Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sermon for 6/30/19: Second Sunday After Trinity

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A Full House

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

All things are now ready. It is finished. Creation is restored. God has made peace with man. He has given His Son to us, who has given us life by His resurrection. And still He gives. Jesus gives His body and His blood, given into death and shed on the cross, for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. All things are ready. There is nothing to add. God has made a Sacrifice. The Temple is torn down and replaced with God in flesh. There is nothing to wail about at those ruins. God has removed His wrath.
Yet we make excuses. How awful it must be. This is their only day to sleep in; golf is really important; Church is boring. Yes, they’ll wake up at 4am for a fishing trip. They’ll wait in line for hours to get a good deal on Black Friday. But getting up to be fed by God is too much effort. The excuses are as plentiful as they are worthless. But tell the truth: which of us has not sat in this very room and wished it were over already? Which of us has not been bored in church and daydreamed of lunch and appointments for the week, of fame and fortune and dreams come true? And which of us has come to this place and dreamed of evil or plotted to sin? We’ve lusted and coveted, lied and blasphemed, all within sight of the altar, while the Word of God was read and His great love proclaimed. It is not just those who are missing who are guilty. Excuses are cheap and plentiful.
Proud and arrogant men think that they can prey upon the generosity and patience of God. Who hasn’t wanted the best of both worlds? We desire the pleasures of the flesh, honor among men, luxuries, freedom, and constant amusement; and we desire the joys and peace of heaven. But it doesn’t work that way. Who is ready to lose job, family, reputation, and wealth for the Kingdom of God? We promised that at confirmation. Did we really mean it? Our financial debts are evidence that we do not like to wait.
Repent. Hear and heed the warning. “None of those who were invited shall taste of My Supper.” He will not be mocked. Now is the hour of salvation. Tomorrow may never come. God is not fooled by superficial acts and lip-service, nor is He appeased by excuses. He desires mercy, not sacrifice. Stop thinking that your sins are reasonable and bring no guilt or that God’s grace is a license to sin. Repent. Repent now. We have only one case of death-bed repentance in all of Scripture, so while no one should despair and think it is too late, neither should anyone presume. The invitation is for today, right now. All things are ready.
God has done all things for you. He has taken up your flesh, suffered, died, and rose for you. He has endured Hell’s fury. He crushed the serpent’s head. He has dissolved the chains of guilt and shame that held you. He has flung open wide the gates of heaven. The flaming sword of Eden has been quenched in the blood of the Lamb. The angel of death passes over. You are safe. There is no one to accuse you. God Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, loves you and beckons you to the feast. He wants you.
Do not be afraid. Do not think yourself unworthy. Do not dwell upon your past sins. They are gone. They are forgiven. Are you are weak and weary, heartbroken and lonely, wracked with guilt and uncertainty? Come. All things are ready. It has been prepared for you: the greatest and the least, the outcasts and losers, the popular athletes and scholars, the divorced failures and the wealthy politicians. Come, one and all, to the Feast! Leave behind these temporary things. You belong to God. He brought you to His house this day for the feast. Come. Eat His body; drink His blood.
All things are ready. Whatever you’ve done, whatever evil things you’ve dreamed and thought, whatever lies you’ve told, God has paid for it all in His Son. He wants you to feast, to be washed clean and reunited again with Him, to be full, satisfied, at peace. Come. All things are ready. 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.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

HYMN: Pay Heed, O Earthly Powers

I started writing hymns in 2009. I'd written a parody of the hymn "Ride On! Ride On in Majesty," and someone received it poorly because it was a parody, ignoring the truth it espoused and the error it rejected. So, despite my fear that my writing skills could not match up with those of the writers of my favorite hymns, I set pen to paper. "Lord Jesus Christ, Preserve Your Church" was the result: the first hymn I wrote without building on someone else's work, though I had previously re-written "It Is Well with My Soul" to explain why it's well with my soul. Since then, I've written over 90 texts for hymns.

As part of writing texts, I've assigned myself a project of writing a text for every Sunday of the Church Year in the 1-Year Lectionary. This week, I finally completed that project. I still have feast days to cover, and some of my texts are not as strong as I would like them to be. Nevertheless, I have reached a point that I never thought I would reach a decade ago, when I first attempted to write a text that might serve the Church's song.

The latest text, which covers the Propers for the Twenty-Third Sunday After Trinity, did not come easy. I've been wrestling with Matthew 22:15-22 for months, trying to figure out how to address the "Render unto Caesar" directive in an engaging way. This text, wrestled from my brain like Jacob wrestled with the Lord, is the result. I decided to hit the nail on the head, so to speak, expanding on our Lord's words in a Luther-esque fashion. Still, I'm not sure I've succeeded in providing an engaging text. (And I don't like the marriage of text and tune, but the temporary tune is the only one for that meter in Lutheran Service Book.) I'd appreciate any feedback you'd be willing to provide.

Pay Heed, O Earthly Powers

1. Pay heed, O earthly powers!
You citizens, give ear!
The King of kings has spoken;
The Lord of hosts is here.

2. Though citizens of heaven,
As pilgrims here you roam.
Serve God and serve the nation
Until He calls you home.

3. Give all you owe to Caesar.
All honor he is due,
For all who wield the scepter
Are God’s good gift to you.

4. Obey the godless ruler
As you would Christ the King.
Your service brings true glory
To Him whom angels sing.

5. Pray God for righteous princes
Who seek the good of all,
Who serve without corruption,
Repenting when they fall.

6. And render to your Father
What you in faith receive:
The righteousness of Jesus
By which God’s children live.

7. Sing praise to Christ, you people:
To Christ whom you revere.
Repent before your Savior
And kneel in holy fear.

8. Pay heed, O earthly powers!
You citizens, give ear!
The King of kings has spoken;
The Lord of hosts is here.

© 2019 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
76 76
Occasion: Trinity 23; The Nation

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sermon for 6/16/19: The Feast of the Holy Trinity

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"Born from Above"

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

The Triune God was too much for him. Isaiah could not abide the presence of God’s majesty. He was only a man; he was not holy. He mourned his sinful state, his lying lips, his fearful heart. He was not worthy to sing the angelic song. He was headed for destruction. His guilt was too great. His sin was too shameful. He had no wings or fig leaves with which to cover up. There in the presence of the Truth, he could not lie about who he really was. He was exposed, vulnerable, undone.
But then an angel flew to the altar at God’s direction. He picked up a burning coal, the remnant of the burnt offering, and placed its fire to Isaiah’s lips. His guilt was removed. His sin was forgiven, for the coal touched his mouth and made him clean. Now He, too, could sing God’s praise: Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord of hosts! Now Isaiah, like the seraphim, is holy. The Almighty has declared it so. Isaiah has been redeemed. He is able to call “Brother” the One who is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Incarnate God of Moses and of Abraham, the only begotten of His Father.
How unsearchable are the judgments of God! The men who murdered His Son, who mocked His name, who hid and ran from Him—He proclaims them innocent. He makes them His sons. In their place He judges His perfect Son worthy of the price that justice demands. All the burdens of all the evil the world has withstood—genocide and abortion, half-truths, bragging and cowardice, bullying and drunkenness; all the evil in which men have engaged, all their secret sins, all their violence and their vanity; all their greed, malice, and lust—He places all of it upon the Lamb who was born to be the Sacrifice. The Father raised Him up on the cross. Look with eyes of faith to the agony of grace outside of Jerusalem. There the demons are cast out. There the snakes are driven away. There salvation is won and the lips of men are made clean. Songs of praise ring out again.
Whoever believes in the One who received the praise of the Seraphim, who sent Isaiah to foretell the Virgin birth—whoever believes in Him will never perish. He will have eternal life. No matter how bad, how despicable, how wrong or mean or stupid or lazy or negligent or resentful or lonely; whoever believes in Jesus Christ; whoever trusts in Him, true God and true Man; whoever looks to Christ, crucified and raised, despite his past crimes: whoever believes in Him is forgiven. He finds peace and comfort, hope, and joy.
Jesus Christ was lifted up and sacrificed for all the sins of the world. That is how God loved the world. That is how God has loved you. The Father gave His only-begotten Son over to the death you should have died. He declared the innocent One guilty so that He could declare you innocent and righteous. He has had mercy upon you, mercy that endures forever! He did not send His Son to condemn the world, but to save it—to save you. And so He has saved—not by works we have done, but according to His mercy. His Word creates and sustains faith in whoever believes in Him.
Today, at God’s direction, a servant of God’s Word will take from this Altar the crucified body of Christ and place its purifying fire to your lips. Your guilt is removed. Your sin is forgiven. You partake of that which was sacrificed in your place: Christ’s body and blood. It will make you clean. That which has appeased God’s wrath on your behalf will be joined to you. Thus you can sing. Like the Seraphim, like Isaiah, like Nicodemus, you are holy. You have been redeemed. You belong to God. You have been spared. You have been named by Him. You belong to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Through water and the Word, You have born from above. 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, June 13, 2019

HYMN: Be Still and Know Your God, My Soul

I've been sitting on a hymn idea for quite some time now (and boy, is my butt sore!). Sorry. I couldn't resist. Anyway, one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture is Psalm 46:10a, which says, "Be still, and know that I am God..." I've wanted to write something around this for some time. But when you think of "Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side," or you think of Luther's excellent adaptation of Psalm 46 ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"), the idea of tackling those words, "Be still," can be daunting. But last night this thought for a metrical version of Psalm 46 popped into my head, and I ran with it. Your feedback would be appreciated. 

Click here to view a video of this hymn.

Be Still and Know Your God, My Soul

1. Be still and know your God, my soul:
Your present Help when troubles rear. 
Though earth should move or thunder roll,
When mountains shake, you need not fear. 

2. Be still and know your God, my soul,
For Christ, the Lamb, now dwells within. 
Baptismal streams have made you whole. 
His blood has bleached the stain of sin. 

3. Be still and know your God, my soul,
Though nations rage and kingdoms fall. 
Your Savior’s voice will soothe, console
Your trembling by His gentle call. 

4. Be still and know your God, my soul. 
The day shall come when war will cease,
When tools of war shall burn like coal
Before your Lord, the Prince of peace. 

5. Be still and know your God, my soul:
The God whom all the nations sing,
Whom all the earth from pole to pole
Exalts as Jacob’s Lord and King. 

6. Be still and know your God, my soul,
For Christ shall give you endless cheer. 
Your Refuge and your Strength extol. 
The Lord of hosts is with you here. 

© 2019 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
LM (88 88)
Psalm 46; Cross and Comfort

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sermon for 6/10/19: Funeral of Marvin Juhl

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"Faithful Unto Death"
Revelation 2:10b

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” These words, Marvin’s Confirmation verse, are recorded in the Revelation to Saint John. Jesus told John to write these words to the troubled Christians in the Church at Smyrna. They experienced trials and persecutions in such measure that they wondered if they should continue to confess the Lord as their God. Smyrna’s Christians experienced worldly poverty, but Jesus reminded them just how rich they were in the holy things of the Lord—things like forgiveness, eternal life, salvation, hope, the Word of God, and the eternal inheritance awaiting them. “I know your tribulations and your poverty,” Jesus said to them. “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.” 

Jesus could say this to them—and to us—because He is not a God who is far off. He can say this to them because of what He has done. He can say this because He became one of us. He is Emmanuel: God with us, God made flesh, dwelling among us for our salvation. He knows our trials and struggles because He experienced them Himself. His first bed was an animal food trough. His family fled with Him to Egypt to preserve His life from King Herod. He mourned the death of His friend, Lazarus. He felt the excruciating pain of the scourge. He experienced humiliation and mockery at the hands of both the Jews and the Roman soldiers. He was forsaken by His Father. He was nailed to the cross, where He suffered and died. So when the Lord speaks these words—when He tells His people to be “faithful unto death,” when He tells them not to be afraid of the suffering to come—He speaks with authority. 

“Be thou faithful unto death.” Marvin built his life around these words. We are not here to preach Marvin into heaven, for Jesus has already done all the work; even now, Marvin rests from his labors, awaiting the resurrection to come on the Last Day, because Jesus bore all Marvin’s sins to the cross. But the Church has always looked to those who have gone before as examples of faith. It’s important for us to know that Marvin lived his faith: how he was a faithful father and husband; how he shared his gift of music; how he worked with Laborers for Christ. In all of this, he rejoiced at how the hand of the Lord upheld and sustained him. He rejoiced in the many blessings he had received from the Lord: a loving wife; faithful children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; food, shelter, clothing, and, indeed, “all [he needed] to support this body and life.” 

But Marvin especially rejoiced that the Lord made him His child in the waters of Holy Baptism. He rejoiced to receive the forgiveness of his sins. He rejoiced to be fed with his Savior’s own body and blood. These gifts sustained him throughout his life, even when his body bent and began to fail. This is not to say that Marvin was worthy of all these blessings from God, or that he had strength or reason to trust in the Lord on his own, or that he earned his place in heaven. But Marvin took the Word and promises of God very seriously. By the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit within him, Marvin was faithful until death, and now the crown of eternal life is his.

Jesus said, “I will give you the crown of life.” He won that crown for you by wearing the crown of thorns. By His innocent suffering and His atoning death on the cross, the holy Son of God shedding his blood for you, Christ Jesus paid the price you owed, died the death you deserve, and obtained the forgiveness you so desperately need. This promise is for you. Of course, just as this was true of Marvin, you cannot remain faithful by your own power—nor could the Christians in Smyrna or any of the other Christians who have died in the faith down through the centuries. Faithfulness only comes by the power of the Holy Spirit, both in good times and in bad. That power of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit you have received in the waters of Holy Baptism—will give you the faith to cling to the words and promises of God. The Lord is faithful. And in His promises and gifts, He will strengthen your faith through all adversities and temptations. The Lord does this through His Means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments. Through these gospel means, the Lord of the Church sustains His people.
So “do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” Do not be afraid of illness. Do not be afraid of death. Do not be afraid of the grief that you’re experiencing right now. Marvin was a blessing to you, and it’s okay to miss him. Do not be afraid, for the Lord is with you. The One who died in agony on the cross knows your pain, your suffering, and your grief; He will neither leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid to mourn, but do not mourn like those who have no hope. Our risen Lord is with you, and He will send His Spirit to comfort you, to sustain you, to keep you steadfast unto death. By the grace of God, just like Marvin, you will receive the crown of life. 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.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Sermon for 6/9/19: Pentecost

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Love and Peace

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

The world has made an idol of love, an idol far surpassing the tower of Babel. Individuals and the powers that be have applauded things which God’s Word calls sin. Living together outside of marriage is considered love; homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, open marriages, and divorce are considered love; the desire for worldly power and wealth is considered love; abortion and euthanasia are considered love. The world has always welcomed such idolatry, from Adam and Eve’s desire to be like God, to Babel’s attempt to raise itself to the heavens, and even today, to the new Illinois abortion legislation, the most permissive in the nation, making murder legal right up until a baby is born. The world kneels willingly at the altars of these abominations. Even worse, it invokes the name of Jesus in support of this idolatry. “Jesus is love,” they say, “so of course He condones everything we do in the name of love.” To Satan’s delight, the world has turned away from God and His Word, and so the world doesn’t know peace. Even Christian congregations and denominations fall into the world’s trap.
Jesus turns worldly love on its head. He says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…” This means true love is obedience to everything our Lord has given you in His Word. We have forgotten or ignored the Law of God: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” How do you love God? You listen to His Word and live lives according to that Word, repenting when you fail. How do you love your neighbor? You share that Word of God with your neighbor and encourage him to live accordingly. You wouldn’t willingly swallow poison; why would you want your neighbor to do so? If something is eternally deadly—make no mistake: living in unrepentant sin is eternally deadly—then wouldn’t you warn your neighbor about it in as loving a way as possible? Such love won’t always end well for you here—some with whom you share this message may come to hate you—but it is the truest love you can share with them.
This is what Jesus does. The Church is born by the Word, not by the passion or plans of men. The Word draws sinners out of death, darkness, and chaos; it leads them into life, light, and order. This Word created all things. This Word became Man and dwelt among us, so that He might rescue and recreate you. This Word is the truth. He calls you to new birth, to new life. He gives you peace in His name.
Pentecost is the beginning of this world’s end. It is the undoing of the curse of Babel. It is the reuniting of brothers and sisters, no longer divided by ethnicity, language, and economics. Living in the Word, you are made one in Christ, no longer separated by sin. God has made a people for Himself in the waters of Holy Baptism. He has forged you in forgiveness and cleansed you with His blood. The Spirit has called you by the Gospel: the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has gathered you around the Word. He has enlightened you with His gifts. He sanctifies you in His Word of truth. Our God named you in Baptism with His own name. He has declared you to be His people. He will not let you go. So it is that you are here today. You are the rightful heirs of Pentecost. You are heirs of His Word. You are heirs of His peace. For now, while you wait, living in these days of conversion and mission, looking forward to the new heaven and new earth, you rejoice in the peace that is already yours. He gives His peace to you, peace which the world does not know and can never give. This peace passes all understanding; this peace will never end. 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, June 02, 2019

Sermon for 6/2/19: The Ascension of Our Lord

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The Right Hand of God

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Most people seem to think that after Christ’s ascension, He is not around anymore. He is far away. Wherever the “right hand of God” is, it cannot be nearby. People think they're just sort of on their own, maybe with some help from the Spirit, until Jesus comes back. But this is exactly what the Scriptures do not teach. The Ascension of our Lord means that our Lord Jesus has gone to the Father. As He told us Himself, He goes so that He can send the Spirit, by whose preaching Jesus is with His church. St. Mark writes this very thing: “After this He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And the Apostles went out preaching everywhere, the Lord working with them.” Jesus is at the right hand of God, which means Jesus is present wherever His Gospel is preached.
Satan would love to snatch you and your righteousness away from Jesus, but the devil is powerless now that Jesus has ascended. Your sins are forgiven. Jesus paid their price. Nothing stands between you and God anymore, for Jesus as both God and Man sits at “the right hand of God.” He has raised humanity to dwell with God in His glory. If the devil wants to get to you, he must go through the risen and ascended Son of God Himself. Jesus sends the Apostles into the world to preach this, because the world thinks that God will love you if you live a good life. The world imagines, when it even acknowledges sin, that you have to do something to make up for your sins. But the world can't figure out the Gospel. Only the Lord can reveal it and accomplish it! The world doesn't know anything about grace or mercy or the forgiveness of sins. So the Lord sends His preachers into that dead world with the Word of life, the Good News of sins forgiven.
By the preaching of the Gospel and by the water and the Word, the Spirit makes disciples out of sinners in the world. And just as the world knows nothing about what the Gospel is, so also the world knows nothing about faith. When Jesus says, “whoever believes,” He means a trust that clings to Him and to His gifts. The Bible says that, when the Lord went on high, He gave gifts to men. These are the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, given through the preaching of the Word, the water of the font, the words of absolution, and the body and blood of the Supper. To believe means to trust that you have nothing going for you but Jesus and those gifts which give you Jesus. To a world that is dead in trespasses and sins, Jesus doesn't just send some knowledge about a far away God; He actually delivers repentance and the forgiveness of sins through His preachers.
The Ascension of Our Lord is a big deal. When Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father, what He's really doing now is going all over the earth through the preaching of the Gospel. While He was visible to human eyes, He was there in Judea. Now hidden to our eyes, He is everywhere the Gospel is preached to the ends of the earth. When He seems to be going away, He's actually present everywhere. The Ascension is your guarantee that Jesus Himself is forgiving and saving sinners where His Word is preached and His sacraments given. With these gifts, Jesus makes you His own, raises you from the death of sin, seats you in the heavenly places, and works all things for your good until He returns again. Jesus died for you. He rose for you. And His ascension is for you, too! You have heard of His Ascension today. Now, like His disciples who went to the Temple, praising and glorifying Jesus, you also come to His house, full of joy, ready to receive His good gifts in which He is present with you again…for as He sits at “the right hand of God” for 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.