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Friday of the First Week of Lent

February 26, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Daily Lectionary: Genesis 13:1-18; Mark 5:1-2 Abram called on the name of Yahweh there. . . He built an altar there to Yahweh. (Genesis 13:4, 18) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Abraham cherished the Third Commandment. He rejoiced in what the Lord had done to save him from believing in the fake gods of Ur. Though Abraham believed in Yahweh, he also had other gods. Better to be on the safe side. But the LORD had promised Abraham. Eventually the LORD brought Abraham out of Ur, out of his mixed-up faith, and brought him into Canaan. The Lord would keep His promise, one He didn't just make to Abraham and to Isaac and Jacob after him. No, the Lord would keep His promise that He made to Adam and Eve: "Her Seed will crush [the serpent's] head" (Genesis 3:15). It's because of that promise that Yahweh saved Noah from the flood, promised Abraham, "in you all families of the earth shall be blessed," and it's because of that first Gospel promise that Yahweh renamed him from Abram to Abraham! Adam preached to Seth, Noah preached to Shem, Abraham preached to Isaac, and everyone in between and since! That's what the Third Commandment is all about! Rejoicing and receiving the Lord's promises and salvation. It's not about checking a box off in your to-do list, though you should add going to church to that list. Calling on the Name of the Lord, the altar, is all about Jesus for you. For there we see that Jesus and His Father rule the universe so that we have a place to hear His Word, to listen to sermons, to eat and drink the Supper of His Body and Blood. Someone built the church you worship at. Someone constructed the altar and pulpit and lectern. There's a guy there to preach to you. The Lord worked that all out for you, down to what's delivered there! Jesus died and risen--right time, right generation after Abraham. Just like Abraham built that altar to rejoice in the Lord who saved him, so also was your church built. Hearing about Jesus, Yahweh saves, is just what Abraham preached and rejoiced in. For Abraham, that Jesus was some 2,000 years later, for you, that Jesus was some 2,000 years ago. But wherever the Lord's altar is, wherever there's calling on His Name, there He is with you, ust as He was with Abraham. In fact, Abraham's rejoicing right there with you! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Here stands the font before our eyes, Telling how God has received us. Th'altar recalls Christ's sacrifice And what His Supper here gives us. Here sound the Scriptures that proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, And evermore, our Redeemer. ("Built on the Rock" LSB 645, st.4)

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

April 20, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: 1 Peter 2:21-25 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 34:1-28; Luke 7:18-35 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Believing God and trusting God that your sin (your core condition) and sins (all the sinful things you've ever thought, said, and done) have been taken away can be hard for us. In fact, without the Holy Spirit's working through the Word of Christ to give us faith, it is impossible for us to believe! But thank God it is true and thank God that the Holy Spirit is powerful in creating saving faith so that we personally receive Christ for us. Still, even after we receive the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, we are still in possession of a great mystery: Even though we still feel our sins, it is true that in Christ those sins we feel are also gone. Now that is a mystery, something too marvelous for us to comprehend. And yet, it is 100% true. Why? Because God did something for us called imputation. God, with all power and authority imputed, or cast upon Himself, our sin. There was no sin in Christ, and yet, because He imputed our sin upon Himself, Jesus took the place of all sinners! Your sin was on Him. My sin was on Him. The sin of all people of all time was on Him. He was so sinful in fact, that the Heavenly Father looked away from His own Son as He was dying for us (Matthew 27:46). By doing this, God was confirming that He accepted what His Son was doing for us that day. He was our sin and He bore our punishment and He died our death with sin still on Him. So, yes, as. Peter writes, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree." Because Jesus did this, we live in God's gift of faith in Christ and in this faith, we get back to our Baptism into Jesus every day. We "die to sin and live to righteousness." And when tomorrow comes, we do it all over again! By grace we live this way, because by the wounds of Christ we have been healed. God no longer sees sins on you. Jesus took them. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lord Jesus, prepare us to receive Your very body and blood by giving us repentance to weep over our sins and then rejoice that in You the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have Good News preached to them; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

April 21, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: The Apostles Creed, First Article, pt.1 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 34:29-35:21; Luke 7:36-50 I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. (Small Catechism: The Apostles Creed, First Article) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. When Dr. Luther taught the meaning of the First Article, he started by teaching what God gives or provides according to His almighty power. Luther wrote, "I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life." One of the greatest lies of our culture today is that what is "ours" is ours: "Our" bodies are ours, "our" lives are ours, "our" time is ours, etc. Wrong! Consider God's Word: "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19b and 20a). You were also created with a price, with a "price tag" that means you have infinite value because you belong to God. You are not your own. All that you have in accord with First Article gifts has come from God. To claim these things as our own is to ignore the Creator, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to pretend that what is the LORD's is only ours. This is not only an illusion. It is also a sin. The LORD, however, is so good, so kind, so loving, and so merciful that not only did He heap our selfish, gobble-up-everything-claiming-it-as-our-own sin upon Himself to cover it with His atoning blood, but then He chose to actually GIVE TO US His Kingdom! How? By giving us Himself, the King! Christians are now in this amazing situation: They speak the truth when they say that what is theirs is really God's, but now in Christ, what is Christ's is also--really and truly--also theirs. How do we live in this Law/Gospel reality of what belongs to God and what belongs to us? We say that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17), and that whatever we say is "ours" is only because our Savior Jesus has given it to us to care for and to also say, "To God alone be all the glory!" In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us Your gifts of faith, hope, and love that we may receive the forgiveness You have promised and love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our LORD, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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.