Tuesday, April 27, 2021

HYMN: The Earth Is Still and Silent

It was nice to get back in the saddle and work on a new hymn text after a brief hiatus. At the appropriate time, Pastor William Weedon posted an ancient homily for Holy Saturday on the Gottesdienst blog, and I thought it had the potential to make a good hymn. I finally had a touch of inspiration that led me to take my hand to it. My first thought was to use the lines "Arise from death, O sleepers!/ I come to give you life!" as a refrain for each verse. As you can see, I did use it in the first verse, but there aren't many useful rhymes for the word "life." 

The original text of the homily can be found in the link above. If anyone wants to take a shot at an original tune, I wouldn’t complain. I’ve been heavy on the 76 76D meter and have already (over)used the LSB tunes I like for that meter, so I would appreciate something different. Feedback is love.

The Earth Is Still and Silent

1. The earth is still and silent.
The King is fast asleep.
The Victor seeks the pris’ners
Whom hell had tried to keep.
He says to captive Adam
And Eve, his captive wife,
“Arise from death, O sleepers!
I come to give you life!

2. The cross He carries with Him;
This battle flag He bears.
The darkness flees before Him,
All sorrows and all cares.
But Adam, first-created,
In terror beat his breast.
Christ took his hand in comfort
To calm His child oppressed.

3. “Dear Adam, my creation,
Your God became your Son,
And by My Word of power
I ransom everyone:
The shadowed to enlighten,
To dry the weeping eyes.
For hell no longer holds you.
My sleeping child, arise!

4. “My face still bears the spittle;
My back the whip has scarred;
See here the bloody nail marks
By which My hands are marred.
And see My side. The spear wound,
It proved My dying breath.
Behold, I died to rouse you
From your own hellish death.

5. “The dwelling place is ready.
The banquet is prepared.
The treasure house is open,
And all good things are shared.
So rise from death, O sleeper!
I died to set you free,
And yours is now the kingdom
For all eternity.”

76 76D
EN (LSB 398) or
ARISE FROM DEATH (original tune by Robin D. Fish, Jr., pictured below)
Holy Saturday (based on an ancient homily for Holy Saturday) 


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sermon for 4/25/21: Fourth Sunday of Easter

CLICK HERE for the audio file.

CLICK HERE for the video file.

“A Little While…”
John 16:16-22


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


Christianity is not a vaccine. There are some, even within the Church, who believe that faith is like an inoculation for a disease; you get a “shot” of Christian faith, and suddenly you are immune to suffering and affliction. The big lie is that the Christian life knows no real suffering, endures no real cross. Furthermore, if you are tormented, or despair of your life, or fear for God’s help, then you must not be a real Christian, because God is no longer blessing you. That is a lie, a tool of Satan. The truth is that the life of faith is a whirlwind of fear and love, weeping and laughing, insecurity and confidence. And what most of us know from honest experience is that it we experience the cross and suffering most in this life, while, as Scripture tells us, the fullness of lasting peace, contentment, and joy is reserved for the life of the world to come.

That is what our blessed Lord tells His disciples—and us—in today’s Gospel. On the night of His betrayal—that night when our Lord would know and feel our cross, our suffering, our every hurt in a way that exceeds our understanding—on that night our Lord explains to His disciples that living the Christian life means you will weep and mourn; sorrow and cross and anguish will define your life. But your sorrow will be turned to joy, your cross to resurrection, your anguish to blessing.

But these are not really the words we want to hear. We want to hear that life in Christ is a life of ease. We want to hear that our Lord has not only taken on our sin and died our death, but has also taken away everything that annoys and frustrates and bothers us, every bad thing that can happen to us, every evil word or deed that might come against us. But instead of telling us what we want to hear, our Lord tells us what is true and real. And what is true and real is this: “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”

Now, on which little while should we focus? On which little while should we pin our hopes? Do we obsess over little while when we do not see our Lord, when life is fiercest, when we are blessed to participate in the suffering and troubles of our Lord? Is that where we fix our hearts and minds? For that is precisely where the devil wants us to focus our attention. He is more than happy to get us to believe that our faith does us no good, that God’s Word and Sacraments are no help to us. The devil deceives us into believing that our sorrow and cross is all that is real, and that God is against us. In the same way, the devil works mightily to encourage your pastor, and all pastors, to give up on their calling, to run from what is bad and depressing. He wants us to concentrate on the little while of sorrow, so that we can turn that “molehill” into a “mountain;” so that the little while is no longer only a little while but all that we can see and feel.

But then comes Jesus, our Savior, the One whose whole life and being was consumed with our little while of doubt and anxiety, sorrow and misery. And three times He says to you, patiently, gently, soothingly, “A little while; a little while; a little while.” That is all the longer this cross lasts. Your heartache will pass. Your sorrow and hurt will last only a little while. It may seem like an eternity, and the devil will want to consume your whole life with it, but it’s really only a little while.

And what happens after that little while? Then comes the long while, the never-ending moment, the unending Day of the Lord. For while the sorrow and the devilish despair last only a little while, then comes the joy which knows no end and the peace which surpasses our understanding and the blessing that far outweighs any heartache. Then comes the time when the sufferings of this present life can in no way measure up to the glory that our Lord has already planted within you, and lives through you, and has fully stored up for you.

And even now, though you may have sorrow, the Lord comes to you and gives you His life-renewing flesh and blood. Even now the Lord sees you again as He smiles on you with His forgiveness. Even now, the Lord creates in you a clean heart, renews His free spirit within you, and restores to you the joy of His salvation. Even now our Lord gives you relief in this little while as you gather here with your brothers and sisters in Christ and with angels, archangels, and with all the company of heaven.. Even now our Lord gives you a taste of His joy as you take His cross-enduring, death-defying body into your unsure and fearful body.

So let the world have its little while of rejoicing while you live through your little while of weeping. For even in this little while of grief, your heart rejoices. You have been plunged into a joy that no one can take from you. You hear a blessed Word that no devil or enemy can undo. You feed on a Jesus who gives you joyful life—life which no one can snatch 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.  


Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sermon for 4/18/21: Third Sunday of Easter

CLICK HERE for the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE to view the sermon video.


Nobody Does It Better

John 10:11-16



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



We all like to have others recognize the quality of the work we do. And most of us, I suspect, strive to do the best we are able with whatever we do. Many people are good at their work. But how many of us are so good at what we do that no one else could do it as well as we do it? Such people are truly exceptional, and their names are a matter of fond historical memory: Martin Luther, Johann Sebastian Bach, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Vincent Van Gogh—perhaps you would name others. And yet, even these exceptional individuals did not do all that could be done. There has always been someone to carry the work and take the next step.

There is One, however, who needs no successor, no one to complete His work. He is the Good Shepherd, our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is unique, in a class by Himself. Others have also been shepherds, and there are still spiritual shepherds today. The prophets shepherded God’s people before Jesus came in flesh, as did the apostles in those early years after the ascension; pastors have providing shepherding care to Christ’s flock ever since. But none of them have been able to replace Jesus, for He is in a class by Himself. He was the only One who could lay down His life for the salvation of His sheep.

Many have given their lives for others. History and legend record many heroic sacrifices. Some are especially inspiring and noble. Some acts of personal sacrifice are widely known; some are known only to a few; some are known to God alone. We know of firefighters and police officers who rushed into the World Trade Center, giving their lives in the attempt to save the lives of people they never met. We know of soldiers who leapt upon grenades to save their brothers in arms. Lives have been lost saving victims of fires and drowning and other tragedies. Unsung individuals have sacrificed personal advantage and material comfort helping the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the oppressed.

Such sacrifices deservedly draw our attention. But no sacrifice approaches that of the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep. No other sacrifice cost as much as His. No other sacrifice accomplished as much as did the Good Shepherd’s. These days, we are able to extend life to eight or nine decades or, at times, even a bit more. He saved lives for eternity. He died so that uncountable precious human lives and souls may live forever. The Good Shepherd laid down His own wonderfully precious life for the sheep, redeeming them for a glorious eternity.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who was sent by the Father. He has the Father’s endorsement for all He does. He says: “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it up again...This command I have received from My Father.” Jesus is the Christ, which literally means “the anointed One.” He was the One selected by God the Father to redeem us and all of this world by offering the perfect sacrifice of His own precious life on the cross. In the Lenten season just passed, we sang the hymn “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth.” Remember these words:


This Lamb is Christ, the soul’s great friend,
The Lamb of God, our Savior,
Whom God the Father chose to send
To gain for us His favor.
“Go forth, My Son,” the Father said,
“And free My children from their dread
Of guilt and condemnation.
The wrath and stripes are hard to bear,
But by Your passion they will share
The fruit of Your salvation.”


“Yes, Father, yes, most willingly
I’ll bear what You command Me.
My will conforms to Your decree,
I’ll do what You have asked Me.”


The Lord Jesus did what He did because He was sent. His entire ministry bore the imprint of that sending. On two pivotal occasions, the Gospels record that the voice of the Father was heard, endorsing the words and work of His Son. And when His Son’s precious lifeblood flowed out on the cross, the Father shook the earth and darkened the sun, causing the Roman centurion to conclude: “Truly, this was the Son of God.” And the Father’s final endorsement of His Son’s redeeming work came conclusively and explosively when He raised Jesus from the grave, and the resurrected Lord appeared before this world in triumph.

Jesus said, I am the Good Shepherd. He carried out the Father’s will in this world, which is why we can be confident that our salvation is both complete and certain, and that we now stand as the sons and daughters of the kingdom, free from sin and eternal death. We need never worry about our standing before God; in Jesus Christ, God Himself has given us the Good Shepherd. And so we end as we began. We have Him who has no successor, who needs no one to finish His work, no one to take His place. Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. And we who hear His voice have found Him to be exactly what He claims to be. He is the good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

HYMN Update: As Strode the Christ to Cross and Grave

When I was a pastor without a congregation, I wrote a hymn around which I planned a sermon series for Lent. The hymn is called “As Strode the Christ to Cross and Grave,” and it discussed the testimony given by those who witnessed Jesus on His journey to the cross. When I returned to full-time parish ministry eleven years ago—thanks be to God!—I used this sermon series during my first Lent back in the parish.

A few years back, I shared the hymn and series with the pastors in my Circuit. I don’t know that any of them actually used it, but one brother asked me to add another verse to it. I’d forgotten about it over time, until I was going through loose papers in my study a few months ago. I came across the request, and of course I set it aside because I was in the middle of Lent. But—of course it happened during the Circuit pastors meeting, as it always seems to—inspiration came to me today, and I wrote a new verse around the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

Here is the updated hymn. The new verse is now verse 2. I know the accented e in “savéd” at the end of line 4 is little awkward—you try finding a true rhyme for the word “David” that fits the text, confessing Christ as the One who saves!


Feedback is love.


As Strode the Christ to Cross and Grave

1. As strode the Christ to cross and grave,
To bear all men’s transgression,
Men saw His mighty pow’r to save
And of Him made confession.
Hail, Jesus, David’s greater Son,
Who, in His love, heals everyone,
Delivering God’s mercy.
2. Palms in their hands, the people cried,
“Hosanna, Son of David!”
Only in Christ, the Crucified,
Can sinful man be savéd.
Oh, blesséd be the One who came,
Who bears the Lord’s most holy name.
“Hosanna in the highest!”

3. “‘Tis better that one man should die
Than die our holy nation.”
When Caiaphas these words did cry,
He prophesied salvation.
Though speaking as Christ’s enemy,
Unknowing, he spoke faithfully.
Christ died to save all people.

4. “Innocent blood have I betrayed,”
Said Judas to the plotters.
Our own destruction Jesus stayed
Through blood poured out with water.
That sinless blood makes our robes white
And saves us from death’s endless night.
That blood has bought our pardon.

5.  Pilate before the priests proclaimed,
“I find no fault in Jesus.”
All said, who should be greatly shamed,
“Naught but His death appease us.”
Still, Pilate knew His innocence.
He gave up Christ at truth’s expense.
Thus death became the judgment.

6. The crowd cried out, “Then be His blood
On us and on our children!”
God saw His Son’s great crimson flood,
Heard those words, and fulfilled them.
That sacrifice atoned, and thus
The blood of Christ now cleanses us.
The stain of sin is ended.

7. The thief with Christ knew his own guilt,
And of it made confession.
Yet in the Lord his hope was built
Who would forgive transgression.
He prayed, “O Lord, remember me.”
No matter how near death we be,
Christ shows His grace and favor.

8. “Truly this man was God’s own Son,”
The soldiers said in wonder,
As death’s fierce power was undone,
The veil now torn asunder.
May we, with those who saw, believe
The saving work which Christ achieved
For us and our salvation.

© 2010, 2021 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 887
Occasion: Lent


Witnesses on the Road to Golgotha
Midweek Lenten Series

Ash Wednesday—Luke 21:1-9
The Crowd: vv.1, 2, 8

Midweek 1—John 11:45-53
Caiaphas: vv.1, 3, 8

Midweek 2—Matthew 27:1-10
Judas: vv.1, 4, 8

Midweek 3—John 18:33-40
Pilate: vv.1, 5, 8

Midweek 4—Matthew 27:15-26
The Mob: vv. 1, 6, 8

Midweek 5—Luke 23: 33-43
The Thief: vv. 1, 6, 8
Good Friday—Matthew 27:46-54
The Centurion: vv. 1, 8

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sermon for 4/11/21: Second Sunday of Easter

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Peace for Deformed Babies

John 20:19-31


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


The Introit appointed for this first Sunday after Easter opens with these words, drawn from the first Epistle of St. Peter: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word...” Centuries ago, when this Introit would have been chanted in Latin, these words would have sounded out as “quasi modo geniti,” meaning, “in the same way as newborn babies...” In the same way as a newborn child will squall its lungs out for nourishment, that is the way we should all long for the sweetness of the Gospel, the forgiveness of all our sins in Jesus Christ. Just like babies demanding to be fed, we should demand to hear the Gospel from our pulpits and the word of Absolution from the mouths of our pastors as from Christ Himself.

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo’s famous novel, it happens on the First Sunday after Easter that a squalling child is deserted on the steps of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Incredibly deformed, with a twisted face and a hunched back, this tiny child was such that not even his mother apparently could love him, hence his abandonment. He is taken in, baptized with the name of the day on which he was found, and then raised within the cathedral, to become its bell-ringer. Only within the church could such a grotesque mockery of a man find for himself a sanctuary. I don’t know if Hugo intended to make a theological statement through these circumstances and this name “Quasimodo,” but he did. Quasimodo’s physical deformity is an exact parallel to the corruption of our sinful hearts. By nature, we are as deformed spiritually as Quasimodo was physically.

On the evening of that first Easter, the disciples were huddled together in a locked room, like children who were deserted by their mothers. Spiritually speaking, these men were no more appealing than poor Quasimodo was physically. They were all twisted out of shape by their sin, especially that great sin of deserting their Lord on the night when He was betrayed. They had left Jesus to die on His own, cut off not only from His so-called “friends,” but even from His Father. And, to a man, they were as ashamed of their own sin-deformed hearts and souls as Quasimodo was of his face and form.

It was to these pitiful disciples that Jesus now appeared. When He did, He did not tell them that there was really no problem with what they had done or left undone. He did not say that they could just let bygones be bygones. He did not shrug off their real sin. Instead, Jesus absolved them; He pardoned their transgressions and remembered them no more. He did this with His Word of peace, which comes through the word of the forgiveness of sins—“for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” The Lord Jesus sought out His fallen men while they were still hiding and said, “Peace be with you.” And to help them believe that His absolution is true, He showed them His pierced hands and side—the very things that make for peace with God: the wounds that satisfy the penalty for all the sins of the world.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, much like those fearful apostles, we wallow in our guilt and shame, hiding behind the shuttered windows of our souls. Spiritually speaking, we feel like poor Quasimodo: terminally deformed by what we have done and by what we have left undone, permanently deformed by what we are as sinners by nature. The very last thing we need to hear from each other is such fine and false counsel: “Don’t worry, you’re not so bad, compared to some others.” Or: “That’s all over and done. Just forget about it.” That poisonous whitewash supplied by human reason to our sins only inflames or hardens our conscience. We need to hear Christ Himself say, as He does through the mouths of His servants: “I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

This word of forgiveness, which we call Holy Absolution, is the pure spiritual milk of the Gospel, flowing freely from the grace of Christ to quench our guilty thirst with the forgiveness of sins. This word of Christ’s Absolution is what we need. We should concentrate upon it, cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be sought out and accepted with all praise and gratitude. And this pure milk of forgiveness, when gratefully received, will also wash over those who sin against us, for He calls us to we share it with them out of gratitude for the forgiveness of our own sins.

This is God’s medicine for healing our deformed hearts and souls—the same healing Jesus gave to His disciples that evening when He spoke His peace upon them; the same healing that is found in the water of Holy Baptism that washes away our sin; the same healing that we consume in our Savior’s holy body and blood. This is real healing: healing that surpasses understanding, healing for deformed hearts and souls. 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, April 04, 2021

Sermon for 4/4/21: Resurrection of Our Lord (Hymns of Lent)

CLICK HERE for the audio file.

CLICK HERE to view the blurry video file.

Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands
I Corinthians 15:51-57 


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


Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bands
For our offenses given…

Jesus was dead. He was wrapped in burial cloths. He was sealed in the tomb, and the religious leaders of the Jews had set a guard to prevent any funny business on the part of the followers of this carpenter Rabbi from Nazareth. Throughout the season of Lent, we heard how Jesus went to the cross as the Savior sent from the Father—sent to suffer and die as the Sacrifice, the Scapegoat who would suffer in the place of sinners. The deed was done. Pilate sentenced Jesus to death, and our Lord went willingly. So yes, Jesus was dead and buried. His tomb was sealed. The guard was in place. It seemed as though the story was over.

No son of man could conquer death,
Such ruin sin had wrought us.
No innocence was found on earth,
And therefore death had brought us
Into bondage from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
And held us as its captive.

Many sinners had died; that is the lot of sinners. And Jesus, though He was not a sinner, “was made sin for us,” so He had to die, too.

           But Jesus didn’t go to the cross and death as one claiming to be a victim of circumstances beyond His control. He didn’t go kicking and screaming, proclaiming His innocence to anyone who would listen. Pilate already knew the truth; he knew Jesus was innocent, and yet he convicted Jesus anyway. The religious leaders who screamed for His crucifixion already knew the truth; they knew Jesus was innocent, but that only increased their rage. And, of course, Jesus knew He was innocent. That was the whole point. An innocent Man had to die, one Man to die without spot or blemish as the perfect Offering to pay the price for all of creation. With perfect understanding, Jesus knew what would happen to Him; with perfect love, He went willingly.


Christ Jesus, God's own Son, came down,
His people to deliver;
Destroying sin, He took the crown
From death's pale brow forever:
Stripped of pow'r, no more it reigns;
An empty form alone remains;
Its sting is lost forever.


The prophet Isaiah, by the power of the Spirit, foresaw what would happen. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all  faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.” Centuries before the main event, God revealed His playbook. He told the devil exactly how the battle would be won, and Satan soutght to outsmart God…by doing exactly what God wanted: the devil worked to bring about the death of the Son of God.


It was a strange and dreadful strife
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life,
The reign of death was ended.
Holy Scripture plainly saith
That death is swallowed up by death,
Its sting is lost forever.


Here our true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong His love—to save us.
See, His blood now marks our door;
Faith points to it; death passes o'er,
And Satan cannot harm us.


And, just as the Father planned, just as Satan wanted, Jesus died. What a “strange and dreadful” battle, indeed! Our Lord did not vanquish death though an act of almighty power, but by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Now Death is swallowed up in victory. Death passes over us, powerless. Satan groans in agony, the cross impaling him. And the graves of the faithful will lie empty forever.


So let us keep the festival…


Then let us feast this Easter Day
On Christ, the bread of heaven;
The Word of grace has purged away
The old and evil leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our meat and drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other!


In response to this great victory, how, as Luther urges us, do we “keep the festival?” There is only one way: celebrate Easter in repentance and faith. When our Lord rose up from tomb, He left the sin of the world buried in that desolate cave. Through the washing you received in the waters of Baptism, that’s where your sin belongs. So confess your sin. Turn away from it; leave it dead and buried in our Savior’s tomb; it no longer belongs to you. Look in faith to the crucified and risen Christ, because His last will and testament is yours. Keep the festival by feasting on His body and blood, trusting that you receive the blood-bought forgiveness of sins in this New Testament Passover feast; trusting that He joins Himself to you; trusting that, because He lives, you shall live. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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. 

Friday, April 02, 2021

Sermon for 4/2/21: Good Friday (Hymns of Lent)

CLICK HERE to hear the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE for the sermon video. Sorry about the blurriness.

Upon the Cross Extended
Isaiah 52:13-53:12


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


How should we contemplate the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ on His cross? What a question. Every year we make this Lenten journey to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every year we stand there at its foot with Mary and the other women, with John, and with the Centurion and his soldiers.

Upon the cross extended
See, world, your Lord suspended,
Your Savior yields His breath.
The Prince of Life from heaven
Himself hath freely given
To shame and blows and bitter death.

We’ve arrived. The cross stands before us, and our Lord is there. Look up.Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Nails pierce His hands and feet. His head is crowned with thorns. Upon His outstretched arms He bears all the sins of all mankind. And He dies, the weight of our sins causing Him great anguish and agony. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.


Come, see these things and ponder,
Your soul will fill with wonder
As blood streams from each pore.

As strange as it might sound to us, with a crucifix on the altar and another as a processional cross, there are Christians who say the crucifix has no place in our sanctuaries. After all, not only is Jesus no longer on the cross; He’s not even dead anymore. And in any case, they say, it is not appropriate to view an image of our Lord hanging on an ancient torture device. The cross is an offense, a scandal in the eyes of the worldly, and certainly we don’t want to offend the world—especially since it is our sin that brought Him to the cross, and certainly we don’t want anyone to be made to feel guilty. More than that, we don’t want to feel guilty ourselves.

Who is it, Lord, that bruised You?
Who has so sore abused You
And caused You all Your woe?
We all must make confession
Of sin and dire transgression
While You no ways of evil know.


I caused Your grief and sighing
By evils multiplying
As countless as the sands.
I caused the woes unnumbered
With which You soul is cumbered,
Your sorrows raised by wicked hands.

Sinners that we are, we cannot hide in a crowd, as if we can minimize our own guilt because everyone played their part. We are all, each of us, individually responsible for our sin; we cannot hide or minimize our role in the death of our Lord.

What do you see when you look at the cross? What do you see when you consider the death of Jesus? What do these things represent to you? When Paul Gerhardt wrote this hymn, it was near the end of thirty years of war. The people knew pain and suffering and ugliness of death. They knew the hardships of the plague. Why would their pastor write such a hymn? Hadn’t they seen enough death? As for us, we’ve had a year and more of COVID, and that hasn’t put a stop to cancer or dementia or the flu or car accidents or any of the other suffering we’ve had to deal with throughout our lives. Why would your pastor want you to think about death and the cross in the midst of all this?

But the death of Jesus is different from the death we see in our own lives. Whether it’s in Gerhardt’s day or our own, the people of God are sorely tried—not only by the searing weight of conscience, but also by the grief of warfare and disaster, plague and persecution. As we consider these things, the cross becomes a sign, proof of a God who loves us unconditionally; proof of a God who does not stay in heaven, observing from a distance, who chooses instead to join in the suffering of His people, defeat it, and bring them out of it.

Your cords of love, my Savior,
Bind me to You forever,
I am no longer mine.
To You I gladly tender
All that my life can render
And all I have to You resign.


        As we look at our Lord’s cross and death, it will change not only how we look at our own death, but how we look at every day of our life, as well. Knowing that Christ has taken away the most fearful part of death—the prospect of eternal death—we can face death with confidence. And we can share that confidence with as many people as possible. Some people spend their entire lives worrying about how death might come. They fret over what might happen after that. But we know what is coming. We know that Jesus has changed what death means. We know that death is now the gate to eternal life. What an amazing gift this is: a gift of life from death. In thanksgiving we worship our Savior and say:


Your cross I place before me;
Its saving pow'r restore me,
Sustain me in the test.
It will, when life is ending,
Be guiding and attending
My way to Your eternal rest.


In the name of the Father and of the (†) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Sermon for 4/1/21: Maundy Thursday (Hymns of Lent)


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


The death of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
We celebrate with one accord;
It is our comfort in distress,
Our heart’s sweet joy and happiness.


When you’re considering the prospect of your death, you think about the people in your life—the people you really care about—and you think about how you can provide for them with what you’ve acquired over the course of your lifetime. It’s called a last will and testament. Knowing that His death was near, knowing that He would rise from the dead and ascend into heaven, Jesus provided for His disciples and for the Church with His testament. As the Words of Institution appear in our Catechism: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament, in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’” This was the reason He came as the Word made flesh: to give His people the forgiveness of their sins at the cost of His own life. Indeed,

He blotted out with His own blood
The judgment that against us stood;
For us He full atonement made,
And all our debt He fully paid.

That this forever true shall be,
He gives a solemn guarantee:
In this His holy Supper here
We taste His love so sweet, so near.

Jesus tells His Church to “do this.” This gift He gives to the Church includes His desire that His redeemed children receive this gift. “Do this…” Take and eat my body. Take and drink my blood. He wants you to partake of His Supper. He wants you to receive the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation He gives you in this holy meal. But we sinners always seem to give a higher priority to our own notions about what we need and how things work, rather than focusing on what the Lord promises to give. In the Lutheran Church, our public confession of what we receive in the Holy Supper cannot be faulted, for we confess exactly what Jesus says concerning the Supper He instituted. Perhaps our biggest concern, then, the false notion we cling to most, is that the Supper might somehow become less special if we receive it too often.

His Word proclaims and we believe
That in this Supper we receive
His very body, as He said,
His very blood for sinners shed.


We dare not ask how this can be,
But simply hold the mystery
And trust this word where life begins:

“Given and shed for all your sins.”

Paul does not begin with his own opinion. He does not, like so many churches today, consider it a matter of indifference what one believes regarding the Lord’s Supper. Instead Paul begins with what He had received from the Lord. He says: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” He takes Jesus at His Word, and he calls upon you to do the same. Eat our Lord’s body; drink His blood; receive this gift of life. Receive it. Long for it. Cry out for it when it’s not made available to you.

Paul wrote, As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Do you believe what Jesus says? Jesus says, “This is my body;” do you believe it? Jesus says, “This is my blood;” do you believe it? Jesus says this is given for you;” do you believe it? He tells you, “This do in remembrance of me;” do you take Him seriously? Or do you think your opinion is more important? Our hymn tells us:

But blest is each believing guest
Who in these promises finds rest;
For Jesus shall in love remain
With all who here His grace obtain. 


In the Sacrament we are given Christ’s body and blood. The very body that was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary to bear our sins and suffer our death is given into our mouths. The blood He shed to redeem us now flows into our lips. The Lord’s body and blood proclaim to you the forgiveness of all your sins. As you eat and drink at the Lord’s Table, you confess Jesus Christ to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” We may bring no contradiction of Him and His words to His altar. That is why Paul warns the Corinthians that those who partake of the Supper in an unworthy manner are guilty not of bread and wine, but of Christ’s body and blood.

We give attention to faith—not because our faith establishes the presence of Christ in the Sacrament, but because it is only in faith that we may partake of the Savior’s body and blood in a way which is salutary and beneficial. Therefore, Paul says, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” There is only one way to worthily eat and drink of the Lord’s Supper, and that is with faith in the words of Him who is the Host and Donor. The Catechism says it well: “He is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.’And so, as we prepare to receive this Holy Sacrament, we pray:


Help us sincerely to believe
That we may worthily receive
Your Supper and in You find rest.
Amen! They who believe are blest.


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.