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Reflections

The Second Sunday after Trinity

June 21, 2020 • Pastor Alexander Lange

Today's Reading: Luke 14:15-24 Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 24:1-22; John 19:1-22 Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet. (Luke 14:23-24) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Our Lord is determined to throw a party – a party that will last forever. He paid for the whole thing: the food and the wine, the music, the games, etc. There will be no entrance fee. Jesus' blood covered the entire cost! The Lord sends out heralds with an invitation: "Come, for everything is now ready!" Indeed, every Sunday, the appetizers are set out for the guests. The Body and Blood of Christ are laid out on the table, a foretaste of the Feast that can begin at any moment. Every Sunday the party favors are distributed: the forgiveness of sins, the presence of the Spirit, joy, peace, and life in abundance! Some people will be party-poopers. They will offer all kinds of excuses to not come to the Divine Service. They are not even good excuses, but when you don't want to do something, any excuse will do. The Lord won't force those people to come. A guest who doesn't want to be there would ruin the party for everyone else. Still, the party will go on. The Lord says to His heralds, "Go invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. Bring in the outcasts, the shunned, and the unpopular. My house must be filled!" Those are precisely the people who receive the invitation with joy. A lifetime of failures, disappointments, and rejections has shattered their pride. Nobody deserves the Lord's invitation, but these people know how undeserving they are. Don't be surprised when you come to church and find a bunch of broken sinners there. That's who the Lord invites to His party. If you are a poor, broken sinner, then you are welcome there, too! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O Lord, since You never fail to help and govern those whom You nurture in Your steadfast fear and love, work in us a perpetual fear and love of Your holy name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Second Sunday after Trinity) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor René Castillero

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Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 12, 2021 • 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. Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 11, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: James 1:22-27 Daily Lectionary: Numbers 9:1-23; Luke 16:1-18 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Our LORD Jesus Christ did not come into the world to save ideas and beliefs. He did not come into the world to save audio presentations and visual images. "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost" (1 Timothy 1:15). I always recommend inserting ourselves at the end of this verse. We can't reduce Christ's saving work to the saving of ideas, thoughts, and words, but of sinners, and sinners are real people with real lives--they live and move and have their being (Acts 17:28). They do things, they act, they impact the lives of others and the world. Jesus came to save these real people with real lives who do real things. So what happens when such people are saved? Their real lives are impacted, not just their beliefs. James is warning us, "For if anyone is a hearer of the word [only] and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at hi mself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like" (James 1:24-25). When the Christian faith is only a "belief" for someone, it is only a passing thought. But this faith that God creates in us through the Word holds to a strong and mighty Christ, and Christ is so strong and mighty that He affects our very lives. How does Christ do this in us? It isn't by looking into a dumb mirror, but by looking into what James calls "the perfect law, the law of liberty" (James 1:25). This is a place in the Holy Bible where "law" does not mean strict convicting law, as in "Law" vs. Gospel. Here the word "law" refers to the WORD, and especially the Gospel! What is the only thing that gives you liberation from the bonds of your sin? The powerful Gospel of Christ! When the Gospel is yours, and your sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus, then watch out: Your faith isn't just thoughts and words, but real actions. You live for Jesus and you love those around you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O LORD, keep Your Church in Your perpetual mercy; and because without You we cannot but fall, preserve us from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our LORD, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 10, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Numbers 21:4-9 Daily Lectionary: Numbers 8:5-26; Luke 15:11-32 And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." (Numbers 21:8) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. God sent the fiery serpents to the rebellious people of Israel in the wilderness. They were sent to bite the complaining and unfaithful people, to kill them. This was the wrath of God poured out at that time and place. In response to this judgement against sin, the people cried out. They came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that He take away the serpents from us" (Numbers 21:7a). The LORD had mercy on the people and responded in grace toward those who cried out to Him in distress while confessing their sins. But the LORD demonstrated His grace in a really fascinating way: He told Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, so that when the people looked up to it, they would be healed (Numbers 21:8-9). Let's get this right: The image of the thing that was killing the people was going to save them. Hmmm. Jesus told Nicodemus, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14). We have our "fiery serpent," too, and it is just as deadly: our sin. So God did not change His method. He took the thing responsible for our death, our sin, and put it on the Cross. Jesus became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was our sin on the Cross. The thing killing us was now up high on a "pole," so that whoever would look at Jesus on the Cross would know what God had done with their deadly sin. It isn't on you anymore. Look up to Jesus, trust in Him, and rejoice. You're saved from your fiery serpents. They were nailed to the Cross of Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. LORD God, our heavenly Father, You stood afar off, waiting to see Your prodigals appear at the gate. Then, running to us, You overwhelmed us with grace and invited us to sit at table, to rejoice at our homecoming. Help us to repent of our sins and strip us of every thought that we might merit Your salvation. Then bring us home to be with You at the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our LORD. Amen. Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch