Tuesday, January 29, 2019

PARODY: Hallelujah

It’s everywhere. You can’t get away from it. Every artist covers it. Ever occasion merits a rewrite of it.

The “it” of which I speak is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It’s been covered over 300 times. It’s been rewritten for everything from weddings to school cancellations. When I discovered that last this evening, it pushed me over the edge. In about 20 minutes I put together my own rewrite. Enjoy.

Hallelujah: The Parody

Way back in nineteen-eighty-four
Ol’ Leonard Cohen wrote this score.
You know the song I’m referencing, do ya?
At first it didn’t blaze the charts,
But after Shrek, it captured hearts.
Now everybody raves of “Hallelujah.”
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. 

It’s really not a Christian song.
It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong,
But you should know that Cohen was a Jew, yeah.
Some lyrics are quite biblical
(Though never citing Gabriel).
He even writes the Hebrew “Hallelujah.”
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. 

Like much of Leonard Cohen’s work,
The song is full of poetic quirk.
The power of his words just runs right through ya.
The chord progression cleverly
Aligns with Cohen’s lyrics, see,
When speaking of King David’s Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. 

These days, the song’s so overdone.
It’s covered now by everyone.
You sing it, and it’s hard to listen to ya.
And when one has a favored cause,
One writes new words without a pause
And makes sure this line ends with “Hallelujah.”
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. 

But that’s okay, ‘cause no one knows
What Cohen meant. And boy, it shows.
Not even he himself knew what was true, yeah.
I guess we’ll just put up with it,
Although it irks me just a bit
When every half-blown hack sings “Hallelujah.”
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. 

Well, soon I’ll end this parody. 
I’m sure that some are mad at me
For pointing out how much it makes me stew, yeah,
To hear this song so poorly done
And botched by almost everyone
Who sings or plays or rewrites “Hallelujah.”
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. 

Perhaps someday—I hope it’s soon—
Well give a break to this lovely tune. 
We’ll learn to write our own songs. That sounds cool, yeah. 
Then, down the line, some music geek
Will rediscover Cohen chic. 
He won’t be sick and tired of “Hallelujah.”
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. 

(c) 1984, 2019, Leonard Cohen, Alan Kornacki, Jr.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sermon for 1/27/19: Third Sunday After the Epiphany

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Miracles for You

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

We’re supposed to be impressed by this centurion’s faith which trusts the Word of Christ. But it seems like we don’t get the chance to walk up to our Lord and ask for help. We don’t get an offer from Him to come to our houses and heal our sick family and friends. We start where the centurion left off. All we’ve ever asked for is a command from Jesus that will drive off disease. We know He has the power and authority to do it. But it seems like we never get it. We have doctors and drugs and modern equipment…but no miracle. And there are diseases which modern medicine cannot cure.
How hard it is for flesh and blood to endure these sorrows! It weighs us down to pray over and over, and it seems we never get what we ask for. Is it any wonder that we have our doubts, that we are afraid to get our hopes up? There are too many in the cemetery already, too many children in the hospital, too many divorces, too many murders, too many bullies, liars, and cheats. They surround us at work, at school, at the grocery store, even at Church. If only we could go home and find peace! But even there, the reality is less than ideal. How many times will we stand at the bedside of our loved ones and ask for a miracle, and though we are hoping, pining, longing, dreaming of a miracle, never really expect that a miracle will come? We know the stories from the Bible, but we’ve never seen a real miracle for ourselves. The centurion believed and got his miracle. The Lord was willing to heal the leper. But what about those in the Cancer ward? What about diabetes, congestive heart failure, autism, Alzheimer’s, and so many more?
My brothers and sisters in Christ: repent. The truth is, it is hard to live by faith. It is hard to walk the narrow way. The way of the cross is full of sorrow. But our Lord’s gifts are His to give as He pleases. In our Lord’s time, the centurion received his desire. Would you take the centurion’s servant back from him? Would you deny the leper his miracle? You’ve been afraid to hope. But God loves you. He knows what troubles you. He has walked in your shoes; He has borne your burdens. He hears and answers your prayers. Your time will come.
Do not stop praying for miracles. This authority and power belongs to Jesus. He has promised that He will give you whatever you ask in His name. He may give it to you now. He may hold it for you in heaven. But He will give it. In the meantime, you live by faith. You rest in the forgiveness of sins and the hope to come. Our Lord has called you by name; He has marked you as His own. He has fed you with His Holy Body and Blood. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is your Good Shepherd. You wait for Him, believing that He has obtained redemption for you by His innocent suffering and death. He has delivered you so that you will dwell with Him forever. The dead will rise. This corruptible will put on the incorruptible. Jesus did not die in vain. He died for you. His resurrection is no myth. It is the foundational reality of the entire universe. Jesus is Lord. He is your Lord by faith. He loves you. He forgives you. He gives you life.
Your day will come. You will have your miracles. You will not always be disappointed. You will know joy and laughter and peace. You are God’s people. You were Gentiles, the hostile nations that hated God’s people. But now you are Christians with God’s name upon you. He tells you to go, and you go. You make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, teaching them, bearing witness to who He is. You do this at home and work, and by your offerings and sacrifices here and elsewhere. You will sit with this centurion, his servant, and with all the saints, basking in the wonderful grace from the Lamb of God who take away the sin of the 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.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sermon for 1/13/19: The Baptism 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.

Everything our Lord does, He does for you. He takes up your flesh to fulfill the Law for you. His circumcision, His perfect obedience, His ritual purity—these all count for those who are joined to Him in Holy Baptism. The same is true of the Moral Law. He kept it for you. His fasting and temptation were done in your stead. He fulfilled what you were unable and unwilling to do. But He did not just keep the Law; He also allowed the Law to do to Him all that justice demanded of you. He, who knew no sin, became sin. He did all this so that you would be forgiven and saved.
And so it is that He stands in the Jordan River. John pours the dirty water over His head. He does not need this Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, but He submits to it for you. His Baptism is your Baptism. The water does not sanctify Him; He sanctifies the water. The water that falls off His back flows into all the fonts of Christendom: a pure, holy, life-giving water, rich in grace. He who stands in the Jordan is the Word made Flesh. He makes Baptism into that life-giving flood.
This crucified and risen Word is combined with and included in the water. These things together, this holy washing, creates and sustains the faith which receives all of His benefits. This water saves by the power of His resurrection. It joins you to Him, burying you in His death, and raising you by the glory of the Father in His resurrection. You were baptized into Him. His Name—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—was applied to you. You now belong to Him. His Baptism, His anointing, His inheritance, is yours. The heavens opened also upon you. The Holy Spirit descended. The Father proclaimed, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased.” He was talking about you!
There is no one to accuse you. The wrath of God has been appeased. Justice has been served. The payment is made in full. You go free—not back to your old evil haunts, but to the mansions of heaven, to the life of grace. You are a member of the royal household, a royal priest. You feast on the heavenly banquet with brothers and sisters, those still here and those already moved ahead of us. You rest secure in the ever prevailing mercy of His love.
For now it is not always so obvious. There are tragedies: self-inflicted and those suffered at the hands of a cruel world. There are dark times and depression. There is an uncertain future and a murky, turbulent past. Children walk into school with guns. People are starving in great numbers. Babies are violently ripped from their mothers’ wombs and tossed out with the trash. Fathers despise their children and leave their wives. Pain, suffering, and loneliness are all around us.
But do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not rest on fleeting things that come and go: the feelings of happiness or sadness, the sense of well-being and contentment, worry or uncertainty. Instead, rest on the objective, historical reality of Christ’s death and resurrection. Rely on that, for it became yours in Baptism. Trust in the Word of God. There is your hope and your certainty! You are baptized! God promises to love you, to protect you, to provide for you. He forgives you. That is enough! And soon, the fleeting things of this life lived in death will be removed. You will see clearly, as you were meant to see. Then your joy will be complete. Until then, do what He says: eat His Body, drink His Blood, and listen to His Word. That will see you through to the coming Day. Do not be afraid. The Lord your God, born of the Virgin, Baptized by John, crucified, and risen: He goes with you. He will neither leave you nor forsake 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.


Sunday, January 06, 2019

Sermon for 1/6/19: The Epiphany of Our Lord

RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file. I didn’t feel like I was rushing as I preached it, but at the end of the preaching, it felt rushed.

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

When Jesus was born, He was first made known to the believing, and hid Himself from the unbelieving, even the king and people of Jerusalem. But today, the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament reveals His handiwork. The preaching of His epiphany, His arrival in our human flesh, has gone out into all lands. It began with the angels singing, “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” “Glory be to God on high!” Then came the shepherds, those first preachers of Our Lord’s nativity. And today we hear that the guiding star leads the Magi to become joyful heralds to those who live in the farthest reaches of the earth.
Yet the splendor of this star and the glory of this day seem sullied when we recall the cruel schemes of wicked King Herod. This earthly king is so in love with his corrupting and corruptible throne, so delighted with his depraved palace, that he is afraid of a tiny infant. And so, when the Magi ask, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” this question terrifies Herod into brutality, and all Jerusalem with him.
But do not let this violence dampen your celebration. For as the Spirit of God proclaims through a star, as He preaches through simple shepherds and clever Magi, so He also uses the fury of Herod to fulfill prophecy and to further God’s mercy. You know what happens when the Wise Men heed the divine warning and so return to their own country another way. Then the ever-righteous, ever-protective Joseph takes the young Child and His mother by night and departs for Egypt.” There, in the land that once housed another barbaric ruler who sought to kill the infant Moses—there the Son of God will remain. With His presence, He will bless the Gentile nation that once welcomed another Joseph. And in this way, the glory of the Lord will again be revealed; the mercy of God will again be openly made known to all men—including us.
Herod, that enraged tyrant, does not perceive any of this. Neither do the chief priests or scribes, who turn blind eyes to the horrid crime of slaying innocent boys in hopes of killing the Christ—even as our own leaders turn blind eyes and even encourage the murder of the pre-born today. But make no mistake: the priests and scribes all know the Child at Bethlehem is the promised Messiah; they said so themselves. But thanks to the Holy Spirit, we perceive how this slaughter of the innocent martyrs serves as yet another sermon proclaiming the epiphany of our God. This cruel act announces that the true Messiah is here, and it reminds us how He saved us. For that is how our salvation is accomplished: the Innocent Christ is slaughtered. That is how the mercy of God comes to full fruition. And most significantly, that is how we live—by eating and drinking this innocent flesh and blood sacrificed on the cross. So while we loathe King Herod, we give thanks to the Lord whose thoughts exceed our imaginations, and whose wisdom is wiser than any Magi. He uses the cruelty of Herod to further the Gospel of our salvation.
What an epiphany we celebrate! Our joy is heightened not just by the fact that Jesus appears for all men, but also by the undeniable truth that His appearance means that the tyranny of sin is overthrown, the cruelty of man will not remain, the deceptions of the devil are turned to our good, and the reign of terror has ended. Let us give thanks by receiving into our mouths and hearts the flesh and blood of this Child whom angels praised, whom shepherds preached, whom Wise Men worshipped, whom Egyptians welcomed, and whom even Herod—in God’s mysterious way—revealed to be our King. 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.