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.

Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity 2017

Bible Text: Luke 17:11-19 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

When we pray for God to give us an increase of faith, hope and love, we are admitting that we fail in faith; that our hopes are often wrong-headed; and that our love is self-serving. Our prayer admits that we too often take matters into our own hands without patiently trusting the Lord to be our defense; that our hopes and desires are set on gratifying our passions and what we believe is fair; that love for others—especially those who hurt us or hate us—often gives way to anger and hatred.
And so we pray precisely because we do not love what He commands;  because we confess that, apart from His endless mercy, we will not obtain the inheritance, the kingdom, the life He promises. And we pray because, by fulfilling our flesh, we have sinned against the Spirit. And we pray because we give into hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, and envy; and because we sincerely desire to partake of the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Our prayer must always be, “Lord, have mercy.” For if the Lord does not have mercy, then faith, hope and love vanish. For who will want to believe in a God who treats us like we treat each other? Who wants to hope for God’s justice to be as strict and quick as ours? And who can love a God whose love is as self-centered as ours?

So it is the Lord’s mercy we seek when we pray—a mercy that does not deal with us as we deserve; a mercy that overrides His anger and ours; a mercy that squelches our meanness and gives birth to true brotherly love; a mercy that betters us; and most of all, a mercy that gives us an increase of faith, hope and love.

But our ingratitude and even our abuse of the Lord’s costly mercy does not stop His mercy; it does not turn Him against us. He does not undo what He in mercy has done. The lack of thankfulness of the nine lepers who did not return did not bring back their leprosy; they were still healed. They tasted the Lord’s mercy, although they did not savor it.

But to those who return in praise and thanksgiving; to those who sacrifice their notions, passions and ambitions; to those who offer the Lord all they are and all they have in appreciation for the mercy they have received—they receive from the Lord not only mercy but also His blessing; not just the things that make for this life, but also the things that usher us safely into the Kingdom of heaven. This leper who returns, this Samaritan, cares less about being certified “clean” than he does about worshiping the Lord Jesus who healed him. So he returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. There, by that humble act, you see the Holy Spirit at work. There you see a man who confesses that he is undeserving of any gift from God and who begins to live from the mercy he has received. For living in the Lord’s mercy begins not by doing for others, but by receiving more and more from the Lord’s hand, to partake in the love, the forgiveness, the compassion, the strength, and the mercy that Our Lord Jesus is and gives.

And then the Spirit works again—so that you are merciful, just as your heavenly Father has been merciful to you; so that you lay aside all grudges, all notions of revenge, all hatred, all ill-speaking; so that you live not to gratify your lusts and desires, but to walk in the Spirit with the saints toward the kingdom which is your ultimate goal. Toward this end, may the Lord continue His mercy to us, within us, and among us. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity 2017

Bible Text: Luke 10:23-37 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

The Lord does not give His mercy to those insist they ought to have it. He gives His mercy solely from His fatherly, divine goodness, without any merit or worthiness in us. “His mercy is on those who fear Him.” He gives mercy to those who see no way out. He gives it to lift up those who have been laid low—the penitent sinner, the hopeless parent, the blind, the leper, the unloved and disrespected and despised and guilty. These are the people who fill pews. These are the people who pray, “Lord, have mercy.”

The young lawyer was blinded by his pride. He would not see that he was in need of the Lord’s mercy. It was pride that drove him to stand up, believing he was better than others—even better than Jesus. It was pride that caused him to think that he could trap Jesus. It was pride that urged the lawyer to believe that he had already succeeded in loving God with all he was. So it was the man’s pride that Jesus used to trap him.

To omit mercy in dealing with neighbors; to omit mercy by refusing to forgive as the Lord has forgiven you; to omit mercy by insisting that others meet your conditions; to omit mercy by shoving aside those who don’t please you; to omit mercy by refusing to see that anyone you come into contact with is your God-given neighbor—that is where this young lawyer stumbled, where his pride threatened his inheritance of eternal life. So did the lawyer beg for mercy? He would never stoop so low.

But we cry out for mercy. So when we go down on our knees and plead for the Lord to overlook our sins, when we sing, “Lord, have mercy upon us”—do we let the Lord’s mercy stop with us? Do we let it die within our hearts by storing up anger or resentment? Do we live only for ourselves? The Lord gives His mercy for only one reason: so that it has its way with us, so that His mercy is lived in through us toward everyone—without demands, without conditions, without envy, without pettiness.

That is what the Good Samaritan does. And this Good Samaritan is none other that our Lord Jesus. Just as the Samaritan poured on his enemy the healing medicine of oil and wine, so our Lord pours over us His watered blood in Holy Baptism and then nurses us back to spiritual health with His Body and Blood. Just the Samarian carts the man off to the inn so that he might safely be cared for, so our Lord compassionately and willingly sets us within His holy Body, the Church, so that His preaching and sacraments would see us safely to the kingdom of heaven.

The Good Samaritan is the very picture of our Lord Jesus. Yet with this parable, Our Lord is also telling the young lawyer—and us—that the Samaritan is equally the very picture of our life in God. For we are to “be merciful, just as our Father also is merciful.” “For if you will not love your brother, whom you can see, how can you love God, whom you have not seen?” So we are to love all people, even our enemies. You are to “bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” So we show mercy to our brothers and sisters in Christ who sin against us, to the atheist who wants us to keep our mouths shut, and even to the radical Muslim who wants us dead.

And let us remember why we cry out for and rely upon our Lord’s mercy: He is truly “ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness and great in mercy.” Even to sinners like us who deserve from Him nothing but punishment and hell, Our Lord readily and mercifully gives us His Holy Spirit so we live in Him and His abundant mercy, even as He lives His love in and through us toward all men. 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.

Twelfth Sunday After Trinity 2017

Bible Text: Mark 7:31-37 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

Mark is the only Gospel that records for us the details of Jesus’ encounter with this deaf man, this man whose friends brought him forth so that Jesus could give Him a blessing. And what a blessing he received! Jesus spoke the Aramaic word, “Ephphatha!” which means, “Be opened!” And the ear in which Jesus had placed His finger was opened! He spoke the Word, and His Word made it happen! What a blessing that deaf man received from Jesus! And you receive the same blessing from Jesus today!

That word, “Ephphatha,” is the same Word that Jesus speaks today to each and every one of us. We are all born with the inability to hear the Word of God. When God created man, man had perfect hearing, of course; Adam and Eve listened to every Word from God with loving obedience and carried out God’s commands perfectly. But Satan got Eve and then Adam to listen to his words rather than God’s Word.

Only God’s Word has the power to create. Any other word is a destructive word. Think about the destruction our ungodly words of gossip cause, destroying good reputations, changing the way you look at people. Think about the damage we cause when we speak a word of judgment against another person, breaking that person’s trust in us, radically altering that relationship. And just as destructive was Satan’s word of deceit in the ears of Adam and Eve. The devil’s false doctrine left us completely deaf to God’s Word, and the man unable to hear God’s Word about his sinful condition is also not aware of sin’s wages.

But thanks be to God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. “He has given me my body and soul, my eyes, ears and all my members…and still preserves them.” He who created our ears knows how to re-create those ears and restore our ability to hear His Word. The Son of God, who participated with the Father and the Spirit to create of the world, came into the world in the flesh of man to re-create man’s fallen flesh. Jesus is the Word of God in the flesh, who came to live life fully by the Word of God for all, who came to suffer the full consequences of our inability to hear and obey God’s Word, suffering the sinner’s death and the sinner’s Hell for us. In doing all of this, the Creator once again was at work, restoring His creation by the forgiveness of our sins in Christ Jesus. By His life and death and resurrection from the dead for us, our salvation is complete. Nothing more needs to be done for our salvation; Jesus has done it all for us!

That Word of Jesus Christ has come to us today. It comes to us in the Word that is joined to the water of Holy Baptism, entering our ears, washing away everything that had been blocking them from hearing His gracious Word. The Word of Jesus comes to us, joined to the bread and wine at the Lord’s Table to be the very Body and Blood of the Christ Himself, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.

The Word of God with all its creative power comes to us through the Words of Holy Scripture. It creates in us new life—a new life of faith for all of our days. In this new life we hear God‘s Word with loving obedience, carrying out His commands by His Holy Spirit. Having been washed in Christ’s blood, we are a new creation. We no longer speak our own destructive words. We share His Word with others in speech and in deed, so that, by our testimony, all the world might join us around the heavenly throne of Christ Jesus. And that is a powerful Word! 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.


Eleventh Sunday After Trinity 2017

Bible Text: Luke 18:9-14 | Preacher: Stefan Gramenz | Series: 2017

Jesus tells us the story of two men who went up to the temple to pray – two very different men. One, a Pharisee: a man respected by everyone; in fact the most respectable of all fine, upstanding citizens. While we’ve heard most of our lives that the Pharisees were the “bad guys,” those who were first hearing the words of Jesus had quite the opposite understanding. This Pharisee was a man who tithed – who gave 10% of all that he had to God – who fasted twice a week, who did his best to keep the Law, who avoided sins of the flesh. All of this is good and commendable, even admirable. But where this Pharisee goes wrong is when he thinks that he is “not like other men.” In fact, he goes so far as to thank God that he isn’t like other men – especially not like that man – that tax collector.

We have much the same attitude. We say to ourselves, “Thanks be to God that I’m not one of those people – those people who voted for the wrong presidential candidate, those people who don’t pull their own weight, those people who selfishly hoard away their money, those people who can’t seem to do anything right, those people who think they’re perfect. Thank God I’m not like those people. Thank God that my politics are right, that I watch the right TV shows and read the right books and newspapers and share the right articles on Facebook. Thank God I’m not like them.

Repent. It wasn’t the Pharisee’s tithing or prayers or fasting that condemned him. It was his pride and unbelief. Likewise, your offerings and prayers and fasting do not condemn you – but your pride. The pride that says that you have no need of forgiveness, that you have no real sins to speak of, and that at least you’re still doing better than those around you – those tax collectors over there.

The tax collector, or the publican, as he was called in the King James Version, looked quite different from the Pharisee. He wasn’t respected by everyone. Most likely, he wasn’t respected by anyone. This tax collector wasn’t like a mid-level IRS bureaucrat, just following the rules, collecting taxes, and doing his job. To his fellow Jews, he was a traitor and a thief: a tool of the occupying Roman Empire, who collected from his countrymen not only what they owed Caesar, but also more than enough to line his own pockets. To the Romans, he was just another Hebrew, just another member of a conquered nation that wasn’t strong enough to withstand the might of Rome, and a particularly detestable one who wasn’t even loyal to his own people. Nobody liked tax collectors.

But for all the external differences between the two, the true difference, the difference that finally matters the most, is in what they believe, and in what they then say. As the Pharisee lauds himself on his many good deeds, he commits the gravest sin of all: he tells himself that he is righteous, that he needs no help, and that he can stand before his Heavenly Father unashamed. He doesn’t see that no amount of tithing, fasting, and prayer can make him righteous in the eyes of God. At its heart, his sin is unbelief – well, unbelief in God; he replaces his faith in God with faith in himself.

The tax collector, on the other hand, recognizes his sin. He, unlike the Pharisee, sees himself as he truly is. He sees himself as God sees him – as a poor, miserable, sinner. And because he recognizes his sin, because he knows his failures and errors, he can do what the Pharisee cannot – he can repent. He can repent because he knows he is a sinner, and he knows that he is someone who, in the end, has nothing to be proud of. He can repent because he knows that he has no righteousness in and of himself, and he sees clearly the only thing that he can do: plead for mercy.

Our English translations, perhaps, don’t quite do his words justice. The Greek text of St. Luke’s Gospel relates that the tax collector prayed something to this effect: “O God, be propitiated to me.” He prays not only that God would look upon him with kindness and mercy, but that God would make it right – that God would provide atonement for his sins, and that God would fix what man had broken.

This is why the tax collector went down to his house justified. Because he had faith that God would do as he promised. He had faith that God would repair what was broken, and would make atonement for his sins, and the sins of the whole world.

And this is why you are justified. This is why you are made righteous in the sight of God. Not because of your good works, or your lack thereof. Not because of what you have done, or what you have left undone. You are justified because God has made atonement for your sins in the sacrifice of His Son. He has given to Jesus the punishment that you deserved, and given to you the mercy and love that a Father shows to his children. You are justified because God has credited to you the good works of His Son, rather than your own pride and your own vanity.

And today, in this church and at this altar, He gives to you that same sacrifice, that same propitiation of Jesus’ Body and Blood which the tax collector prayed for, and which was offered up for our sins and the sins of every tax collector and Pharisee and prideful, self-righteous sinner on the altar of the cross. He gives to you the promise that you are reconciled with God and that your sins are atoned for. And you who have come up to this church today will return to your house justified.


Tenth Sunday After Trinity 2017

Bible Text: Luke 19:41-48 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

Our world is full of regret. Our homes, our schools, our prisons, even our churches are full of regret. We all wish things were different. We all daydream about how things might have been. “If only I’d been a better parent.” “If only I had studied harder.” “If only I’d kept my mouth shut.” “If only I hadn’t pulled the trigger.” “If only our offering plates had been filled more often.” “If only Pastor had been more outgoing.” “If only I had asked her.” How much different our lives and our communities and churches would be if only we had done things differently. Who doesn’t regret past sins and indiscretion? Who doesn’t wish he could get back the money that he wasted? Or take back the words he said in pride or drunkenness? Who doesn’t think about how different things would have been, how much better they could have been?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are sinners. We make horrible decisions. Our flesh is weak. We follow our bellies and our hormones. If only you knew what made for peace! If only you’d allow the Father to provide for you instead of seeking your own wealth. If only you would allow the Son to gather you in like a hen gathers her chicks. If only you would allow the Spirit to comfort you. If you look back at your life and regret what you have done, how much more obvious has it been to God all along? He has watched it unfold, stupidity upon stupidity, destructive behavior and bad decisions fueled by selfishness, greed, and lust. Repent.

Do not think that He can’t see you in the dark. Do not think that, if you hide from Him, He does not notice or is not there. Jesus has wept over you and your rebellion. He has sweated and bled for you. As humans value things, God’s love always seems reckless and wasteful, like employers paying laborers for work they have not done, like farmers sowing seeds on trodden paths and weedy or rocky patches. Repent…but do not despair. Jesus Christ has not abandoned nor forgotten you. He still wants you.

Jerusalem, the “city of peace,” was bent on war. But the Prince of Peace did not flinch. For even while they, and we, did not know, would not know, willfully refused the things that make for peace, He knew. He knew we would reject Him for a murderer. He knew that we would fall asleep and pretend to forget the vows we made. He knew we would betray Him. He knew the mocking and ridicule, the scourging and torture, the pain and sorrow that He would face at our hands. But He went anyway. Even if we did not know what made for peace, He knew.

And your peace was worth it to Him. You needed His Blood to be free. That was the cost of guilt, the demand of Justice. And so He gave it. So He still gives it. He sweated it out in the garden. He bled it on the pavement and on the place of the skull. He drained the cup of wrath that could not be removed so that Jerusalem, so that you, would have peace. Surely this is the Son of God, a righteous, selfless Man! Surely He has atoned for your sins. Surely He has won for you the peace that passes all understanding and bestows it upon you without cost or price. You are no longer imprisoned in your regret. The grave’s victory is but an illusion. Death has no sting.

Let go of your regrets. Cast your burden on the Lord. He will sustain you. He loves you. He bears no grudge. He has no regrets. He was glad to pay the price to make you His. You are worth it to Him—worth every drop of blood, every moment of agony. And still He wants you. He has washed you in that watered blood from His side. He would gather you this day in that same Blood, given and shed for you. He declares you righteous and free: free of guilt, shame, and regret. He lays open the future before you, a future full of joy and peace in His presence. 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.

Ninth Sunday After Trinity 2017

Bible Text: Luke 16:1-13 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2017

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



The steward’s scheme would never work in America. In our culture, the owner would simply have the manager arrested, and his insurance would likely cover any loss. The worst that would happen would be some mention on the evening news. In order for us to understand the genius of the manager and the point of the parable, we have to get into the mind of first century Judaism. In our Lord’s day, the culture was much more closely defined by shame than we are. Reputation was everything. This wasn’t simply a matter of worrying about what other people think. They were a more community-minded culture. That means they didn’t think individually quite like we do. They had a much stronger sense of the group, of those around them, and how each person shaped and defined their neighbors, and how they in turn were shaped and defined by their neighbors. Sadly, we have lost a great deal of this sense of honor and shame.

The shrewd steward is counting on this. He is sure that, though the master would be perfectly justified in throwing him into prison, he won’t do it. He won’t do it because it would shame the master. If the master throws him into prison, then he has to admit that his steward swindled him, and more importantly, now he has to demand higher prices from all of his clients. This would ruin his reputation as a kind and benevolent master. He would now be seen as stingy, vindictive, and cruel.

The steward banks everything on the reputation of the master. He is willing to risk his well-being, prison, and even his own life to be sure that his future is secure. This steward may have been dishonest, but he knew that the master was honest and honorable to a fault. And to be fair, in the eyes of the steward, it was no risk at all. He knew his boss. His boss could no more turn him in than he could change his own skin.

This is our lesson on the parable of the unjust or shrewd steward. But what’s the point? Where is Jesus and the Gospel in all of this? It is a great temptation to make this into a stewardship sermon. The Law would be pretty clear: nothing that we own is really ours, so we must be wise in using what God has given us to His glory. This is true, and such a sermon would not be a bad thing. God has given us His gracious gifts, and we should use them to His glory and certainly to fill the coffers at Church…but that’s not really the point of the parable.

The point is this: the mercy of God is everything, and everything else must be seen and understood in light of this mercy. Jesus, the very Mercy of God in the flesh, does not lower your debt to a manageable amount; He cancels it. The Father does not commend your sinful lifestyle; He forgives your sin. If a worldly master can commend his servant for selfishness, how much more will our Father show mercy and forgive our sin? Because the mercy of God is everything, you can bank your whole life on it. You can live freely, knowing that you emulate God by handing out His gifts to you.

Finally, because God’s mercy is everything for you, you know that God will feed you and clothe you with the very best of food and drink, even the body and blood of His Son. You won’t have to dig your own grave. And although we are all beggars, as Luther put it, God does not require your begging. You are sons and daughters of the King. He has lifted you up to His heavenly banquet table, so that you need not be ashamed to stand in His presence at the Last Day.

Trust in the mercy of God. His wisdom is beyond all understanding, and His mercy toward His children knows no limit. 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.