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ASL Reflections

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.

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)

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)

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)

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)

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 22:63-64) 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)

Tuesday of Holy Week

March 30, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Mark 14:1-15:47 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 9:29-10:20; Hebrews 3:1-19 "She has anointed My body for burial ahead of time." (Mark 14:8) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus was always going to die. It was prophesied about Him in the Old Testament. His name shows it. Jesus means "Yahweh saves." Saving happens by blood. Salvation comes through death. His death. His once-for-all death. It was coming. Jesus knew it. He proclaimed it throughout His ministry. This woman knew it, too. She poured myrrh over Jesus. She got Him ready to die. He was going to die. He was going to die for sins. Sins of judging. Of wanting money instead of helping those in need. He would die for all sins. He wouldn't just die, He would be buried. This woman got Him ready for that. But He wouldn't just die and be buried. He would rise from the dead. He paid for sin. Defeated the devil. Conquered death. His death did it. His resurrection proved it. What Jesus preached came to pass. The woman's preparation was fulfilled. It must be so or you would be damned. Just as that myrrh did Jesus' body no good unless it was poured on Him by this woman, so also Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection do you no good unless they're given to you. They're given to you by Christ's Woman, His Bride, the Church. It's within the Church, at the font, that you're buried with Christ and raised with Him. You're fed with His crucified, dead, buried, and raised Body and Blood. His death-defeating death, life-giving resurrection, and empty tomb are and will be yours. Christ was buried and raised. You will die, you will be raised. You will be prepared for burial, but you will rise victorious because Christ rose victorious for you. Jesus died for you. He was buried for you. He was raised for you. You'll rise, too. Just like He did. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O my God, my rock and tower, Grant that in Your death I trust, Knowing death has lost its power Since You crushed it in the dust. Savior, let Your agony Ever help and comfort me; When I die be my protection, Light and life and resurrection. ("Jesus, Grant That Balm and Healing" LSB 421. st.5)

Monday of Holy Week

March 29, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: John 12:1-43 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 9:1-28; Hebrews 2:1-18 [The Greeks said to Philip], "Sir, we want to see Jesus." Jesus answered, "The hour has come that the Son of Man be glorified." (John 12:21, 23) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus is a preacher. Why does He preach? He preaches because He was sent "to preach the gospel to the poor. . . to proclaim liberty to the captives. . . to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD" (Luke 4:18-19). What does He preach? Well, the Gospel, liberty, and the year of the Lord's favor--that's what "acceptable year of the LORD" means. Okay. . . so, how does He do all that? Well, that's what we learn from what happens when some Greeks come for Passover in Jerusalem, and they seek out Jesus. Those Greeks wanted to see Jesus. That's what they told Philip, and Philip and Andrew went and told Jesus. So what does Jesus do when He's told, "Hey, Jesus, these Greeks want to see you"? He preaches. He preaches about Himself. He preaches about how you should "see" Him, how you should look at Him, what you should think about Him. How's that? As the Crucified One. "Jesus Christ crucified" is what Jesus Christ preaches. His hour had come. Soon He would be seated in glory, enthroned on Calvary's hill. Jesus wants those Greeks to see Him with their ears. To believe in Him as the One who would save them by death and resurrection. But not just them. Jesus saves all sinners. "When I am exalted from the earth, I will draw all to myself" (John 12:32). You're drawn to Him; your sin is drawn to Him. He bears it for you. That's His glory, saving you. "That's why I came to this hour," He declares (John 12:27). Jesus wants you to hear this same message that He preached to the Greeks that Holy Week. He sends your preacher to deliver it. Any preacher worth his salt will take his preaching cue from Jesus. He'll preach to you in such a way that you see Jesus with your ears, see Him as the Crucified One--the One crucified for you. That's His glory. His glory is saving you. That's why He was born. It's why He went the way to Calvary FOR YOU. That's Jesus' own message. Preached even to you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle, Sing the ending of the fray. Now above the cross, the trophy, Sound the loud triumphant lay; Tell how Christ, the world's redeemer, As a victim won the day. ("Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle" LSB 454. st.1)

Palmarum

March 28, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Matthew 21:1-9 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 8:1-32; Hebrews 1:1-14 Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then [they] cried out: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matthew 21:8–9) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. They emptied the tree. They took what was pleasant and pleasing to the eye. It's almost as if they couldn't do anything else. It wasn't the branches that made them do it. It was the fruit. It was able to make them wise. That's what he said. The serpent seemed to be right, and "then the eyes of both of them were opened" (Genesis 3:7), and we all know the rest: Adam and Eve hid from God, were cast out of the garden, and were barred from the Tree of Life. The crowd in Matthew 21 emptied the trees. They took the branches and cast them all over the road. "Hosanna!" was their cry. "Save us, Son of David!" They needed to be ready for His coming. Palm branches, the symbol of peace, were the pavement for a donkey, the animal of peace, who was ridden by Jesus, the Prince of Peace. We want empty trees, as if His coming is dependent on our behavior. We do need to repent. Changing your behavior, putting away your icky deeds, isn't repentance. (Though you should stop all those things!) They are just fruits, signs of bad roots. Repentance is a complete change in heart, soul, mind, and strength--a change only Jesus, the Gardener of Eden, can do. The point of Holy Week isn't the emptying of trees, isn't preparing Jesus' way. Holy Week is Jesus making His way, straight to the Cross, that He might hang upon the Tree for you. There He bears not only your bad fruit but rotten roots, too, being the most rotten tree and fruit ever in your place--"He became sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21)--to make you the very righteousness and perfection of God. Repent of thinking you've got to empty trees to make way for Jesus. Holy Week is about His coming to fill a Tree for you and giving to you the fruits of His Cross: His water and His blood (John 19:34), His Baptism and Supper. Through these, the Spirit produces His fruit (Galatians 5), and grafts you into Jesus (Romans 11). The Tree of Life is yours because He filled the Tree for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection; 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 Palmarum)

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

March 27, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Introit for Palmarum (Psalm 24:7-10; antiphon: Psalm 118:26) Daily Lectionary: Exodus 7:1-25; Mark 16:1-20 "Yahweh is a warrior in war." (Psalm 24:8) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Yahweh is the Name God gave Himself in the Old Testament. It's related to the Hebrew for "I AM" (Exodus 4). What sort of God is I AM? He's the God who saves, who redeems, who pardons iniquity, transgression, and sin (Exodus 34). "Yahweh is a man of war; Yahweh is His name" (Exodus 15). Or as the psalm puts it: "Yahweh is a mighty man of war" (Psalm 24). That's what kings do, after all. They fight for their people. They save them, protect them, care for them. Good kings only do that. That's the sort of King I AM is. He's the best King. He puts everything on the line for the sake of His people. He would do anything for His people, even die for them. That's what He does. Jesus is that I AM. His death and resurrection prove that. Calvary is the final battle of the war. Not only the war between God and the devil. Not only the war that God makes against sin. It's also the war He wages against sinners. That battle is finished! Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, spoke forth that exact royal proclamation: "It is finished!" Jesus is the God who saves, who redeems, who pardons iniquity, transgression, and sin. Yours! He shed His blood for our sins, but not only ours--the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He brought you into Himself and His Kingdom through the waters of Holy Baptism. He's now your King, your Brother. He gives you the feast of feasts--His purchase price--in the Supper of His Body and Blood for you for the forgiveness of sins. He will bring you into the place where there's no more war, no more crying, no more pain, no more death, no more sin. He died. He rose. He has baptized. He has fed. He's King. Good King. Your King. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Now he who bore for mortals' sake The cross and all its pains And chose a servant's form to take, The King of glory reigns. Hosanna to the Savior's name Till heaven's rafters ring, And all the ransomed host proclaim "Behold, behold your King!" ("No Tramp of Soldiers' Marching Feet" LSB 444, st.4)

The Annunciation of Our Lord

March 25, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Luke 1:26-38 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 4:19-31; Mark 15:16-32 "No sermon from God will be impossible." (Luke 1:37) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. What the Lord says goes. It must happen if He says it. He created the universe by speaking, preaching. Darkness can't become light. Water can't become dry ground. Impossible! Unless, of course, the Lord preaches to them! So it is with all His promises. They win the day. They happen just as the Lord intends them to, when the Lord intends them to. You can't stop it. Can't delay it. Can't hurry it along, either. So it was that Gabriel showed up at Virgin Mary's door. "You have found favor with God." Must be true. The angel preached it! Gabriel, arch-angel of God, is a true messenger of what God has to say. Favor with God, not with Mary. Favor from God to Mary. His for her. That's why she's highly favored. Just like Noah was. Not because they were awesomely good in the God department. No, but they were saved by the Lord's steadfast love alone. Jesus born from a Virgin. Impossible! But then He was. The baby can't be God! Impossible. "The one born from you will be called holy, the Son of God." God can't die! But then He did. Dead people stay dead! But then He didn't. "Of His kingdom there will be no end." You see, "No sermon from God will be impossible." So also for you. If He says you're baptized and a child of God the Father, that's what you are. If Jesus says, "I forgive you," you're forgiven. That can't be His Body and Blood! Of course it is. That's what He says it is: "This is My body, this is My blood for you for the forgiveness of sins." The Lord preaches the impossible. Impossible for us, but not for Him. Light from darkness. Earth from water. Son of God born of a virgin. God the Son dead. God the Son raised. All for you. Adoption in water and Word. Bread and wine that are His Body and Blood. One day you will be brought back to life from your casket. Impossible? No way! Not with God. "No sermon from God will be impossible." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son, Jesus Christ, by the message of the angel to the virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; 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 Annunciation of Our Lord)

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

March 26, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Daily Lectionary: Exodus 5:1-6:1; Mark 15:33-47 After Jesus let out a loud cry, He breathed His last. (Mark 15:37) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus won. At Calvary He won. Calvary wasn't a defeat. His death wasn't a loss. Far from it! It was always the plan. He and His Father--Spirit, too!--ruled the universe and moved history to make sure it happened just at the right time: born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate. He shed His blood, died--victory! And like any good victory, you take a victory lap. "He descended into hell and on the third day rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven." Jesus didn't win for Himself. He came to win for you. He came to win. . . you! You were the prize He was after. From forever He chose you. From forever He planned how He'd win you for Himself. At the right time He put His plan into place, and at just the right time He did it. Crucified, died, buried. You, saved! Risen from the dead, ascended, coming again with glory. You're part of the eternal victory party! You don't have to win your way to Jesus. You don't have to put away your sins. You don't have to do enough good. None of that. Jesus takes your sins. He's the Lamb of God, after all. He does good for you, in your place. His doing good is credited to your account, but even that doesn't save you. That's not His victory for you. That's just icing on the cake. No, His victory is Calvary, and He gives that victory to you. You're baptized into His death, into His resurrection, too! In Holy Absolution, the Keys of the Kingdom, Jesus' Word comes true again and again, "Today, you will be with Me in Paradise." "I forgive you." Three words do it! "This is My body that was given for you; this is My blood that was shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." Jesus won. At Calvary He won. He won you. You're His. His forever and ever. His resurrection proves that. So does your Baptism, His Absolution, His Supper. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Then, for all that wrought my pardon, For Thy sorrows deep and sore, For Thine anguish in the Garden, I will thank Thee evermore, Thank Thee for Thy groaning, sighing, For Thy bleeding and Thy dying, For that last triumphant cry, And shall praise Thee, Lord, on high. ("Christ, the Life of All the Living" LSB 420, st.7)

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

March 24, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: The Ninth Commandment Daily Lectionary: Exodus 4:1-18; Mark 15:1-15 "You shall not covet." (Small Catechism: The Ninth Commandment) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Big problem here. Your heart covets. It wants. There's nothing you can even do about it! You can control your actions, you can stop your passions, your desires from becoming actions, sometimes. As long as you don't like that sin too much. Repent! God commands the impossible. As if the first eight commandments weren't bad enough, He tells us, "I don't just want outward holiness. I want inner holiness in your heart, soul, mind, and strength." The Ninth Commandment reminds us--how easily we forget!--things we learned in all the commandments. Here we see clear as day what God's really driving at: You shall have no other gods. Because all the things we crave, the people we lust after, the desires we give in to, even the desires we don't--all those things are our gods. "You're just telling people they can sin." Not one bit. Don't sin. The Ninth Commandment shows us how terminal our problem is, how deep it goes. Even that passing glance--hell, forever. We have a sinfulness problem. That sinfulness produces desires. Those desires produce actions--sins! And from beginning to end, the diagnosis, the judgment, the penalty, the payment for sinfulness, desires, and sins is the same: death. Thanks be to God Jesus also desired. He desired your place. So he took it at Calvary. He did because Jesus desired to save you. Calvary much. Christ took your desires, your coveting, your lusts, your temptations, as His own. Your sins, too. All of it He claimed. No sins of His own to speak of, no sinful desires even. Yours given to Him by way of imputation, charged to His account, and so no longer charged to yours. "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that we would become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). That's what you are in Jesus. Only in Him do you have a "clean heart." Only in Jesus do you have a right Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Yours through Baptism, through the inspired Word. Jesus' cleansing blood in the Supper. No desiring to suddenly find a clean heart in yourself and your own behavior. You have a clean heart, a not-coveting heart, only in Jesus alone. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Yes, Father, yes most willingly I'll bear what You command Me. My will conforms to Your decree, I'll do what You have asked Me." O wondrous Love, what have You done! The Father offers up His Son, Desiring our salvation. O Lord, how strong You are to save! You lay the One into the grave Who built the earth's foundation. ("A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth" LSB 438, st.3)

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

March 23, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Hebrews 9:11-15 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 2:23-3:22; Mark 14:53-72 He is the Mediator of a new testament so that those who were called would receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Only what Jesus does counts. It counts eternally. It counts forever. What He does, He did once. Once and for all. Calvary counted. Counted for everyone. Jesus' blood paid for everyone, for all time, forever. He "entered once for all into the holy place obtaining an eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12). He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Not just an offering. Priest, too. "High Priest of the good things to come" (Hebrews 9:11). Priest and Sacrifice for each, for all, for you. He, your Lamb. He, your Priest. Calvary much. Easter much. Eternally much. You're called to what Jesus did for you. You have to be called. Baptized. There you are in Christ now and forever. Believe it. It's true. In Jesus. Your Baptism does what Jesus says it does, and by it you "are an heir having the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7). You have the blood, Jesus' blood--"for you for the forgiveness of sins." Way better than other good things you could do for yourself. Jesus is the Mediator of this New Testament, a New Testament for all--"first for the Jew, then for the Gentile" (Romans 1:16) "for we are all sons of Abraham by faith" (Galatians 3:7), "baptized into Christ." (Galatians 3:27). You receive what He gives--that's faith. Faith is receiving. Receiving is believing. Receiving as merit? Unfaith. Receiving as due? Unfaith. Receiving because you have to? Unfaith. Not receiving? Unfaith. Jesus gives, you receive as a free Gift? Faith. Receiving in the faith way--the Jesus gives-for-free-to-you way--well, that faith saves you because Jesus saves you. What He does counts. Counts before God. Counts forever. Counts for all. Counts for you. He gives it to you. You have it. Eternal inheritance. Jesus' for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. What costly sacrifice To cover human sin! Who but Christ Jesus had the right To enter in? His blood, that sprinkled price, So we might be assured That our inheritance in light Has been secured. ("Christ Sits at God's Right Hand" LSB 564, st.4)

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

March 22, 2021 • Pastor Aaron Fenker

Today's Reading: Genesis 22:1-14 Daily Lectionary: Exodus 2:1-33; Mark 14:32-52 Abraham went, sacrificed the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering in his son's place. (Genesis 22:13) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "The wages of sin is death." Tough word. True word. We don't really like that word. I mean, none of us actually wants to die, right? So it's shocking for the Lord to ask Abraham to slaughter his son, and it's even more shocking that Abraham gets after it! What's even most shocking is that Isaac is willing! He keeps going with his dad even after Abraham hinted that Isaac would be the sacrifice. He allows himself to be bound by his 100+ year old dad. What you do deserves death. Sure, we don't think we're all that bad. Maybe we have some bad habits that we're trying to work on to make ourselves better for God, better for those around us. But come on! Death? Really? Yes, really. That's the Lord's assessment of you and your behavior. He's God. You're not. He's Judge. You're not. He's Doctor. You're patient. He's Potter. You're clay. We bristle at that. We don't really like it. Well, we'll really only let God be God in the areas of our life that we don't like. The sins we do like, well, we'll hang on to those, and God shouldn't bring that up. You can try that. You'll end up dead and in hell then. After all, He's God. You're not. "A ram in his son's place." That's what Isaac needed. That's what Abraham needed. You and I need it, too. What we need, God gives. He gives not someone else's promised, only-begotten, and beloved son. He promises to send His own only-begotten and beloved Son. Jesus is that Son, that Ram, that Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He does it where Abraham was told to do it--Moriah, a hill in Jerusalem. Jesus was willing! More so even than Isaac. Jesus willing from eternity to choose and save you. "For the joy set before Him He endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). And Jesus was tired from carrying the wood. "They compelled Simon of Cyrene to carry His cross" (Matthew 27:32). A ram for an Isaac. A Jesus for Isaac and for you. Your Lamb. Your sacrifice for sin. Not just by believing that He is for you, yours even more--baptized into Him, fed with HisBbody and Blood. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. This Lamb is Christ, the soul's great friend, The Lamb of God, our Savior, Whom God the Father chose to send To gain for us His favor. "Go forth My Son," the Father said, "And free My children from their dread Of guilt and condemnation. The wrath and stripes are hard to bear, But by Your passion they will share The fruit of Your salvation." ("A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” LSB 438, st.2)

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