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Monday of the Third Week of Easter

April 19, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 33:1-23; Luke 7:1-17 For thus says the LORD God: "Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out." (Ezekiel 34:11) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The LORD spoke these words to Ezekiel the prophet because God's under-shepherds had neglected His people. They were unfaithful shepherds, unreliable, not feeding the sheep, but only feeding themselves (Ezekiel 34:2). The LORD would not stand for it and announced His solution: He Himself would be the shepherd of His sheep, His people (Ezekiel 34:15). God has stood by this resolution ever since. But really?! The last time I checked, my pastor was just a man. Where is God as shepherd? The answer is that while it is true that your pastor is "just a man," he serves in a way that is not his own. The called and ordained pastor serves in the Office of Christ, by the authority of Christ, and through the Word and Sacraments of Christ. What the pastor speaks is Christ's Word, not his own. Luke 10:16 records the words of Jesus when He spoke to the first under-shepherds who were genuine and true--that is, who would be as Christ to God's people: "The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Okay, but how do we recognize the true under-shepherds who bring the Chief Shepherd Christ? The answer is quite clear: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." Always "test the spirits," that is, test whether what is being preached and taught is in accord with the Word of Christ. Be as the Bereans were. What did they do when they heard Paul preach? Acts 17:11b tells us, "They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." So, at the end of the day, we know that Christ is shepherding us through His Word! The sheep of God follow the True Shepherd because "they know his voice" (John 10:4). "A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." But we do know the voice of Christ so that we recognize the true under-shepherds who give us Christ, the Chief Shepherd. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God, by Your almighty Word You set in order all things in heaven and on earth. Put away from us all things hurtful, and give us those things that are beneficial for us; 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

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The Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 16, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: John 15:26-16:4 Daily Lectionary: Numbers 14:1-25; Luke 18:18-34 "[The Holy Spirit] will bear witness about me. . . I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away." (John 15:26c,16:1) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Today is Exaudi Sunday. It means "hear." God gives us complete assurance that He hears us. And when He hears us, He assures us that He will never let us go (John 10:28-29). We therefore teach that our election is certain in our justification and our justification is certain through faith in Jesus. Do you want to be sure that faith is still alive? Do not consult your feelings! Instead, confess your sins and receive Holy Absolution. Hear God's Word, always return to your Holy Baptism, and run to get the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Through these, faith is safe. Thus, Jesus comforted His disciples by promising them that the Holy Spirit was coming to bear witness about Jesus. Someone has called the Holy Spirit the "unselfish" person of the Holy Trinity (not that the other persons are selfish). The Holy Spirit doesn't call any attention to Himself, but only to Jesus. And true to form, Jesus isn't selfish, either, as He is always giving glory to the Father. Oh yes, the Father isn't selfish, either, since He delights in His Son. The point here is that the Holy Spirit is always putting Jesus before your eyes of faith and this is what keeps your faith living and secure. Why did Jesus teach that the Holy Spirit would come to do this? In John 16:1 Jesus said, "I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away." Our eternal security comes from the Holy Spirit's constantly keeping Jesus in front of us. As long as that is going on, then we are 100% safe. Jesus taught this precisely so that we would not fall away from the faith. God will never break His promise to be for us in Christ. At the same time, we are taught NEVER to desert Christ and His Word. The Word is that vehicle through which the mighty and comforting Holy Spirit works. We must therefore hold to the Word. Even when we are weak, completely aware of our sins, and discouraged, when we hold to the Word, then we are safe in the arms of Jesus. Then we know He has not abandoned us as we continue to hear the Word! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O King of glory, LORD of hosts, uplifted in triumph far above all heavens, leave us not without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father; for You live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 15, 2021 • Pasto Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Introit for the Seventh Sunday of Easter Daily Lectionary: Numbers 13:1-3, 17-33; Luke 18:1-17 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud. Alleluia. Your face, LORD, do I seek; hide not your face from me. Alleluia. Your face, LORD, do I seek; hide not your face from me. Alleluia. (From the Introit for the Seventh Sunday of Easter) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. One of the mysteries of the faith is that the LORD is a God who hides Himself. Isaiah 45:15 teaches, "Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior." He does it because people seek Him out of selfish motives. Jesus told people not to tell others that He was the Messiah. After Peter correctly confessed that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus "strictly charged [the disciples] to tell no one about him" (Mark 8:30). Jesus said this because so many people wanted to turn Him into an earthly king. So once again: God hides Himself when people seek Him for all the wrong reasons. The psalmist in Psalm 27 is not seeking God for the wrong reasons, but for the right reasons. He is in distress, so He cries aloud (vs.7a). He does not come to God in pride, but in humility; He does not come to tell God what to do, but comes seeking God's help (vs.8b). He seeks God's face for salvation (vs.1), and He seeks God's way to be his way (vs.11a). Again, he sought God out for all the right reasons. For these reasons, the psalmist is bold and right to pray to God to break out of His way of hiding Himself. The psalmist has strong faith in God's love and mercy in Christ to pray, "Your face, LORD, do I seek; hide not your face from me" (vs.8b-9a). We should have the same faith and attitude towards God. Why? Because Jesus has made it plain to us that He came for sinners who know they need Him, for people who seek Him for all the right reasons. For those given faith, like YOU, Jesus reveals God as the merciful God, as the God of love. For you, God does not hide Himself, but has sent His Son so that you will know how to find Him every time--through His Son! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Teach me your way, O LORD. . . Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen." (From the Introit for the Seventh Sunday after Easter) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 14, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Acts 1:1-11 Daily Lectionary: Numbers 11:24-29; 12:1-16; Luke 17:20-37 [Jesus] said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority." (Acts 1:7) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. No one knows when Jesus will come again in glory on the Last Day. Only God knows. Over the centuries many so-called "Christian" teachers have claimed to know when the Last Day would be. But the LORD Jesus said, "It is not for you to know times or seasons [regarding the Last Day]." So whenever we hear someone going on about knowing when the Last Day will be, we must instantly conclude that they are a false teacher and not listen to their teaching. This is consistent with other things our LORD taught. For example, "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34). If any wisdom will keep us safe about Last Day predictions, then Matthew 6:34 is it. We have enough to focus on for today,especially since today is all we know we have on this earth! Luke in Acts 1 continues to teach us. The LORD Jesus before He ascended, led His disciples to anticipate the coming and pouring out of the Holy Spirit which happened at Pentecost for them and at your Baptism for you. Once we have received the Holy Spirit and His gift of faith worked in us through Holy Baptism, then what? Jesus said, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8b). So get back to when you were given the Holy Spirit at your Holy Baptism. Return to your Baptism every day. You have died with Christ and now you live with Him. And do whatever He has put in front of you to do. Befriend those around you. Get to know them and love them, and don't worry about when the Last Day will be. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. LORD Jesus, Your kingdom continues to be in our midst as You come to us now through holy water, holy words, and holy food. Help us to see that Your kingdom is a kingdom of suffering, but that through suffering, we will be prepared to enter into glory when You return on that final day; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch