Today's Reading: Luke 18:9-14 Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 3:1-15; 2 Corinthians 1:1-22 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Best "gotcha!" parable ever! We see what a self-righteous guy this Pharisee is and we think, "I'm glad I'm not like him!" Gotcha! Jesus won't let anyone slide. Whoever we are, there's always someone we can look down on and who probably looks down on us. It's the tax collector who teaches us what it looks like to be at the bottom of the rung, with his good confession of faith: "Lord, there's nobody to look down on. I'm the very bottom of the barrel. I've got nothing. Have mercy on me!" Jesus does have mercy! That tax collector, who has nothing and is nothing, now has everything and is everything in Jesus. Jesus takes the low spot to give us the high spot. In doing so, He drags us down and saves us from our own high spots where, with the Pharisee, we think we can save ourselves. Jesus hanging on the Cross is the answer to that tax collector's prayer. "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!" He does, by taking that tax collector's and your place on the Cross. By suffering and dying and rising again. It's so we can pray, "I thank God I'm not like Jesus! I don't have to die for my sins! I'm forgiven!" So we pray with the tax collector, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!" The Lord answered that prayer when He died for you. That prayer was answered when you are washed and born from above at the font. That prayer is answered every time your pastor absolves you of your sins and preaches the Good News to you. That prayer is answered at the Lord's altar where He gives his merciful flesh and blood to give you forgiveness so that you walk away justified. Holy. Saved. A beloved child of God. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. And He is! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty and everlasting God, always more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than we either desire or deserve, pour down upon us the abundance of Your mercy, forgiving those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things that we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the 11th Sunday after Trinity)
The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
August 23, 2020 • Pastor Mark Buetow
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.
The Last Sunday of the Church Year • November 22, 2020 • Pastor Aaron Fenker
Today's Reading: Matthew 25:1-13 Daily Lectionary: Daniel 2:24-49; 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
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.