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Reflections

Holy Cross Day

September 14, 2020 • Pastor Mark Buetow

Today's Reading: John 12:20-33 Daily Lectionary: 2 Chronicles 33:1-25; Colossians 1:24-2:7 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:24) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We take the cross for granted, as if it's not an awful symbol of death. What if the main symbol of Christianity were an electric chair or hangman's noose, or a guillotine, or a lethal injection needle? Would that be weird? The cross is exactly that: a means of execution—and a painful and awful execution at that! It's a symbol of death. Perhaps the reason we cherish the cross as the symbol of the Christian faith is that no matter how awful, evil, painful, and terrible that death of Jesus was on that Cross, its purpose and what it accomplished was to save us from our sins, to rescue us from eternal judgment and to give us everlasting life. In other words, what was an instrument of torture and death, God Himself turned into the symbol of salvation and life. A cross seems like a bad thing, but Jesus turns it into Good News. Jesus, obeying His Father, submitted Himself to the shame and agony of that Roman Cross in order to save you. That's not a call to feel sorry for Jesus or guilty He had to do that for you. It's simply the confession of faith that by His death, Jesus saves you. That Cross shows up in our lives as Christians. It's traced upon you in Holy Baptism. It's put before your eyes when your pastor absolves you. It's again set before you when being dismissed from the meal of salvation at the Lord's altar. Even our churches are often built to make the Cross and what Jesus did upon it the center of our life and worship. Not only do we have many crosses in church, but the font, altar, pulpit and lectern, the main parts of the sanctuary, are often arranged so that they form the shape of a cross. The cross is the symbol of our salvation for it was upon the Cross that Jesus died to bring forgiveness and life to you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Faithful cross, true sign of triumph, Be for all the noblest tree; None in foliage, none in blossom, None in fruit thine equal be; Symbol of the world's redemption, For the weight that hung on thee! ("Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle: LSB 454, st. 4) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor René Castillero

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Monday of the Third Week of Easter

April 19, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 33:1-23; Luke 7:1-17 For thus says the LORD God: "Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out." (Ezekiel 34:11) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The LORD spoke these words to Ezekiel the prophet because God's under-shepherds had neglected His people. They were unfaithful shepherds, unreliable, not feeding the sheep, but only feeding themselves (Ezekiel 34:2). The LORD would not stand for it and announced His solution: He Himself would be the shepherd of His sheep, His people (Ezekiel 34:15). God has stood by this resolution ever since. But really?! The last time I checked, my pastor was just a man. Where is God as shepherd? The answer is that while it is true that your pastor is "just a man," he serves in a way that is not his own. The called and ordained pastor serves in the Office of Christ, by the authority of Christ, and through the Word and Sacraments of Christ. What the pastor speaks is Christ's Word, not his own. Luke 10:16 records the words of Jesus when He spoke to the first under-shepherds who were genuine and true--that is, who would be as Christ to God's people: "The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Okay, but how do we recognize the true under-shepherds who bring the Chief Shepherd Christ? The answer is quite clear: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." Always "test the spirits," that is, test whether what is being preached and taught is in accord with the Word of Christ. Be as the Bereans were. What did they do when they heard Paul preach? Acts 17:11b tells us, "They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." So, at the end of the day, we know that Christ is shepherding us through His Word! The sheep of God follow the True Shepherd because "they know his voice" (John 10:4). "A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." But we do know the voice of Christ so that we recognize the true under-shepherds who give us Christ, the Chief Shepherd. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God, by Your almighty Word You set in order all things in heaven and on earth. Put away from us all things hurtful, and give us those things that are beneficial for us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our LORD, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

The Third Sunday of Easter

April 18, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: John 10:11-16 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 32:15-35; Luke 6:39-49 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We throw around the word "good" quite a bit. Ice cream is good, apps are good, your favorite [fill in the blank] is good. . . so many things are "good," but not like what God's Word means when Jesus is called "the Good Shepherd." This "good" describing Jesus is packed with meaning. It could also be translated as "beautiful" or even "virtuous." You've heard of "superfoods" that are especially healthy. Well, the "good" pointing to Jesus is a "supergood." This is the kind of good that is beautiful in the sense that if you were lost or afraid or in lots of trouble, He would be "a sight for sore eyes," and not like ice cream or a good app that won't do you any good if you're dying. Or you would recognize Jesus as virtuous, full of the best things of human character: someone absolutely trustworthy, dependable, reliable. He will never let you down. In fact, this "Good" Shepherd is so beautiful and virtuous that He was willing to take your guilt, your trouble, your condemnation, your punishment, all of your bad, and put it all on Himself. That's the kind of "good" we're talking about. Who is this good? Not a soul on planet earth, except for One whose Name is Jesus. But the word "good" here doesn't hang in the air. It is an adjective describing "shepherd." Shepherds guide helpless sheep with a rod and a staff. He is good in how He guides us through life. Protecting us against all that is harmful through His rod, and rescuing us from all of our trouble through His staff. His goodness is experienced through His leading. Not in a million years should we ever want to follow anyone else, because no one else and nothing else is this good. But how can we be so certain? The proof has been made known: This Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep. But this Good Shepherd was not only good in the past, He is also the Good Shepherd today in this world, in our time! He still leads us with His good rod and staff. He still keeps us protected and provided for in His good sheepfold, the Holy Church. Here, we receive His good gifts, His good Word and His good Sacraments, and through these we know Jesus who is truly good. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God, through the humiliation of Your Son You raised up the fallen world, Grant to Your faithful people, rescued from the peril of everlasting death, perpetual gladness and eternal joys; through Jesus Christ, our LORD, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter

April 17, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Introit for the Third Sunday of Easter (Psalm 33:1, 18-20; antiphon: v.5b, 6a) Daily Lectionary: Exodus 32:1-14; Luke 6:20-38 The earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. Alleluia. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made. Alleluia. Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine." (From the Introit for the Third Sunday of Easter) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Tomorrow is the Third Sunday of Easter and is traditionally known as Misericordias Domini, which means "goodness of the LORD." The psalmist, in writing Psalm 33 by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is asserting the goodness of God. He says at the beginning of our Introit, "The earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD." Wait a minute. Was the psalmist looking upon the same earth that we are looking at?! We see all the things that Jesus warned us about, "wars and rumors of wars. . . famines and earthquakes in various places. . . And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:6a, 7b & 12). Is this the earth full of the steadfast love of the LORD? Don't be distraught, Christian, and remember: Context is everything. Note that the psalmist also wrote, "By the word of the LORD the heavens were made." There is only one way for us to see the goodness of the LORD and that is through the WORD, the incarnate Jesus Christ, and His coming to us now through WORD and SACRAMENT. It is only when we find the WORD on earth that we are given eyes of faith, through which the WORD shows us God's working even through what is very, very bad. This doesn't mean that bad stuff is good. No, bad stuff is bad, but it does mean that God works even through the bad stuff to find a way to bless us for our good! Want proof? Then ponder this: The most horrific thing that ever happened was that the innocent Son of God was crucified, but through it, God worked out His greatest goodness. On the Cross Jesus took our sins and covered them with His blood so that through Jesus, the earth might be full of the steadfast love of the LORD. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. The earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. Alleluia. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made. Alleluia." (From the Introit for the Third Sunday of Easter) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch