ASL Reflections

Wednesday after the Transfiguration

January 27, 2021 • Pastor Jacob Ehrhard

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: The Third Commandment Daily Lectionary: Zechariah 4:1-5:11; Romans 15:14-33 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Small Catechism: The Third Commandment) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Days are governed by the sun, months by the moon, and years by the stars, but a week is governed by God's Word. The Sabbath is the rhythm of creation. In six days God spoke and the world and all its inhabitants were created. But on the seventh day He rested. "So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation" (Genesis 2:3). Every seven days after God's day of rest, the world rests and God speaks. Sabbath means rest, but it is a rest for the purpose of listening to God's Word. "We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it" (Small Catechism: The Third Commandment, Explanation). God gave His Word to Adam and Eve with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Every other tree was for eating; this tree was for listening. But they listened to the wrong voices. Eve listened to the serpent and Adam listened to Eve. Sin replaced Sabbath when Eve and Adam despised preaching and God's Word and replaced it with their own work. Because of sin, the Sabbath could never offer true rest. We, like our first parents, are always more interested in offering God our work rather than our ears. But where Sabbath rest was once ruined at a tree, it is restored at a tree--the Tree. As the sun set on the sixth day of a holy week, the Son of God closed His eyes, bowed His head, and gave up His Spirit. They had to get His body into a tomb quickly because that Sabbath was a high holy day. And the Son of God rested a rest unlike any other. His rest in the tomb restored our Sabbath rest because after the death of Jesus, there is no work left to do. It is finished. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "You shall observe the worship day That peace may fill your home, and pray, And put aside the work you do, So that God may work in you." Have mercy, Lord! ("These Are the Holy Ten Commands" LSB 581, st.4)

Saturday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

January 23, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Introit for the Transfiguration of Our Lord (Psalm 84:1-2a, 4, 10-11; antiphon: Psalm 77:18b) Daily Lectionary: Joel 2:18-32; Romans 11:25-12:13 I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (From Introit for the Transfiguration of Our Lord) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. A doorkeeper is not a high and exalted position. During the time of the Old Testament, parents did not sit around dreaming that their child would grow up and become a doorkeeper. However, the psalmist rightly points out that in the day of the Lord, it is far better to be a doorkeeper and to be saved than to live a lavish life that ends in eternal death. We should think of such things. Our world wants to push us to be great in the eyes of men. Fame, fortune, and earthly honor is an ever-present temptation. America is all about making a name for yourself. Going to the right schools, getting the good jobs, and living in the right places are great in the eyes of the world, yet without the Lord, it is all in vain. The lives that we live here are not eternal. They are fleeting shadows of the things to come. You are not of this world. Instead, as a child of God, you have been called by faith, and in your Baptism you are united with Christ into His death. Christ has forgiven you of all your sins by His death on the Cross. He has brought you out of the tent of the wicked and set you firmly into the house of God. Because of Christ, you are a beloved child of God. Live as God intends you to live, serving Him with your life and with your words through the vocations He has given you. You may be something great and glorious in the eyes of the world, or you may be a simple doorkeeper. Either way, know that God has given you the task, He has provided you with the skills, and He will lead and direct you to do the good works that He alone has prepared for you. Dwell in the house of God: Go to church, receive Christ's gifts given for you in preaching and in the Sacraments. Receive all that is yours in Christ with the sure and certain hope that you are forgiven and that you will dwell with God forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O merciful and everlasting God, heavenly Father, we thank You that You have revealed to us the glory of Your Son, and let the light of your Gospel shine upon us. Guide us by this light that we may walk diligently as Christians in all good works, ever be strengthened by your grace and conduct our lives in all godliness. (George Krause, The Pastor at Prayer [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014], 125.)

Friday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

January 22, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Romans 12:6-16 Daily Lectionary: Joel 2:1-17; Romans 11:1-24 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. With this simple verse, the apostle Paul is telling us how we are to live as Christians in this world. They are three straightforward phrases, yet there is a depth to them that requires us to work hard every day. Rejoice in hope is to rejoice in the things to come. Our world is falling apart. Chaos, destruction, death, decay, and sin are everywhere. We cannot escape the ravages of evil as the days draw nearer to the final day. Our human nature wants to hope in itself as we try to go our own ways. However, the truth is if we rely on ourselves, all hope is lost. The only hope we have is in the Lord Jesus Christ and the work that He did for us by His death on the Cross and by His resurrection from the grave. It is Christ's sacrifice for our sins that enables us to have hope in the days to come. It is only with this hope that we are able to be patient in all tribulation. Your life will be filled with pain, suffering, and the Cross. All who believe in Christ will suffer in this life, but the suffering we face will end. So we are to be patient, rejoicing in Christ with a sure and certain knowledge that the day will come when we will be in heaven. Being constant in prayer is the only way that we can rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation. We take everything to the Lord, speaking to God in psalms, hymns, and cries of anguish. Calling on the Lord in every trouble, we pray, praise, and give thanks to Him for His continued care, protection, and the hope that is ours by faith. Praying to God is a difficult thing, as our lives are often filled with distractions that crowd out the time we need to set aside for prayer. A Christian disciplines his body and mind, setting aside time every day to be in prayer so that the Holy Spirit might continue to direct and lead our thoughts and words into prayers that are pleasing to God. And through our prayers God reassures us of His protection and salvation. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God, who by the meek endurance of Thine only-begotten Son didst beat down the pride of the old Enemy, help us we beseech Thee, rightly to treasure in our hearts what our Lord hath of His goodness born for our sakes, that after His example we may bear with patience whatsoever things are adverse to us: Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen. (The Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, The Lutheran Liturgy [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House], 246.)

Thursday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

January 21, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: Second Commandment Daily Lectionary: Joel 1:1-20; Romans 10:1-21 You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. (Small Catechism: Second Commandment) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Oh, how often we break this commandment! It seems as if we daily fail to treat the Name of the Lord with the respect, honor, and love that it deserves. From the swear words we speak to parents and friends to the lies that fill our lives, you and I constantly break the Second Commandment. God is not held in esteem, and we do not pray to Him as we should. Praise and thanks are too infrequent on our lips. Instead, our lives are filled with selfish, sinful desires, and our actions are shameful. We do not keep the Second Commandment, and according to the Law, that means we have broken all of the commands of the Lord. What a sad state of affairs for us! Left to our own actions, we would stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment with no hope. Our lives and deeds are all the evidence that God would need to send us to hell. We are sinners who have done no good things. But thanks be to God that we do not stand before Him alone. Paul writes in Romans: "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:3). This means that Jesus is our life and our salvation. He has fulfilled the Law, and because of His death on the Cross, we no longer fear the Day of Judgment. Instead of standing alone in our filthy rags, we are clothed by Christ with His righteousness; by His blood we are purified of all our sins. Because of this great gift given to us by faith, we now die to sin and live to God by following the Ten Commandments out of faithful obedience to the One who has redeemed us. All of this comes to us by the working of the Holy Spirit as we live by faith. Every morning the waters of Baptism drown out the old man and bring to life the new man in Christ. It is this man who is equipped to fear and love God so that we might call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lord, I am your sin, You are my righteousness; therefore I am safe. My sin will not suppress Your righteousness and Your righteousness will not leave me a sinner. Blessed by God, my merciful Lord and Redeemer! I trust in You alone and thus I will never be put to shame. Amen. (Matthew Carver, trans., Lutheran Prayer Companion [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2018], 170.)


January 20, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 47:1-14, 21-23; Romans 9:19-33 The Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son." (Genesis 18:12-13) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sarah was old and well past childbearing years. Nothing on this earth could change the fact that her body had stopped being able to produce a child. So it is no surprise that this woman laughed when she heard the words of the Lord. She knew that she and Abraham could not have a son. However, the Lord had other plans. "Is anything too hard for the Lord? " Time passed, and a son was born. It was a miracle in the eyes of the world but a simple act for the Lord. Often in the midst of our own hardships, we react just like Sarah. God cannot fix this. God won't do that. We laugh at the promises of God and think that our problems are too big, our sins are too great. It's impossible! In our sin-filled flesh, we have created a god who cannot do the impossible. Stop laughing, and just believe. You have a God who does the impossible all the time. He is the Lord, and there is nothing He cannot do. He created the earth out of nothing. He redeemed His people by the death of His innocent Son on the Cross. He forgives sins and gives new life to those who were dead and His enemies. This God does the impossible all the time. He brought forth a son from a womb past the age of giving birth, and He daily forgives our sins and brings new life to us sinners. Nothing is too hard for our God. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lord and Father of all, You looked with favor upon Sarai in her advanced years, putting on her a new name, Sarah, and with it the promise of multitudinous blessings from her aged womb. Give us a youthful hope in the joy of our own new name, being baptized into the promised Messiah that we, too, might be fruitful in Your kingdom, abounding in the works of Your Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Scot A. Kinnaman, ed., Treasury of Daily Prayer [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2008], 1137.)

Tuesday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

January 19, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Exodus 33:12-23 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 44:1-16, 23-29; Romans 9:1-18 "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The Lord.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." (Exodus 33:19) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The goodness of the Lord is about to pass by Moses, but he cannot see it. The glory of the Lord, the face of the Lord, is too great for sinful man to see. So in His grace and mercy, God places His hand over Moses, sheltering him until He goes by. Then God removes the hand, and Moses can see the back of the Lord. God is gracious to Moses for he has asked for something he cannot have. The Lord goes out of His way to show Moses that He will be with Moses no matter what. Why Moses? What great things has this man done to deserve all these blessings given to him by God? Looking at the life of Moses, we can see that he is not greater than any other man. He has made mistakes, he has sinned, and there is nothing in his flesh that sets him apart. Yet, throughout his life the Lord has provided and cared for him. This has all been done because the Lord is gracious to whom He will be gracious. So it is also for us. We are all sinners. We were conceived in sin, and we daily add to our sins in thought, word, and deed. We have done nothing to merit God's grace and mercy. However, God has chosen to show mercy to us by sending His Son into the world. Why? Because God is gracious to whom He will be gracious, and this is the heart of the Gospel. For God so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus to suffer and die on the Cross so that we might receive eternal life. We have done nothing to earn it. It all comes by grace which is brought to us by the Holy Spirit. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God the Holy Ghost, who proceedest from the Father and the Son and with them art coeternal in one undivided substance, we worship Thee, we honor, praise, and magnify Thee, we thank Thee for Thy bounties; especially, that by grace Thou hast called us and brought us to the holy Christian faith and still unceasingly does perform Thy work in us. Because we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him. Amen. (F. E. Pasche, Daily Bread [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1926], 234.)

The Confession of St. Peter

January 18, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Mark 8:27-9:1 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 40:1-4; 43:1-12; Romans 8:18-39 "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." (Mark 8:33) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In the text for today we see how quickly Peter goes from a great confession of faith upon which the Church is built to the depths of sin and the power of the devil. How could such a thing happen in such a short period of time? How could Peter go from acknowledging Christ to being a pawn of the devil? It all comes down to things of God versus the things of men. When Peter was focused on listening to God's Word and confessing it back to God, then Peter's mind was on the things of God. However, as soon as Peter began to rebuke Jesus and His plan for the salvation of the world by His death on the Cross, then Peter's mind was on the things of man. He had fallen into sin and the power of Satan. We should think on this distinction. A Christian must daily struggle to put his mind on the things of God. Our lives are filled with distractions. We struggle against our own flesh and blood. Our mind constantly desires to set itself above the things of God. This is sinful; we must repent of it, or we will be setting our minds on the things of man. Jesus called Peter out for his sin. He rebuked him for desiring the things of Satan rather than setting his mind on the things of God. So it is with us, for when we are in church and as we hear the words of the Law proclaimed into our ears, Christ comes and rebukes us for our unbelief. By faith, upon hearing this message of the Law, we repent of our sin. Then our hearts and minds are ready for the things of God which are brought to us by the proclamation of the Gospel, the Word of grace, mercy, and peace that comes to us and brings healing by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross for us. Listen to that Word. Let the things of God be ever before you. Stand firm in faith, setting your mind on Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. One thing's needful; Lord, this treasure. Teach me highly to regard. All else, though it first gives pleasure, Is a yoke that presses hard! Beneath it the heart is still fretting and striving, No lasting happiness ever deriving. This one thing is needful; all others are vain I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain! ("One Thing's Needful" LSB 536, st.1)

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

January 17, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: John 2:1-11 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 39:1-10, 17-29; Romans 7:21-8:17 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. A wedding is supposed to be a joyous celebration of God's creation. Here a man and woman are united before God and are to be fruitful and multiply. However, because of sin, this wedding at Cana is about to be a time of great sadness. The wine has run out and the party is about to be over until Mary takes action and brings a request to her son. The wedding of Cana shows to us the great lengths that Christ will go in order to help those in need. Here at the request of His mother, Jesus changes water into wine in order that the newly married groom might not be dishonored in the sight of his guests. John tells us that this was the first sign that revealed Jesus' glory. Upon seeing this first miracle the Lord's disciples believed that this was the Christ. Our Savior gives to His people. Jesus reveals His glory during this season of Epiphany so that our faith might grow in the knowledge that our Savior has come into this world to set right that which has been corrupted by sin. Christ came to restore creation, He came to set right that which has been broken by the fall into sin. To bring peace between God and men. Jesus does this through death on the Cross. Daily we receive from the Lord more than we deserve and more than we can ever ask. He reveals Himself to us in the transformation of everyday things. Bread and wine when combined with the Word of God deliver Christ's Body and Blood. Water when combined with the Word becomes a life-giving washing and rebirth by the Spirit of God. By the proclamation of His Word in church, Christ is revealed to His people. As your pastor speaks to you the Law, as he points out your sins, God's will is revealed to you. As the Gospel is proclaimed and your sins are forgiven, Christ's glory is manifested for you. These things are needed so that we might see and hear the great things of God. Then we, like the disciples, by faith believe that Jesus is the Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen Almighty and everlasting God, who governs all things in heaven and on earth, mercifully hear the prayers of Your people and grant us Your peace through all our days; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Second Sunday after the Epiphany)

Saturday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 16, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Introit for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany (Psalm 66:1-5, 20; antiphon: Psalm 66:4; 92:1) Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 38:1-23; Romans 7:1-20 All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name. (From the Introit for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Go for a walk in the countryside on a fine spring day. See the deer in the meadow, the clouds floating by, and the trees growing on the hilltops. Listen to the songs of the birds, the babbling brook, and the spring peepers. Everything in this world sings praises to the Lord. God has created the earth so that it might sing the glory of His Name. All around you, creation gives evidence to the greatness of God. Man could never create the things found in nature: stars in the heavens, sun, moon, and all the planets. It is God who set them into place. He set forth the boundaries of the seas, and it is He who brings forth the snow, rain, and the seasons. God does this by the power of His Word. In the Introit, the psalmist writes, "Come and see what God has done; he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man." We who have been given faith in Christ see and understand this awesomeness of God. Our lives are filled with it. The family you have been given, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the church you attend--all of it comes because of God's work in your life. These things are blessings sent by God, gifts that are yours because of Christ, your redeemer. We give thanks to God each and every day, for He has sent forth His Son into the world to save sinners. Jesus' death on the Cross has guaranteed that the Lord will not reject our prayers or remove His steadfast love from us. For this we sing praise to God all our days. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O eternal and merciful God, I give You eternal thanks that You have not only given me body and soul, but also have provided me with many gifts of soul, body, and possessions. You, O highest Wisdom, teach knowledge to all people. Therefore, if I experience anything that is good, this shows Your abounding grace toward me. Without Your light my mind is darkness. Without Your grace, my will is captive. Whatever we know is learned either from the light of nature or from the revelation of the Word. Both come from You. Amen. (Johann Gerhard, Meditations on Divine Mercy [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2003], 81.)

Friday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 15, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 8:6-13 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 37:15-28; Romans 6:1-23 The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. (1 Kings 8:12) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The temple of the Lord is complete. The Ark of the Covenant is set into place, and now the glory of the Lord arrives. A thick cloud of darkness fills the house of the Lord, and for their own safety, the priests cannot stand in His presence. The Holy One of Israel chooses to be revealed in this way so that mankind might survive His coming. The cloud of darkness reveals to the people the presence of God. Now this seems out of place to us because we know that God is light of light, yet in His wisdom, He decides to dwell in darkness. God does such a thing so that the creation might come to understand that the creator is unknowable without the light of Christ. Only things that are holy can dwell in the divine presence of the Father. Sinners can only come into the presence of the almighty Father if they are clothed in Christ. Jesus' blood shed on the Cross made us holy. At the moment of Jesus' death, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies and the rest of the temple darkness was torn in two. The cloud of darkness was brought forth into the light that shone forth from the Cross. From that moment on, there is no separation between the Father and those in Christ. Jesus has removed the barrier, and we are now holy. Now the Father is revealed in the light of Christ. As forgiven and redeemed people of God, we no longer live our lives in the darkness of sin and death. Jesus has brought us into the family of God. We, as children of the light, can now be in the presence of God. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty, everlasting God, Lord, heavenly Father, whose Word is a lamp to our feet and light on our way: Open and enlighten my mind that I may understand thy Word purely, clearly, and devoutly, and then having understood it aright, fashion my life in accord with it, in order that I may never displease thy majesty; through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our dear Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. (Johannes Bugenhagen, Minister's Prayer Book, [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1986], 155.)

