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The Nativity of Our Lord

December 25, 2020 • Pastor Bradley Drew

Today's Reading: Luke 2:1-20 Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 49:1-18; Matthew 1:1-17 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!" (Luke 2:14) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Among those with whom He is pleased ."Hear those words not in fear. "Uh, oh, is God pleased with me?" Hear them in the peace and joy of Christmas. Yes, God is pleased. For Jesus is "good news of a great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10). And you are part of all people, yes? Whoever you are, trust that God is pleased with you. Never because of you. Always because of Jesus. Who He is. His birth. His life. His death. His everything. Merry Christmas to all! Because Jesus plus nothing from us, except sin, equals everything. For all of us. That's the good news "a multitude of the heavenly host" brought to poor shepherds who were "out in the field." While quaking in their boots because the blinding "glory of the Lord shone around them"(Luke 2:9), those shepherds were rescued by the promise, "Fear not…For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord"(Luke 2:10-11). Silencing their fear was a new song, "Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love's pure light Radiant beams from Thy holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth" ("Silent Night" LSB 363, st.3). Here was God, our God, now in flesh appearing. Why? To bear our sin and be our Savior. No poor miserable sinner left out. Not even you or me. Those angels heard on high? We hear them still. For the Word of the Lord endures forever (Isaiah 40:8). We hear them daily in the Word and promise of Holy Baptism. "Clothed with Christ." We hear them in every Absolution and sermon our pastor speaks to us. "I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." We hear them in the promise of, "Fear not. This is My Body, My Blood, given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins." Yes, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with those whom He is pleased!" He is pleased with you, now, because of Jesus. For in the birth of His Son God has forever taken you into Himself and saved you from yourself. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty God, grant that the birth of Your only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free from the bondage of sin; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for the Nativity of Our Lord)

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)