A Higher Things Daily Devotion

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

April 13, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: 1 John 5:4-10 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 23:14-33; Luke 4:31-44 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. There is a real impact upon our lives when the Holy Spirit, through the Word and Sacraments of Jesus, creates in us the gift of faith. Luther in his preface to his Romans commentary wrote, "Faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God (John 1:23). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts, and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it." How can we be sure of this? "For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree" (1 John 5:7). John 19:34 records: "But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water." After Jesus rose from the grave, He gave His Holy Spirit to His Church (breathing the Spirit upon the apostles and pouring His Spirit upon the Church) and guess what? The Holy Spirit still uses the water of Christ and the blood of Christ to flow upon and into Christians. You have received Christ's water in Holy Baptism and you receive Christ's Blood in Holy Communion. Through these, the Holy Spirit protects you! Christ for you means that you have the Victor over anything and everything in the world that threatens the forgiveness of your sins, your eternal life, and your great salvation in Christ. This does not mean that sin, the world, and the devil will not still harass you and even cause you great pain (we get to taste some of His suffering for us), but it does mean that nothing in this world is stronger than the One your faith clings to! Nothing! "And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life" (1 John 5:11-12a). And who overcomes the world? "The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:5). Your Savior is so strong for you that your enemies cannot snatch you out of His hand (John 10:28). In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lord Jesus, in Your ministry of teaching, casting out demons, and healing the sick, You proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom of God. Send us into all the world to announce that today, in You, Scripture has been fulfilled, the new creation has come, and the healing of the nations is here; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Monday of the Second Week of Easter

April 12, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the LORD God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. (Ezekiel 37:12) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. While the Old Testament teaches the resurrection of the flesh as we see in Job 19, Ezekiel 37 is not about the resurrection of the body, but it is about the renewal and "resurrection" of hope and vitality for living in faith. The powerful scene of the valley of dry bones describes the people of Israel in exile in Babylon before their liberation by the powerful Persian emperor and conqueror Cyrus the Great (as history knows him). But before Cyrus, God's people had lost their homeland, they were like slaves in a far-away land, and the confidence they once had as the people of God seemed like a distant memory. They had lost hope, so that they were full of dryness in spirit, and full of the feeling of death in their collective soul. That is why God describes His people here as a great valley of dry bones. Have you ever felt dry? Have you ever lost hope? The psalmist proves to us that it is possible for a believer to feel this way. Psalm 32:3-4 says, "For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer." For us, though, we don't need any mere man, even a powerful mere man like Cyrus the Great, but only Jesus Christ, who is not a mere man, but the very Son of God! This is how Jesus rescues us from our sinful exiles; this is how Jesus raises our "dry bones." "I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:5). As Jesus keeps us in our baptismal grace, we are lifted up and renewed day by day. We are no longer exiles and slaves to sin, but we are released from bondage to sin and we have a new Master, the LORD of life who showers upon us new hope, and this hope does not disappoint nor put us to shame (Romans 5:5). In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lord God, heavenly Father, Your Son announced in the synagogue of His hometown of Nazareth that as the Messiah, His teaching and miracles demonstrated His presence in creation to release it from bondage and bring healing by making all things new. Give us faith to see that His teaching and miracles continue today in the healing medicine of Your Word and the Sacraments, which put to flight the diseases of our souls; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen. Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

The Second Sunday of Easter

April 11, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: John 20:19-31 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 20:1-24; Luke 4:1-15 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them. (John 20:19) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. This marvelous Easter text is one of the most important in leading us to worship our Risen LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. At the same time, it is teaching us something about our Risen LORD according to His Person as true God and true man. In our Lutheran Confessions, Solid Declaration, Article VII on The Holy Supper, we learn that there are three ways in which Jesus can be in a given place. One of those is the way He was present as recorded in John 20. Here, space cannot contain Him, so Jesus was able to leave "the closed grave and came through closed doors" [John 20:19]. So locked doors and hard walls can't keep Jesus from really and actually coming to you and being with you. At the same time here in John 20 the disciples were able to know Jesus' real presence. He was actually there with them in His body! In fact, Thomas got to touch Him! (John 20:27). In other words, Jesus can do both at the same time: have nothing touch Him as He passes through locked doors and walls, and yet be touched and touch at the same time! How does He do it? He's God! It is not too difficult for Him. So, what is really important about this fancy schmancy theological overview? Just this: This is the same way that Jesus comes to you in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar! He does not need bread and wine to contain Him (they can't), and yet when you receive the sacramental bread and the sacramental wine, He really and truly and actually comes to you! In the Holy Sacrament, His Body and His Blood enters your mouth, enters your whole life, and this is one way that He is keeping His promise to be with you always (Matthew 28:20). In our sin, we doubt that Jesus can do this, but in this very Holy Sacrament and in His Word proclaimed, we poor sinners are given and increased in holy faith so that we may walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty God, grant that we who have celebrated the Lord's resurrection may by Your grace confess in our life and conversation that Jesus is Lord and God; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Saturday of Easter Week

April 10, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Introit for the Second Sunday of Easter (Psalm 81:1, 7a, 10, 16b; antiphon: 1 Peter 2:2a) Daily Lectionary: Exodus 19:1-25; Hebrews 13:1-21 Like newborn infants, Alleluia, long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word. Alleluia." (From the Introit for the Second Sunday of Easter) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Introit for tomorrow, the "entrance" or "beginning" that tells us the theme of the service, is for the special Sunday known as Quasimodo Geniti, "like newborn babies." That is, this Sunday's theme teaches us that we should be like newborn babies. But in what way? So that we would "long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word." Have you ever observed a hungry baby? Getting fed is basically the only thing on their minds! Christians still have a sinful nature and because of that, one of our worst problems is being complacent and no longer feeling the need for God's Word. In sin, we do not long for or thirst for the Word of Christ. Or course, this is exactly where our sin, the world, and the devil want us to be. In time, we might just turn away from God's Word altogether (may it never be!). When the Holy Spirit convicts us of this sinful way of no longer longing for the Word of Christ, we confess our sin, and receive Christ's forgiveness and then we live not as unwise, but as wise. We train ourselves by the grace of God and through the Word and Sacraments (the Holy Spirit always working through these) to enter each day with a longing. The longing that says once again this day, "I need Jesus, and I know where to find Him! I receive Him through His pure spiritual milk, His Word. For this I long." Luther taught this in respect to receiving Holy Absolution, through which the forgiveness of Christ is imputed to us. Luther wrote: "If you are a Christian, then you ought to be happy to run more than a hundred miles to Confession and not let yourself be urged to come." This is what longing for the Word looks like. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder. I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it; and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Like newborn infants, Alleluia, long for the pure spiritual milk [of the Word.] Alleluia. (From the Introit for Quasimodo Geniti Sunday) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Friday of Easter Week

April 9, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 18:5-27; Hebrews 12:1-24 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump. (1 Corinthians 5:7) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Leaven" here is a metaphor, so Paul is not talking about yeast that makes dough rise. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, "leaven" stands for the old life, the old man, the sinful nature; the flesh. Before you were baptized (or if you were baptized later in life, before you came to saving faith through another means of grace), you were only "leaven," only unregenerate, only against God. The state of being "leaven" is described thoroughly in Romans 5:6-10: You were weak, ungodly, a sinner, and an enemy of God. This condition is so permeating that this leaven infiltrated your very core, or perhaps better said, your heart, so that nothing but more leaven could rise out of you (Matthew 15:18-20). Such leaven spreads to everything you do, and say, and think by nature, all of which is the old leaven of sin and death. In this condition, a person is spiritually dead. But God in His mercy saw us in this old leavened state, and loved us so much that He gave His Son, Jesus, to come and do something about our old leavened lives. Jesus put on our humanity, became our brother, even while still being Almighty God,and did something about the old leaven. Through Himself, He has given us His perfect unleavened bread, His very body to make our lives holy and unleavened. We now have the new life of Christ that covers our old leaven of sin. His sinless and unleavened life has covered you ever since you were baptized into Him, so that now the Holy Spirit is busy daily doing something in and through you: leading you to confess the old leaven, to "clean it out" according to what Jesus has done for you. We confess it to God, and through Christ, God takes it from us, and then reminds us where He put it all: on His Son when His Son was on the Cross with all our old leaven. In Christ, God sees you as unleavened. On account of Christ, all the old leaven is gone! You are now His new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty God, You show those in error the light of Your truth so that they may return to the way of righteousness. Grant faithfulness to all who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's Church that they may avoid whatever is contrary to their confession and follow all such things as are pleasing to You; 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

Thursday of Easter Week

April 8, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Job 19:23-27 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 17:1-16; Hebrews 11:1-29 "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh in my flesh I shall see God." (Job 19:25) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. People say a lot of things that either criticize Scripture or reveal their lack of familiarity with Scripture. For example, many perpetuate the idea that the Old Testament does not teach the resurrection of the body. Job 19 disproves this assertion. In fact, Job in chapter 19 is adamant about what he is saying here. It is so important that he wants the truth of his words to be "with an iron pen and lead, engraved in the rock forever!" (Job 19:24) Nothing can contradict this truth. What truth? That after we die, our physical bodies will turn to dust . We will be reduced to practically nothing. The Greeks taught that our atoms would just dissipate into the rest of the universe. Job admits that yes, his body would be "destroyed"; reduced to ashes. Yes, this is true, but that is not everything. Job then states the rest of the story: Something happens after death that will enable him to see God with his own eyes! (Job 19:26-27) How could Job possibly testify so strongly to this? It appears at first glance to be a contradiction, but it is not. Job was describing the effects of the resurrected body. The Gospel is not just that God put your sins on Jesus for Him to cover your sins with His blood, but the Gospel includes what God promises you on account of Jesus' rising from death. And this is no silly metaphor or "spiritual" resurrection, but it means that His body that died (the same one buried) came back to life. Yes, bodies that die turn to dust, and the rest of the story is that God reassembles the body--in a miraculous way--so that not only will our bodies be restored, but they will be better than ever before (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). In other words, the Good News is that death is not your end, dear Christian, because after you die, you shall be raised and you will see Jesus with your very own eyes! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty God, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. We humbly pray that we may live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Wednesday of Easter Week

April 7, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: The Tenth Commandment Daily Lectionary: Exodus 16:13-35; Hebrews 10:19-39 You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Text from Luther's Small Catechism drawn from Exodus 20:17) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor's wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty" (Luther's Small Catechism). Have you heard the old saying, "The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence?" Well, for our sinful nature, this is a highly accurate statement. The flesh is never satisfied. Its cravings and desires are insatiable. Our sin is never satisfied. King Solomon described this problem in respect to the love of money: "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money [or "will never have enough"]" (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Why is this true? God tells us why: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) These dark cravings easily turn toward our neighbor and what our neighbor has in his or her life, like their close relationships. Have you ever been jealous of someone else? If so, then maybe it was because you envied their popularity, or even because they had or have a friend that you always wanted to be close to. When our sin zeros in on envy, coveting, and evil desire, then we don't want our neighbor to have what they have. Instead, we want what they have. This is how the Tenth Commandment is broken. But your sin was put on Jesus! He took it out of obedient love to the Heavenly Father for you. He went to the Cross and covered your sin, including all your coveting, on the Cross; and He rose to prove that since you are baptized into His death and His resurrection you do indeed have a new life! That life realizes this: You have the Kingdom of God (Luke 12:32). You already have the best of the best of life; in Christ, you have all things good and holy and lasting and rich! You don't need anything else! Now, because God takes care of what you have, in Christ you can help your neighbor take care of what they have. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "You shall not crave your neighbor's house Nor covet money, goods, or spouse. Pray God He would your neighbor bless As you yourself wish success." Have mercy, LORD! ("These Are the Holy Ten Commands" LSB 581, st.10) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Tuesday of Easter Week

April 6, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Acts 10:34-43 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 15:19-16:12; Hebrews 10:1-18 So Peter opened his mouth and said, "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality." (Acts 10:34) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.There are at least two very different ways to take this revelation from Luke, who wrote these words by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. One way is to take the fact that God shows no partiality as really bad news. I mean, how fair is that?! So I can go to all this effort to be a good person, do the right thing, be honest, hard-working, etc., but then God is going to treat the rebel and the bad guy like He treats me? It does not seem right and let's face it: Such frustration can cause a person to stray from God altogether. After all, we want proper credit for what we do, especially when we think what we do makes us better than others. On the other hand, we might understand that God's showing no partiality is a really good thing. He will still be the God of grace even for us. He is the God who sent His Son for sinners and mess-ups and is still impartial enough to consider me among the saints of God. That is, God's impartiality means that I have a chance to be with the "good guys." It's just important that we understand what makes the "good guys" good. These are the ones who are "acceptable" to the LORD (Acts 10:35). But being acceptable to God is not because we accept Him. . . no, instead His acceptance of us happened a long time ago when His Son Jesus,our Savior, lived, died, and rose for us! Indeed, our salvation is not about our opening our hearts to accept Jesus; but about the Heavenly Father's opening His heart to us by sending His Son to be our Savior! We are accepted and experience God's impartiality through the Good News of peace that has been preached to us (Acts 10:36). Jesus was anointed (Acts 10:38) and that means He has power and authority to heal ALL sinners. Remember God shows no partiality, so "all" means "all"! Yes, it is true as Luke writes, "They put him to death by hanging him on a tree," and many thought it was game over for Jesus, but here's the rest of the story: "God raised him on the third day. . . [and] everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:40, 43). In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty God, through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences. Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same 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 Easter Week

April 5, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Luke 24:36-38 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 15:1-18; Hebrew 9:1-28 . . . Jesus. . . said to them, 'Peace to you!" (Luke 24:36) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. When the LORD Jesus says, "Peace to you!" it's not like He's saying, "I wish you well," or "I hope you feel better," or "Even though I don't know how things are going to work out, here's hoping for the best." Ah. . . no! When God proclaims peace upon you, it is created upon you; it becomes a reality upon you, so that peace for you is as empirical and objective as the iPhone you're holding right now or the thing upon which you are sitting. Think of the opening of Genesis, "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). When God speaks, what He speaks becomes. The spoken thing is now an "is" reality. Peace IS now yours because Jesus has spoken it to you! He speaks it every time you attend Divine Service, as the pastor in Christ's Office says, "Peace be with you." That's Jesus speaking to you and casting His peace upon you. Why is this so important? Because we--according to our core sin--are like those Emmaus disciples in Luke 24. We are ". . . troubled. . . [and have] doubts [arising] in our hearts" (Luke 24:38). That's what sinners do. In fact, the old man does nothing but doubt, fret, complain, and curse. But when Jesus sees you like this--like He saw the Emmaus disciples--He has compassion upon you as He had compassion upon them. So His response is not to condemn you, but in the greatest love and mercy impart to you His peace, which means that you are right with God through the life, death, and resurrection of the LORD Jesus Christ. But how can we know this with absolute certainty? Well, if we sneak ahead a little bit to Luke 24:39 we see what Jesus did with the Emmaus disciples: He got REAL with them! He showed them His hands and His feet and told them that they could touch Him! Well, guess what? He gets REAL with you, too! You go to the Divine Service and receive Jesus' REAL Absolution through the REAL pastor; and then hear Jesus' REAL Word through Jesus' REAL preaching Office; and then--best of all--you receive the REAL Body and Blood of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament. You get to see exactly how and why the peace that Jesus gives to you is not theoretical, but absolutely the real deal. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God, in the paschal feast You restore all creation. Continue to send Your heavenly gifts upon Your people that they may walk in perfect freedom and receive eternal life; 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

The Resurrection of our Lord

April 4, 2021 • Pastor Alfonso Espinosa

Today's Reading: Mark 16:1-8 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 14:10-31; Hebrews 7:23-8:13 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene. . . (Mark 16:1) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. According to Scripture, who is the first person to go to the tomb of the LORD Jesus after He was buried? Answer: Mary Magdalene. Jesus had once healed her, exorcizing seven demons from her (Luke 8:2). We can't begin to imagine what her life was like. She was lower than low and practically freaked people out. She must have been repulsive. "Total loser" would have been an understatement. But Jesus came for sinners--people dead in their trespasses and sins like you and me. Jesus did not hesitate to love her and have mercy on her. He healed her and she became one of the Lord's most ardent believers. What happened from there was amazing. Not only does she have the distinction of going to Jesus' tomb first (while the apostles were hiding out), but after everyone else left, Jesus appears to her first (John 20:11). Mary Magdalene went on to be the first proclaimer of the resurrection of Christ (John 20:18). The one so lowly was the one lifted up so highly! Why? Because Jesus is for sinners, even the absolute worst of them! But we must not forget that the Scriptural testimony about Mary is not random. Her lowest point was when she was possessed by demons (a seemingly hopeless situation), but her highest point is right here in Mark 16. This time she was with the risen Lord. She witnessed firsthand that Jesus even has power over death. No wonder the demons must obey His commands! While the raising of Christ is attributed to both the Father (Acts 2:24) and to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1), it is--in true Trinitarian fashion--credited also to Jesus Himself. Jesus said, "No one takes [my life] from me. . . I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again" (John 10:18). This One is the Master of the wind and the waves, the Master of all disease and disability, the One with all authority over principalities and powers. . . and yes, even the Master over death. Mary had already experienced His power, and now the rest of the world would know for whom His power is especially made known: exceptional sinners like Mary Magdalene, and like you and me! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord's resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Resurrection of Our Lord) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Holy Saturday

April 3, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Matthew 27:57-66 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 13:17-14:9; Hebrews 7:1-22 O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1, from the Introit for Easter Day) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus' Name is excellent. It's greater than any Name in this age and also in the age to come (Ephesians 1:21). "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth" (Philippians 2:10). The angels speak that Name to the women that first Easter morning. "I know you seek Jesus the Crucified. He isn't here because He was raised, just has He said" (Matthew 28:5–6). Jesus had added resurrection glory to crucified glory. He's enthroned in power on the Cross, dying for you and the whole world. His Name was there, too: "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews." But now He is always the Crucified. He bears the scars in His own body. As John sees in Revelation: "I saw in the middle of the throne. . . a Lamb standing, looking as if He'd been slain" (Revelation 5:6). But before that, He was buried. God was lying dead in a tomb, His lifeless body placed there. God took His rest on the seventh day. This makes your grave holy. Your resurrection from the dead will be holy by His resurrection from the dead. You will die. It's going to happen. You could be hit by a bus tomorrow, or you could die in your sleep when you're 100. You could die from cancer or in a storm. Your body will be laid to rest. But that's not the end for you, dear Christian, because Christ has baptized you into His death and resurrection, burying you with Him, you will rise again to new life. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Jesus placed His Name upon you. You've been marked by Christ the Crucified in your Baptism. Jesus died. You will die. Jesus was buried. You will be buried. Jesus rose. You will rise. Tomorrow in the Divine Service you will receive the Body and Blood that was dead, buried, and raised. Jesus keeps you with these in body and soul to life everlasting. Jesus the Crucified lives forever. You will live forever. In Him you already do. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks that through death You have destroyed the power of death and delivered us, who are subject to lifelong bondage through the fear of death, comfort us with Your precious merit and assist us in our last hour by Your grace; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Holy Saturday) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Holy Week - Supplement to the Reflections

Deans' List • April 2, 2021 • Pastor Harrison Goodman

Hi, I'm Pastor Goodman. Welcome to the Assistant to the Dean's List. All the way through this season of Lent, we have encouraged you to take a look at our Higher Things daily Reflections for your own personal edification. But that is especially true this week. This is Holy Week. This is what the church revolves around -- the death and resurrection of Jesus for you. This week's Reflections, by the actual Dean of Theology, Pastor Fenker, are a wonderful way to spend time in God's Word. That you would pay attention to what it is that's going on. For the Palm Sunday reading, he makes a wonderful connection that this whole mess when we stripped naked the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We tore down the fruit from it and ate it when we should not have done this thing. And so Jesus rides into Jerusalem to trees being stripped bare, to palm leaves being ripped off of the trees and thrown at Jesus' feet. You see, the cry, "We shall be like God!" has turned into the cry, "Save us! Hosanna!" Because, as it turns out, maybe we shouldn't be God. We're not so good at it. All of our attempts to do so only end in the grave. But Christ rides into Jerusalem for the dying, for the sinners...for you. The stripped-bare palm leaves, they don't do anything. They cannot accomplish anything. Our cries to God...they're not enough to earn our salvation. Leaves ripped off trees cannot buy the forgiveness of sins. The trees of the palm do nothing. But the tree of the cross, Christ's tree, that forgives you your sins. That's what we have to look at this week. This is not about us laying down our treasures at Jesus' feet. This is about Him, carrying our cross to Golgotha, the place of the skull. It's what we have to have placed before our eyes, over and over again. On Monday, the Reflection's text is: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." And so he preaches the cross, because the Jesus not on the cross is the Jesus who doesn't save us from our sins. And so we must cry out the same thing: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." We wish to hear Christ crucified. It's what happens when we realize the depth of our sin. Just like Peter in Thursday's Reflection, we say, "Lord, wash all of me! This can't be enough. I need more forgiveness. I need more mercy. You just saying I'm forgiven, that cannot be enough. So you have to do more." And so Jesus responds, "No, you are already clean. You are baptized. But if you struggle with a guilty conscience, here, have more: You are baptized. Here, have more: In the stead by the command of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins." Absolution is Jesus on the cross for that sin that troubles you for your ear. Then more. More, more, more! "Eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus." He answers our cries for mercy in an overabundance. And all along, He promises, "You are clean." Because of the one, all-atoning sacrifice that He made upon the cross, that He would have delivered to you through Word and Sacrament. For He has won it. He has paid for it. This is what happens on Friday. We hear the cry, "It is finished." All accounts have been settled. The victory is ours. The victory over sin, the victory over Satan. Even the victory over death, itself. Christ has won it all for you by dying on the cross. God died for you. On the cross, your sins are forgiven you. This is why we call it "good." This is why we call it "holy" Friday. Because you are made holy by what Christ has done for you on this day. And so we can go forward from that cross because, as our Baptist friends like to tell us when they don't like our crucifixes, "Jesus isn't on the cross anymore." That's...true. But at the same time, it's so important that He still bears the marks of it. See, we're not supposed to forget about Christ on the cross. In fact, we're supposed to remember that Christ is on the cross. In the same way that we know Jesus is not a baby anymore but we still put Baby Jesus in the manger. We remember Christ upon the cross. He doesn't want us to forget it. He is always the crucified Savior for you. He was buried in that tomb this weekend so that your tomb would not be a far-off place. But it would be a "in Jesus" place. This is the hope of the Easter Vigil: that even the grave, even the grave is not faraway, forgotten place. Even the grave is no longer a separation from God or from brothers and sisters in Christ. It is an "in Jesus" place. And so when Jesus makes himself present, in Word, in Sacrament for you, He drags with Him all of the company of heaven who now rest from their labors. He points us forward to this simple truth: even as we wait, on Vigil, there will be a resurrection. ---------- Catch Pastor Goodman on Fridays in Lent for a special devotional supplement to the Higher Things daily Reflections. Subscribe to the free Reflections email listor download the printable PDF booklet at http://higherthings.org/reflections Listen to audio Reflections on the Higher Things app,or on your favorite podcast app (ASL Reflections are also available using the above link).

Good Friday

April 2, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: John 18:1-19:42 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 12:29-32; 13:1-16; Hebrews 6:1-20 Jesus said, "It is finished!" Then bowing His head, He handed over His spirit. (John 19:30) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. God died. That's right. God died. He died for you. The One who created the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them died. He was beaten, mocked, scourged, crucified. God suffered all that for you. "My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?" God was condemned and damned for you. He bore your sin, and it killed Him. He suffered for your sins. Your punishment was His--God's. Then God died. He died for those sins. He died to rescue you from those sins. God died to do it. There your God hung bloody, beaten, dead: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Jesus, your God, died. He didn't just look like He was dead. It's not that a man died that day. If that were the case, you'd still be in your sins because no one "can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him" (Psalm 49:7). But God redeems you. Your God Jesus redeems you by dying. It's all finished. The accounts have been settled. It took God's dying for you to do it. How do we know it's all taken care of? Well, your God didn't stay dead. Death could not hold Him! Jesus rose from the dead. How do you know it's taken care of? You've been baptized, absolved, had the Gospel preached to you, received Jesus' Body and Blood in His Supper. The once-dead-then-resurrected Jesus gave all these gifts for you. Jesus did all these things for you. "It is finished" now and forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Merciful God, heavenly Father, who removed from us the grievous burden of our sins and placed it on Your dear Son, our Savior, we humbly implore You to govern us by Your Holy Spirit that we may comfort ourselves with His suffering and death in the face of all temptation; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Good Friday) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Maundy Thursday

April 1, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: John 13:1-15, 34-35 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 12:1-28; Hebrews 5:1-14 Jesus said to Him, "He who's bathed doesn't need anything except to wash his feet, but he's completely clean. And you are clean, but not all." (John 13:10) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. You're clean. You're completely clean. You're as white as the colors on the altar this Maundy Thursday. How can you be anything else? In Jesus you're not! You've been washed, you've been sanctified (made holy) by His blood. You were wiped clean at the font. Now, because of the water and Word of Holy Baptism, you are a washed-clean, pure, holy, spotless child of God. He's given you His Name, marked you has His holy one, His saint. But that's not all for you is it? You know what you've done. I know what I've done. We gossiped even before we realized what we were doing. We downloaded that movie file. We got mad at our brother or sister because of some stupid reason. We clicked the link. We're jealous of our neighbor. All these sins and others just creep up on us, and we step into them. We want to be like Peter, "Lord, wash all of me." But Jesus says to you, "You've already been bathed. I washed you. I cleansed you. Be absolved! Let me take care of THAT sin. I will forgive it again and again and again. Receive my Body and Blood. It's given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins." Yes, you fall into sin. You step in it daily and much. In Christ you are pure. In yourself you are not. In this life you are sinner, but you are also saint. Jesus will make sure to keep you spotless and pure. He's washed you. He'll wash your conscience from whatever you happen to step in. He does this to save you, to keep you clean in this life and in the life to come. You're clean. You're completely clean. You're as white as the colors on the altar this Maundy Thursday. In Jesus, how can you be anything else? In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O Lord, who left to us in a wonderful Sacrament a memorial of Your Passion, grant we implore You that we so use this Sacrament of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption continually may be manifest in us; who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Maundy Thursday) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Wednesday of Holy Week

March 31, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Luke 22:1-23:56 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 10:21-11:10; Hebrews 4:1-16 They all said, "Are You the Son of God?" So He said to them, "You yourselves are saying I AM." Then they said, "Why do we still need witnesses? For we all heard it from His mouth." (Luke 22:70–71) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Why was Jesus sentenced to death? What actually was the tipping point in the trial? It was all a puppet court anyway. It was convened in the middle of the night. Jesus was arrested by a mob and brought into this very calculated, evil plot hatched and implemented by the religious leaders. They even had a whole slew of false witnesses. That didn't work, though. No matter how many charges they could trump up, they didn't stick. All they could do was "mock Him and beat Him." All they could do was blindfold and slap Him, and ask, ""Prophesy! Who's the one who hit You?" (Luke 23:63-64) What else could they do? They needed something true to condemn Him for. So they asked Him, "Are you the Son of God?" (Luke 23:70) He said, "I AM." Jesus is condemned for being who He is. He's condemned for being the eternal Son of the Father. Sinners condemned and killed God for being God. But His being God also means He's our Sin-Bearer. He's the One who bore our sin and the punishment of the Law in His own body. There He was the greatest sinner, the curse, sin itself. That's Jesus. And so He's condemned for that, too. The religious court condemned Him for being God. The heavenly court, God His own Father, condemned Him for being sin and curse (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13). So He cried out from His Cross, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me!" Jesus' being God means His death counts for you. Jesus' being condemned means you won't be condemned. This death for sin that Jesus underwent is yours and FOR YOU. You've received it in your Baptism. You eat and drink of it in His Body and Blood given and shed for you. You hear the "not guilty" verdict spoken by your pastor in the Absolution. Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father which means He's the Sin-Bearer--our Sin-Bearer. He's guilty. Now, you're not. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Ye who think of sin but lightly Nor suppose the evil great Here may view its nature rightly, Here its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, See who bears the awful load; 'Tis the Word, the Lord's anointed, Son of Man and Son of God. ("Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted" LSB 451, st.3) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch