Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sermon for 5/26/19: Sixth Sunday of Easter

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The God Who Hears

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Our culture is devoted to hope, but we are short on conviction. Superstition still dwells in our hearts. We want to believe that we can be accepted to Hogwarts or Starfleet Academy. We want to believe that we can choose our own genders, and everyone must submit to our choice. Popular opinion is that anything is possible; reality shouldn’t get in the way. Believe what you want about cancer, the holocaust, or JFK, but nothing should be held rigidly, and certainly we shouldn’t believe anything to the exclusion of other opinions. Absolute truth and reality are allowed no place today.
When we find ourselves in a crisis, we are sorely tempted to call together all the leaders of all faiths and have them pray to the pantheon of gods, hoping that one of them will do the job. Or maybe we are hoping that the gods would all get together and cooperate, like comic book heroes who usher in a new utopian age of tolerance and prosperity. Prayer in such a context, even if one calls on the name of Jesus, is not prayer to the Triune God. Our God will not share the stage. He is not one among many. He is not ethnic. He is not satisfied to be the chief god, like Zeus. He is the only One. There is no other God. When Moses asks, “Who shall I say sent me?” He says, “I AM.” Prayer in any other name than the name of Jesus is idolatry. He ate with repentant sinners, but He refused to answer Caiaphas and Herod.
Jesus tells us to call upon His Father as our Father. He is the One who hears the prayers of His people, for He is our God by grace. He is everyone’s God, but not everyone knows or confesses Him. In the end, everyone will know. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess—in heaven, on earth, and even in hell—that Jesus is Lord. To pray to the Father through the Spirit in the name of Jesus is to confess that Jesus is Lord. That confession cannot stand alongside the idea that Jesus is merely a false teacher from Nazareth who was executed as a criminal and who is still dead. It cannot stand with the idea that Jesus is merely a misunderstood prophet of Allah. Prayer in the name of Jesus cannot stand with witch doctors and shamans who peer into the intestines of animals. Prayer in the name of Jesus must condemn those demonic lies.
Jesus is the real God. He will tolerate no pretenders. The One who makes us His in the waters of Baptism hears and answers our prayers. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. But He is good. His mercy endures forever. God’s will is always done, and His will is always good. And even when it seems bad to us—when loves ones get sick, when children are murdered in schools, when our hearts hurt with the pain of our sin—even when it means suffering shame and hatred from the world, heavenly hindsight will reveal that God’s will is always perfect. What He wills is exactly what God’s children need.
Pray for what you desire. You do not need to worry about forming the perfect request. Even before you ask, your Father knows what you need. You do not approach an angry God, but a God who welcomes your petitions, your praise, and your thanks for the sake of His Son. Through Christ, the heavenly Father is your Father who loves you.
You are not alone in prayer. God speaks in His Word. With that holy, inspired, inerrant Word, God reveals His good and gracious will for you. He exposes His loving mercy and kindness. He provides friends, family, food, all things. But most of all, our God—the One who provided the ram in the thicket so that Isaac would go free—He has provided His Son as a perfect sacrifice in your place, giving you that same Son to you in His Body and Blood. By His Word, He provides. He forgives. He renews. He hears…and He answers. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sermon for 5/19/19: Fifth Sunday of Easter

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Called, Gathered, Enlightened, Sanctified

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the waters of Holy Baptism, you receive the Holy Spirit. You should remember from your Catechism that “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” That is what the Holy Spirit does; it is His work. That is what Jesus tells His disciples. Honestly, though, this is not what usually comes to mind when talk turns to the Holy Spirit. Mention the Holy Spirit, and most think of televangelists, faith healers, speaking in tongues, special knowledge, and those who say, “God spoke to me in my heart.” All of that misses the real work of the Holy Spirit and destroys the Gospel.
Baptism, Absolution, the Word proclaimed and preached, and the Lord’s Supper: these are the Means of Grace, the things through which the Spirit works. Everything else which people claim is the Spirit’s work is a man-made idol. Baptism is where sinners, condemned to death and hell, are buried with Christ into death and raised with Him to walk in new life. It is with water dripping from your head that you received the Holy Spirit with all of His gifts: victory over death and devil, forgiveness of sin, God’s grace, and life in Christ. God makes Christians by water and Word. Faith and life do not come by the ears of God being filled with our words of promise, for those words are worthless and weak. Faith comes when you hear the Word and promise of God, for those words and promises are most certainly true.
You don’t have to be good to go to heaven. In fact, you can’t be good. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus says, “I came to seek and save the lost”— condemned sinners. Through the goodness and mercy of the Father, for sake of His suffering, dying, and rising Son, eternal life is yours as a free gift, delivered into your ears by the preaching and work of the Holy Ghost.
The holy Christian Church on earth is the hearing Church, not the seeing Church. The Word of God is first and foremost preached into the ears, not delivered into the eyes. This is preaching and Absolution. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” When you come to the altar, looking with your eyes, you see only bread and wine. But if you listen with your ears, then you behold Christ´s body and blood for you to eat and to drink for the remission of sins. Witness a Baptism with your eyes, and you see plain water. Listen with your ears, and you hear the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Ghost.
The Church lives by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We live by faith. So if you wish to see Jesus, then stop relying only on your eyes; put your trust in what your ears hear. Just as the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, received Jesus into her womb by the preaching of the Holy Spirit in her ear, so too our Lord Jesus dwells within you by the work of Holy Spirit, who preaches Christ into your ears.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ: You have been declared righteous for the sake of Jesus, who went to the Father through suffering, death, and resurrection. You are righteous because He put your sin to death on the cross. You are righteous because He gave to you His righteousness in the waters of Holy Baptism. You are righteous because He is your Mediator with the Father in heaven, imploring the Father to see in you the perfect righteousness of His Son. You are righteous because the Holy Spirit preaches the righteousness of Christ into your ears and into the very depths of your being, so that you may live eternally. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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, May 12, 2019

Sermon for 5/12/19: Fourth Sunday After Easter

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Your Endless Joy

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

On the night when He was betrayed, on the night in which He instituted the Sacrament of the Altar, our Lord prepared His disciples for His departure with the promise of return and of joy. They were puzzled by it, and so our Lord explains further: “…You now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” He is speaking of the specific sorrow that the disciples will have at the crucifixion.
But we do well to apply this to ourselves and to the sorrows we endure while awaiting His return. The present is full of our transgressions. By our sins we have burnt bridges with family and friends, employers and neighbors. We’ve succumbed to temptation and hurt the ones we love the most. Our words have been spiteful, sarcastic, and mean. Our service to God and our neighbors has been resentful. Our spirits may be ashamed of what we are doing, but we do not resist. Repent. Turn away from your fleshly desires. Remember that this is not your home. Let the pain and sorrow you experience now sharpen your focus upon the joy to come.
This life is temporary. It seems long, but when we look back, we will see that it was brief. Our joy will be complete; no one will take it from us. Hang on. Jesus Christ did not die and rise in vain. It will end soon. And when the going gets tough, in the waning hours of darkness, in the midst of your watch, know that you will mount up on wings like eagles and soar. Soon, you will leave all this tribulation behind. You shall be free! No more pain, no more suffering, no more shame or regret, no more past, no more sin. You will be free of your Old Adam. God’s grace cuts the cords which bind you. The payment for your selfishness has been paid. There is nothing left but the waiting. God loves you in Jesus Christ; He will bring you to Himself. For His own reasons, from His own goodness, without any merit or worthiness in you, He loves you. He calls you by name. The inheritance of the righteous is rightfully yours, for you are His. You need not defend yourself, look after your rights and honors, or be insulted by the stupid behavior around you. Patience is learned in the cross, for there we see that nothing else really matters. You are free from those who hurt you, free from the devil’s accusations, free from death. Jesus Christ Himself is your Defender, your Advocate, your Friend. He never sleeps or grows faint. Let Him worry about you. Who would dare to stand against you? These labor pains are not punishment. Rather, they are the proof of His love.
While you wait, knowing that your time is coming and that nothing else matters, our Lord gives you a foretaste of that joyous Feast to come. Be strengthened, encouraged, and refreshed for your labor. Eat His Body and drink His Blood to sustain you. Your sins are forgiven. Here is your strength to carry on. Here is hope for the future. Here is peace for the tired, troubled heart. Here is unity with Christ crucified and raised, and through Him you have unity with the fellow confessing pilgrims on earth. No longer are these neighbors considered strangers; they are now your brothers and sisters in Him, for faith is thicker than blood. And you also have unity with the confessing cloud of witnesses that even now surrounds you and prays for you. This is the promise of joy to come, so that you would endure in confident hope and faith. So do not be afraid. Do not mourn like those who have no hope. Fear not. In a little while you will see Him and your joy will be complete. And no one will take it from you. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

HYMN: Your Word, O Lord, Has Caused Offense

It’s strange how it always happens, but every time I’m at a district pastors conference, I write a hymn. This time is no exception. We’re listening to an excellent presentation from the Reverend Doctor Mark Rockenbach, and I’m taking pretty good notes, but I also had an idea pop into my head for one of my two remaining Sundays of the Church Year for which I hadn’t yet written a text. Actually, the topic of the presentation led to this text, as we’re talking about comforting the people of God. The Third-Last Sunday of the Church year is the dreaded “abomination of desolation” text, Matthew 24:15-28. How does God comfort and protect His people when He is dishing out judgment? He sends His Word to His people. The Word offends the world, but it brings comfort and hope to the holy flock. 

Anyway, here is my text, to the tune to which we sing “I Walk in Danger All the Way.” Feedback is appreciated.

 Your Word, O Lord, Has Caused Offense

1. Your Word, O Lord, has caused offense
To people worldly, broken.
The sons of men refuse the sense
Of all the Christ has spoken,
Indulging sinful wills,
Inviting Satan’s ills.
The godless spurn all holy fear.
The end is surely drawing near.

2. Your Word, O Lord, has caused offense.
False prophets seek to lure us
From our baptismal innocence
And from Your truth obscure us.
Our own defense must fail;
You only must prevail.
We trust in You, O Savior dear.
The end is surely drawing near.

3. Your Word, O Lord, has caused offense.
Your children face temptation.
The Gospel is our sole defense
From anger and frustration.
The world seeks our defeat;
Your Word is comfort sweet
When worldly foes would mock and jeer.
The end is surely drawing near.

4. Your Word, O Lord, has caused offense,
Your cross a sign of loathing.
But through Your Passion you dispense
Our white baptismal clothing.
Your blood has made us clean
Of all our sins obscene.
The grave has no more power here.
The end is surely drawing near.

5. You Word, O Lord, has caused offense.
The day, we beg You, hasten!
And should we fail at Your expense,
Don’t hesitate to chasten.
The signs are plain and sure.
Oh, grant us to endure,
To trust Your Word and persevere.
The end is surely drawing near.

(c) 2019, Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 77 88
Occasion: Trinity XXV (3rd Last Sunday of the Church Year); Persecution; The World

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Sermon for 5/5/19: Third Sunday of Easter

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Hear and Follow

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

On this side of glory, our faith lives alongside of doubt. The devil doesn’t need to plant it in us. He just needs to water it. Jesus says, “My sheep know My voice. They follow Me.” And it doesn’t take much to get us thinking, “Do I really know His voice? Am I really following Him?” Doubt wants proof. How much have we done? Can we be recognized in this world  by our love? The truth is, we can’t. Sinners that we are, we have blended all too well into the ways of the world. Repent. You have not been good enough. Your life does not show your faith so much as it shows your sin.
So repent…but then tell doubt to shut up. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He lays downs His life for His sheep. He has met His Father’s wrath. He pays for your sins, your doubts. There is no one left to accuse you. You are righteous because Jesus has declared you to be so. He has substituted His life for yours. He has risen from the dead for your justification. He is the Good Shepherd. He didn’t only defeat death by His death; He also rose again to usher you into the green pastures of heaven, to bring you home. He loves you. You know His voice. You hear it now. You love it.
It seems strange to us, but doubt is actually evidence of faith. Your doubts are the pinpricks of conscience. As your faith in Christ grows, you become ever more aware of your sins and the weakness of your faith. Doubt is evidence that you are engaging the enemy inside yourself. If you were not engaging the enemy, you would not care. You would feel no worry about it.
If this is hard for lay people to hear, it is torture for pastors. No faithful pastor in Christendom can hear our Lord’s words about hirelings and not squirm. Every faithful pastor knows he does not live up to his own preaching. Every pastor has counted the cost. Every pastor has considered how we might package the message to be successful and make the people like us. The spirit indeed is willing. But the flesh? The flesh knows who writes the checks, and the pastor likes to be able to feed his family.
But this doesn’t just apply to the clergy. You have all stood up here at the front of the sanctuary and have made promises you haven’t kept. You have promised to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the faith. You’ve made huge, impossible promises at Confirmation, at your weddings, at the baptism of your children. This hireling bit applies in the first place to pastors, to be sure, but it doesn’t stop there. When the wolf comes, hirelings also run away from their wives, children, and neighbors. It’s not just the pastors who squirm.
But we have the grace of God. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The promises of God are not about good sheep, but a Good Shepherd who is faithful, who has made a promise that cannot be broken, who cleanses you in Himself. Nothing can separate you from the love of God—not your sins, your failures, your imperfect faith, your broken vows, or even your doubts. He has placed His promise upon you, baptizing you into His Name. He would have you be part of His flock. Death has no claim upon you. Hell has no way to hold you. You are His sheep, clean and pure by grace. He loves you. He laid down His life you. He comes to you in His Holy Supper. He feeds you with Bread from heaven in His very Body; He washes you anew in His Blood, which He pours out for you.
You are His sheep. You hear His Voice. You love it. You love Him. You desire to be with Him. Even in the midst of your doubts, your struggles against the fallen flesh, you love Jesus. You rejoice in this forgiveness because you know your Shepherd and He knows you. That is why you are here. You are His sheep. And you need fear no evil, for He is Your Good Shepherd. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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.