Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sermon for 7/28/19: Sixth Sunday After Trinity

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“Do This…”

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

The Law of God requires you to love God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself. “Do this, and you will live.” Yet you cannot even make it to the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer without sinning, without your thoughts wandering. You are filled from your first waking moment with daydreams of power, wealth, and the pleasures of the flesh. How many times have you thought you could do a better job than your boss? How many times have you thought you could do a better job as President? How many times have you thought that you would use great wealth better than those who already have it?
Within the depths of your soul, ask yourself: Why don’t I love my neighbor as myself? Why don’t I daydream about my neighbor striking it rich? Why don’t I imagine my coworkers being promoted? Why not imagine President Trump being admired and respected and loved all over the world, receiving the adoration I imagine for myself? Your dreams center on yourself because you don’t love your neighbor like you love yourself. The Law is as simple as it is impossible, but we strive to complicate it. We look for loopholes, exceptions, and excuses. So vain are we that we think we’ve done better than most. We are not so bad as Osama bin Laden or Charles Manson or Adolf Hitler; we have only sinned out of weakness because of the great stress we are under. But in truth, the difference between sinners regarding the magnitude of our sins is insignificant to God. You might as well compare two ants running a race. That’s the difference of magnitude between your sins and those of Saddam Hussein, or between your good works and those of Mother Theresa.
Repent. You are a sinner. You have failed to meet the Law’s perfect standard. You have put yourself first. You are a sinner; you cannot earn heaven, and you do not deserve it. You should be condemned. You have been angry. You have called men “fool.” You have sinned. You have failed. And you have no complaint to make against the law for exposing your sin, because you know that the law itself is good and true. Lord, have mercy.
But there is a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself. He kept the Law. He obeyed it perfectly. He carried the wood to Golgotha, just like Isaac. Jesus perfectly loved God; He perfectly loved His neighbors. He was obedient unto death. He paid the price for every last sin—for you and for every last man, woman, and child to ever live. Jesus was forsaken by His Father as the Sacrifice for sins that he did not commit. He did not complain, not even when they drove nails into his hands and feet. He loved with all His heart, with all His strength, with all His soul, with all His mind. He loved you, and He made you His neighbor, fulfilling the law for you. He took your place; He took your sins and guilt and shame into Himself, and He gave you His righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. He cleansed you with His Word, breathed his Spirit upon you, called you by His name. You are baptized into his death, and so you belong to Him and to His resurrection. You are free from sin, from damnation, from accusation, for Jesus has fulfilled the law for you. He has loved you with His whole heart, mind, strength, and soul. This is how He has fulfilled the law for you.
So believe in Jesus Christ. Be washed in His blood, named with His name, fed by His body and blood, covered with the peace only He can give. “Do this, and you will live.” For all that Jesus has done, He has done for you. You are His precious, beloved bride, made perfect by His forgiveness and mercy. 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, July 21, 2019

Sermon for 7/21/19: Fifth Sunday After Trinity

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“Fear Not”

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

It is the fisherman’s dream: a boat overflowing with fish. But when it happens to Peter the fisherman, he is filled with fear. It’s so unlikely, so…supernatural. Casting nets down at that time of day was like fishing with an empty hook. But at our Lord’s Word, the nets went down. At His Word, the nets came up full. But more than just the miracle of it, there was also the fact that this blessing seems as though it will drown them. The boats are sinking. It is too much of a good thing. Peter is afraid, but not of the fish or the water that might drown him. He is terrified of God in the Flesh, ordering blessings into nets and boats and hearts that cannot contain His gifts.
To the Creator—the awesome, fear-inducing God that rules all things and terrifies Peter—there can only be one response. He is not the familiar friend: “Hey, God. It’s me again. Are you listening?” He is not the gracious employer: “Excuse me, God? I’d like to tell you a few things, make a few suggestions.” The only possible response to the real God is the desire to be away from the holiness that will utterly destroy you. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” That is the right understanding of the fear of the Lord. It really is the beginning of all wisdom, for it is the confession that God is God and you are not, and that you have nothing to offer Him. Your heart is sunk.
But that which God sinks, He will raise. The Law cuts us down in service to the Gospel, which lifts us up. We are drowned and buried so that He would resurrect and revive us. We are made dead to sin. Our ambitions and desires disappear in the face of His holiness, His perfect Law. We are emptied and focused, and so we cry: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” To this heartfelt cry, this repentance worked by the Spirit, God responds neither with destruction nor with merciful departure. Instead He says, “Fear not!”
In the end, it is not the gifts of creation that He most desires to give, but His grace. The gifts of creation can be abused. There is such a thing as too much alcohol, too much screen time, too much food. But there is no such thing as too much grace, too much Bible, too much prayer, too much of the Lord’s Supper. There can never be too much mercy and forgiveness. God loves to be gracious to you. He forgives. He restores. He says, “Fear not.” He will neither starve you nor drown you, nor will any evil overtake you. He is with you. This gracious, loving, faithful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is made known to you in His Word.
It is the creative Word of God that saves us. He who called light to be light from nothing, who ordered fish to the nets, who calmed the storm, who healed the sick, who stilled the waves: He calls us to be Christians, sons and daughters of the King, by His Word. His Word has power; His Word does what He says it will do. It is the washing with water through the Word in Holy Baptism that makes us our Father’s own dear children. It is the Word and the promise, given to the Church on the night when our Lord was betrayed, that makes bread and wine into His body and blood. We feast upon the Word that became flesh, and by that Word we are united to Him and declared righteous.
“Fear not.” This is the sum of all His teaching, all His living, suffering, and dying. He lived, died, and lives again to raise up again by the power of Baptism, to deliver us from all fear, so that we would live with Him forever. He is our God, our Lord, our Savior, our Friend. In Him and His holy cross, you are safe. 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, July 14, 2019

Sermon for 7/14/19: Fourth Sunday After Trinity

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

Mercy is the primary characteristic of our God. It is what separates Him from all pagan deities, all false gods. He does not punish us according to our sins. Instead, He rewards us for the goodness of His Son, Jesus Christ. He does not count us as rebels, but as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, who have been adopted into His own household in the waters of Holy Baptism, whose sufferings will end and in whom glory will be revealed. God is good; His mercy endures forever. Nothing can separate us from this great love.
So Jesus commanded: “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” That is a Law statement. It is something God expects of us. As those who have received great mercy, the forgiveness of all our sins, we are to be merciful. It is important that we notice that this is Law. It is the knowledge of sin. Being merciful justifies no one. The primary way that God uses the Law is like a mirror. He uses it to show us our sin. God expects us to be merciful. Thinking on our behavior and attitudes, we see that we have not been merciful. We have been greedy and self-serving. We must repent: we must turn from our sin; we must turn toward God. When you do not show mercy; when you do not reflect the light of Christ toward your neighbor; when you do not turn toward God, you only hurt yourself. God doesn’t want you to hurt yourself. He wants you to enjoy life lived in His grace and mercy, to bask in the freedom from sin.
Thanks be to God, there is more to this sentence of Jesus then just the command to “be merciful.” He continues: “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” The mercy of the Father is the power of God unto salvation. God is merciful, and so we are saved. The good news is not what we are to do, or what God expects of us. Rather, the good news is who God is: the merciful One. The good news is that God has shown mercy to us. While we were yet sinners, completely undeserving of any love; while we were loveless and unlovable; He loved us. He sent His Son to us, even though He knew we would murder Him. He could have rightly punished us. Instead, He was merciful. And by our hateful, violent crime, He has worked our salvation; He has made us His sons and daughters. The innocent Blood of that holy Victim does not cover us with guilt the way that Abel’s blood stained Cain. Instead, the blood of Jesus, shed by our violence, covers our violence. It removes our sins. It washes us clean. The Son went willingly to this death to spare us the penalty we deserved. He is merciful. This good news of God’s mercy in Christ is the power of God unto salvation. Believing that Jesus has suffered for us; believing that, for His sake, our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us; we are saved.  
Having been forgiven, we forgive. Having received compassion and mercy, we are free to live in compassion and mercy. We have something bigger than ourselves, something worth giving. Christ works in us. He makes us like Him. He uses you to extend His mercy to others. His suffering, death, and resurrection is lived out in the lives of His saints.
So “give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.” He has had pity on us. He does not punish us according to our sins. He rewards us for the goodness of His Son, Jesus Christ.  That mercy is administered from this holy altar in the fellowship meal of love and mercy. Christ feeds us with His own body, murdered and resurrected; He feeds us with His blood, shed and living. This mercy removes all transgression, all guilt, regret, and shame. It is not merely a token of His love; it is His love. 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, July 07, 2019

Sermon for 7/7/19: Third Sunday After Trinity

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Eating With Sinners

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

Jesus receives and eats with sinners. That sentence should shock you. But we have become accustomed to it. We are used to it. But try substituting real groups of sinners for the word “sinners.” “Jesus receives abortionists.” “Jesus receives homosexuals.” “Jesus receives terrorists.” Imagine our Lord sitting down to dinner with Boko Haram! What a scandalous idea. But the truth is, Jesus would receive, sit down, and eat with the likes of Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, and Jeffrey Dahmer, if they would only repent.
It is a bit hard to take at first, but the grace of God is wide open. He didn’t just die for the polite members of society, for people who meant well but made a few mistakes. He died for all. His death is enough to cover the sins of the worst, the ugliest, the cruelest members of our race. He receives and eats with sinners without discrimination. It is a bit hard to take because we don’t want to be in that group—and, if we’re honest, something in us wants to believe in karma; the Old Adam wants certain people to suffer and be punished. All too easily we walk the path of the Pharisees. Repent.
If Jesus is to receive and eat with you, you must not be too proud to keep company with sinners. You are a person of unclean lips; you dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. You have lived as if God did not matter, as though fooling your neighbor meant you could fool God. You have not honored His Name as you should. Your worship and your prayers have faltered. You have resisted His love. You have feared His exclusive claim on you, desiring instead the pleasures of the flesh. You have hurt your family and neighbors with gossip and slander and sarcasm. You have failed to help those in need. Your thoughts, your words, and your deeds have been soiled with sin. You are a sinner. Repent. We have fallen far short of the Law’s just standard. We are guilty. We deserve damnation.
So repent…but do not despair. Damnation is what you deserve, but it is not what you get, for Jesus receives and eats with sinners! He suffered damnation for you. He died not just for the notorious sinners, but also for the cowardly and lazy ones; for the dregs of society, but also for the upper crust; and even for the person who sinned against you.
It is a bit hard to accept at first, but then, what wonderful joy! You don’t have to prove yourself. You don’t have to earn your way. He provides everything—even the faith which clings to Him. Jesus loves you. He loves you perfectly, without fine print or limit. There is nothing left to pay. He has made satisfaction for the sins of all. He has reconciled you to His Father, put death to death, and rose victorious from the grave. He substitutes His perfect life for your life. His perfect faith and His wounds plead to the Father on your behalf. His perfect love fulfills all the law for you.
He receives and eats with sinners! He even provides the food we need: both to support of this body and life and to sustain the soul unto life everlasting. He gives His holy body and precious blood for you to eat and to drink. He is the Lord of creation, and He has joined Himself to creation in becoming a Man. He took up our flesh to become the sacrifice for our sins. He rose from the dead in His body. He ascended in that body to His Father’s right hand. Even now He comes to us in that body. He is true God and true man, and He comes to us this day as our Savior in the flesh, alive out of death, crucified and risen. He comes for the washing away of our sins and the cleansing of our hearts. In the Sacrament of the Altar, Jesus receives and eats with sinners, changing them, transforming them, renewing them. Jesus receives and eats with you. You have nothing left of which to be ashamed, to feel guilty about, or to fear. Jesus loves you. That is enough. 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, July 04, 2019

HYMN update: Pay Heed, O Earthly Powers

Last week I posted an early draft of a text for the Twenty-Third Sunday After Trinity called Pay Heed, O Earthly Powers. I had some misgivings about the text as it originated; so, as I always do, I posted my text and asked for feedback. I received some, and it helped me tighten things up. I combined verses to double their length and combine their thoughts. In doing so, I determined that I should add a few thoughts, emphasize a few thoughts with some repetition. A friend composed an original tune. What's posted here is the result. I encourage you compare the original text to this one, and then to offer feedback. Feedback is the lifeblood of the writer; feedback is love. 

The subject matter of this text is especially appropriate for today, as the United States celebrates Independence Day. I'm sure my friends who are citizens of the British Empire (such as it is) have some thoughts on the matter. *wink*

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

2. Give all you owe to Caesar.
All honor he is due,
For all who wield the scepter 
Are God’s good gift to you.
Obey the godless ruler
As you would Christ the King.
Your service brings true glory
To Him whom angels sing.

3. Yet when, with tyrant fury,
The chief demands you sin,
You must obey your Savior,
Though torment may begin.
Pray God for righteous princes
Who seek the good of all,
Who serve without corruption,
Repenting when they fall.

4. And render to your Father
What you in faith receive:
The righteousness of Jesus
By which God’s children live.
Sing praise to Christ, you people:
To Christ whom you revere.
Repent before your Savior
And kneel in holy fear.

5. Until that Day of glory
When Christ returns to reign,
Give honor to the nation;
Subdue your own disdain.
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 76D
Tune (pictured below): PAY HEED (ALT.)
Occasion: Trinity 23; The Nation