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Reflections

Monica, Mother of St. Augustine

August 27, 2020 • Pastor Mark Buetow

Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 9:1-9; 10:1-13; 2 Corinthians 5:1-21 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We often think of the work of pastors and missionaries in the conversion of unbelievers. The fact is, all Christians give a witness to those around them of God's goodness to the world in His Son, Jesus. One such Christian was Monica, the mother of the famed St. Augustine, a very important father in the early church. Monica, as described by her son, is said to have persevered in prayer for her pagan husband and for her wayward son. Her husband was baptized not long before his death, an answer to her fervent prayer. Likewise, her son Augustine later became a Christian when he was baptized by Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. When we read the book of Acts, we hear the stories of so many people who heard the Good News of Jesus and then it seems we never hear of them again. This story of the Lord converting sinners into believers has been going on since the Lord sent His apostles to preach in all the world. Sometimes a conversion is very dramatic, the fruit of the hard work of some faithful preacher. Sometimes it is less well known, the result of the lesser known but still mighty work of a parent praying to the Lord for her child, or grandparents for grandchildren, or a husband for a wife. The truth is, parents often pray for their children to remain in the Christian faith or to become Christian. It is a tireless effort on the part of family members, imploring the Lord for their loved ones to be saved. It often seems fruitless or pointless but it can never be so. It can't be when Jesus our High Priest never fails to pray for us, reminding His Father that because of His Cross and empty tomb, because of His water, Word, and Body and Blood, the Father must save us! So we pray, clinging to those promises, asking that the Lord be faithful in also saving the ones we love! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Oh, blest the parents who give heed Unto their children's foremost need And weary not of care or cost, May none to them and heav'n be lost! ("Oh, Blest the House" LSB 862, st. 3) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor René Castillero

More from Reflections

The Second Sunday in Lent

February 28, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Matthew 15:21-28 Daily Lectionary: Genesis 16:1-9, 15-17:22; Mark 6:1-13 "I wasn't sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 15:24) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Brutal words from Jesus. After giving this poor woman the silent treatment, this is what He says. Well, do you believe Jesus' Word or not? Who did He come for? Who does He come to save? This silent treatment from Jesus seems to suggest it was not for her. What about you? Did He come for you? Does He want to come to save you? What if something bad happens to someone you love? Where's Jesus then? At those times Jesus probably couldn't have spoken truer words than, "I wasn't sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." We think we're excluded by Jesus at those times. Because, after all, you and I aren't Israelites, and neither was that woman. She was a Syro-Phoenician, from the region of Tyre and Sidon. Who does Jesus come to and for? Does it include this Gentile dog woman? What about you? Oh, most certainly yes. After all, "not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel" (Romans 9:6).This woman's faith is in Jesus, fully, solely, only in Him. He of course came FOR her, TO her, otherwise, why else would He come TO the region of Tyre and Sidon. Faith says, whenever and wherever Jesus shows up, He's showing up for me, to save me. And faith always confesses and says, "Yes" and "Amen," to whatever the Lord says. "It's not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs get crumbs." Great faith! Great Jesus! Master Jesus. Lord Jesus. Savior Jesus. "Her daughter was healed that very hour." Jesus comes, faith gathers. Jesus is silent, faith prays. Jesus speaks, faith says, "Yes, Amen." You're a dog. Yes, Lord. You're a sinner. Yes, Lord. I baptize you. Amen. I forgive you. Amen. Eat and drink this my Body and Blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Yes, Lord. Amen. There's no reason to think that Jesus is not there for you. That's not the Jesus you have. You're part of Israel by trusting Jesus. Faith gathers to Jesus, receives all from Him as gift. There's no other reason for Him to show up except to save YOU. You can ask that woman--and her daughter!--all about that in the resurrection. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen O God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; 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

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).