long ago. He is presented for you—always for you. Here is your peace. 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, December 25, 2019

Sermon for 12/25/19: The Nativity of Our Lord

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

Christ is born. God has come to dwell among us in flesh as a Man. The angels sing. The shepherds wonder at such mercy. Heaven praises God for this incalculable love, beholding the mystery of Love in the flesh. God’s will is always good, and it is His will to redeem men. For our salvation He chooses to dwell among us, to endure suffering, pain, and death. He does this so that we who were humbled by our sin would be lifted up.
This mystery is beyond all of creation’s understanding. The angels cannot comprehend it. Shepherds quake. Mary ponders. God’s ways are far beyond our understanding. Do not ask how this can be. Where God wills, the order of nature is overturned. He who parts the Red Sea, who multiplies the loaves, who calms the wind and waves—it was His will to become Man. And so Christ is born of a virgin. He becomes a Man, yet He never gives up His divinity. He is now and ever will be Man, even as He was, is now, and ever will be God. The Man who was crucified and died, who rose and ascended, sits at His Father’s right hand. This is our exaltation and our hope.
His Incarnation did not cause Him to forsake the angels. He has not deprived them of His care. Though He is a Man, He has not ceased to be God. He still loves what He created. He never stops sustaining and caring for all of it, which He did even while on cross. He is God and Man, one Christ, perfectly united in will and desire with His Father and the Spirit.
So come and adore Him, for He is Christ the Lord. He saves us from our sins. He delivers us from death. He is our God and our Brother. He lifts fallen humanity. He makes us free. God has become a Man! He has picked up His cross. He has taken the bitter cup of wrath. He has endured the worst that Hell could do. He has quenched all its hatred in His holy blood. Rejoice!
But “rejoice” seems too weak to convey the praise that bursts out of us whose consciences have been cleansed by His Word, whose guilt and shame is gone. We are forgiven. The Light has shined in our darkness. He has rescued us from eternal torture for the sake of His grace. What words, what music can contain our joy? Rejoice! Give thanks! Adore Him!
Are you struggling with grief? Come and adore Him. Grace will not make you forget what you have lost. You are still allowed to miss and mourn your loved ones. The joy of Christ is meant to give you comfort. We have God with us in the flesh, who knows our suffering and grief, for He felt it Himself. And so we do not mourn as the world mourns. We have hope.
Our feasting tables will not be the same this year as they were last year. Death and divorce, arguments and betrayal have altered them. And they will not be the same next year as they are today. Even so, rejoice! Adore Him! God is Man in Christ, and He is good. His mercy endures forever. Our dead will not stay dead. Because Jesus lives, they live. We trust even now that God will work good in everything, even in our grief.
Your pain will not endure. Your loneliness and sorrow will pass. Even heaven and earth will pass away. Nothing lasts forever…nothing, except for the mercy of our God in Christ. The trumpet will sound. The dead will be raised. We will be changed. We will be as we were meant to be. All sadness will end. For our God is a Man! Christ is cradled in the Holy Scriptures. He is cradled in the bread and the wine by which He gives us His body and blood. We are joined to Him by faith through grace.
Rejoice, O Christian! Sing with the angels. Whatever burdens might be yours, rejoice that Christ is born. He brings peace on earth and goodwill between God and man. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Rejoice! Adore Him! Christ the Savior is born. 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, December 22, 2019

Sermon for 12/22/19: Fourth Sunday in Advent

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“Peace on earth…”

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

The best time to hear about a Savior is when you are a prisoner. No one is more receptive to the promise of freedom than a slave. Most of us will never know the feeling of being bound by iron chains, but there is more than one form of bondage. It is easier to bend metal bars than to free yourself from lust or selfishness or malice. Nothing locks you down as firmly as guilt. As heirs of Adam’s rebellion, we are all enslaved—not only by sin, but by the decay of death which corrupts every aspect of human existence. Life on earth is not the garden of delights it was meant to be.
It is a sign of wisdom when a person begins to know the world for the cruel, merciless place it is. And this awakening, without the context of Christian hope, is devastating. You won’t achieve most of your goals; you won’t realize most of the things you hope for; people are essentially selfish; the world does not care. These are the realizations that drive people to drugs or alcohol or illicit sexual encounters, to gambling and addictions, to other forms of escape.
For several weeks or months, we have been preparing for Christmas. For many of us, that means spending money we don’t have. Soon we will be gathered around trees in our living rooms: exchanging gifts, drinking eggnog, taking pictures while we gush over clothing and trinkets and gadgets we don’t need and will never use. Then the excitement will be over, and for many of us there will be a sense of letdown as we go back to our routines. We do not see peace on earth; there is no goodwill toward men.
The Christian never feels truly at home in this world. We are always strangers in a strange land, pilgrims journeying to a better destination. But there are many signs along the way to tell us that we are getting closer to our destination. And by the grace of God, we see indications of the beauty and glory of that future home.
Everything in this world that can be called good is a glimpse of something better. Music that makes you tap your toe, strong coffee on a cold morning, being hugged unexpectedly, the inviting comfort of a soft bed, being entranced by a well told story, seeing your child’s face light up, the loyal companionship of a dog: all those things are merely shadows of something more substantial to come.
John the Baptist lived to point us to Jesus, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” There is no recorded incident of Jesus turning a sinner away. Jesus never refuses a sincere plea for deliverance or redemption. He will never turn you away. He gives you all you need for this body and life. He gives you all you need for the life of the world to come. He hears your prayers, and He answers them for you in the best way possible. His good and gracious will is always done, and it is always best.
God has seen your situation. He has heard your weeping. And He has answered. The eternal Son of God has stepped down from His mighty throne to become one of us. He had no sin of His own, but He took upon himself the full guilt of the sin of all—a scene so repugnant that even the sun turned dark and the earth shook. All this Jesus did willingly, out of supreme love for you. The Father’s wrath has been extinguished, exhausted upon the Son, so that we who are in Christ would be pardoned and cleansed, set free from all condemnation. Truly He brings “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”
So come to the Lord’s Table. Receive the medicine of eternal life. Sing praise to God, for Jesus is coming! He is coming to set you free. He is coming to take you out of the valley of the shadow of death, and you will dwell with Him in glory forever. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly! 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, December 15, 2019

Sermon for 12/15/19: Third Sunday in Advent

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Hear and See

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

John the Baptist receives the highest praise given to any man. Jesus calls John the greatest. Yet even the greatest of men is still a man, still infected with Adam’s curse. John’s greatness is the greatness of grace, of what God had done in him and for him. He is a prophet of the most High. Indeed, he is the culmination of all prophets. He calls stiff-necked, hard-hearted men to repentance. Yet above all, he brings Good News from God. He announces the Messiah and gives voice to the Church’s new song: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
John has faith. He held this faith already in his mother’s womb. He leapt for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice, for in her womb, his Savior had taken up flesh. This faith was made perfect in Christ, just like ours. He sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Maybe he sent his disciples to Jesus for their sake. Maybe they were doubting. John sent them to the Source.
But John was a man, a sinner. He knew doubt and fear. Perhaps his time in a prison cell made him wonder if his divine Cousin really was the Promised One. If that is the case, then we get a remarkable glimpse into the greatness of John. Faith is like courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, courage is acting, doing what needs to be done, despite fear and with knowledge of the danger. In the same way, faith is not the absence of doubt; it is believing and clinging to God’s Word despite doubts and in the midst of danger, with the ever-present reality of earthly consequences, trusting above all that God is good and will not let us down. The greatness of John’s faith is not demonstrated so much in his martyrdom, but in where he looked for answers. He looks to Christ. That is faith as only God can give.
And Jesus, in his great compassion, did not disappoint. He gave John an answer custom made for the last and greatest of the prophets: “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” The prophecies, even John’s, are all fulfilled. Jesus has done what He came to do.
We, of course, are not sending notes to Jesus from prison. We could be home, warm in bed. Are we here this cold December day to hear the Word, to be broken and healed, to confess and be forgiven? That’s exactly why were are here, and that is always worth getting out of bed for! But if John was not worthy to untie our Lord’s sandals, then certainly we are not worthy to eat Christ’s body and blood, to approach Him so boldly in prayer! But by grace—always by grace—ours is the Kingdom of heaven.
What John for all his greatness could not obtain by right or power has been given to you as pure gift, the inheritance of the baptized. Jesus Christ, God with us in flesh, is your Lord. Your heavenly Father has given you His Holy Spirit; by His grace you believe His holy Word. You embrace it. You rejoice in it. You hunger for it and are satisfied. You are His children, His heirs. He has removed all guilt and shame from you. He has bestowed His holy Name on you. He gave His very life for you. You will soon leave these doubts and weaknesses behind and come to the loving arms of your Savior. Your warfare is ended. Your iniquity is pardoned.
Look and see: “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” The Messiah was born for you. He died and rose for you. He is coming back for you. You will see Him with your own eyes, and your throat will fill the night with songs of praise and joy. 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, December 08, 2019

Sermon for 12/8/19: Second Sunday in Advent

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“Stir Up Our Hearts”

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

We pray: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord.” But that is a dangerous prayer, for hearts are not stirred up with comfort foods and soft music. We do not pray: “Lord, give us a warm, fuzzy feeling in our bellies; make our lives comfortable and leisurely; make us popular with the boys.” We pray that God would stir up our hearts, that He would disturb us, that He would prod us into action. Hearts are stirred up by an earnest call to repentance, with a hearty dose of reality. “Stir up our hearts” is a plea for God to end our complacency, to defeat our laziness, to overcome our apathy. We ask Him to intervene for us against our own sinful flesh.
While we wait for our Lord’s return, our danger increases. We must continue to endure temptation. Salvation is closer now then when we first believed. But do we have the same zeal we had then? It is easy to grow weary, to allow ourselves to be seduced by the devil. He’s so persuasive. “Why fight me? Why work so hard? Why care about what God? Does He really care for you? Take care of yourself. Live for today.”
But that is most certainly the way of death. Stir up our hearts, O Lord, against our own flesh! Man does not live by statistics and financial reports. He does not find favor in the eyes of God by finding favor in the eyes of men. The baptized children of God live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. My brothers and sisters in Christ, there is your safe harbor. All other things will wash away. Nothing else will endure. But the Word of God will. It never lies, never changes, never stops, never fails.
And so we pray: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son.” On the great and dreadful day of the Lord, the Son of Man will indeed come in a cloud with power and great glory. The Muslims, the Buddhists, those Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and all those who thought they could come to God apart from the Son, will no longer be able to deny His power and authority. Satan’s many masks and false names will finally be stripped away. Then the pagans and heathen—they will know whom they’ve been worshiping all these years, but it won’t do them any good; they shall be burned up. But to you who fear the name of the Lord, who trust in the mercy of the God born of Mary, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. Look up. Lift up your heads. Your redemption draws near. Your suffering, your trials, your troubles, your grief—all of that will end.
The decisive battle for your soul has already been won. The Father has pardoned you for the sake of the suffering and death of His innocent Son. The Spirit of God abides in you. Still, the devil fights on. It is a dangerous, deadly battle. But the end is certain. Fear not. Christ has not died in vain. The devil, that liar and the father of lies, is already defeated. Jesus died and rose again for us and for our salvation. He reconciled all mankind to His Father. The kingdom of heaven is open to all believers. Blessed are all those who trust in Him, who find their rest in Him, who confess His holy name. They shall not be disappointed.
And so we pray: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord!” Prepare us by Your grace. Receive us now and when we die through forgiveness and mercy. Secure us in this free salvation unto the end. Feed us with your body and blood. Make us your own! Come, Lord Jesus! 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, December 05, 2019

HYMN: Lord Jesus Christ, On You I Wait

As I continue to run back through the texts I wrote for the 1-year lectionary, one Sunday for which I found my first text inadequate was the Last Sunday of the Church Year. It's not a bad text, but I felt it was weak. So I decided to try again. Instead of focusing on the Gospel appointed for that Sunday, I looked at the Epistle: I Thessalonians 5:1-12. The themes of darkness and slumber and their opposites caught my eye, along with the Day of Judgment, of course. Paul's words to the Thessalonians are full of comfort, and I hope my text reflects that.

Anyway, because I only really like three of the tunes for the CMD meter (86 86 86 86), I also wrote an original tune for the text, called "FAITH ALLISON" in honor of my wife. Robin Fish, who has written original tunes for me and has harmonized others, wrote accompaniment for the tune.

Lord Jesus Christ, On You I Wait

1. Lord Jesus Christ, on You I wait.
In You I put my trust.
Oh, save me from the sinner’s fate
When I return to dust.
The Day is surely drawing near:
The great and awesome Day
When faithless fools will quake in fear
While saints make glad display.

2. The Judgment Day is soon, I know.
The end is coming fast.
The signs and wonders surely show
The pledge fulfilled at last.
You spread Your grace abundantly
In paying sin’s dread price.
You died my death and set me free:
A cross-borne sacrifice.

3. The world denies that You will come,
Indulging lust and sin.
They scorn the Word and soon succumb.
Corruption burns within.
The deeds of darkness dim their eyes.
In ignorance they sleep.
Then You will come to their surprise.
The death they sowed, they reap.

4. Temptation, doubt, despair, and death
Assault me and assail.
Oh, shield me with baptismal faith;
Your grace will never fail.
Forbid that I should slumber, Lord,
In false security.
But keep me steadfast in Your Word
To trust You patiently.

5. “Lo, I am coming soon,” You say.
Your Word is firm and clear.
“Lord Jesus, quickly come!” I pray.
I know the Day is near.
And as I wait expectantly,
Awake and in Your light,
Your body and Your blood shall be
My comfort and delight.

© 2019, Alan Kornacki, Jr.
CMD (86 86 86 86)
Occasion: Last Sunday of the Church Year; End Times

Monday, December 02, 2019

Sermon for 12/1/19: First Sunday in Advent

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Knowing and Understanding

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

In Jesus, the power of God is hidden in weakness. His wisdom is hidden in foolishness, His riches in poverty. God is a Man, flesh and bone. He dies our death. His life becomes our life. Justice condemns the Innocent One in mercy. The Holy One of God becomes sin. He rides into Jerusalem as the Ransom. He breathes His last, but the devil is undone. Hell’s walls are demolished; the flaming sword of Eden is extinguished. The angel of death passes over. Who can know and understand the ways of the Lord?
The donkey seems to know. He knows his Master. The children know, too. They sing God’s praise in the Temple. They ask Him to save them. The Temple veil knows its part; having nothing more to hide, no longer separating God and man, it rips in two. And the centurion knows; at the death of Jesus he confesses: “Surely this is the Son of God.” Who knows these things? No one but God knows, truly. Yet He reveals Himself to men, and with Him all things are possible. And through the grace of the Holy Spirit, you know, too. God’s grace is sufficient.
Jesus comes in power, but He is known in weakness. He is the Lord of Life, but we celebrate the victory won in His death. He came before; He will come again. First He came in humility; this time He will come in glory. Every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess, “Jesus is Lord.” And all the sons of God will be revealed. All the universe will know what the angels already know. The dogs and trees, rocks and birds, will see the hope within you, your lamp burning with the oil of faith. They will see the blood-washed children of God; they will see you as the child of God in whom the Father is well-pleased. And so we pray: “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins, and save us by Your promised deliverance.”
Jesus comes already now. He comes, His power hidden in weakness. It is not the power of might and strength as the world counts such things. It is the power of love, of deliverance and protection. It is the power of sacrifice. This grace has made Him your Lord. He rules in you through forgiveness. He comes in humble ways, so that you would look upon Him and not be destroyed. God has a face. By faith you gaze upon the face of the Child born of Mary, the face of a Man. And though He was despised and rejected, He is beautiful to you. His feet, pierced and scarred, are most beautiful, for He brings Good News from God. He has reconciled you to His Father. He has opened heaven to you. He fulfills His promise. He keeps His Word. He is your God, and you, by grace, are His people, His beloved Bride. He comes now in power. He is not a god who looks on from a distance. He is our present, promise-keeping God.
A Man sits at the right hand of God and rules the Universe. He is God and Man, and through Him all mankind is welcome in heaven. He is in heaven, but He is also present here. He is hidden in and under bread and wine, in the voice of His messengers, in His Name. He is seen by faith; He reveals Himself to you in His Word and gifts. Who can understand such things? The donkey can, and the children, the Temple veil, even the Centurion. And by the power of the Spirit, you know and understand. God Himself makes you worthy. His grace is sufficient. You see His face and live. 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, November 28, 2019

Sermon for 11/27-28/19: Harvest Festival/Day of National Thanksgiving

Eat, Drink, Be Merry 

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

You are more than the sum of what you own. To illustrate this truth, this warning, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool. The rich man’s land produces so richly that he doesn’t have enough room to store it all. So he decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. Then he gives one of the silliest speeches in Scripture: “Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry”—as if that what life is all about.

God has the final word in the parable. “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” There’s nothing inherently evil about relaxing, eating, drinking and merriment. But the rich man expects his riches to take care of his soul. Saving souls is the work of God. That is the rich man’s problem: he has made his wealth into a false god. When God requires his soul that night, it does nothing for him in the Judgment. So the rich man is more than the sum of what he owns. Possessions cannot prevent his death; when he dies, they do nothing for his soul.

The parable is a clear warning: beware the sin of greed. Obsession with possessions is a terrible temptation. It leads you to value things over God. It leads you to put your trust in things that fall apart and pass away. It tempts you to resent God if you don’t have all you want. It seduces you to believe that your soul is good in God’s eyes because you have enough things. Greed is a dangerous idol, and it’s never satisfied: the more you have, the more you want.

You don’t even have to have possessions to be guilty of the sin. While the rich man in the parable already has all sorts of wealth, Jesus tells the parable because of a man who desires wealth. This whole thing begins with someone saying to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” It’s a family squabble, with an inheritance to be shared. Yes, God provides all things, but Jesus isn’t there to divide out the family farm. He hasn’t come for such temporal things. He’s come to do what goods and grain, what relaxing and eating and drinking and merriment can’t do: He’s come to save souls for eternity.

So Jesus warns, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness.” And then He adds, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” We should expand that, too, because you’ll covet and be greedy for more than grain and goods. You are more than your popularity. You are more than your looks or fashion sense. You are more than your health. You are more than the knowledge you’ve gained, or the peace within your family, or the goals that you’ve attained, or the promotions you’ve received, or the items you’ve crossed off your bucket list. Still, you are tempted to covet all of these things: to believe that they are what give you life and quality of life, to believe they are good for your soul. But none of these things give life to your soul. Flee these temptations, and repent when you give into them. All of these things are false gods when you put your trust in them, and putting your trust in them reveals even more about you than greed or covetousness.

The Lord gives you so much more than the abundance of your possessions or other things that will pass away that. He gives you gifts that do not pass away. He gives you life that does not pass away. Jesus became flesh and went to the cross for you. He died for you, bearing your sin—including greed and covetousness and every evil desire. He died your death for you, so that you might not go the way of all things in this world which pass away. He rose again to give you eternal life with Him. He has made you a child of God in Holy Baptism, so that now you are an heir of the kingdom of heaven.

You still have the specter of death hanging around, but you also have hope in Christ. Where you worry about what you do not have, you consider the lilies of the field and the sparrows of the air, knowing how much the Lord cares for them: because you know that Jesus didn’t become a lily to redeem lilies or a sparrow to redeem sparrows. He became man to redeem you: and if He redeemed you at the cost of His own blood, He will not fail to give you forgiveness and life.

Your life isn’t the sum total of your possessions. The Lord is your life and your salvation. Eternal life is yours because Jesus pours out abundantly on you the riches of His grace, so that you are forgiven for all of your sins. Thanks be to God for such bounty! 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, November 24, 2019

Sermon for 11/24/19: Last Sunday of the Church Year

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

Since the fall into sin, we are corrupt, defiled, and wicked. The ways of men are betrayal, greed, and violence. Our thoughts and secret desires are nothing short of shameful. Our most natural speech is full of lies, gossip, and slander. We are comfortable in our sin, and we are quick with excuses and blame. Oh, we can pretend to be good, to be nice. When it comes to spirituality, we are capable of putting on a dazzling show. We can feign any virtue: compassion, righteousness, patience, faith. And if our fragile masks hold together, we can fool men into thinking that we are honorable and decent. If we are willing to lie to ourselves—and we most certainly are—we might even fool ourselves. But with even a cursory glance, we will be discovered. None of us has a pure heart.
And God sees into our hearts. He demands perfection, and we have failed. He doesn’t care how much you give, how many hours you volunteer, or who your parents are. It doesn’t matter what hardships and obstacles you’ve had to deal with, what pressures and troubles you’ve suffered. Your excuses and bragging must disappear when confronted with the truth. God has written the Law into the hearts of man. That Law is indisputably good. It is what we know we should obey. But it is not what we have done. It does not describe who we are. We have broken it. We have behaved with cruel selfishness. All those born of women stand guilty, condemned by the Law, without any excuse.
Repent, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man comes. You cannot stand on your own works, by your own earnestness or sincerity. You cannot excuse away your failures and weaknesses. Be wise with the wisdom that expects the return of the Christ.
In the Gospel, all the virgins, wise and foolish alike, slept. They were all weak. They all failed to keep a perfect vigil. Measured by thoughts, words, and deeds, all had the outward righteousness of virginity, but all were equally foolish in their inability to keep alert with lamps burning. But there was a distinction between them—not of righteousness, not of intent, but of faith. For despite their weakness, five of them, by grace, even in the midst of their sleepiness, clung to the hope that the Bridegroom would return. This didn’t make them better than their sisters. It just made them believers. And in the end, that is what makes the difference.
God in the flesh, who wed Himself to humanity, will return. The judgment will be decided by the condition of the heart, not on tainted works. And the only way to have a pure heart, to face this judgment eagerly and with confidence, is to have a heart that has been washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, a heart that abides in forgiveness through the cross of Jesus Christ. Trust in Jesus. Expect His return and praise His Name. You will be with Him forever. He has taken up your sins and crucified them. In Him you are perfect, chaste, and without guilt. He accepts you and welcomes you into the Wedding Hall. Rest confident and eager in Him.
What a glorious future you have! What joy awaits you! Be eager in Christ, for the end is drawing near. He beckons you to the communion of saints. Watch in prayer. Watch with His holy Word ringing in your ears. Watch with His precious body and blood upon your lips. Stand innocent in His death, full of repentant joy and expectation. For the Lord is coming soon. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. 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, November 17, 2019

Sermon for 11/17/19: Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

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The Day Is Coming

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

The Day is coming. It is delayed for a time by mercy, only for the sake of love. The will of God is that all should come to repentance. It is delayed, but it is coming. While scoffers count the passage of time as proof that He is not coming, we who live by faith know that every passing moment only increases the tension and makes His coming more imminent.
The difference between the goats and the sheep is a matter of the heart that only the Lord can discern. The goats protest their fate. They appeal to their works. “When, Lord, did we fail to do these things? How can You say that we have fallen short? We were good. We were sincere. We tried hard. We built children’s hospitals. We fought for social justice. We paid our bills and kept our lawns neat and clean.” But it doesn’t matter. No matter how good their good works were, they were not good enough. Their hearts were never perfectly pure. Everything humans do is tainted by selfish desires and ambitions. The goats are judged by their own standard; they can never do enough.
What the goats reveal is their faith. Their faith is not in Christ but in themselves. They seek to justify themselves. They call Jesus “Lord,” but they will not submit to Him. They have sought to make their own way, to find their own rest, to secure their own future. They demand to be judged by their works…and they are.
There is only one Name under heaven by which men are saved, and it is not your own. All other names bring damnation. Repent. Throw yourself upon the mercy of the only One who can save you. Turn from your lust and greed, from your covetousness, from striving to make your own happiness and find your own peace. Turn from your reliance on your good works. They do not impress God. Be emptied of yourself. Forget yourself. Repent. Prepare, for the Day is surely coming. Throw yourself upon the Man of sorrows, the Friend of sinners, the Strength of the weak, the Hope of the desolate, the Light of the world, the Conqueror of death, the King of saints, the Lord of Hosts. Be filled with Christ and His works.
Your God hung on the cross. This is His glory, for from the cross He draws all men unto Himself. He hung on the cross to pay for sins He did not commit. He died there. Then He rose. And now He lives at the right hand of the Father, ruling the Universe called into being through Him. Soon He shall return and bring the good work He has begun in you to completion.
In that coming Day, the elect, the sheep, will also be surprised. They will be credited with Christ’s own good works and righteousness. This righteousness will not feel comfortable on them. They will argue: “Lord, we did not do these things. We are not good. We were hypocrites. Often, we did say and do the right thing, but inside we didn’t believe it. We had tainted motives, selfish ambitions, evil desires. There is nothing good in us. We are no better than the goats.” And He will reply, “Yes, I know. But I did these things. I fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty. I welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned. I kept the Law. And I did it for you. I am your Substitute. My works count as your works. I took your sin and crucified it. I give you My righteousness, My innocence, and My blessedness.” This is a free gift of immeasurable grace. He suffered and died that you would live. For a time you will suffer, too, and perhaps you will even die. But death could not hold our Lord, and it will not hold you. Your life is patterned after Christ, who died and rose again. And He is coming back to claim His own. So “come, O blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of world.” 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, November 07, 2019

HYMN: The Lord Is Near! Oh, Bless His Name!

My family went on vacation last month. My plan was to sleep, read, and maybe write a hymn. I did all three. As far as the hymn goes, I’ve been looking at some of the hymns i’ve written that I consider weaker texts, and my first text for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, Rain Down, You Heavens, From Above, is one of them. So over the course of about a week, I wrote a new text which builds on John the Baptist’s words in the appointed Gospel, John 1:19-28, as well as John valiant witness and the ultimate earthly result of that witness.

Part of the delay in posting this text was that a friend and colleague, the Reverend Robin Fish, Jr., offered to write an original tune for this text. A picture of the tune will be included below the text. Thank you, Robin.

Your feedback is appreciated.

The Lord Is Near! Oh, Bless His Name!

1. The Lord is near! Oh, bless His name!
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing.
O mouth, cry out! His praise proclaim.
Make welcome Christ, your King.

2. Make straight a highway smooth and broad.
Oh, clear the Savior’s way.
With humble faith prepare His road.
He comes to you today.

3. Forsake the call of silk and gold,
And all false joy disdain.
True wealth, eternal joy behold
In Him who comes to reign.

4. Confess your Jesus valiantly
Before the faithless horde.
Confess Him boldly. Do not flee!
And trust in Christ the Lord.

5. Should blood be shed, if enemies 
Of Christ seek your demise,
Our Father, who looks on and sees,
Bestows the martyr’s prize.

6. O child of faith, your King is here!
Let all your doubting cease.
Prepare your heart and do not fear!
He comes to bring you peace.

(c) 2019 Alan Kornacki. Jr.
CM (86 86)
Tunes: DETROIT (LSB 843)
Advent IV; Christian Life

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Sermon for 11/3/19: Feast of All Saints

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

If you think the Church on earth should look and act more like the Church in heaven; if you think the Church of the Reformation should be more faithful to that Reformation, you are not alone. You are not the only one shocked and disgusted by the Church’s in-fighting or worried about the impact of that fighting on its mission and witness. You are not the only one who is reeling from Satanic attacks upon our nation and our synod. But such anxiety comes from judging by appearance. Those who live by sight are betrayed by it. By themselves, the eyes only see poverty, meekness, and hunger. If what we can see is all that there is, then life would be futile.
But faith sees more clearly than the eyes. It sees through today and into tomorrow. It embraces the promise. It sees blessedness in the cross, in suffering, in striving, and even in what seems to be death. After all, faith knows that there is no true death for those who die in the Lord. They pass through the earthly death of the body into real and lasting life. Our God is the God of the living. Abraham, though he died long ago, is not dead! Our departed loved ones, who have preceded us in the faith, are not dead either. And neither shall you, who live by faith in Jesus, be dead. Though for a time you are beaten and downtrodden, you shall never die.
This is the peace that passes all understanding. It is peace that exists in turmoil, in sadness, and in the face of tragedy. It endures because it comes from God. It lives by faith, by things unseen, things promised, things yet afar off—though not as far as they used to be. It is the everlasting hope of the Church which has been bought and redeemed by the death and resurrection of her Lord. It is peace with God and men. It is peace both now and to come.
This is how our Lord describes the Christian’s lot on this side of glory: the faithful are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry, cursed, reviled, hated by men, at war, in strife and difficulty. But in Christ, you shall be comforted. By grace, like Abraham, you shall inherit the earth. You shall be filled with righteousness. Baptized into His death, you shall obtain mercy. You will not be judged by your sins, by your deeds, but by His perfect life and death. It is enough. It is enough to make dead men alive. It makes sinners into saints. In the resurrection, you shall see God. You shall be called sons of God. The kingdom of heaven is yours. You eat the living Bread of heaven and drink the Blood that washes you clean.
On this side of glory, the saints are waiting. Mostly this is waiting in the midst of sorrow, trial, and uncertainty; or poverty, meekness, and hunger; or of fighting, hardship, and worry. Some days are better than others, but there are no days when everything is just right. We are foreigners—always outsiders, always suspect, always the object of the world’s scorn, always a target for the devil’s false doctrines of glory in this life. So the Word of God calls us to live by faith, to believe and rejoice in things unseen—things such as saints and angels, the presence of Christ in bread and wine, the Church Triumphant, and of better days to come.
This is your future. Out of the great tribulation you shall come with your baptismal robe, washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. The Beatitudes will be fulfilled in you and for you. You shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore. The sun shall not strike you, nor any heat. The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne—who was slain but lives; who gave His life for yours; who rescued, redeemed, bought, and forgave you—He will shepherd you. He will lead you to living fountains of waters. And He Himself will wipe away every tear from your eyes, for you are His saints. 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, October 27, 2019

Sermon for 10/26/19: Festival of the Reformation

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Abiding in the Word

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

Not long before Jesus spoke the words of our Gospel, He encountered a woman who was being stoned because of adultery. The Jews were not interested in repentance and forgiveness. They were interested in separating the good sheep from those they judged as bad—those who behaved properly from those who did not. Our Lutheran heritage stems from a similar problem, because the Pope and his minions were not interested in speaking God’s Word of forgiveness; they wanted to sell worthless pieces of paper instead of giving the forgiveness Christ died to give freely to His people. And some people thought it was worth it to pay for forgiveness rather than to repent of their sin and attempt to live a life of baptismal faith.
This is the problem of sin: not that we do bad things, but that we do not live as if we believe in the one true God. Is any one of us any different than those Jews who wanted to stone the adulteress? Is any one of us any different than those who wanted to purchase and even sell God’s favor and gifts?
  Today, we find ourselves in a struggle to maintain our distinctive identity as Lutherans, as people who believe and teach Law and Gospel, as people who hold to the inerrant Scriptures as our rule of faith. This ministry is no more popular today than it was in Luther’s time or even in the days our Lord preached and taught among His disciples. We have found that out over the past few years as the world ignores, ridicules, and despises the truth of Scripture and the faith we hold. Abortion providers brazenly dispose of God’s gift of life, treating the murder of the unborn as a money-making scheme. Political candidates gain worldly favor as they promise to punish Christians and congregations who attempt to live their faith in opposition to sin. Even some so-called Christian congregations abandon the truth of God’s Word to curry the world’s favor.
No matter what is yet to come, our Lord remains faithful to us, all the way to the cross. In this world of uncertainty, ambiguity, and even hostility, this congregation exists to bring the Good News of salvation and eternal life through the suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God to sinners—even those who may at first and for a time reject it in favor of something more pleasing to them. So we abide; we remain in His Word as His disciples. And He remains in us.
We face an uncertain future as a congregation and dual parish. Truly we trust in God to provide, but we don’t know what that gracious provision will look like. It’s true that our financial situation is not pretty. It’s true that our culture is hell-bent on a spiritual diversity that frowns on anyone who speaks the Word of God with authority, who calls sin what it is. It would be so easy to fill our pews and our plates. All we have to do is sell out the Gospel; all we have to do is sell our souls.
So what does the future hold? Will we have to sell our property? Should we seek out yet another congregation to join with us so that the Word will continue on in this place? Will our pastor face imprisonment for preaching against sin? Will we have to close our doors? All of these are possible. But as we abide in the truth of the Word, our Lord sets us free from sin, death, and hell. We are counted among the faithful remnant. The Holy Spirit keeps us with Jesus in His Church, feeding us the forgiveness of sins in the body and blood of Christ. So even if your pastor is arrested; if we lose our tax exempt status; even if these doors close; “take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife, though these all be gone, our victory has been won; the Kingdom ours remaineth!” The Lord will continue to provide for your spiritual care. You are His disciples, baptized in His name. 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.