Thursday, November 28, 2019

Sermon for 11/27-28/19: Harvest Festival/Day of National Thanksgiving

Eat, Drink, Be Merry 

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

You are more than the sum of what you own. To illustrate this truth, this warning, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool. The rich man’s land produces so richly that he doesn’t have enough room to store it all. So he decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. Then he gives one of the silliest speeches in Scripture: “Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry”—as if that what life is all about.

God has the final word in the parable. “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” There’s nothing inherently evil about relaxing, eating, drinking and merriment. But the rich man expects his riches to take care of his soul. Saving souls is the work of God. That is the rich man’s problem: he has made his wealth into a false god. When God requires his soul that night, it does nothing for him in the Judgment. So the rich man is more than the sum of what he owns. Possessions cannot prevent his death; when he dies, they do nothing for his soul.

The parable is a clear warning: beware the sin of greed. Obsession with possessions is a terrible temptation. It leads you to value things over God. It leads you to put your trust in things that fall apart and pass away. It tempts you to resent God if you don’t have all you want. It seduces you to believe that your soul is good in God’s eyes because you have enough things. Greed is a dangerous idol, and it’s never satisfied: the more you have, the more you want.

You don’t even have to have possessions to be guilty of the sin. While the rich man in the parable already has all sorts of wealth, Jesus tells the parable because of a man who desires wealth. This whole thing begins with someone saying to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” It’s a family squabble, with an inheritance to be shared. Yes, God provides all things, but Jesus isn’t there to divide out the family farm. He hasn’t come for such temporal things. He’s come to do what goods and grain, what relaxing and eating and drinking and merriment can’t do: He’s come to save souls for eternity.

So Jesus warns, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness.” And then He adds, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” We should expand that, too, because you’ll covet and be greedy for more than grain and goods. You are more than your popularity. You are more than your looks or fashion sense. You are more than your health. You are more than the knowledge you’ve gained, or the peace within your family, or the goals that you’ve attained, or the promotions you’ve received, or the items you’ve crossed off your bucket list. Still, you are tempted to covet all of these things: to believe that they are what give you life and quality of life, to believe they are good for your soul. But none of these things give life to your soul. Flee these temptations, and repent when you give into them. All of these things are false gods when you put your trust in them, and putting your trust in them reveals even more about you than greed or covetousness.

The Lord gives you so much more than the abundance of your possessions or other things that will pass away that. He gives you gifts that do not pass away. He gives you life that does not pass away. Jesus became flesh and went to the cross for you. He died for you, bearing your sin—including greed and covetousness and every evil desire. He died your death for you, so that you might not go the way of all things in this world which pass away. He rose again to give you eternal life with Him. He has made you a child of God in Holy Baptism, so that now you are an heir of the kingdom of heaven.

You still have the specter of death hanging around, but you also have hope in Christ. Where you worry about what you do not have, you consider the lilies of the field and the sparrows of the air, knowing how much the Lord cares for them: because you know that Jesus didn’t become a lily to redeem lilies or a sparrow to redeem sparrows. He became man to redeem you: and if He redeemed you at the cost of His own blood, He will not fail to give you forgiveness and life.

Your life isn’t the sum total of your possessions. The Lord is your life and your salvation. Eternal life is yours because Jesus pours out abundantly on you the riches of His grace, so that you are forgiven for all of your sins. Thanks be to God for such bounty! 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, November 24, 2019

Sermon for 11/24/19: Last Sunday of the Church Year

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

Since the fall into sin, we are corrupt, defiled, and wicked. The ways of men are betrayal, greed, and violence. Our thoughts and secret desires are nothing short of shameful. Our most natural speech is full of lies, gossip, and slander. We are comfortable in our sin, and we are quick with excuses and blame. Oh, we can pretend to be good, to be nice. When it comes to spirituality, we are capable of putting on a dazzling show. We can feign any virtue: compassion, righteousness, patience, faith. And if our fragile masks hold together, we can fool men into thinking that we are honorable and decent. If we are willing to lie to ourselves—and we most certainly are—we might even fool ourselves. But with even a cursory glance, we will be discovered. None of us has a pure heart.
And God sees into our hearts. He demands perfection, and we have failed. He doesn’t care how much you give, how many hours you volunteer, or who your parents are. It doesn’t matter what hardships and obstacles you’ve had to deal with, what pressures and troubles you’ve suffered. Your excuses and bragging must disappear when confronted with the truth. God has written the Law into the hearts of man. That Law is indisputably good. It is what we know we should obey. But it is not what we have done. It does not describe who we are. We have broken it. We have behaved with cruel selfishness. All those born of women stand guilty, condemned by the Law, without any excuse.
Repent, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man comes. You cannot stand on your own works, by your own earnestness or sincerity. You cannot excuse away your failures and weaknesses. Be wise with the wisdom that expects the return of the Christ.
In the Gospel, all the virgins, wise and foolish alike, slept. They were all weak. They all failed to keep a perfect vigil. Measured by thoughts, words, and deeds, all had the outward righteousness of virginity, but all were equally foolish in their inability to keep alert with lamps burning. But there was a distinction between them—not of righteousness, not of intent, but of faith. For despite their weakness, five of them, by grace, even in the midst of their sleepiness, clung to the hope that the Bridegroom would return. This didn’t make them better than their sisters. It just made them believers. And in the end, that is what makes the difference.
God in the flesh, who wed Himself to humanity, will return. The judgment will be decided by the condition of the heart, not on tainted works. And the only way to have a pure heart, to face this judgment eagerly and with confidence, is to have a heart that has been washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, a heart that abides in forgiveness through the cross of Jesus Christ. Trust in Jesus. Expect His return and praise His Name. You will be with Him forever. He has taken up your sins and crucified them. In Him you are perfect, chaste, and without guilt. He accepts you and welcomes you into the Wedding Hall. Rest confident and eager in Him.
What a glorious future you have! What joy awaits you! Be eager in Christ, for the end is drawing near. He beckons you to the communion of saints. Watch in prayer. Watch with His holy Word ringing in your ears. Watch with His precious body and blood upon your lips. Stand innocent in His death, full of repentant joy and expectation. For the Lord is coming soon. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. 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, November 17, 2019

Sermon for 11/17/19: Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

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The Day Is Coming

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

The Day is coming. It is delayed for a time by mercy, only for the sake of love. The will of God is that all should come to repentance. It is delayed, but it is coming. While scoffers count the passage of time as proof that He is not coming, we who live by faith know that every passing moment only increases the tension and makes His coming more imminent.
The difference between the goats and the sheep is a matter of the heart that only the Lord can discern. The goats protest their fate. They appeal to their works. “When, Lord, did we fail to do these things? How can You say that we have fallen short? We were good. We were sincere. We tried hard. We built children’s hospitals. We fought for social justice. We paid our bills and kept our lawns neat and clean.” But it doesn’t matter. No matter how good their good works were, they were not good enough. Their hearts were never perfectly pure. Everything humans do is tainted by selfish desires and ambitions. The goats are judged by their own standard; they can never do enough.
What the goats reveal is their faith. Their faith is not in Christ but in themselves. They seek to justify themselves. They call Jesus “Lord,” but they will not submit to Him. They have sought to make their own way, to find their own rest, to secure their own future. They demand to be judged by their works…and they are.
There is only one Name under heaven by which men are saved, and it is not your own. All other names bring damnation. Repent. Throw yourself upon the mercy of the only One who can save you. Turn from your lust and greed, from your covetousness, from striving to make your own happiness and find your own peace. Turn from your reliance on your good works. They do not impress God. Be emptied of yourself. Forget yourself. Repent. Prepare, for the Day is surely coming. Throw yourself upon the Man of sorrows, the Friend of sinners, the Strength of the weak, the Hope of the desolate, the Light of the world, the Conqueror of death, the King of saints, the Lord of Hosts. Be filled with Christ and His works.
Your God hung on the cross. This is His glory, for from the cross He draws all men unto Himself. He hung on the cross to pay for sins He did not commit. He died there. Then He rose. And now He lives at the right hand of the Father, ruling the Universe called into being through Him. Soon He shall return and bring the good work He has begun in you to completion.
In that coming Day, the elect, the sheep, will also be surprised. They will be credited with Christ’s own good works and righteousness. This righteousness will not feel comfortable on them. They will argue: “Lord, we did not do these things. We are not good. We were hypocrites. Often, we did say and do the right thing, but inside we didn’t believe it. We had tainted motives, selfish ambitions, evil desires. There is nothing good in us. We are no better than the goats.” And He will reply, “Yes, I know. But I did these things. I fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty. I welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned. I kept the Law. And I did it for you. I am your Substitute. My works count as your works. I took your sin and crucified it. I give you My righteousness, My innocence, and My blessedness.” This is a free gift of immeasurable grace. He suffered and died that you would live. For a time you will suffer, too, and perhaps you will even die. But death could not hold our Lord, and it will not hold you. Your life is patterned after Christ, who died and rose again. And He is coming back to claim His own. So “come, O blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of 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.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

HYMN: The Lord Is Near! Oh, Bless His Name!

My family went on vacation last month. My plan was to sleep, read, and maybe write a hymn. I did all three. As far as the hymn goes, I’ve been looking at some of the hymns i’ve written that I consider weaker texts, and my first text for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, Rain Down, You Heavens, From Above, is one of them. So over the course of about a week, I wrote a new text which builds on John the Baptist’s words in the appointed Gospel, John 1:19-28, as well as John valiant witness and the ultimate earthly result of that witness.

Part of the delay in posting this text was that a friend and colleague, the Reverend Robin Fish, Jr., offered to write an original tune for this text. A picture of the tune will be included below the text. Thank you, Robin.

Your feedback is appreciated.

The Lord Is Near! Oh, Bless His Name!

1. The Lord is near! Oh, bless His name!
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing.
O mouth, cry out! His praise proclaim.
Make welcome Christ, your King.

2. Make straight a highway smooth and broad.
Oh, clear the Savior’s way.
With humble faith prepare His road.
He comes to you today.

3. Forsake the call of silk and gold,
And all false joy disdain.
True wealth, eternal joy behold
In Him who comes to reign.

4. Confess your Jesus valiantly
Before the faithless horde.
Confess Him boldly. Do not flee!
And trust in Christ the Lord.

5. Should blood be shed, if enemies 
Of Christ seek your demise,
Our Father, who looks on and sees,
Bestows the martyr’s prize.

6. O child of faith, your King is here!
Let all your doubting cease.
Prepare your heart and do not fear!
He comes to bring you peace.

(c) 2019 Alan Kornacki. Jr.
CM (86 86)
Tunes: DETROIT (LSB 843)
Advent IV; Christian Life

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Sermon for 11/3/19: Feast of All Saints

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

If you think the Church on earth should look and act more like the Church in heaven; if you think the Church of the Reformation should be more faithful to that Reformation, you are not alone. You are not the only one shocked and disgusted by the Church’s in-fighting or worried about the impact of that fighting on its mission and witness. You are not the only one who is reeling from Satanic attacks upon our nation and our synod. But such anxiety comes from judging by appearance. Those who live by sight are betrayed by it. By themselves, the eyes only see poverty, meekness, and hunger. If what we can see is all that there is, then life would be futile.
But faith sees more clearly than the eyes. It sees through today and into tomorrow. It embraces the promise. It sees blessedness in the cross, in suffering, in striving, and even in what seems to be death. After all, faith knows that there is no true death for those who die in the Lord. They pass through the earthly death of the body into real and lasting life. Our God is the God of the living. Abraham, though he died long ago, is not dead! Our departed loved ones, who have preceded us in the faith, are not dead either. And neither shall you, who live by faith in Jesus, be dead. Though for a time you are beaten and downtrodden, you shall never die.
This is the peace that passes all understanding. It is peace that exists in turmoil, in sadness, and in the face of tragedy. It endures because it comes from God. It lives by faith, by things unseen, things promised, things yet afar off—though not as far as they used to be. It is the everlasting hope of the Church which has been bought and redeemed by the death and resurrection of her Lord. It is peace with God and men. It is peace both now and to come.
This is how our Lord describes the Christian’s lot on this side of glory: the faithful are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry, cursed, reviled, hated by men, at war, in strife and difficulty. But in Christ, you shall be comforted. By grace, like Abraham, you shall inherit the earth. You shall be filled with righteousness. Baptized into His death, you shall obtain mercy. You will not be judged by your sins, by your deeds, but by His perfect life and death. It is enough. It is enough to make dead men alive. It makes sinners into saints. In the resurrection, you shall see God. You shall be called sons of God. The kingdom of heaven is yours. You eat the living Bread of heaven and drink the Blood that washes you clean.
On this side of glory, the saints are waiting. Mostly this is waiting in the midst of sorrow, trial, and uncertainty; or poverty, meekness, and hunger; or of fighting, hardship, and worry. Some days are better than others, but there are no days when everything is just right. We are foreigners—always outsiders, always suspect, always the object of the world’s scorn, always a target for the devil’s false doctrines of glory in this life. So the Word of God calls us to live by faith, to believe and rejoice in things unseen—things such as saints and angels, the presence of Christ in bread and wine, the Church Triumphant, and of better days to come.
This is your future. Out of the great tribulation you shall come with your baptismal robe, washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. The Beatitudes will be fulfilled in you and for you. You shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore. The sun shall not strike you, nor any heat. The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne—who was slain but lives; who gave His life for yours; who rescued, redeemed, bought, and forgave you—He will shepherd you. He will lead you to living fountains of waters. And He Himself will wipe away every tear from your eyes, for you are His saints. 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.