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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)

The Visitation

July 2, 2021 • Pastor Harrison Goodman

Today's Reading: Luke 1:39-56 Daily Lectionary: Joshua 7:1-26; Acts 10:34-48 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. (Luke 1:50) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Nobody likes it, but at least we understand when sinners get hurt by their sin. But what about when you can't figure out whose fault it is? The "church answer" is that the world was broken by Adam's sin. It's true. It just doesn't do much to address that hollow feeling in your stomach that comes from not being able to do anything about it. Or the anger from trying to believe in a God who says He can do something, but doesn't seem to. For all the talk about His love, His forgiveness, His miracles, things still look pretty much the same. This Christmas text doesn't seem helpful. Today, we step back to a Mary who would have gotten pregnant around the end of March in order to give birth around the end of December. She's pregnant and visiting Elizabeth, probably right around the beginning of June. The Visitation which we celebrate today is carried out by the same God who shaped creation with a Word. Even while being knit together in Mary's womb, He is on a mission to right what has been wronged. Mary sings it in the Magnificat. It's not about what's fair. It's about help for those wronged by sin. Mary sings hope for you. You. Wrecked one. Damaged by sin that goes so deep it's in the air we breathe and ground into the earth we stand on. You will find a God who looks upon those who are humbled and gives mercy. Who fills the hungry and helps His servant Israel. Those who are knocked down and scattered aren't getting their karma, this isn't economic redistribution. The difference between those brought down and those lifted up is one thing and one thing only. His mercy is on those who fear Him. His mercy is for you and all who believe. He sees you. Your struggles. Your humiliation. This mess referred to as "your estate." He regards you in mercy. John knows it and rejoices even as he, too, is being formed. God doesn't work by stepping back from creation to do something different, but steps towards you, whom He loves. What is wrong is made right again in bearing that destruction Himself upon the Cross and rising whole and new. In a world that doesn't look like it should--yet--we can know what's coming and sing Mary's hymn, too. Our souls magnify the Lord because even now while we wait, our Lord regards us in mercy, and He acts. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. My soul now magnifies the Lord; My spirit leaps for joy in Him. He keeps me in His kind regard, And I am blest for time to come. ("My Soul Now Magnifies the Lord" LSB 934, st.1)

Thursday of the Fourth Week after Trinity

July 1, 2021 • Pastor Harrison Goodman

Today's Reading: Romans 12:14-21 Daily Lectionary: Joshua 6:6-27; Acts 10:18-33 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Romans 12:14) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. I can tell you something is a sin because it's in the Bible. Fine. If you want to know why, wait till it's been done against you. It's called wrong because it hurts. Sin breaks stuff. It's easy to see why something is a sin when it's done against you. It's harder when you're the one hurting others, accidentally or otherwise. We get so wrapped up in our passions that we lose sight of the damage we wreak, but when someone hurts us, things get cleared up real quick. It can leave you wanting a God who punishes others more than a God who forgives you, spending each day watching those who hurt you, waiting for them to get theirs. Sometimes they do, but more often than not it looks like they don't. Even if they do, it doesn't give you peace. If all you can really hope for in life is to see someone else hurt, you don't want peace for yourself, and you'll never get it, either. There's too much sin in this world to keep track of. Even more, it says something about the kind of God you expect. He says He treats all sinners the same. That includes you. Either He forgives you and those who sin against you or He doesn't. They're connected, even into the prayer we pray each day. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." It's not God dangling your forgiveness in front of you for you to earn by coming up with something of your own. It's a reminder that all forgiveness, for you and for those who sin against you, comes from the same place: the Cross. Remember that Jesus died for your neighbor. "Vengeance is mine," says the Lord. He doesn't ignore what was done against you. He pays for it Himself on the Cross. There's nothing left to repay because Jesus has already paid the price. You can even go look at it. See the crucifix. It's God's justice for every pain caused by someone else, for every pain you held onto, and for every pain you've caused, too. Vengeance is the Lord's. He paid it to His own Son. He overcame evil with good. Start there, and there is a place for kindness and love for your enemy to be sustained, and even to grow. Bless those who curse you. Call them sinners whom Jesus died for. Heap burning coals on their heads. Show them the source of all that's pure. Show them the censer full of burning coal that touched Isaiah's tongue and put away all his sin. Show them what forgiveness looks like. Show him where it comes from: not your heart, but the Cross. That's forgiveness that overcomes evil with good. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Amen.

Wednesday of the Fourth Week after Trinity

June 30, 2021 • Pastor Harrison Goodman

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: Lord's Prayer, Second Petition Daily Lectionary: Joshua 5:1-6:5; Acts 10:1-17 Thy kingdom come. (Small Catechism: Lord's Prayer, Second Petition) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We expect the kingdom of God to be separate from the world. God's kingdom must be a place where no bad things happen, where no sinners do sinful things, where we want for nothing. We figure we can pray this to hasten the Last Day. We try to imagine what it will look like. We lose sight of what the Word says. Jesus said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." At hand means not far away. Not someday. Here. Now. Where Jesus is. We don't pray, "Thy kingdom come," to help or encourage God to show up, but so that we would see that the kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, and we pray in this petition that it may come to us also. Then we can look at how it does come. God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity. The kingdom of God is where the King is working. And God is working here for you. This petition calls attention to the fact that God doesn't need things to look perfect in order for Him to dwell with us. It points to the Lord who brought heaven to earth as angelic choirs sang of His birth, as He healed the sick and forgave the sinners, as He conquered death upon the Cross and rose from the grave, and as He feeds you with His Body and Blood to bring the same to you. The same God works where His Word is preached and He calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps the whole Christian Church on earth, daily and richly forgiving your sins, and the sins of all believers. This petition is a gift because it points to the places where God is already doing these things. That turns the prayer from a burden into a gift. Now you don't have to hasten God's kingdom. He's bringing it by His Holy Spirit where His Word is preached and His Sacrament is administered. You can know where it is and pray that it is given to you, too. You can find comfort in receiving the gifts. Now you don't have to imagine the resurrection to finally be near God. You can find Him brought near to you. The kingdom of heaven is at hand where the Holy Spirit works repentance by God's Word, that by believing it, you would find comfort in praying to Your Father in heaven, and have life in His only Son. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Your kingdom come. Guard Your domain And Your eternal righteous reign. The Holy Ghost enrich our day With gifts attendant on our way. Break Satan's pow'r, defeat his rage; Preserve Your Church from age to age. ("Our Father, Who from Heaven Above" LSB 766, st.3)