Monday, August 26, 2019

HYMN: Speak, O Prophet! Speak the Story

Though I have completed a text for every Sunday in the 1-year lectionary in Lutheran Service Book, I’m looking to improve some of the texts I’ve written and even write new texts to add to ones I feel aren’t as strong as I’d like. This text is for the Third Sunday in Advent, where our Lord receives messengers from John the Baptist who ask Him, “Are you the coming One?” Jesus answers them with the message that He is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. My text also incorporates the Old Testament (“Comfort, yes, comfort my people...”) and Epistle (“...stewards of the mysteries of God”) readings. The tune I suggest for now (JEFFERSON) already has an Advent connection with the hymn “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” but I think that’s a good thing. (I had a few other tunes in mind as I wrote, but I try not to use copyrighted tunes or settings unless I have no other choice or unless they were written for me specifically.)

In an odd coincidence—certainly this wasn’t planned—ten years ago today, I posted my first original hymn text. I had posted parodies, and I had also posted a serious re-write of “When Peace Like a River.” But this was something new, something I didn’t adapt from someone else’s work. It was not a particularly strong text, though it wasn’t awful for a first effort. I’d written a hymn parody about a particular subject, but something challenged me to try a serious response to events. I thought it would be a one-time thing; I’m glad it wasn’t. In ten years and over 90 texts, I believe I’ve grown. I’m no Paul Gerhardt or Charles Wesley. But God has given me a love of the written and sung word (and Word!), and I write to His glory.

Anyway, here is my latest text. As always, feedback is love.

Speak, O Prophet! Speak the Message

1. Speak, O prophet! Speak the message.
Tell of Christ, the promised One.
He fulfills the holy Scriptures:
Blind men see and cripples run;
Lepers cleansed, the deaf ears opened;
Life is given to the dead.    
Even now the poor in spirit
Hear Good News from Christ, the Head.

2. Listen, sinner! Hear the message
Of your Savior, Christ, the King:
He who died to win salvation,
He whose love the angels sing.
Lo, He comes to call and claim you:
Word and water make His way.
Bow in humble adoration
To receive His gifts today.

3. Trust in Christ Who speaks forgiveness,
Making all your warfare cease. 
Take your comfort in your Jesus
Who alone will give you peace.
He will lead you like a shepherd,
Guiding you to living streams,
Feeding you in verdant pastures
Where His glory ever beams.

4. Hear the Word! Be not offended.
Oh, rejoice in boundless grace
Given you by faithful stewards,
Sent by Jesus in His place.
Christ has come! The wait is ended.
Worship Him on bended knees.
Find Him present as He promised
In His holy Mysteries.

(c) 2019 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 D
Advent III; Office of the Ministry

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sermon for 8/25/19: Tenth Sunday After Trinity

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The Day of the Lord
Luke 19:41-48

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

Jesus warns His hearers of what is to come. The holy city, Jerusalem, would be besieged and leveled to the ground. And the words of our Lord were true: Jerusalem was destroyed in the Year of Our Lord 70. The Temple made by hands has been torn down. This is recorded history. In nearly two-thousand years since its destruction, no Temple in Jerusalem has been completed. While the fact of the fulfillment of Christ’s words is important, what has been torn down warns us of the potential overthrow of our life and parish. We can be overrun by self-pride or pride for this sanctuary; by how we cling so fervently to our name and heritage that we will lose our faith.
As our Lord drew near His holy city—the city He Himself had established with the Temple He had commanded King Solomon to build—He saw the city and wept over it.His house of prayer had become a den of thieves. His chosen people had become corrupt. And so He wept. But the truth is, He still weeps. He looks upon His children who have given into the passions of the flesh. He looks upon the slaughter of the unborn. He looks upon the electronic idols we have constructed for ourselves. He looks upon those who call themselves Christians but who have compromised the Faith for the sake of peace…and He weeps. Sinners that we are, we ignore the Word of God for the sake of our pleasures; we ignore the hell which such willful disobedience brings. We cannot see or we refuse to see the danger our idolatry brings upon us, for we have come to believe that momentary comfort is better than everlasting consolation.
We must be on guard, then, that we do not live for today, but for Lord’s Day. Satan can easily seduce us to believe that today is the best day, that our best life is now. How does he do this? Whenever we live for earthly gain or fleeting pleasures; whenever we agree with the Truth but pursue compromise for the sake of peace; whenever we look for honor and praise; whenever we place convenience ahead of living the Lord’s Word; whenever we feed our appetites and gratify our desires; whenever we tolerate false teaching by remaining in communion with it—then the devil has lured us away from the Lord. However, the Lord’s Day—both now in the Divine Service and eternally in the heavenly kingdom—that is the day we must live for, the day we must fix our eyes upon, the day we must desire more than any days that we find comfortable. And for the sake of this eternal day, we must be willing to forsake all our self-chosen days.
Our Lord provides us with His mercy in the sacred mysteries. He does this precisely so that we might not deviate from the Way that He is, so that we don’t lose His Way by going our own way. Time and again our Lord extends to us His grace in the Supper so that we might withstand the seductions of the devil, so that we would live for the day of our Lord. We who have been washed in the bloody waters of Holy Baptism have been cleansed, for our Lord has shed His love upon us in holy water and blood. In this He proved and revealed that He is truly the lover of all mankind.
And where now do we find this love? Our loving Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is Emmanuel, the new Temple, the eternal dwelling Place of God among His people. Though we are sinners, unworthy and ungrateful, reluctant to heed the Spirit and flee destruction, our Lord does not take away His preaching or mercy, but continues wondrously, miraculously, inexplicably to bestow on us His rich and soothing and life-giving sacred mysteries. These are the things that make for your peace; because these holy gifts, by the Spirit, are designed to lead you in the way of the Lord, into the peace which the world cannot give, into the life which 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, August 18, 2019

Sermon for 8/18/19: Ninth Sunday After Trinity

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A Place for Us

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

Have you ever noticed that the things that deliver to you the grace of God don’t actually belong to you? You take what was never yours, and yet God gives them to you: things like water, oil, bread, and wine. What’s more, He converts them from things that help your body into the holy Sacraments that lead you from this life to the life of the world to come. Bread and wine, water, and words: our Lord gives them to you precisely so that you would offer them back to Him, ask His blessing on them, believe the blessing He speaks, and receive from His hand the gifts which renew your life in Him.
In that way, we are no different from the unjust steward. He made friends and made sure others would welcome him into their homes by taking what was not his—things that really belonged to his master—and using them to secure his future. He used what had been entrusted to him and, before the ax came down, made it work to his advantage so that he would not live in the outer darkness, outside the city gates.
Modern politicians have nothing on this steward. This man, who had already defrauded his master, defrauded him once more. This sinful man, when he was caught, used sin again to make sure he would not get hurt. He was caught with his hand in the till, and he reached back in to make a new beginning. The nerve of that guy! What audacity! He did not sit around and whine. He didn’t even put up a fight when he was fired. Instead, he did whatever he had to, whatever it took to come out on top.
The master has no choice but to commend the man. And all the time we commend men just like him—usually because we are jealous. Think about it. When we complain that the evil get all the breaks, aren’t we really complaining because we are jealous and wish a little would come our way? And doesn’t that complaint surface strongest when we feel the weight of our sin, or the aches of our sicknesses, or the burden of our age, or the stress of our life? So we admire people who take matters into their own hands, who grab life by the tail and give it a good shake, who turn the tables, who do whatever it takes to land on top. And that’s exactly what the unjust, unfaithful, unscrupulous, unprincipled steward does. He uses unrighteous mammon—things that never belonged to him. But in the end, he will fail, because he is received into the everlasting home of the devil.
So this parable is a warning: Do not take matters into your own hands. Do not worry so much about the things in this life. Everything you have belongs to God, and He will never let you down. Your Father secures that promise by letting you use His things to obtain His heaven.
In that way, we are like the unjust steward. We take what is not ours to begin with—the blood-washed robe of Christ’s righteousness—and we use it to make friends with our Father. He looks at the robe He Himself has placed on us in Holy Baptism, and He welcomes us and commends us as He does His own Son. But that’s because He wants us to use His gifts. He wants us to wear that robe. He wants us to feast on the body and blood of Jesus, so that He may welcome us into His heavenly kingdom.
The unjust steward looked for ways to make himself look better to his neighbors. But we fix our eyes on Jesus, and so we look beyond whatever others think or say. We look to what our Father has in store for us. Our goal is not to be praised by the world. Our goal is to be welcomed by the Father, and then by the saints, the angels, and the whole heavenly host. And by the gifts God Himself gives us, we know that our place is assured; our Father’s arms are opened wide to receive us. 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, August 11, 2019

Sermon for 8/11/19: Eight Sunday After Trinity

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Good Fruit and Bad Fruit

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

Appearances can be deceiving. You walk into a church. They have a nice cross on the wall. They use a hymnal not that different from ours. At first glance, it seems like it’s just like our church. But then you listen to the sermon, and you hear about how it doesn¹t matter really what you believe, as long as you’re sincere. You hear that anything done in the name of love, even things God condemns in the Bible, is good in the eyes of God. It looks like the church you grew up in, perhaps, but appearances can be deceiving.
These are messages spoken by the false prophets which Jesus warns against. We usually think of prophets as people who tell the future. But a prophet is someone who has been sent by God to preach His Word. John the Baptist is the perfect example of a prophet. He pointed the finger at Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And your pastors have all been prophets. In warning against false prophets, Jesus warns against preachers who do not proclaim the Word of God rightly. These prophets will come to you. They will resemble, act like, and maybe even sound like the real thing. They will appear to be from God.
Think of the preachers and writers and speakers we are exposed to every day. We see them on television with their shining teeth and their powerful jacket swings. We read their best-selling books. We hear their messages of financial prosperity, social justice, and worldly love. We are all exposed to a huge number of different Gospels and versions of the truth. How is the Christian to make sense of it all? “Beware!” Jesus says. He warns against false prophets who will come in sheep’s clothing. It’s not hard to see Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn for what they are. But what about the churches and preachers that look so similar to ours, yet are so very different in what they believe and teach?
“By their fruits you shall know them.” The Christian faith is about Jesus. When you are called on to judge whether something is true or false, you go to the Word of God. This is the living voice of the Gospel. When you talk about truth and falsehood when it comes to the church, you go to the heart of the matter. Is salvation by Christ alone? Does the preaching hold up Jesus, or does it focus on your own works of the Law? Is Christ’s body and blood truly present in the Lord’s Supper? Does Baptism save? Does Christ speak the forgiveness of sins through the pastor? These questions and others get at the heart of the matter. No matter how amazing the preacher, no matter how enthralling the Christian book or movie, if it doesn’t hold up Christ alone for salvation, then it is not from God.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” And the will of the Father in heaven is that you believe in the One He has sent. In other words, the work of God and the will of God is that you trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation. That is how you are saved. It’s not what you do. Only faith in Christ saves. This faith is given to you in Holy Baptism and sustained by the Lord’s Supper.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Himself is the true Prophet. He is the Lamb who was slain. He is the One who allowed Himself to be slaughtered by the wolves so that you will not be harmed. He has promised that the gates of hell itself will not prevail against His Church. You are the sheep of His pasture. Jesus is your Good Shepherd, who guards and protects you from all harm of both body and soul. And you know Him by His fruits.
God provides faithful pastors and preachers to give His flock the very best things of salvation. He has given you the Church as a place of refuge. He has given you a pastor to preach the word of forgiveness. He has washed you and made you white in the blood of the Lamb. He gives you His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins to sustain you for everlasting life. Christ Himself keeps watch over His people. He gives you the truth of His Holy Word to sustain you all the days of your life. And you know Him and His messengers by those good fruits. 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, August 04, 2019

Sermon for 8/4/19: Seventh Sunday After Trinity

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Compassion for the Multitude

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

Our Lord Jesus is the best of all men. He has compassion on the multitude. They had been with Him three days with nothing to eat. He does not want to send them away hungry to their own houses because He fears that they would faint on the way. So He feeds them. This is human compassion and divine mercy: the Son of Man showing us that we are to love others, and the Son of God showing us that He loves us. But that only scratches the surface.
The chief thing our Lord shows by this miracle is that you cannot safely travel through life unless you receive and take to heart the grace your Father gives through His Son. Do not believe that you can successfully restrain your ungodly desires without partaking regularly of the Bread from heaven which our Lord gives. He gives you daily bread to strengthen your body, and He feeds you with His Word and His flesh and blood to strengthen your soul.
So imitate the multitude. For three days, they think of nothing but the Lord’s mercy. For three days, they desire nothing but the Lord and whatever He chooses to give. For three days, they hang on every word He speaks, ready to do whatever He says. For three days, they cry out to Him to heal their souls because they have sinned against God and against man. How can our Lord send away those who come to Him in true repentance? How can He turn a deaf ear to those who cry out to Him? He won’t. The Lord will not send them away to starve. They hunger and thirst in the flesh because He satisfied their hunger and thirst for the Bread from heaven and the living Water. He will not send them home without giving them something to strengthen them in body and soul.
Here, today, the Lord does the same. In this Divine Service, our Lord feeds your soul and your body. He does not consider it enough for Him to preach; He also feeds you. It is not enough that He gives you what you need for your body; He also desires to nourish your soul. In this Service our Lord gives you all you need to support your body and life and to strengthen and preserve you, body and soul, unto life everlasting.
If you have ears to hear, what you see in today’s Gospel is the same Divine Service which unfolds before the eyes of faith. Our Lord wishes to show you that the fullness of His compassion, His care, His love for you—and the answer to all your prayers—is given to you in the Holy Supper. But notice that there are two parts. First you have the hearing of our Lord’s Word, and then there is the receiving the bread which is His holy body. You are instructed in holiness, and then you receive the gifts which sanctify you in body and soul. This is a sacred mystery, and yet the Lord gives it to you so that you would continue steadfast in the way of salvation; so that you would remain faithful to Him; so that you would remain in communion with God and in love with all men.
Whenever this occurs—whenever you hear the voice of God from the mouth of one of His ordained men; whenever you see the bread and the cup lifted up before your eyes—know that our Father rejoices to observe the faith that calls you to this place, and that our Lord Jesus is rejoicing in the Spirit. And then arise with confidence and joy, strengthened and encouraged and prepared to live—no longer for yourself, but in obedience to the Lord and His commandments, for true thanksgiving is eager to receive what our Lord gives and to do what our Lord demands. 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.