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Reflections

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

July 5, 2020 • Pastor Alexander Lange

Today's Reading: Luke 6:36-42 Daily Lectionary: Joshua 23:1-16; Acts 12:1-25 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The motto, "Deeds, not creeds," is not only utter nonsense (the motto itself is a creed, after all), but it is also utterly unchristian. The Christian faith is all about creeds. In Luke 9:20 Jesus asks His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" The world might admire Jesus and speak highly of Him, but true disciples confess the truth about Jesus. Indeed, the entire Bible is about what Jesus does: He became man for you, He obeyed the Law, He was crucified for your sins, and He was raised for your justification. That creed is the heart of Christianity. What makes the motto really silly is that it fails to see that creeds create deeds. What you believe affects what you do. Hence, Jesus tells His disciples to be merciful, but not simply to practice any kind of mercy. They are to practice the mercy of their heavenly Father! This presumes, of course, that they know in what way God is merciful. The blind cannot lead the blind (Luke 6:39). The spiritually blind – those who don't know God's mercy in Christ – cannot understand mercy and cannot teach it to others. Unbelievers tend to think that mercy looks like ignoring someone's failures and giving people permission to do whatever they want. Christians understand mercy because they have received true mercy from God. God didn't ignore your failures or give you permission to sin. Instead, He punished your sins in the body of Christ and He accepted Christ's blood as a ransom payment. God forgave your sins, and that's very different than ignoring or permitting sins. Since you understand mercy, you can practice it. You can imitate your Father, precisely because He is your Father. Instead of ignoring or permitting sin, you can address your neighbor's sin with empathy, patience, and kindness. Instead of judging and condemning, you can forgive and give an unearned blessing. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O Lord, grant that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by Your governance that Your Church may joyfully serve You in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor René Castillero

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Monday of the Last Week • November 23, 2020 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25 Daily Lectionary: Daniel 3:1-30; Revelation 20:1-15 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and delight in My people, and a sound of weeping or a sound of crying will never be heard in her. (Isaiah 65:19) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We rejoice in God because of what He's done for us. He is our delight because He is our Savior. "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Worthy is Christ the Lamb whose blood set us free to be people of God! The Father's delight is in His Son. The Son's delight is in His Bride, the Church, the new and true and even heavenly Jerusalem. He gave Himself up for Her, making Her holy through the washing of water with the Word (Ephesians 5:25-26). His joy is saving you: "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 12:2). There's nothing delightful in us, spiritually speaking. Sure we have all the wonderful gifts and talents God gives us--"every good gift is from above" (James 1:17). But these things, as wonderful as they are for loving and serving our neighbor, do us no good before God. "It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples" (Deuteronomy 7:7). "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13-14). He will rejoice over you eternally. He will fill you with joy. There will be no more crying or mourning. There will be no more death (Revelation 7:17, 21:4). "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind" (Isaiah 65:17). When the troubles of this life surround you, know that it's already been undone in the death and resurrection of Jesus. There the eternal party kicked off. People rose from the dead on Good Friday! You're a part of that. You've died and risen with Christ. You've heard the Absolution-- heaven's gates are opened to you. You've received the Body and Blood of Jesus, which is the Lord's victory Feast. The eternal life, delivered in the forgiveness of sins, is yours right now. The eternal life of the Last Day will be yours, too. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

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The Last Sunday of the Church Year • November 22, 2020 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Matthew 25:1-13 Daily Lectionary: Daniel 22:24-49; Revelation 19:1-21 In the middle of the night there was a shout, "Look, the Bridegroom! Come out to greet Him!" (Matthew 25:6) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus will come. He will come to kick off the eternal feast, the eternal party, the eternal celebration. Jesus will send forth the Holy Spirit to raise the dead. The Spirit "will give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ" (Small Catechism: Apostles Creed, Third Article). And so you "will live under [Christ] in His Kingdom and serve in Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity" (Small Catechism: Apostles Creed, Second Article). His return is unexpected. It will be just like thunder waking you up in the middle of the night. The sound will be the cry of the angel, and he'll be announcing Christ. "Look! It's Him! It's Jesus! He's the Bridegroom! Come out and greet Him!" And those who trust in Him will not be put to shame. They will enter with Christ into the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom which has no end. What about those who bartered, bargained, and bet on His coming and what was necessary in their relationship with Him, saying, "We've got enough, right?" Well, they are left out. "Go away. I never knew you," Jesus will say. There's no "enough" when it comes to the Lord Jesus. No, with Him there's always more--always more mercy, always more forgiveness. Just look at what He does! For your salvation, it wasn't enough for Him to become man or suffer or die or rise or ascend into heaven. No, now He rules the universe so that you would always have more than enough of His cup-overflowing salvation. He makes you His own in Holy Baptism--He knows you. You know Him, too, through His Word. There you hear of His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His death and resurrection: preaching, Bible, Absolution, forgiveness. He hosts for you His Feast of Victory, the Supper of His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus is the true Bridegroom, and the Church His true Bride. He gives Himself into death for Her, He makes Her holy, He nourishes and cares for Her. And His Bride, the Holy Church, has been died for, made holy, fed, and cared for. We are members of His Body, the Church. Not because of how wise we are or how righteous, pure, virgin-like we are. No, you and I are members of His Body because we eat and drink of His Body and Blood. He remains with us and we remain with Him and He will resurrect us on the Last Day. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen

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Saturday of the Second-Last Week • November 21, 2020 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Introit for the Last Sunday of the Church Year (Psalm 39:4-5, 7-8; antiphon: Isaiah 35:10) Daily Lectionary: Daniel 2:1-23; Revelation 18:1-24 The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (From the Introit for the Last Sunday of the Church Year) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Lord's ransomed you. He's paid the penalty. Wiped the slate clean. His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death did it. You were chosen in Him before the creation of the world, and He chose you in the new-creation waters of Holy Baptism. Life is tough. Seems to be getting tougher all the time. What will college hold? Your career? Your life? Your job? Well, the reality is one day it will all go away because you will go away. You're going to die. I know it seems like it's a long way off, but it's coming. When I put it that way it may seem pointless, right? Meaningless, even. It could make you despair. But just because it will all go away doesn't mean it's not a gift from the Lord to take care of you and take care of others through you. And just because you will go away--die doesn't mean you won't come back. Because you will! You will return! You'll come back…from the dead! All that's wrong with the world, all that's wrong with you, everything that gives you sorrow, that makes you sigh, will run away scared. They'll run from the Lord when He returns, when He returns to make you return to life. He will raise you from the dead. He's already taken care of the source of all the sorrow and sighing--sin! He's ransomed you from sin, redeemed you, forgiven you in His death and resurrection. Delivered that forgiveness in water, words, Body and Blood, and He's also given you His resurrection in Baptism, and the promise of the resurrection in His Body and Blood! You'll rise to eternal life. You'll be brought into the true Zion, the eternal kingdom. You'll have eternal joy and gladness as you stand in the presence of Christ, your Savior, of His and your Father, and of the Holy Spirit, as you're surrounded by all your fellow ransomed, with all the angels and archangels, too. The ransomed of the Lord "shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:16-17). In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.