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Saturday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 16, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Introit for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany (Psalm 66:1-5, 20; antiphon: Psalm 66:4; 92:1) Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 38:1-23; Romans 7:1-20 All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name. (From the Introit for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Go for a walk in the countryside on a fine spring day. See the deer in the meadow, the clouds floating by, and the trees growing on the hilltops. Listen to the songs of the birds, the babbling brook, and the spring peepers. Everything in this world sings praises to the Lord. God has created the earth so that it might sing the glory of His Name. All around you, creation gives evidence to the greatness of God. Man could never create the things found in nature: stars in the heavens, sun, moon, and all the planets. It is God who set them into place. He set forth the boundaries of the seas, and it is He who brings forth the snow, rain, and the seasons. God does this by the power of His Word. In the Introit, the psalmist writes, "Come and see what God has done; he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man." We who have been given faith in Christ see and understand this awesomeness of God. Our lives are filled with it. The family you have been given, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the church you attend--all of it comes because of God's work in your life. These things are blessings sent by God, gifts that are yours because of Christ, your redeemer. We give thanks to God each and every day, for He has sent forth His Son into the world to save sinners. Jesus' death on the Cross has guaranteed that the Lord will not reject our prayers or remove His steadfast love from us. For this we sing praise to God all our days. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O eternal and merciful God, I give You eternal thanks that You have not only given me body and soul, but also have provided me with many gifts of soul, body, and possessions. You, O highest Wisdom, teach knowledge to all people. Therefore, if I experience anything that is good, this shows Your abounding grace toward me. Without Your light my mind is darkness. Without Your grace, my will is captive. Whatever we know is learned either from the light of nature or from the revelation of the Word. Both come from You. Amen. (Johann Gerhard, Meditations on Divine Mercy [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2003], 81.) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

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The Third Sunday in Lent

March 7, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Luke 11:14-28 Daily Lectionary: Genesis 27:30-45; 28:10-22; Mark 9:1-13 "Then a stronger man than he will come and conquer him, take away his armor that he trusted, and will distribute his spoils." (Luke 11:22) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We're the devil's spoil. He captured us back in Eden. He chained up Adam and Eve through his lying and deceitful words, "You won't die. You'll be like God." And by nature we are enslaved to that word, too. We throw in with the devil, trying to be like God, struggling not to die. Jesus would have none of that. When Adam blamed God for his sins, when the woman tried to blame the serpent, Jesus made a promise. "Her seed will crush your head." He didn't wait for people to shape up, get better, show that they wanted to get help, wanted to be saved. Jesus waits for no man or woman. He cuts off all our sins, all we do to justify our actions. He silences us whenever we try to say, "Well, the reason I did it is. . . " He stops our mouths when we open them to say, "I know it was wrong, but at least I've done this or that," or, even worse, when we say, "At least I'm not like that person over there." To each and every lie of the devil, the ones he whispers to us, the ones we then speak out loud, Jesus says, "Be quiet. You're a sinner. I'm the Lord. And, good news. I save sinners." Jesus is stronger than the devil, stronger than your sins, stronger than your sinfulness, stronger than your death, grave, and hell. He comes to save us. He invades the devil's kingdom, being born of the Virgin Mary. He bound the devil at every turn: casting out demons, silencing them, healing sickness, forgiving sin, raising the dead. Then He did the ultimate binding of the devil. Jesus Himself was bound, beaten, crucified, dead. Jesus conquered the devil, saving you in the process. You're the spoil Jesus desired. He could have anything He wanted, and He wanted you and me--to save us. This is why the Lord calls His people, "His heritage." As we sing in the Te Deum, "Save Your people and bless Your heritage." We're the thing He forever wanted. The Lord gets what He wants. You. Blood-bought. Empty tomb-certain. You've got His Name on you to prove it. Baptized. That's you. The Lord's inheritance, His eternal spoils. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

March 6, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Introit for the Third Sunday in Lent (Psalm 25:1-2, 17-18, 20; antiphon: v.15-16) Daily Lectionary: Genesis 27:1-29; Mark 8:22-38 "My eyes are continually toward Yahweh, for He will cause my feet to come out from the net." (Psalm 25:15) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Why do you trust the Lord? Why look to Him in time of need? Because He's saved you, obviously! Yes, yes, we all know that. But so often we flip that around. He doesn't rescue you because you trust in Him. He saves you, and because of His acting to save you, you trust Him. He will cause your feet to come out of the net, whatever net you're trapped in. Is it sins? Which sins? How can they be a net for you? They were tied to Jesus on the Cross! Is it persecution for believing in Jesus as your God and only Savior? "A student is not above His teacher." As Jesus was delivered on Easter, so also you will be, too, on your Easter--the Last Day. And that gets you to the next net--death. Yeah, Jesus rose, and He will raise you. That's His promise. The Lord will cause your feet to be brought out of the net of your grave, and the sins that put you there. Your feet, and your entire body, soul, and spirit, were placed into something even stronger than the flimsy net of sin, death, and the devil. Your heart, soul, mind, strength, your body, soul, and spirit were all placed into Jesus Your Savior. You're baptized. Nothing can ever keep you down. Jesus saves you. He didn't save you because you trusted Him. He saves you and therefore you trust Him. He went through Cross, death, and grave to do it. He'll save you. He really will. He already has! When you get out of your coffin you'll see it. You'll see Him, forever and ever! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In all the strife Of mortal life Our feet shall stand securely; Temptation's hour Will lose its pow'r, For You will guard us surely. O God, renew With heav'nly dew Our body, soul, and spirit Until we stand At Your Right hand Through Jesus' saving merit. ("Who Trusts in God a Strong Abode" LSB 714, st.3) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Lent 2 - Supplement to the Reflections

Dean's List • March 5, 2021 • Pastor Harrison Goodman

Hi, I’m Pastor Goodman, and this is the Assistant to the Dean’s List. We are examining our daily Reflections at Higher Things, finding the gift of Jesus given for you throughout this Lenten season. This, the second Sunday in Lent would be Reminiscere. Again, Latin for the first bit of the Introit: “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love.” God doesn’t need help doing that. We do. So we focus on His promises in the psalm from our Reflection, from our readings. And by the Holy Spirit, we say “Amen.” It’s actually all faith can say. Pastor Fenker shows us that faith always says, “Amen.” “Yes, yes, this is most certainly true.” “Verily, verily, I’m on board with that stuff. Amen.” See, it’s not just agreeing with God about what’s wrong in the world. It’s actually also knowing who Jesus is as He’s in the middle of the world. We have a woman whose daughter is demon-possessed and she says, “Amen.” Not because she agrees that it’s wrong, but because she knows who our Lord is. That means, when Jesus speaks -- even when He speaks in ways that are hard to understand -- we find them as good gifts because we know who our God is. So if Jesus was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel...well, He must be the Shepherd. Amen. If it is not right to take the little children’s bread and throw it to the dogs...well, the children must be fed, and the dogs are still cared for -- if even by the crumbs. Yes, Lord, Amen. We are little dogs. Very sinful. But we still look only to Jesus for good. See, the word “Amen” means that when Jesus is there, it’s there for good. The word “Amen” means that if this woman -- even in the midst of her frustration, even in the face of a Jesus who doesn’t just seem to give like a vending machine when she asks for it -- if He is there, it must be for her good. So she insists that God gives good gifts. And by faith, even His rebukes are good news. For even while He sits there, He sits there as somebody who has been given to save sinners. Who’s there to save her and her daughter. This is the kind of Jesus that we have. On Wednesday’s Reflection, Pastor Fenker points out that we have the “here, there, and everywhere Jesus. We have the Jesus who doesn’t just run straight into Jerusalem, but He wanders all around the weirdest parts of the area, because He is there to save everyone. He is there to save Syrophonecians and Gentiles. He is there to save the deaf and mute. He is there to save the sinners. He is there to save the dead. He is even there to save you. See, God doesn’t wait for us to come to Him at the right place, He presents Himself to us. And it looks like something. On the Tuesday Reflection Pastor Fenker points out that holiness doesn’t look like...you. Holiness looks like Jesus. It’s always sin that wants to make holiness look like us. That we can somehow be the example of that which is holy. And we’ll always grab hold of the Law to try and do this thing. We use the Law to try and find a way to make it so that we, by our doing of works, look holy. But the thing is, when we grab hold of the Law, it makes us look worse. Pastor Fenker wrote “YOLO.” That’s a sign of his sin. But Jesus, Jesus makes sinners look like Him. Not by the Law, but by the Gospel. In Baptism, you wear Christ. You put on Christ. You are in Christ. So He is your holiness. He is your righteousness. He is your hope. So we can stop trying to make holiness look like us by the Law, and we can rejoice that, by the Gospel, He makes us to look like Him. Over, and over, and over again. Daily, in the waters of your Baptism He does this. And that shapes our Lenten practice. See, Lenten practice doesn't become how to climb a ladder up to God and earn credit or earn salvation before Him by your praying enough or going to church on Wednesdays because there’s soup and (I guess) also service. Or anything else that you would do. It’s a recognition that Jesus saves sinners. Jesus saves you. Not because you trusted Him. Rather He saved you first. And because He has done this, you trust Him. See, God worked first. Our trust is in His actions, not our ability to do anything. He went through the cross unto death and out of the grave to save you. And because He was willing to do that for you, you trust Him. Lenten practices focus on the gifts that God gives, the place that God would go to save you. So that in the face of all that is wrong that Lent would reflect upon the weakness of the flesh, the power of the world, the evilness of the devil...we would find hope in Jesus...who wanders all over to save sinners. To make you look like holiness. To give you His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Word and Sacrament, in the waters of your baptism that you wear right now. ---------- 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).