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Reflections

Saturday of the Last Week

November 28, 2020 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Introit for the First Sunday in Advent (Psalm 25:4-5, 21-22; antiphon: v.1-3a) Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 2:1-22; 1 Peter 1:13-25 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. (From the Introit for the First Sunday in Advent) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. You need the Lord to do this for you. You can't do it on your own. You can't know His ways, unless He makes them known. You can't get to Him unless He shows you the way. You can't have life unless He enlivens you. You can't escape the lie unless He shows you the truth. This is what the Triune God does for you. Jesus says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6) for "no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matthew 11:27). "No one comes to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44). "No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3). We don't like that. We like to be our own people, do things our way. We're always trying to put something back on us, some little thing we have to do. That's just the original sin, where we try to be like God. WE have to do something, even something really small, right? No. He saves us. Jesus is your Savior, sent from His Father to redeem you. The Spirit creates faith within you so that you would believe it. He creates this faith through the preaching of the Gospel and the delivery of the Sacraments. He makes you alive, even when you were dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2; Colossians 2). This happened through Holy Baptism. Jesus strengthens His new life within you through the forgiveness of sins in the Supper, for there He remains in you and you in Him. You will then bear much fruit and He will raise you up on the Last Day (John 6; John 15:54, 56). Through the preaching of His Word--Law and Gospel--the Spirit does this. In this way Jesus' Father is your vinedresser, in that "every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:2). We ask God to show us His paths, teach us His Law, work within us the cherishing and doing of His commandments because if He doesn't, we won't. But He does do it. He will do it. Repent of your trying to do it for Him. He will do it for you. You're baptized. Tomorrow you will receive all the more His working FOR YOU in the Absolution, the Word, the preaching, and the Supper of Jesus' Body and Blood, and then He will do all the more doing through you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

More from Reflections

Saturday of the First Week of Lent

February 27, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Introit for the Second Sunday in Lent (Psalm 25: 1-2a, 7-8, 11; antiphon: v. 6, 2b, 22) Daily Lectionary: Genesis 15:1-21; Mark 5:21-43 "Remember Your mercy, O Lord, and Your steadfast love. . . Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions." (Psalm 25:6, 2) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. God knows everything. Everything. Absolutely everything. About you. He is omniscient. His omniscience includes each and every single thing you've ever done, ever said, ever thought. He knows all the deep dark reasons for why you do what you do, why you did what you did. Oh, yeah. And His omniscience includes every thought, word, and action you will do! What does He remember? Everything. What can He forget? Nothing. What does He forget? Everything! That's the Good News of Jesus. In Jesus, your sins aren't overlooked, they aren't swept under the rug, and they aren't just forgotten. They're better than all that. They're forgiven. They're blood-shed for. They're died for. They're risen for. There's no reason for you to be afraid of what you've thought, said, or done. There's no reason to try and cover up by doing more good. It doesn't matter how you've let people down, let your family down, let God down, let yourself down. You don't have to make up for it to your God. There might be some worldly consequences, but not eternal ones. God's mercy and steadfast love are eternal--the blood of Jesus on the cross "securing eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12). Now, the God who knows everything in Jesus doesn't know your sins! You are only in Jesus, only washed in His blood, only Absolved by His blood, only fed with His Body and Blood. Outside of Jesus and His blood, you're left with your sins. Making up for them, a debt never to be repaid. But in Jesus your sins are forgiven. Jesus died for them, shed His blood for them, and only in His blood, by faith in His blood, are you redeemed, bought back, saved. Only in Jesus does an omniscient God not know something because Jesus, eternal Son of the Father, is the all-knowing God who doesn't know everything. Not just the day or the hour of His return, but also, thanks be to God, your sins! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. If my sins give me alarm And my conscience grieve me, Let Your cross my fear disarm; Peace of conscience give me. Help me see forgiveness won By Your holy passion. If for me He slays His Son, God must have compassion! ("Jesus, I Will Ponder Now" LSB 440, st.5) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Lent 1 - Supplement to the Reflections

Dean's List • February 26, 2021 • Pastor Harrison Goodman

Hi, I’m Pastor Goodman and this is the Assistant to the Dean’s List. We are taking a walk through our daily Reflections here at Higher Things, to help guide you as you reflect upon the gifts of Law and Gospel this Lenten season. We are in the first week of Lent, beginning with the first Sunday in Lent, which is called “Invocabit.” It’s a fancy Latin word, from the first part of the Introit for each Sunday. (That’s how we get all these fancy Latin names for the Sundays in Lent. It’s just the first bit of the Introit...in Latin.) So “Invocabit”, “When he calls to me, I will answer him.” It’s a handy little thing to know these Latin definitions if, for no other reason, when you know a little bit of Latin vocabulary, people tend to think that you’re smarter than you actually are. But...when you mispronounce the Latin vocabulary, it tends to correct their opinions of you. We are less than a week, now, into the Lenten season, so let’s keep talking about how your fasting is going. Already. Our Sunday Reflection has Jesus in the wilderness, being tempted by the devil for 40 days. And...it’s not just that He’s doing better than me, it’s not just that He can resist where I have -- less than a week in -- already failed. See, temptation is not just about passing...or failing. Pastor Fenker, the actual Dean of Theology, he points out this day that temptation is really about wanting something different than God gives. So, temptation is not just that I want to do the things that God doesn’t want me to do and I am unable to resist it. It’s about the very nature that is in my heart that wants to do things that God doesn’t give me to do! It’s not just about having standards and falling to live up to them, it’s about wanting different standards. This is where Jesus succeeds and I fail. Not just that He can endure His Lenten fasting while it really only shows me my sin. It’s that Jesus only wants the things of God in the first place! So as He is tempted by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights, we see not only that, yes, can He fulfill the Law and I can’t. But He fulfills it for me. He wants the things of God: He wants salvation given to sinners who cannot earn it themselves. And in doing so, He actually addresses our temptation at its core. See, temptation, as Pastor Fenker points out, is about wanting something different than God gives. Here, God actually gives us something to love. He gives us the Gospel. Love of the Law only really comes through love of the Savior who fulfilled it. Because, well, Old Adam in us always claws against God’s Law, because it kills us. So God, in His mercy, He gives us the Gospel. He tells us, “You are safe from the Law.” Jesus fulfills it for you. Now when we look at the Law, we can do so in the very same love, because we can recognize that the Law comes from the same loving God as does the Gospel. He addresses our temptation, not just by doing what we can’t do...but by giving us something that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can love: the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation. He carries this idea forward. As we take upon February 24’s Reflection, which was the feast of St. Matthias. Pastor Fenker points out, we become what we worship. It’s a brilliant little insight he has there. It’s not just that, like, if you’re really really into football all of a sudden you’ll turn from a respectable human being into running around bare-chested with half your face painted and weird hat on your head, yelling weird stuff because you really like the game. It’s more! It’s actually down to the, again, very character. Our reading this day has Judas, who is worshipping a false god. Judas’ god was silver and gold. Pastor Fenker reminds us, this is a dead god. And as the 115th Psalm would say, “Those who make idols become like them.” Judas had a dead god. And Judas died. We have a different God. We have a dead-and-alive God. And so, we become like that too. See, we now are dead to sin, alive in Jesus. We are not simply striving to look like a god of power in this world, but a God of mercy, a God of forgiveness. A God of “for you-ness”. We have a God who does all of these things, that we would not be afraid to look like death, because we know that ours is a God who rises after it, who conquers it. Matthias was a witness to this resurrection and to the truth that Jesus is a friend of sinners and wants to save them. Not just Peter and the eleven, but even Judas who would rather love a different god. Even Judas, our Lord would die for him. Even while he would rather have a different god. For while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. This is how we address our temptation. It is by always reflecting upon the mercies of Christ. That, as we recognize our sin, as we fail to fear, love, and trust in God above all things, as we fail to want the things that God gives us to want...we can reflect upon the fact that God loves us. That God gives His life for us, and that here...here we have something to love. ---------- Catch Pastor Goodman on Fridays in Lent for a special devotional supplement to the Higher Things daily Reflections. Subscribe to the free Reflections email listor download the printable PDF booklet at http://higherthings.org/reflections Listen to audio Reflections on the Higher Things app,or on your favorite podcast app (ASL Reflections are also available using the above link).

Friday of the First Week of Lent

February 26, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Daily Lectionary: Genesis 13:1-18; Mark 5:1-2 Abram called on the name of Yahweh there. . . He built an altar there to Yahweh. (Genesis 13:4, 18) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Abraham cherished the Third Commandment. He rejoiced in what the Lord had done to save him from believing in the fake gods of Ur. Though Abraham believed in Yahweh, he also had other gods. Better to be on the safe side. But the LORD had promised Abraham. Eventually the LORD brought Abraham out of Ur, out of his mixed-up faith, and brought him into Canaan. The Lord would keep His promise, one He didn't just make to Abraham and to Isaac and Jacob after him. No, the Lord would keep His promise that He made to Adam and Eve: "Her Seed will crush [the serpent's] head" (Genesis 3:15). It's because of that promise that Yahweh saved Noah from the flood, promised Abraham, "in you all families of the earth shall be blessed," and it's because of that first Gospel promise that Yahweh renamed him from Abram to Abraham! Adam preached to Seth, Noah preached to Shem, Abraham preached to Isaac, and everyone in between and since! That's what the Third Commandment is all about! Rejoicing and receiving the Lord's promises and salvation. It's not about checking a box off in your to-do list, though you should add going to church to that list. Calling on the Name of the Lord, the altar, is all about Jesus for you. For there we see that Jesus and His Father rule the universe so that we have a place to hear His Word, to listen to sermons, to eat and drink the Supper of His Body and Blood. Someone built the church you worship at. Someone constructed the altar and pulpit and lectern. There's a guy there to preach to you. The Lord worked that all out for you, down to what's delivered there! Jesus died and risen--right time, right generation after Abraham. Just like Abraham built that altar to rejoice in the Lord who saved him, so also was your church built. Hearing about Jesus, Yahweh saves, is just what Abraham preached and rejoiced in. For Abraham, that Jesus was some 2,000 years later, for you, that Jesus was some 2,000 years ago. But wherever the Lord's altar is, wherever there's calling on His Name, there He is with you, ust as He was with Abraham. In fact, Abraham's rejoicing right there with you! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Here stands the font before our eyes, Telling how God has received us. Th'altar recalls Christ's sacrifice And what His Supper here gives us. Here sound the Scriptures that proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, And evermore, our Redeemer. ("Built on the Rock" LSB 645, st.4) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch