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ASL Reflections

Friday of the Seventh Week after Trinity

July 31, 2020 • Pastor Joel Shaltanis

Today's Reading: Romans 6:19-23 Daily Lectionary: 1 Samuel 16:1-23; Acts 25:13-27 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Freedom! It sounds and feels so sweet! Freedom means getting to do whatever we want with no one telling us what to do, right? That's how many think of freedom. "Just wait until I get out of the house!" It all sounds good until you get to experience that unfettered freedom for the first time and realize the costs that come with freedom. Some learn about these consequences when going off to college for the first time. They stay up all night playing video games, watching movies, surfing the web, or hanging out with friends. Maybe they sleep in and miss a class or two. Others experiment with forbidden fruits: porn, booze, sex, drugs. Mercifully, most young adults learn some hard lessons and figure out how to manage their freedom and the responsibility that comes with it. But sometimes this unharnessed freedom results in bitter consequences. When that happens, they realize their newfound freedom only ended up in a kind of slavery. Some of the Romans used to live like this: "You once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness… But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?" Paul answers his own question, "The end of those things is death." Christians do not and cannot use their freedom to do whatever selfish and irresponsible thing they want, for they have been set free from sin and now are slaves (or servants) of righteousness. Christians have been set free already. It isn't that we might be set free from sin if we are good enough. No, no one is good enough, not even one. (Romans 3:10) The exception is the only one from heaven, Jesus Christ. Christ has already won our freedom from sin by shedding His blood and dying for our sins on the Cross, and paying a ransom for our freedom. He has set us free so we can live forever. True freedom isn't "doing whatever you want." Rather, it is living sanctified lives under the forgiveness of Christ Jesus, knowing you are free to serve the living God without fear. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Praise the Lord, His reign commences, Reign of life and liberty- Pascal Lamb, for our offenses, Slain and raised to set us free! Evermore Bow before Christ, the Lord of Life adore! ("All the Earth with Joy Is Sounding" LSB 462, st.4)

The Ascension of Our Lord

Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Luke 24:44-53 Daily Lectionary: Numbers 11:1-23, 31-35; Luke 17:1-19 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him. (Luke 24:51-52a) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. People easily get the wrong idea about the ascension of our LORD, which occurred 40 days after the resurrection and 10 days before Pentecost. The popular and wrong understanding is that Jesus was putting distance between Himself and us. With this false idea, then, Pentecost becomes a kind of "replacement theology" in which the Holy Spirit replaces Jesus on earth. In fact, just the opposite is the case. The ascension was a glorious event demonstrating Jesus' unlimited power. The ascension showed that nothing could ever interfere with Jesus' ability to be closer to us than ever before. But the disciples did see Him ascend, right? Yes, they did, but Jesus did not permit this to imply that He would be limited, but rather to demonstrate power and authority, to show that the One ascending to heaven is unlimited. In other words, Jesus "sitting at the right hand of God the Father" in heaven is not a restricted physical location. Rather, it means that Jesus reigns everywhere, fully present with His people at all times and in all places. The ascension proves the LORD has power to be closer to you than ever. Jesus knew the amazing gift that would result after the ascension. He once said to His disciples, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:23). The ascension means that Jesus has kept this promise, and has the ability to make His home with those baptized into His life, death, and resurrection. One more thing: Notice what the disciples did when Jesus ascended. The Word says, "And they worshipped him" (Luke 24:52a). To say that Christ is with us isn't just something we tell ourselves to feel religious. The disciples experienced the ascended LORD's reign as they worshipped Him. As we worship Him we, too, receive His Word and Sacrament. In this way we also experience His ascension power: He's right there with us, putting His Word into our ears, and putting His Body and Blood into our mouths. Ascension means that Christ has kept His Word to never leave us. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our LORD Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Ascension of Our Lord)

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: The Apostles Creed, Second Article, pt.1 Daily Lectionary: Numbers 10:11-36; Luke 16:19-31 And [I believe] in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our LORD, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. (Small Catechism: Apostles Creed, Second Article) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. What does this mean? "I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my LORD," the explanation says. It is properly said that justification, God's declaring us righteous in His sight on account of Christ, is the central article or teaching of the Christian faith. It's true. It is incredibly important, but if someone does not know the person of Christ, WHO He is, then even the teaching on justification will be off. This first part of the Second Article of the Creed is super-duper important. We must believe, teach, and confess, and trust and rely upon in our hearts and souls, the fact that Jesus is true 100% God and true 100% man. Everything of the Christian faith rests on this truth. Fourth-century Church father Gregory of Nazianzus wonderfully and accurately taught: "Whatever Christ did not become [or take onto Himself], He did not redeem." In other words, Jesus had to be as human as you are, taking your place, in order to save you. He had to wrap Himself in real human flesh with a real human brain and a real human soul. And because He was really human like you He was able to be your substitute in the eyes of God. There is no negotiating here. Jesus is either completely a human being like us or He is not. Thank God that He was, and still is, but there's more. If He is merely fully human, and not fully God then our justification would still be in trouble. Thank God that He is also 100% God. As a result, He had the divine right and authority not only to take our place so that His life, suffering, death, and resurrection could be counted as ours, but also to forgive the sins of all people of all time. He can because He is truly God. Our Christology confesses that Jesus is true God and true man! Praise Him! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God, You are the strength of all who trust in You, and without Your aid we can do no good thing. Grant us the help of Your grace that we may please You in both will and deed; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our LORD, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Friedrich Wyneken, Pastor and Missionary

May 6, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Daily Lectionary: Leviticus 23:1-22; Luke 12:13-34 And he said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. . . Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:22, 32) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Rev. Friedich Wyneken was driven to spread the saving Gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ. He is a tremendous example to us of someone who lived out the Great Commission of our LORD. He arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, from Germany in 1838 and then went westward to expand the Kingdom. He labored intensely and realized he needed help, so he returned to Germany to ask for it. He came back to America with more pastors to not only reach the many Germans coming to America, but also to reach Native Americans. As the need for pastors increased, he became a co-founder of a practical seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and later returned to the East Coast to serve as a congregational pastor. The LORD, however, increased his service as he became the second president of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. It is hard to imagine all the challenges that Pastor Wyneken faced during his lifetime, especially as the country was headed towards civil war, but today's lectionary from Luke's Gospel gives us a good indication of what energizes such servants. When we know Christ as our Savior, then we also know that He is almighty and all compassionate. We can trust Him when He bids us not to be anxious. He really will provide for all our needs as we walk faithfully in our God-given vocations. Furthermore, we can continually take stock that no matter the hardships, the LORD has told us why we never need fear: "for it is the Father's good pleasure to give [us, we who are baptized into Jesus] the kingdom." And with the kingdom of God granted to us, we will also have all that we need in order to accomplish what God has put before us to do. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. LORD Jesus Christ, You want all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. We give You thanks for sending Friedrich Wyneken as missionary and pastor in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan to evangelize the Native Americans in these states, to be a founder of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, and to serve as second president of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Protect and encourage all missionaries who confess the true faith among the nations by proclaiming Christ crucified; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.