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Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

December 12, 2020 • Pastor Bradley Drew

Today's Reading: Introit for the Third Sunday in Advent (Psalm 85:1-2, 6, 8; antiphon: Philippians 4:4-5 Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 29:1-14; Jude 1-25 Rejoice in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Tomorrow's Introit sets the theme: rejoicing. The pink candle on the Advent wreath will even be lit to commemorate the theme. The Divine Service, as it unfolds, will point the way for us: "in the Lord always." That always makes all the difference in our rejoicing. Keep it anchored "in the Lord always." Never in us. Always in Jesus. The baptized are not being urged to have plastic smiles plastered on their faces all the time. "Your dog died. Rejoice!" "You just failed. Rejoice!" "You're sick. Rejoice!" There are things in life we simply cannot, and should not, rejoice in. But no matter the circumstance, one thing always remains constant: Jesus "is at hand." That is always something to rejoice in. This life, of course, will never be perfect. In fact, far from it. But whatever it is you are going through, Jesus is there for you. Having been born for you, having lived, died for you on the Cross, and risen for you, Jesus is always there, for you. No matter where, what, when, or why. Jesus is even washed over you now every day in Baptism, spoken to you in every Absolution and sermon you hear from your pastor, and fed to you at His Supper with His own Body and Blood, "for you, for the forgiveness of sins." Jesus hasn't walked away from you or forgotten you. Jesus is there with you, in the midst of it all. "The Lord is at hand!" Even when it looks like He is not? Even then. Rejoice "in the Lord always." "You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin" (Psalm 85:2). Tomorrow's Introit reminds us that whatever we are going through, it's not because God is hating on us. It's just that God's ways are hidden from us. God's ways are so far above ours, if God tried to explain Himself we wouldn't like it, or Him. It's part of His mercy that He hides His ways from us. So when things go bad, or your hopes fizzle, and nothing goes the way you planned, don't think, "Why does God hate me?" Think, "Jesus is still at hand!" Let that promise wash over your troubles. He's got this. And He's got you. You are still holy to God. His child. No need to panic or lash out. It's all good. It's all going to be okay. It has to be, for "the Lord is at hand." That's the Good News tomorrow. It's the Good News always. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Rejoice, my heart, be glad and sing, A cheerful trust maintain; For God, the Source of ev'rything, Your portion shall remain. ("Rejoice, My Heart, Be Glad and Sing" LSB, st.1)

The Visitation

July 2, 2021 • Pastor Harrison Goodman

Today's Reading: Luke 1:39-56 Daily Lectionary: Joshua 7:1-26; Acts 10:34-48 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. (Luke 1:50) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Nobody likes it, but at least we understand when sinners get hurt by their sin. But what about when you can't figure out whose fault it is? The "church answer" is that the world was broken by Adam's sin. It's true. It just doesn't do much to address that hollow feeling in your stomach that comes from not being able to do anything about it. Or the anger from trying to believe in a God who says He can do something, but doesn't seem to. For all the talk about His love, His forgiveness, His miracles, things still look pretty much the same. This Christmas text doesn't seem helpful. Today, we step back to a Mary who would have gotten pregnant around the end of March in order to give birth around the end of December. She's pregnant and visiting Elizabeth, probably right around the beginning of June. The Visitation which we celebrate today is carried out by the same God who shaped creation with a Word. Even while being knit together in Mary's womb, He is on a mission to right what has been wronged. Mary sings it in the Magnificat. It's not about what's fair. It's about help for those wronged by sin. Mary sings hope for you. You. Wrecked one. Damaged by sin that goes so deep it's in the air we breathe and ground into the earth we stand on. You will find a God who looks upon those who are humbled and gives mercy. Who fills the hungry and helps His servant Israel. Those who are knocked down and scattered aren't getting their karma, this isn't economic redistribution. The difference between those brought down and those lifted up is one thing and one thing only. His mercy is on those who fear Him. His mercy is for you and all who believe. He sees you. Your struggles. Your humiliation. This mess referred to as "your estate." He regards you in mercy. John knows it and rejoices even as he, too, is being formed. God doesn't work by stepping back from creation to do something different, but steps towards you, whom He loves. What is wrong is made right again in bearing that destruction Himself upon the Cross and rising whole and new. In a world that doesn't look like it should--yet--we can know what's coming and sing Mary's hymn, too. Our souls magnify the Lord because even now while we wait, our Lord regards us in mercy, and He acts. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. My soul now magnifies the Lord; My spirit leaps for joy in Him. He keeps me in His kind regard, And I am blest for time to come. ("My Soul Now Magnifies the Lord" LSB 934, st.1)

Thursday of the Fourth Week after Trinity

July 1, 2021 • Pastor Harrison Goodman

Today's Reading: Romans 12:14-21 Daily Lectionary: Joshua 6:6-27; Acts 10:18-33 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Romans 12:14) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. I can tell you something is a sin because it's in the Bible. Fine. If you want to know why, wait till it's been done against you. It's called wrong because it hurts. Sin breaks stuff. It's easy to see why something is a sin when it's done against you. It's harder when you're the one hurting others, accidentally or otherwise. We get so wrapped up in our passions that we lose sight of the damage we wreak, but when someone hurts us, things get cleared up real quick. It can leave you wanting a God who punishes others more than a God who forgives you, spending each day watching those who hurt you, waiting for them to get theirs. Sometimes they do, but more often than not it looks like they don't. Even if they do, it doesn't give you peace. If all you can really hope for in life is to see someone else hurt, you don't want peace for yourself, and you'll never get it, either. There's too much sin in this world to keep track of. Even more, it says something about the kind of God you expect. He says He treats all sinners the same. That includes you. Either He forgives you and those who sin against you or He doesn't. They're connected, even into the prayer we pray each day. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." It's not God dangling your forgiveness in front of you for you to earn by coming up with something of your own. It's a reminder that all forgiveness, for you and for those who sin against you, comes from the same place: the Cross. Remember that Jesus died for your neighbor. "Vengeance is mine," says the Lord. He doesn't ignore what was done against you. He pays for it Himself on the Cross. There's nothing left to repay because Jesus has already paid the price. You can even go look at it. See the crucifix. It's God's justice for every pain caused by someone else, for every pain you held onto, and for every pain you've caused, too. Vengeance is the Lord's. He paid it to His own Son. He overcame evil with good. Start there, and there is a place for kindness and love for your enemy to be sustained, and even to grow. Bless those who curse you. Call them sinners whom Jesus died for. Heap burning coals on their heads. Show them the source of all that's pure. Show them the censer full of burning coal that touched Isaiah's tongue and put away all his sin. Show them what forgiveness looks like. Show him where it comes from: not your heart, but the Cross. That's forgiveness that overcomes evil with good. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Amen.

Wednesday of the Fourth Week after Trinity

June 30, 2021 • Pastor Harrison Goodman

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: Lord's Prayer, Second Petition Daily Lectionary: Joshua 5:1-6:5; Acts 10:1-17 Thy kingdom come. (Small Catechism: Lord's Prayer, Second Petition) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We expect the kingdom of God to be separate from the world. God's kingdom must be a place where no bad things happen, where no sinners do sinful things, where we want for nothing. We figure we can pray this to hasten the Last Day. We try to imagine what it will look like. We lose sight of what the Word says. Jesus said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." At hand means not far away. Not someday. Here. Now. Where Jesus is. We don't pray, "Thy kingdom come," to help or encourage God to show up, but so that we would see that the kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, and we pray in this petition that it may come to us also. Then we can look at how it does come. God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity. The kingdom of God is where the King is working. And God is working here for you. This petition calls attention to the fact that God doesn't need things to look perfect in order for Him to dwell with us. It points to the Lord who brought heaven to earth as angelic choirs sang of His birth, as He healed the sick and forgave the sinners, as He conquered death upon the Cross and rose from the grave, and as He feeds you with His Body and Blood to bring the same to you. The same God works where His Word is preached and He calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps the whole Christian Church on earth, daily and richly forgiving your sins, and the sins of all believers. This petition is a gift because it points to the places where God is already doing these things. That turns the prayer from a burden into a gift. Now you don't have to hasten God's kingdom. He's bringing it by His Holy Spirit where His Word is preached and His Sacrament is administered. You can know where it is and pray that it is given to you, too. You can find comfort in receiving the gifts. Now you don't have to imagine the resurrection to finally be near God. You can find Him brought near to you. The kingdom of heaven is at hand where the Holy Spirit works repentance by God's Word, that by believing it, you would find comfort in praying to Your Father in heaven, and have life in His only Son. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Your kingdom come. Guard Your domain And Your eternal righteous reign. The Holy Ghost enrich our day With gifts attendant on our way. Break Satan's pow'r, defeat his rage; Preserve Your Church from age to age. ("Our Father, Who from Heaven Above" LSB 766, st.3)