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)

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 8, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Introit for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Psalm 66:1-2a, 17, 19-20; antiphon: Isaiah 48:20b) Daily Lectionary: Leviticus 26:21-33, 39-44; Luke 14:1-24 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. (From the Introit for the Sixth Sunday of Easter) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Prayer is not magic nor is it designed and intended for the purpose of coaxing, convincing, or making deals with God. Prayer is rather the heartbeat of faith, the holy faith-generated language towards God. Prayer is also the work of the Holy Spirit in and through God's people who trust in the LORD. Sometimes He is the One interceding for us in prayers we can't even put into words (Romans 8:26). Again, it is not for changing God's mind, but it expresses the change we have received when God put us into the life, death, and resurrection of the LORD Jesus Christ through Holy Baptism. Still, doesn't prayer, besides thanking and praising God, also ask God for things, whether they be for ourselves or others? Yes! Throughout Scripture prayer is asking. In fact, Jesus invites and commands us to do so! For example, "If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14). Also, "And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Luke 11:9). Furthermore, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24). So what's the catch? True prayer to God comes through faith in Christ, and faith in Christ always desires what Christ desires. Yet we still contend with our Old Adam, even when we earnestly pray. This means our motives are rarely pure. However, the key is to pray in the Name of Jesus for that which is according to His will (as we pray in The LORD's Prayer), and pray that God will turn your will to His This is so because there really is no other kind of prayer than those prayers which spring from faith in Jesus, when we pray for what Jesus wants for us. Yes, these will be answered every time, for our good and for His glory. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O LORD of grace and mercy, teach us by Your Holy Spirit to follow the example of Your Son in true humility, that we may withstand the temptations of the devil and with pure hearts and minds avoid ungodly pride; through the same Jesus Christ, our LORD, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 7, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Daily Lectionary: Leviticus 26:1-20; Luke 13:18-35 "[The kingdom of God] is like a grain of mustard seed. . . Strive to enter through the narrow door." (Luke 13:19, 24a) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The things of God and our salvation (being rescued from sin, death, and devil) are presented in humble ways, unimpressive to the world. This is the way God operates in the world. He lets the world have its own standards of what important things should look like. The world presents these things as glitter and gold to make them look grand and impressive to the human eye. Why? Because the world values the things of human pride and accomplishment, and human pride always thinks bigger is better and that more is always better than less. My wife, however, reminds me that "less is more." She's right. So God goes the opposite way of human pride. He chooses humility as the sign of His presence for salvation, that which is far greater than the greatest things in the world. The Kingdom of God itself begins with a "mustard seed" (Luke 13:19), seemingly insignificant. As insignificant as when a 30-something Jewish man, a carpenter's son, was nailed to a cold Roman cross outside the city gates of Jerusalem. No biggie, just another execution of a convicted criminal, not exactly a sold-out concert of world-famous musicians where fans are going nuts. And the entrance into this Kingdom is not wide, grand, and surrounded with strobe lights. It, too, is humble. It is narrow. It is as inconspicuous as a few drops of water, or some ordinary bread and wine,, because God doesn't want His holy things to be seen in the superficial "big" things in the world. The things of God only catch the eye and the faith of the humble; but the proud don't care about the things of God, and would rather get the catchy things, the "awesome" things that will turn to dust. But you've been baptized, Christian. So embrace humility in Christ, grab the mustard seed, and rejoice that you have entered the narrow door: Jesus. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O LORD, You have called us to enter Your kingdom through the narrow door. Guide us by Your Word and Spirit, and lead us now and always into the feast of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 5, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: The Apostles Creed, First Article, pt.3 Daily Lectionary: Leviticus 23:23-44; Luke 12:35-53 All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true. (Small Catechism: The Apostles' Creed, First Article) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sometimes Lutheran Christians can get bashful when it comes to talking about the new life we have in our Risen Savior and the resultant good works which follow. Luther wasn't bashful as he discussed faith and what must come from faith: "Faith, however, is a divine work in us that changes us and makes us to be born anew of God. . . It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them." It is therefore not surprising that when Luther wrote the explanation to the Creed, he expressed what should come from us in response to the grace of God: "It is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him." Did Luther actually say, "serve and obey [God]?" Yes, He did! The amazing free grace of God in Christ which is responsible for all our First Article gifts: iPhone, clothes, games, bed, the transportation that gets us from point A to point B, and the food we eat (we could go on all day) comes from our heavenly Father's good and merciful heart toward us in Christ. The Father's wonderful grace, by the Holy Spirit's urging and enabling us through the powerful Word and Sacraments of Christ, leads us to serve and obey God. It's that simple. But don't we still battle the sinful nature? Of-course we do, but that battle does not cancel the new movements of the Holy Spirit in us responding to our Father's outpouring of His goodness and mercy. In fact, the new life is more prominent than the old precisely on account of God's goodness and mercy for us. So, the apostle John recorded, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). But why do we want to? We do so in response to God's "divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Merciful LORD, cleanse and defend Your Church by the sacrifice of Christ. United with Him in Holy Baptism, give us grace to receive with thanksgiving the fruits of His redeeming work and daily follow in His way; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our LORD, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.