Thursday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 14, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Luke 2:41-52 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 36:33-37:14; Romans 5:1-21 "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The young boy, Jesus, was missing. His parents were worried, and you can imagine how frantic his mother became as the days passed. This gift of God, the firstborn son, a miraculous conception and a child who was to save His people from their sins, was gone. Mary and Joseph could not find Him until they went once more to the temple. The fear gave way to a mix of relief and anger. "Why have you treated us so?" Yet in the respectful response of this young man, we have words to live by: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" Jesus had to be where God the Father dwells. In order for faith to form, be fed, and continue to thrive, one must be in the presence of God. We must continually hear and receive God's gifts. Many people think that God can be found anywhere and that people should be free to find Him in the things of this world. But that is not the truth. Paul tells us that it is only through Christ that we "have also obtained access by faith into this grace" (Romans 5:2). So we must stop running around looking for Jesus in all the wrong places. Stop searching for Him in the great outdoors, the self-help books, the podcasts, and the internet. Look for Him where He has always been. Go to church, for it is there that the Word of God is proclaimed in all its truth and purity. Go where the people of God gather to receive Christ, where the Law is spoken loudly and clearly, where sin is pointed out so that confession can take place. Go to where the Cross is proclaimed, where the Gospel is spoken in your ears. Go to the altar where the Sacraments are administered according to the Gospel and where Jesus is given to you so that all your sins are forgiven. Today, Jesus shows us how we are to live. Do not search for Him in all the wrong places because He is in the temple, in the presence of His Father. This is also where we need to be. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. Amen. (Psalm 26:8)

Wednesday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 13, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: First Commandment Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 36:13-28; Romans 4:1-25 Thou shall have no other gods before Me. (Small Catechism: First Commandment) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In theory, this commandment seems like a simple thing to do. Luther tells us to "fear, love, and trust in God above all things." If we do this, we have fulfilled the commandment. It sounds easy, yet every day we build gods of stone, wood, and paper, bowing down to the material things made by the hands of man. We serve inanimate objects that are easily destroyed by rust and decay. We place these things ever before us and look to them for all good in our lives. We offer sacrifices to them, giving them our time, our attention, and our resources. Your life is full of such idols, from the likes you crave on social media to the latest and greatest stuff that you cannot live without. These gods will not provide for you. They cannot help you in time of need, they do not listen to your prayers, and they most certainly will not save your soul from hell. The truth laid out in the First Commandment is quite simple. There is only one God in heaven. He alone created and still sustains all things. We exist only because the Word that became flesh, Jesus Christ, continues to speak into this world of darkness and death. He is God, and we are to have no other. It is only by God's grace that we are able to knock down our false gods and see the truth. By faith we can confess that we do not follow the First Commandment as we should, that we have failed to do what God demands, and that we need help. Jesus is our help. He alone fulfilled the First Commandment. He alone takes our sin. It is His suffering and death on the Cross that has enabled us to receive God's mercy. We are forgiven because of Jesus, and by the power of the Spirit given to us in Baptism, we are by daily contrition and repentance able to turn away from false idols and look to God alone. For there is no other god. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Eternal God, You teach me and ask me to rely on You in all things. It is Your earnest desire to be my God. Therefore, I must regard You as God or suffer the loss of eternal salvation. My heart shall neither build nor rely on anything else, whether it be property, honor, wisdom, power, purity, or any other creature. Amen. (Martin Luther, The Lord Will Answer, [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2004], 55.)

Tuesday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 12, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 34:1-24; Romans 3:19-31 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. How many times have you felt foolish? Maybe it was something you said or did in front of family or friends. No matter what it was, all of us have done something that was not wise. We make mistakes. Because of sin, all of us show a lack of good sense. Our lives are filled with failures to follow God's Word. On top of all this foolishness, our nature desires to justify itself. Have you ever noticed how so many religions have you doing something? Most non-Christian beliefs and, sadly, even a lot of Christian churches make you think you have to earn salvation, that you have to work really hard in order to earn God's favor. But it's all a lie. God chose what is foolish in the eyes of the world in order to shame the strong. God chose the Cross, suffering, and death of His righteous Son in order to bring about your salvation. The world says that it is foolish and weak, but our Lord chose to work in this way. The death of Christ on the Cross is the ultimate sign of weakness, yet it is this act which is the strength of God and brings about your justification. Jesus died so that we might be forgiven of all our sins. Jesus did everything, and we did nothing. What foolishness in the eyes of the world! And now, because of this gift given by the Holy Spirit, we have God's wisdom, and faith in Jesus which brings to us Jesus' righteousness, sanctification, and eternal redemption. So now we boast only in the Lord. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. I thank you, dear Lord Jesus, that belonging to you is not dependent on my half-completed, worthless deeds. My sincere intention is to be with you always and be like you. However, I 'm constantly reminded of how much is lacking. Time and time again I must confess that I failed. You know that Lord. You have seen and see all the shortcomings I can't see. I praise you for not looking at my shortcomings when I come to you. Instead, you let me exchange them for your righteousness and those priceless cloths that can conceal all my misery and make me worthy of meeting your father with you. Thank you, my Lord Jesus. Amen. (Bo Giertz, To Live with Christ [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2008], 434.)

Monday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 11, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Isaiah 42:1-7 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 33:1-20; Romans 3:1-18 Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: "I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light to the nations." (Isaiah 42:5-6) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In these words of Isaiah, we have a short yet powerful summary of who the Lord is and what He does for all. Our world exists because God created it. He alone formed the land, spread out the heavens in all their glory, and provides for all living things. You live, breathe, and flourish in this world on account of the Lord's breath being in you. In the midst of all the troubles and turmoil that fill this world and our lives, this is a comfort. God is in control of everything, His power and might are constant, and you need not fear anything. This is a good thing for us to remember because our flesh and blood fear everything. Sin has so corrupted us that we are constantly focused on our own desires and impulses, and when we don't get what we expect, we are afraid. Our eyes are blinded by sin, and we seek not the light of God's justice, but rather the lying darkness of the dungeon. Prisoners of our own devices, we need Isaiah's reminder, for without it, we begin to believe that the world revolves around us and that we are in charge of everything. But revealed in the light of this Holy Scripture is the truth. Jesus is the chosen servant of the Lord who alone brings forth justice to you and to all people. This justice comes by Christ's death on the Cross. On the Tree your Savior paid the price for your sins. Because of Jesus's sacrifice, you have been made righteous. By the Spirit of God, you are called to that righteousness. God takes your hand in Baptism, faith comes to you in the water and Word, and God keeps you in that faith by the power of His Holy Spirit all the days of your life. You are a light to the nations all because of Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Heavenly Father, we give thanks for all things that You have made. Please help us to be ever mindful of the work You continue to do for us. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

The Baptism of Our Lord

January 10, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Matthew 3:13-17 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-32; Romans 2:17-29 "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Baptism of Jesus is a perfect reading for us during the season of Epiphany because the season of Epiphany is all about Jesus' being revealed for you. On the banks of the Jordan River, your Savior received your sins. He came to be baptized by his cousin John so that all righteousness would be fulfilled. Jesus had to be baptized by John because in this action He shows us that He puts Himself in our place. Luther writes, "Christ accepted it from John for the reason that He was entering into our stead, indeed our person, that is, becoming a sinner for us, taking upon Himself the sins which He had not committed, and wiping them out and drowning them in His Holy Baptism." By this act, all water, when combined with the Holy Word of God, becomes "a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration" (Small Catechism: The Power of Baptism). This means that as Christ takes our sins, we receive His righteousness. What a great gift that is now yours in Christ! At the moment of His Baptism, the other two Persons of the Trinity made an appearance to reveal to the world the importance of who Jesus is and what He would accomplish. The Holy Spirit descended like a dove and rested on Jesus, signifying to us that God Himself resides in this man. Then the voice of the Father spoke: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased." What a message! Have you ever thought about the significance of this? Jesus receives your sins, He gives to you His righteousness, and then He comes up from the water and sets His face toward the Cross. The Lamb of God heads toward His death without complaint. He goes to die for you. God the Father is pleased with His Son because He alone is the One who can fulfill all righteousness, and because He does this, God is pleased with you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Father in heaven, at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized in His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life; 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 the Baptism of Our Lord)