The Sunday After Christmas 2017

Bible Text: Luke 2:22-40 | Preacher: Stefan Gramenz | Series: 2017

This Sunday, like the Sunday just after Easter, is usually a little anticlimactic – it doesn’t seem to measure up to the happiness and the excitement of Christmas a few days ago. Then, we sang all of the hymns that everyone waits for all year, we heard the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke’s Gospel, and many of our families got together and observed our usual Christmas traditions: eating, and opening gifts, and everything else we love about Christmas.

But what about now? The angels are nowhere in sight, the shepherds have gone back to their sheep, and that manger that Jesus was laying in is being used as a feeding trough again. And for us, it’s back to ordinary, everyday life. Back to school, back to work, back from vacation. And so it is for the holy family in the Gospel lesson today. They’re back to everyday life, back to the ordinary way of doing things. They’ve left Bethlehem, and they’ve gone up to Jerusalem and into the temple, so that they can fulfill the Law of God that said that every firstborn male must be presented in the temple to the Lord God.

And so we come to Simeon. Like the holy family, Simeon was not any ordinary man. St. Luke tells us that Simeon was unique: the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Can you imagine what life must have been like for Simeon? He lived every day knowing that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Christ. He went to sleep every night and opened his eyes every morning with the hope and expectation that today could be the day! Today could be the day that he would finally see the Christ. In a way, Simeon stands in for all the faithful people of God over the centuries. From Adam and Eve to Abraham and David and Isaiah, God promised that he would send the Christ to save his people. So Simeon stands there, himself representing all the Old Testament people of God who waited and watched, morning and night, for the coming of the Christ. All the people who lived under the Law of God, to whom God had promised the Messiah, and who had died trusting in that promise.

And so Simeon stands there in the temple, waiting; the last in a long line of the faithful who have waited for the Christ. But this Christ isn’t like anything that anyone ever expected. This Christ didn’t return to his temple in a blaze of glory and triumph, so that everyone would know that he had arrived. No, he returns as an infant, just like any other boy. Simeon only knows who he is because the Holy Spirit told him. So Simeon comes to meet the Holy Family, and the three of them – Simeon, Mary, and Joseph – stand together, holding Jesus, in the middle of the ordinary crowds of people coming and going and praying and making sacrifices and offering incense. Nobody  else knows. Nobody else realizes what is happening.

We’re not all that different. Here we are, gathered in the presence of Christ: a few people who have stopped what they are doing, who have put our lives on hold, and have come here, because Jesus holds our attention. While others have moved on from Christmas, while others go on with their ordinary lives and jobs, we realize that Jesus is still here, and that we aren’t done with Christmas yet. We’re only on the seventh day of Christmas, after all.

And the Holy Spirit isn’t quite done with Simeon yet. He’s told Simeon that this child is the one, and now Simeon turns to Mary, and speaks again, saying, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel.” Because Christmas isn’t all about stars and angels and shepherds. Christmas is about Jesus, about the God who is incarnate, who takes on human flesh and becomes a Child. And this child, this Jesus, will be the cause of people falling and rising, dying and being resurrected. The coming of Christ means death for the old ways of life – no more animal sacrifices, no more presentation of firstborn boys in the temple, no more burnt offerings. The coming of Christ means that the kingdom of God is expanding beyond the borders of Israel. It means new life and new hope for the whole world.

And now one more person in the temple notices. An eighty-four-year-old woman named Anna, who stays in the temple night and day, fasting and praying. She, too, sees Jesus. And she, like the shepherds before her, cannot contain her joy, but goes out and tells the whole city about the Christ, and about the coming redemption of God.

    And now you find yourself in the place of Anna and Simeon. You find yourself in the house of God, ready to approach the presence of Jesus in his holy sacrament. You see the incarnation again, as Jesus descends from heaven and takes his place beneath the forms of bread and wine. But you, unlike Simeon, don’t gather up an infant in your arms. You receive Jesus in your mouth.

So do as Simeon did, and receive him here in faith and in joy. Then live as Simeon lived. Wake up every morning with the joy that today could be the day your Savior returns. Live as Anna lived, waiting out your life in prayer and fasting and telling others about Jesus. And when you die, die as Simeon died. Depart in peace, knowing that the same Lord that you have seen here beneath a veil, you will see one day face to face with your own eyes.


The Nativity of Our Lord 2017

Bible Text: John 1:1-18 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

The evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe the birth of our Lord as though they were walking with the Lord on the earth. John, however, seems as if he is flying in heaven with the Lord. He says very little about our Lord’s deeds, focusing instead on the eternal power of Christ’s divinity. While everyone else is rejoicing that a baby has been born, John reminds you that this little Child in Bethlehem is God in the flesh. While others capture your emotions with the gruesomeness of Christ’s suffering and death, John will not let you forget that they are killing God: that your God bleeds, suffers, dies, descends to hell, and rises from the dead.

Why? Precisely for this reason: your salvation is no salvation if your Savior is nothing more than a super hero—a man who outdoes all men in words and deeds, in life and death. But if He is also completely God—your God living in flesh like yours—then, and only then, can He truly do all these things for your benefit, and for your salvation. Yes, an ordinary man might die in your place. But only God in the flesh can bear your infirmities, fight your demons, suffer your sufferings, endure your hell, and die your death. And when this God in the flesh rises from the dead, then you also arise; when He ascends into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, then you also ascend and sit with your Maker and Redeemer.

It is no exaggeration to say that this is what matters most is your relationship with God. The money you accumulate and spend, the things you desire, the food you crave, even the people you love or abuse—all of that will do you no good as you head to the grave. But where you are with the God who made you—that matters most. And what is most important is not that you’ve learned facts about God. What’s most important is a right relationship, an intimacy, a bond, not just of the heart or mind but of your whole being—and God being reconciled with you.

That intimacy and bond is called communion—a holy union between God and you, one that is foreign now but was designed by the Lord to be common when He first made man and woman. We were created to grow and mature forever in our love for God, our life in Him. And for this reason, Christ Jesus would have been born even if there had been no sin and death. His birth in our flesh would have cemented our communion in God. But sin and death simply added to the reason for our Lord’s birth. Now, God from the beginning had to become man so that He could free you from your death sentence and rescue you from your false belief in devilish lies, and deliver you from your sinful desires. And then, by accomplishing all that in His suffering and death, God in the flesh would also be able to restore the original intimacy and reinstate you into communion in God.

The other evangelists point to this purpose for Our Lord’s birth and life and death. But St John makes it clearest of all when he says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. For the Lord’s time here on earth was not sticking a toe in to test the waters. He put in His time here so that everything that was made through Him might also be re-created by Him, and returned to Him. And John reminds us that this happens to as many as receive Him by faith and, consequently, in the Sacraments. Those who do are the children of God. They believe in His name. And they are given a second and higher birth—not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. This is the glory and the miracle of our Lord’s birth from the blessed Virgin Mary. It is not just the arrival of the world’s best man. This is the Son of God. 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.

Fourth Sunday in Advent 2017

Bible Text: John 1:19-28 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

We live in a country where individualism is prized. The more unique you are, or the more willing you are to make your own way in the world, the better you’ll do. That’s good for a lot of things, but it’s not very good for Christians in our walk of faith. Our faith is at its strongest when we partake of communion with Christ and His Church. But it’s all too tempting to believe that we can survive the temptations of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh by our own strength.

John the Baptist knows a thing or two about the temptations we feel: the temptation of pride; the temptation to believe that isolation is good. Didn’t he survive very well on his own in the wilderness? He made his own clothing of skins and lived on a diet of locusts and honey. He didn’t need disciples; they sought him out. And then there were the other people who sought him out. The Jews sent Levites to John, and they treated him like he was someone special. They played to his pride with the questions they asked. They thought he was the Christ or the resurrected Elijah or the great Prophet. That kind of attention would go a long way in polite society.

But John does not want to take the focus off Christ. He doesn’t want people talking about John or his preaching or his baptism. He doesn’t want his message lost in all the noise about himself. But most of all, John doesn’t want to miss out on being a member of Christ and his holy Body. So he will sacrifice everything about himself so that he doesn’t lose his portion of the kingdom of heaven.

John models true humility for us as we approach the celebration of our Lord’s holy birth. How can we celebrate the advent of our Savior if we think we don’t need him? How can we receive this Christ and Messiah in our vulnerable flesh if we will not deny ourselves? How can we worship Christ as King if we still cling to the notion that we can live on our own? How can we glorify God for His goodwill toward us and His merciful peace in the Sacrament if we think we can live apart from His holy Body?

St. John is telling those Levites that it’s all about Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It’s all about this Jesus who both existed before I did, and who now comes after me. It’s all about this Jesus whose sandal straps I’m not worthy to untie. He must increase, and I must decrease. He must be the One you talk about and talk to, not me. For your hopes are false if you pin them to anyone or anything other than Him and His holy Body which is His holy Church. That is why John baptized and preached: not to make a name for himself, but to point to the Coming One, so that others might be washed in His saving Blood, and cling to Christ, and commune in Him, and live in His holy Body as He safely takes us through this life into the kingdom of heaven.

God grant unto us the Holy Spirit, that we may receive true humbleness of heart. And in our prayer, let us strive together to shed our lone-wolf status, our pride of distinction and individuality, and instead endeavor to come into closer communion with Christ’s holy Body. For that is how Our Lord’s salvation is bestowed—not through our own merit or worthiness, but by the mercy of God in His Holy Spirit. You have nothing of your own that makes you worthy. But thanks be to God, for Jesus is everything for you: your truth, your life, and your eternal salvation. 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.

Third Sunday in Advent 2017

Bible Text: Matthew 11:2-11 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

Did John send his disciples to Jesus to ease their doubts and fears? Or did he send them so that his own doubts and fears would be eased? It’s a question whose answer divides even the greatest of theologians and preachers. I can honestly say that I have preached from both sides of the fence. On the one hand, Jesus Himself says that there has not been a man born who is greater than John. John preached fire and brimstone in his task, preparing the way of the Lord by preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Surely it took great faith to join the Nazarenes and then to sojourn on his own into the wilderness. And yet, as great as he is, John is a sinner, an heir of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” as Paul writes to the Romans. Not even John, great as he is, has escaped that verdict.

Whether it’s John or his disciples who need comfort, the disciples come to Jesus with the question: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Are You the Savior who was promised to Adam and Eve? Are You the One whose coming John has preached all this time? If You really are the One, why is John rotting away in prison, awaiting the whim of an adulterous king and his cunning mistress? It seems like a rather poor reward for such faithful service. Shouldn’t the Messiah take better care of His messenger? So tell us, Jesus: Are You the real deal?

These disciples might as well be reading our minds, for we have our own doubts and fears about this Jesus character. “Jesus, I’m a baptized child of God. Why do you allow me to go through these difficulties? Why do You allow cancer to afflict the people I love? Why do You allow people to make my job so frustrating? Why do You allow the weather to create such havoc? Why do You allow terrorists to blow up buildings and kill innocent people? Aren’t You the Messiah? Aren’t You supposed to be taking care of us?” And don’t you know it? Jesus doesn’t jump up and spring John from prison. He doesn’t overthrow the Roman governor. He doesn’t make all the cancer in the world disappear. Murderous disciples of a murderous false prophet of a make-believe god still strap bombs to their chests to kill people. Children still get sick. Employment woes cause all sorts of trouble. Divorce is rampant. And just as John was imprisoned and eventually beheaded for speaking the truth of Herod’s sinfulness, God’s children are persecuted and even killed for confessing the name of Jesus.

No, He doesn’t wave His hand and make evil and suffering disappear. And yet, He does not leave John’s disciples or us without comfort. He speaks of healing the blind, the lame, the leper, the deaf—and then of raising the dead and comforting the poor. And that is what we are: blind to our Lord’s relentless mercy, deaf to His consoling Word, lame in our walk of faith, and diseased with the leprosy of sin. We were dead in our sins.

But in His great mercy, our Lord has ministered to us. He has washed away the leprosy of our sin in the waters of Holy Baptism, where He raised us from our death of sin to new life in righteousness. He has given us the medicine of His holy body and blood. He has opened our ears to hear His Word of forgiveness. He has calmed the storms of our fears with faithful preaching. Our Lord covers sin and eases doubt and delivers from fear.

Our Lord’s answer to John’s question stills the hearts of all the faithful. John’s disciples rejoiced to bring that word to him, and the Baptist clings to that good news even as the executioner swings his axe. And we rejoice to hear that Word as well, for that Word is our shelter in the storm, our light in the darkness, our life as death draws near. 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.

Second Sunday in Advent 2017

Bible Text: Luke 21:25-36 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

The signs are all around us. The total solar eclipse back in August? That was a sign. The supermoon this past weekend? That was a sign. The war in Afghanistan? That’s a sign. The Black Lives Matter movement and the Blue Lives Matter movement? Signs. They tell us that Son of Man is coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. No one except God the Father can say exactly when that day will be, but the day is coming, and so is our Lord Jesus Christ. These signs we see constantly, all around us—they are fulfilled on every television, in every newspaper, in every hospital room, in every heart. Yet they’re so constant that we have become numb to them. And they’re so common that we’ve forgotten that these signs point, not to the end of the world, but to the Kingdom of God. And the Kingdom of God is near.

Don’t think that these signs just happen. When you hear of these things, and when your heart is filled with dread because you feel inside yourself what is happening all around you, remember that the Lord is allowing these things to happen. He is using the dread you feel in your heart. And He does this, not to scare you or threaten you or harass you, but to keep you focused on your goal, which is the Kingdom of God. He lets these things happen to you to draw you to Himself and to His Kingdom. After all, the Kingdom of God is not merely an “end of the world” thing. If our goal is to attain the Kingdom of God, then we must now be present, standing in the Kingdom of God on earth.

And where is this Kingdom of God on earth? It is here, present in the Holy Supper. Here we have a foretaste of the Kingdom which we will receive fully on the Last Day. While we long for and anxiously await our Lord’s second coming, we are not left comfortless and empty. Instead, we receive at the Supper an appetizer that wets our appetites for the eternal wedding feast.

How can this be? In the Kingdom of God, here at the Sacrament of the Altar, we receive the Spirit of God. He comes and lives in us. And by these holy mysteries of Word and Sacraments, the Spirit gives us the strength to strive and struggle, to push through and sacrifice, to have patience and trust so that we can endure and finally attain the fullness of the Lord’s kingdom. We do not achieve our goal by our own strength, but in the Holy Spirit.

We were made to live in this Kingdom. Our Lord tells us as much with these words: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” How can we look up? How can we lift up our hearts to the Lord our God? Only because the Father, through His Son, gives us His Holy Spirit in and with the sacramental mysteries that we receive at the Supper.

Let nothing keep you from standing before God at the Holy Supper. Receive here the strength and comfort, the consolation and hope, the joy and gladness that He offers here in His Spirit. When you stand in God’s kingdom at this Feast, then you will have no fear of what is happening all around you. Instead, you will see these horrific signs for what they really are: signals of our Lord’s imminent return, and the realization of your true goal. For Christ 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.

First Sunday in Advent 2017

Bible Text: Matthew 21:1-9 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

Jesus Christ—the Lord, the Savior, the King—He’s coming! The crowd was electric. Here comes Jesus, the descendant of King David, riding a donkey into the holy city, just like his famous ancestor did. Surely He is coming to save us from these evil Romans and from King Herod. The disciples had already put their cloaks on the donkey to make it fit for the King; the crowd followed suit, people laying their cloaks on the road and waving palm branches as if Jesus was on His way to be crowned.

He did not come to be that kind of king. Anyone who had paid attention to Him during His earthly ministry would know that. When Jesus was born, the Magi came to Herod, seeking the One who would be King of the Jews; old King Herod thought there was a usurper. But He did not come to be that kind of king. When He fed the 5,000, they wanted to crown Him king for the sake of His miraculous food. But He did not come to be that kind of king. The only two thrones Jesus would know would be the manger where He lay at His birth and the cross where He was raised up before those He came to save. He did not come to be an earthly king. He came to die.

Still, He was always greeted as King. When Jesus was born, the angels sang songs to the glory of God concerning the newborn Savior King. The magi greeted Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When Jesus entered into Jerusalem, riding a donkey, He was greeted with palm branches and shouts: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Even the Roman soldiers and Pilate the Governor hailed Jesus as King, even though it was in mockery. They adorned Him with a crown of thorns, wrapping Him in purple robes, placing a stick as a scepter in His hand; they knelt before Him; Pilate hung a sign over Christ’s head in which he called Jesus “King of the Jews.” Everyone knows: when Jesus comes, He comes as King.

This is the season of Advent. It’s as true today as it was two-thousand years ago: Jesus Christ, the Lord, the Savior, the King, is coming! So how do we greet Him appropriately? After all, “He comes to judge the nations, a terror to His foes, a light of consolation and blessed hope to those who love the lord’s appearing.” How does one greet a King? One honors him. Whether He’s the most wonderful king ever or the stingiest miser ever to sit on a throne, one does not dare to turn one’s back on the king. And so we kneel before Him. And then we beg for His indulgence. This morning it sounded like this: “Stir up, we implore you, your power, O Lord, and come that by your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and be saved by your mighty deliverance; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

And as the best of kings will do, He will answer graciously. He will, indeed, save us from our sins. He came into Jerusalem, heading for the cross. He came to die, and in doing so, to save us from our sins and from the death our sins earned us. After three days He rose again so that we would never die. He delivers that salvation to us this day in His body and blood, given for us to eat and drink for the remission of our sins.

This Advent season, as we kneel before our King, the only hope that we sinners have to rescue us from the “threatening perils” of our sins is the coming of our Lord—Jesus coming to us with His Cross-won gifts in the Sacrament of the Altar. What a wonderful gift from our most gracious King! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” 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.

Last Sunday in the Church Year 2017

Bible Text: Matthew 25:1-13 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

There is nothing more important than the kingdom of heaven. Once it has been offered, presented, and given to you, let nothing take it from you. There is nothing that matters except the kingdom of heaven. But such an intense desire for nothing but the kingdom of heaven will force you to make hard decisions in life. The godly pursuit of the kingdom sets “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.” You will be reviled and mocked, falsely spoken against, endure all sorts of grief and heartache—all because you are striving for the kingdom of heaven. You will be forced to decide between what the world says is necessary for success, and what is necessary for salvation; between what satisfies you now, and what matters most; and between what is comfortable for now, and what truly comforts in the long run. The kingdom of heaven is all that really matters—because only the kingdom of heaven is true and real and sure and lasting in this life, as well as in the life of the world to come.

The kingdom of heaven is the only place where the faithful, both living and departed, gather to feast on the Lamb and hear once again the never-ending mercies of their God. The kingdom is your life, and you should let nothing keep you from it. Likewise, there is nothing that should capture your attention more than when you hear that the Bridegroom is coming. But do not misunderstand: the kingdom of heaven is already a present reality! The Bridegroom is here! The Banquet is ready! The Lamb sits on the throne, surrounded by the faithful! And the angelic choir together with the whole company of heaven is ready to sing, “Holy, holy, holy!”

Don’t let this moment pass you by. This isn’t just practice to get you ready for what is to come. That’s the thinking of the foolish virgins who were so caught up in living that they missed out on Life Himself. They were so focused on what they needed to do that they missed what they needed most. When the Bridegroom arrived and the doors to the kingdom were opened, they were not around. When the Supper was ready to be distributed, they were not in attendance. They can only beat on the door and cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” And what is the answer? “I do not know you.” That may sound harsh, but they were doing what they thought was best, not the will of God. “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of the heavenly Father.”

And what is the will of the heavenly Father? Look at the five wise virgins. They keep vigil outside the doors of the kingdom, eager to greet the Bridegroom, anticipating both His arrival and the Gospel He serves them. Even when the Bridegroom comes later than they expect, they have prepared by being filled with the oil of faith, for the kingdom of heaven cannot wait for them. The faithful wait in eager expectation for the coming of their Lord.

And these wise are not disappointed in their hope. The Bridegroom does not delay too long. He arrives at the appointed time, here in this place where the kingdom of heaven is already present. This is where the faithful departed gather with the faithful living. This is where the Lord’s kingdom comes. The Bridegroom makes His entrance. He serves His feast. He stands among you. He preaches, forgives, and blesses you, serving Himself to you as your food and drink. The Bridegroom is here, and He brought His Kingdom with Him. Receive Him as He comes to you in His Body and Blood. And as you do so, pray that you may attain to the fullness of His kingdom in the life of the world to come. For Christ 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.

Thanksgiving 2017

Bible Text: Psalm 118:1 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

St. Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks.” By our way of thinking, that seems a bit extreme. Give thanks always for cancer? For war in the Middle East? Give thanks for divorce and runaways, for abused children and homeless families, for the deceptions perpetrated in abortion mills and for the babies that will never be born? How can we thank God for that? How can this be the Lord’s will? Only in this way: His mercy endures forever.

It is a bit sobering to realize that, as painful and sad as our lives might be, they are not as painful and sad as they could be. Even in war and cancer, even in pain and abuse, there is still some measure of mercy. There is no Hell on earth. Not ground zero in New York, not Jeffrey Dahmer’s basement, not even Stalin’s prisons were Hell on earth. Any of those places looks like a wonderful reprieve to souls in the never ending gnashing of teeth and torment in Hell. Hell is Hell. There is nothing on earth, no matter how horrific, that really compares. The pain of having God withdraw from your life is beyond all imagination. By God’s mercy in Jesus Christ there is only Hell in Hell. He stopped it from coming to earth. He intervened in the garden. And no man ever need endure or suffer it because His mercy endures forever. Thus do we always give thanks in all things, because bad as it is, is not as bad as it could be.

That is not to say that we actually give thanks for cancer or for war. Rather we give thanks in spite of cancer, war, abuse, injustice, and death. We give thanks that, as St. Paul says, “All things work together for good to those who love God…” We give thanks for the mercies we receive in this vale of tears. As bad as it might be, we deserve worse according to God’s Law. If He recorded our sins, who could stand? Our suffering is not insignificant, but is not it the true price of our sins. Thus we give thanks.

We also give thanks and praise for the sure and certain mercy that will lead us through the baptismal sea, red with our Lord’s blood, and into the arms of the Father. The angel of death has no room for us. He passed over us because the doorposts of our singing hearts are marked with the blood of the Lamb. The angel will not lead us across the Styx and into Hades. He filled his boat at Mt. Golgotha. There is no room for us in the boat or in Hell. Our payment has been made. There is nothing left, nothing more for the devil or the Law to ask. There is no accusation remaining, because His mercy endures forever. And because His mercy endures forever, we give thanks.

This merciful sacrifice does not buy us passage into some fantasy land where we can play for all of eternity—some Disneyland in the sky with immaculate golf courses and stocked trout ponds. We do not go to the Fiddler’s green, the Elysian fields, or Valhalla to drink and do whatever else. We go to our Father’s house. We will enter the Bridal chamber prepared for us even before the foundation of the world, into the promised land flowing with milk and honey and grapes too big for one man to carry.

His mercy endures forever. And that is reason enough to give thanks in all things—whether the harvest comes in or not; whether our children honor us or not; whether the world lets Christians live their faith or not; whether our synod, our country, or our families endure or not. We give thanks always in all things because Jesus died but did not stay dead. He rose for us. He lives for us. We too shall live! This life is not all there is. For even as the worst and most torturous day here is not as bad as an instant in Hell, so also the very best day here, with family and friends and good food, in peace and quietness, cannot compare to what is to come. For His mercy endures forever. Thanks be to God! 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.


Second-Last Sunday in the Church Year 2017

Bible Text: Matthew 25:31-46 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

We are not judged faithful simply because we say we believe in God. What good is it if you say you believe in God, but you are not kind to your spouse, your children, your co-workers, or even strangers? As St. James tells us, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” On the other hand, others may say, “I have done many good things. I’ve been kind to many people. I’ve helped all kinds of folks. And I give money to the poor, and treat strangers with kindness.” If you must tell me about your works to prove your faith and justify your righteousness, then you do not yet have true faith. Just as true faith must come alive in love, so also good works must not be advertised, lest you shine the spotlight on yourself. Our Lord Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Works to glorify the Father is glorified—that requires faith mixed with true humility, and love combined with genuine meekness. Faith mixed with true humility says, “It is not I, but Christ who lives in me, that does these things.”

Faithful humility and loving meekness will be on display on the Last Day. For how will the faithful, blessed sheep answer the kindly, generous King? The faithful are stunned. They are dumb-struck. “When, Lord, did we do what you say? When did we show you any kindness, any love, any mercy?” As they see it, they failed the Lord. They certainly did not treat every soul as if they were dealing with the Lord. But that is the nature of true faith. True faith lives for another without caring about how it will come back later. And coupled with true faith is true love. True love sacrifices everything—reputation, pride, will, body, the whole self—for the good of another. True love conforms itself completely to whatever benefits the other. True love asks nothing for itself, instead seeking out new and different ways to please and satisfy and please another.

Again, consider the blessed faithful on the Last Day. They are commended because they sacrificed themselves entirely to care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. They gave no thought to germs or what others would think or if the other person would give a little something in return. They thought nothing of themselves, instead concerning themselves only with what was best for whomever they met. And they do this because that is how the Lord God deals not only with the faithful, but with all men and all creation. And these sanctified faithful see it, consider themselves unworthy of the Lord’s many kindnesses, and yet cannot help but live the mercy they’ve received.

So on the Last Day, the faithful are blessed and given the Father’s kingdom, but not because they worked for it with all that they did, and not because they believed it was theirs to possess. The faithful are blessed and given the kingdom because they lived the Christ within them—living for others, living the mercy they had received—astounded and grateful and joyful that the Lord had lived for them and, in the greatest of mysteries, in them and through them by faith.

Our Lord tells us about the blessed faithful so that we might strive to match their faith. And to make that possible, just as He did for them, He feeds our faith—a faith born in the waters of Holy Baptism, fanned from embers into a mighty flame by the power of the Word, and, yes, fed in our Lord’s body and blood—so that you may imitate their humble faith and meek love. In doing so, you live no longer for yourself, but for Him by living for others with the same mercy, love, and compassion that He has so richly and generously poured over you and into you. 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.

Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity 2017

Bible Text: Matthew 22:34-46 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

Jesus was like a juggernaut; He could not be stopped! First Jesus silenced the Sadducees when they tried to trap Him on the question of marriage. And then He tore through the Pharisees and their test about the greatest commandment and the nature of the Messiah. Those hypocrites needed to be set down a peg! The Lord deserves a standing ovation! But hold on there just a second. Jesus doesn’t need our applause. He doesn’t need any more people heaping honors on Him. He doesn’t take the Pharisees to task just for the sake of scoring points. No, He does what He does to save you and me from our constant questioning of God.

Don’t bother to deny it: we interrogate our Lord all the time. We hold our little inquisition with God. We call upon Him to do what we want Him to do when we want Him to do it. We demand that He be the sort of God we think we need. When we lack money, we press Him to give us what we need…“and a little extra wouldn’t hurt either, Lord.” When there is a storm coming our way, we press Him to get to the work of being our God to save us. When our children are struggling or suffering, we storm the gates of heaven; we wonder why He allows such things to happen, and we demand that He fix what’s wrong. “Answer me the way I want, Lord! Take care of my problems, and be quick about it!”

Jesus changes the subject to save you. There can be no more asking questions about what kind of God He should be or how you think God should work for you. There can be no more testing God to make Him the sort of God you want Him to be. He directs you away from your fleshly desires, and He turns you to Himself. He pulls you away from your demands about what sort of God He is, and He leads you to a deeper confession of how the Father deals with you in Christ.

So let’s talk about the Christ. “Whose Son is He?” Is the Christ David’s Son or David’s Lord? The answer is simple: He is both! The Christ is the Son of David and He is the Son of God. He is Son of David, having been born of the Virgin. He is the only-begotten Son of God. He is both God and man. He is Immanuel, “God with us,” God made flesh to dwell among His people.

St. Matthew says that after no one from the Pharisees, Sadducees, or the crowd dared to question Jesus again after this. And then, on Good Friday, one dared. The Roman Governor Pilate interrogated Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus, now bruised and beaten, answered, “It is as you say.” That’s Jesus telling Pilate—telling you—that He is the Christ. He is both King David’s Son and King David’s Lord. And then, from Pilate, Jesus went to Cross to show you what it means that He is David’s Son and David’s Lord. His death counts for you. His death counts for all the times you interrogated and doubted God. His death counts for you once and for all. On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead. He raises you with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism. The Christ now sits at the right hand of God with all His enemies as a footstool under His feet. The devil, sin, death, and the world have all been defeated.

Today our Lord turns you aside. He keeps you from going on and on about what you think He should be doing. He is no longer your Mary Poppins or genie in a bottle to act according to your whims. Instead He says, “Enough about what you think. Here is what I did for you on the Cross. And here the daily bread you need to live.” David’s Lord died for you so that your old Adam would die with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism; and then the David’s Son rose to raise you with Him from those same waters. 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.