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Palmarum

March 28, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Matthew 21:1-9 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 8:1-32; Hebrews 1:1-14 Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then [they] cried out: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matthew 21:8–9) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. They emptied the tree. They took what was pleasant and pleasing to the eye. It's almost as if they couldn't do anything else. It wasn't the branches that made them do it. It was the fruit. It was able to make them wise. That's what he said. The serpent seemed to be right, and "then the eyes of both of them were opened" (Genesis 3:7), and we all know the rest: Adam and Eve hid from God, were cast out of the garden, and were barred from the Tree of Life. The crowd in Matthew 21 emptied the trees. They took the branches and cast them all over the road. "Hosanna!" was their cry. "Save us, Son of David!" They needed to be ready for His coming. Palm branches, the symbol of peace, were the pavement for a donkey, the animal of peace, who was ridden by Jesus, the Prince of Peace. We want empty trees, as if His coming is dependent on our behavior. We do need to repent. Changing your behavior, putting away your icky deeds, isn't repentance. (Though you should stop all those things!) They are just fruits, signs of bad roots. Repentance is a complete change in heart, soul, mind, and strength--a change only Jesus, the Gardener of Eden, can do. The point of Holy Week isn't the emptying of trees, isn't preparing Jesus' way. Holy Week is Jesus making His way, straight to the Cross, that He might hang upon the Tree for you. There He bears not only your bad fruit but rotten roots, too, being the most rotten tree and fruit ever in your place--"He became sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21)--to make you the very righteousness and perfection of God. Repent of thinking you've got to empty trees to make way for Jesus. Holy Week is about His coming to fill a Tree for you and giving to you the fruits of His Cross: His water and His blood (John 19:34), His Baptism and Supper. Through these, the Spirit produces His fruit (Galatians 5), and grafts you into Jesus (Romans 11). The Tree of Life is yours because He filled the Tree for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Palmarum) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

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Friday of the 16th Week after Trinity

September 24, 2021 • Pastor Kyle Mietzner

Daily Lectionary: Nehemiah 9:22-38; 1 Timothy 6:3-21 They ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in your great goodness. Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you. (Nehemiah 9:25-26) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Nehemiah is a record of the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Israelites' exile to Babylon. They rebuild the city and her walls, but also restore faithful worship. As part of this worship and restoration, they confess their sins against the Lord. This chapter of Nehemiah is a very good confession. They recount all the mighty works of the Lord, which were then met with disobedience and rebellion. This is how you should confess your sins, too. Remember what the Lord has done for you, and how you rebelled against Him. He has given you all that you need, and yet you have gone looking for satisfaction elsewhere. There's no room for half confessions of things that aren't really sinful. The Lord wants to hear your honest confession. You are a sinner. The Lord forgives sins. You can be honest and open about your confession, as much as the returned exiles in Jerusalem were. The Lord is not out to ruin your fun with His Law. The Ten Commandments are actually good for your life, and if you followed them, you'd be happy. Our problem is that we think we've got something better. Did you ever notice that there are even two commandments against coveting? That means that the Lord really wants you to be happy with what He's given you! And yet, we rebel. We walk away from Him every day. We turn away from Him. We are Israelites ready for exile. That is good news, for the Lord never abandons His people. He will not abandon you. Turn back to Him. Repent and be restored. His Law is good. He is good. There really is nothing better out there than what He has given you. Your life will be better if you keep His rules. And when you do not keep them, He is always waiting to forgive you, for He never stops loving you. Give it a try. Make a good confession to the Lord who loves you and has given everything for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. To those who help in Christ have found and would in works of love abound it shows what deeds are His delight and should be done as good and right. ("The Law of God Is Good and Wise" LSB 579, st.3) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Thursday of the 16th Week after Trinity

September 23, 2021 • Pastor Kyle Mietzner

Today's Reading: Ephesians 3:13-21 Daily Lectionary: Nehemiah 9:1-21; 1 Timothy 5:17-6:2 [Give] thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 3:20) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Well, that's a pretty big request, isn't it? We're really supposed to give thanks always and for everything? There's nothing that we shouldn't be giving thanks for? This is hard to believe, and perhaps even harder to practice. Think about all the awful things in the world! Are we really supposed to give thanks for suffering and hardship? It is easy to give thanks for money and nice stuff. But what about the difficult things? St. Polycarp, as he was being burned at the stake in the year 155, blessed the Lord and thanked Him that he was found worthy to share in the cup of Christ. He did not pray for immediate deliverance from his afflictions, but gave thanks that the Lord had already provided the escape. Quite simply, nothing can harm you if you are in Christ, not even persecution. You can give thanks for everything all the time in the Name of Jesus Christ. The key here is to give thanks in the Name of Jesus. Apart from Jesus, life is meaningless and full of suffering. Without Jesus, your life ends in death and that is that. But your life is lived in the Name of Jesus Christ. This Name was placed upon you in Holy Baptism, and Jesus goes where His Name is placed. Think about the life of Christ. His family rejected Him. He was stricken, smitten, and afflicted. He was betrayed by His friend and abandoned by His disciples. He was put to death in His early 30s in the worst way possible. If that were all, it would have been a meaningless waste. But Jesus did not stay on a Cross or in a grave. He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father! So yes, you can give thanks for everything all the time, no matter what. Try it. You cannot die and you cannot be harmed. The Cross of Jesus has been given to you, and with His Cross comes resurrection. This is a difficult teaching, but so is the Cross. Yet, this is all we've been given. Give thanks. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God, by the patient endurance of Your only-begotten Son You beat down the pride of the old enemy. Help us to treasure rightly in our hearts what our Lord has borne for our sakes that, after His example, we may bear with patience those things that are adverse to us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Wednesday of the 16th Week after Trinity

September 22, 2021 • Pastor Kyle Mietzner

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: Office of the Keys Daily Lectionary: Nehemiah 7:1-4; 8:1-18; 1 Timothy 5:1-16 Confession has two parts. (Small Catechism: Office of the Keys) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The entirety of the Christian life, and life in general, is summed up in this little phrase: Confession has two parts. That's it! I bring my sins to Jesus and Jesus forgives me. I contribute nothing to my salvation except my sins, which are forgiven in the Name of Jesus. I bring death and Jesus brings life. We often make the mistake of thinking that our life should be lived perfectly, when really it is meant to be lived in forgiveness. I am not perfect, but Jesus Christ is, and His perfection is given to me. The Church practiced confession in a very different way prior to the Reformation. There used to be three parts to confession: contrition, confession, and penance. It was believed that you had to feel really bad about your sins, and then do something in order to earn the Absolution. Most often you would just have to say a bunch of prayers or go to church. It is even taught in some places today that you can earn Absolution simply by walking through a particular door at a particular time. We humans are very good at inventing ways to get rid of our sins, but these methods look past and away from Jesus. If my forgiveness depends on my level of feeling bad about my sins or how many prayers I can say in order to earn Absolution, I'll never feel bad enough or say enough prayers. My sins are much worse than I think they are, and the mercy of Christ is much more than I will ever truly know it to be. Make no mistake, your sins are taken away from you by Jesus. He forgives you all your sins. This is why you have a pastor. Jesus Christ wants you, personally, to know and to receive the gifts that were won on the Cross. And so He has sent you a pastor to speak for Him. When you hear your pastor pronounce forgiveness, it is as if Jesus Christ is speaking to you. Pastors aren't God, they just speak for Him. What Jesus says goes, and He says that you are forgiven. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Though great our sins, yet greater still is God's abundant favor; His hand of mercy never will abandon us, nor waver. Our shepherd good and true is He, Who will at last His Israel free from all their sin and sorrow. ("From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee" LSB 607, st.5) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch