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Higher Things Reflections



Gospel Reflections on Scripture, written by Lutheran Pastors affiliated with Higher Things - Dare to be Lutheran.



Last Build Date: Fri, 22 Sep 2017 03:03:26 -0400

Copyright: All Rights Reserved. Higher Things, Inc. Copyright 2017
 



Friday of the 14th Week after Trinity

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Nehemiah 7:1-4; 8:1-18; 1 Timothy 5:1-16

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. (Nehemiah 8:6-7)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. True worship can only come from faith in God's promises. Apart from His Name and His work, our worship is empty muttering, and God is not present. It's a lie to talk about God as Father and ourselves as His children apart from His Name and Word. Worship in God's Name, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is a rejection of ourselves, our accomplishments, our reputation, our feelings, our way of getting things done. True worship is a rejection of all we think we have to offer to God.

"Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling," goes the old hymn. Not I, but Christ. We come as beggars before God. We have no right to demand anything from Him. "We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment," writes Luther in the Small Catechism (The Lord's Prayer, Fifth Petition).
Here we see that prayer is an act of worship. We open ourselves to God. Guided by His Spirit and Word, we are pointed toward Him. We then give Him back our love, our adoration, our praise, our loyalty, our lives. As we pray we are with our Father in heaven through Christ, and we are made strong as His children by His Spirit. We can only breathe out as often as we breathe in. Godly worship and prayer are the heartbeat of the Christian life. As we are alive in God's promises, fulfilled and given to us in Christ, we worship and pray. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Now let us worship our Lord and our King, Joyfully raising our voices to sing: Praise to the Father, and praise to the Son, Praise to the Spirit, to God, Three in One. (Oh, What Their Joy, LSB 675:4)



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St. Matthew, Apostle

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Matthew 9:9-13

Daily Lectionary: Nehemiah 5:1-16; 6:1-9,15-16; 1 Timothy 4:1-16

[Jesus] said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. (Matthew 9:12b)"

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. When you were younger, did you sing, "Nobody loves me, everybody hates me. Guess I'll go eat worms?" Or did parents or friends sing it to you when you were grumbling about life, acting like it was you against the world? Maybe you still hear it when you get into one of those moods!

Tax collectors in Jesus' day could identify with the song. Nobody loved them, everybody hated them--even the most honest ones (and many were far from that). The only people they could hang around with were other societal rejects and "sinners."

And then came Jesus. He knew Matthew's reputation; He also knew his heart. Here was a man who lived on the fringe, a sinner whom no one wanted to forgive, a reject whose only friends were the dregs of society. To this most unlikely candidate Jesus offers not only forgiveness but a place among His disciples. The ultimate outsider is suddenly an intimate insider. To the additional horror of the "good church people," Matthew brings more sinners to come meet and eat with Jesus.

Sometimes it's hard to realize just how far outside we are by nature, especially if we grow up in a church-going family. Yet the same chasm that separated Matthew and the "sinners" from God separates all of us from God.

In His mercy, Jesus closed the gap, removed the barriers, and filled the isolation with His presence. With Matthew--and with you--He did so, not by ignoring sin or downplaying its enormity, but by directly addressing it as a death-dealing disease and then moving to treat it with His forgiveness.

Like Matthew, we are healed but not permanently cured. We await our resurrection so the restoration of body, mind, and spirit to complete health and holiness can be accomplished. Until then, we seek healing, give thanks as we receive it, and do all we can to extend it to the sick and the suffering--the outsiders and the "sinners" in our own lives. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Praise, Lord, for him whose Gospel Your human life declared. Who, worldly gain forsaking, Your path of suff'ring shared. From all unrighteous mammon, O raise our eyes anew That we in our vocation May rise and follow You. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 518:25)



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Wednesday of the 14th Week after Trinity

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Nehemiah 4:7-23; 1 Timothy 3:1-16

What does such baptizing with water indicate?


It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. (Small Catechism: Baptism, Part 4)

 

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The delight and pleasure of God are in His beloved Son, and that is where you are, too. What is yours is His. What is His is yours. So God delights in us, too. If our hearts would take this in, Martin Luther said, they would burst for joy into a hundred thousand pieces. In a world that is given over to sin, death, and the devil, there is one point where the delight of God dwells: in Baptism. That is where we are in solidarity with Jesus. With Jesus there is God's delight. God, Christ, you. All together like one thing.

God has put His words on you. With the water His Name was put on you at your Baptism. You are not just a doubtful, ambiguous, meaningless, hopeless bunch of molecules bouncing around. You have the Word of God put on you--at your Baptism, most certainly, and at Jesus' Baptism, too. There Jesus is in solidarity with you and you with Him. Because He is the beloved Son, you with Him are beloved sons and daughters. You are delighted in and beloved by God. So you can't just drag along the old man in Adam and his dreary, fearful, guilt-ridden, nobody-loves-me, me-standing apart, all alone way. The Righteous One fulfills all righteousness. And you are in on that where God says you are at--in His delight, with Jesus. As if that were not enough, Christ gives to you His Body and Blood. It goes with you as it goes with Him. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ! I have comfort even stronger: Jesus' cleansing sacrifice. Should a guilty conscience seize me Since my Baptism did release me In a dear forgiving flood, Sprinkling me with Jesus' blood? (God
's Own Child, I Gladly Say It, LSB 594:2)



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Tuesday of the 14th Week after Trinity

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Galatians 5:16-24

Daily Lectionary: Nehemiah 2:11-20; 4:1-6; 1 Timothy 2:1-15

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Every September, particularly on 9/11, we remember an awful time when we were brutally shown that there are no limits to the evils of sin. As those towers fell, people looked on in horror and asked themselves, "How could anyone do such a thing?" Thousands of people flooded into churches, looking for a quick answer to the meaning of life and how this could have happened.

We should be as horrified by our own sins as we were by the sins committed on that day in September 2001. We are sinners and deserving of death. Yet, Christ comes to us to be the sacrifice that we need to enter into our final rest. It is Christ's love that He gives to us freely and by no merit of our own. Yes, we should be horrified by our sins and repent, yet also be in remembrance of our Baptism, at which Christ poured out on us His Holy Spirit.

The fruit of this Holy Spirit is undeniable, for it is a description of Christ Himself. Loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, good, etc. are all adjectives that describe the Triune God, and St. Paul urges us to strive for them through our Christian freedom. We have been crucified with Christ and the flesh so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Almighty, everlasting God, Your Son has assured forgiveness of sins and deliverance from eternal death. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that our faith in Christ may increase daily and that we may hold fast to the hope that on the Last Day we shall be raised again in glory to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Collect for the Hope of Eternal Life in Christ)



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Monday of the 14th Week after Trinity

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Proverbs 4:10-23

Daily Lectionary: Nehemiah 1:1-2:10; 1 Timothy 1:1-20

My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. (Proverbs 4:20-22)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther in his table of duties quoted Ephesians as scriptural instructions for parents regarding the education of their children. He quoted, "Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Likewise, Solomon addresses his sons that they might listen and hear the life-giving Word of God. Solomon asks his sons not only to hear them but also to "not let them escape from their sight and to keep them within their hearts."

This is just how the Word of God works within us. The Word of God is taught to us, it is poured over us in Baptism, and it is fed to us in the Lord's Supper. John 1:1 tells us, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." This Word is our Lord Jesus Christ and He was made flesh and born of a virgin, He suffered and was buried, and rose again from death to life, and Christ (the Word) did all of this for us out of His Divine love and compassion for us, His creation.

This Word, that is our Lord Jesus Christ, is life to all those who receive it! How wonderful it is that we have His own Church where He gives us His Word, gives us Himself, each and every Sunday and even for all eternity! This Word brings us life and healing to our flesh, now and forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Thy strong word did cleave the darkness; At Thy speaking it was done. For created light we thank Thee, While Thine ordered seasons run. Alleluia, alleluia, Praise to Thee who light dost send! Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia without end! (Thy Strong Word, LSB 578:1)



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The 14th Sunday after Trinity

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Luke 17:11-19

Daily Lectionary: 2 Chronicles 36:1-23; Colossians 4:1-18

Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." (Luke17:17-19)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." This is the pronouncement we all long to hear from Jesus Himself! We may long to hear those sweet, sweet words from the holy lips of our Savior. Perhaps we are not far off from being lepers because of our sins!
We are sinners. Sin brings illness, pain, affliction, and soon enough it brings death itself. Our Lord teaches us that, "the wages of sin is death!" So perhaps we have more in common with the thankful leper than we might think!

But what is better is that God has held no grudge against us--the ones who are ill, in pain, are afflicted, and the dying. Rather, God sent His Son to become that very sin and to take on that pain, to be stricken, smitten, and afflicted, and even die that death for us, that we might live forever. It is in this death that we are baptized and from the merits of the cross that we dine. And we hear the words from Christ's under-shepherds, "Rise, your sins are forgiven you."

Daily we are raised in our Baptism to the newness of life that has been given to us by Christ our Lord. Let us give thanks like the leper who turned back and cried in a loud voice praising Him. Let us proclaim the grace and mercy that has been granted to us through Christ, for Christ has healed us both body and soul. He has given His whole self so that when our day of dying comes we, too, will hear Him proclaim, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Come in poverty and meanness, Come defiled, without, within; From infection and uncleanness, From the leprosy of sin, Wash your robes and make them white; Ye shall walk with God in light. (Come to Calvary's Holy Mountain LSB 435:2)



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Saturday of the 13th Week after Trinity

Sat, 16 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: 2 Chronicles 35:1-7, 16-25; Colossians 3:1-25

Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psalm 84:9-10 from the Introit for Trinity 14)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Psalmist once recorded, "Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!" Often times it can feel like God has hidden His face from us and has allowed us to go astray into the land of the wicked. We are attacked daily by the evil one and the forces which are in his command. We continually come face to face with sin, death, and the devil. What are we to do in these times of distress?
We are to call upon the name of the Lord, for He has inclined His glorious ears and hears our prayers and pleas for help. Indeed, He has heard and has attacked on our behalf. God the Father, sent us His shield, His Son Jesus Christ our Lord! He sent His Son to die the death of us all and to be raised that we, too, shall have everlasting life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
As we sin greatly each day, we are to call upon God in repentance and pray, praise, and give thanks that God the Father looks at His Anointed One, the Messiah on the cross, and finds us not guilty of our sins. This is full payment for sin! So we join in prayer with the Psalmist and pray that God would look at His Anointed Son, Jesus Christ, and by such grant us everlasting life through Him. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence, And with fear and trembling stand; Ponder nothing earthly-minded, For with blessing in His hand, Christ our God to earth descending, Comes our homage to demand. (Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, LSB 621:1)



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Friday of the 13th Week after Trinity

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: 2 Chronicles 34:1-4, 8-11, 14-33; Colossians 2:8-23

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them (2 Chronicles 34:1-4)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. While all religious people worship, it doesn't follow that all worship is in the Spirit and truth. Worship can be false if it's directed at a false god or to the true God in a false way. Only worship that is interchangeable with faith in God's promises, that is on the receiving end of God's blessings in Jesus Christ, can rightly be called worship in the Spirit and truth. And the thing is, worship in the Spirit and truth doesn't seek to earn God's favor. It revels in the divine favor that is already ours. True worship is not our reaching up to God; it's God's reaching down to us through the priesthood of Jesus. It's God drawing us into His death and life most definitely through Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord's Supper.
The worship of the Church doesn't begin with us, but with the One who is worshipped. It doesn't focus on our faith, but rather on the Object of our faith: the crucified, risen, and reigning Christ. A people who begin worship only with, "We make our beginning in the Name of the Father..." miss the point completely. Just as Josiah does, the Church begins Her praise and thanks with God, who has caused His Salvation to dwell among us in His Word, Jesus Christ. This God delights to serve us with the gifts of His salvation, Word, water, bread, and wine, both today and forever because His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. In the Name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The gifts are there each day The holy Word is read; God's children listen, hear, Receive and they are fed. Christ fills them with Himself, Blest words that give them life, Restoring and refreshing Them from this world's strife. (The Gifts Christ Freely Gives, LSB 602:4)



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Holy Cross Day

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: John 12:20-33

Daily Lectionary: 2 Chronicles 33:1-25; Colossians 1:24-2:7

Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:31-33)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In the desert, the Israelites were struck down by fiery snakes, that they might repent and turn back to God. Many of the Israelites died. God then told Moses to place a fiery snake upon a pole and lift it high so that all who would look at the snake lifted up would surely live. In their sin, God saved them.

We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God and deserve death and hell for our offenses toward God. Christ proclaims that He is the serpent that shall be lifted up for all nations to see. And so He was. Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we would not die, but rather we would live and live eternally!
As Christ predicted His death to His disciples, Christ points to the cross. Christ points to the pole that He would hang from, high above the earth. Christ points to the cross as the symbol of His own death. Christ points to His own death and glory so that by this death all nations would be drawn to Him. And so we have been and we are now called His Bride, His Church, and His Body. And as His Church, we continue to be fed with all the merits He won for us by being lifted up. He gives to us water, Body and Blood from His side. It is by this that we are forgiven, edified, and brought into eternal life. Praise be to the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be the people of God. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Come to Calv'ry's holy mountain, Sinners, ruined by the fall; Here a pure and healing fountain Flows for you, for me, for all, In a full, perpetual tide, Opened when our Savior died. (Come to Calvary's Holy Mountain, LSB 435:1)



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Wednesday of the 13th Week after Trinity

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: 2 Chronicles 32:1-22; Colossians 2:8-23

How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God's word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three: "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ, our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying." (Small Catechism: Baptism Part 3)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. If you say, "My baptism saves me, because it gives me Jesus," then most who call themselves "Christians" will think you are not saved. Who are you going to believe? Them or Jesus?

The world simply thinks that Baptism is something man does. It is not. It is God's work. As we have seen in the readings this week, God does His work through means. Yes, a pastor baptizes, pours on the water on. The parents bring the child. In Baptism, God gives you something. St. Paul says what it is: A "washing of new birth." That echoes Jesus' own words that baptism is to be born "from above, by water and the Spirit." (John 3:5).

When you are baptized, God attaches His Word to that water and makes you a promise. His promise is that now you, the one being baptized, can be certain that everything Jesus did, He did FOR YOU. And what is it that Jesus is giving you in Baptism? He is giving you what He accomplished on the cross: forgiveness of sins. By that washing of water and the Word, you are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3), buried and raised with Christ (Romans 6), and saved with a clean conscience (1 Peter 3). Baptism is the means by which what Jesus did is given to you, just as when someone gives you a gift, the box and wrapping paper are the means by which that gift is delivered. It is not the water in and of itself, but what the Word in that water promises, which is forgiveness and new life. All yours. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

In a wat'ry grave are buried All our sins that Jesus carried; Christ, the Ark of Life, has ferried Us across death's raging flood. (Water, Blood and Spirit Crying, LSB 597:2) 



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Tuesday of the 13th Week after Trinity

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Galatians 3:15-22

Daily Lectionary: 2 Chronicles 31:1-21; Philippians 4:1-23

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:21-22)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Curb, mirror, and guide. The Law has its functions! It also is a weight which bears down on us sinners to show us our faults and failures. But is it contrary to God's own promises? St. Paul says, "NO!" Rather St. Paul teaches the Galatians and us that Scripture (Law) imprisons us in our sin but that the Law does not stand apart from the Gospel!

What if the Law of God had never been given to Moses? What if we were free to bask in the cesspool of sin? If this were the case we would certainly live life to the flesh and die to the flesh. But as it is, God gave us His Holy Law, and Christ came to us born of a virgin to fulfill that Law and to take the punishment for us! The Law does not fight the Gospel as though they were foes. Instead, the Law shows us our failure to be able to save ourselves and is placed on the back of Christ, that we might be seen as lawful before the Father.

Christ takes the Law of Moses from the mountain and has it nailed to the tree so that we would live in Him and not die in our sins! This is Christ, the Law-bearer, the Law-fulfiller, who bears it in our stead! This is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world and looks at us and proclaims, "innocent." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

To Jesus we for refuge flee, Who from the curse has set us free, And humbly worship at His throne, Saved by His grace through faith alone. (The Law of God Is Good and Wise, LSB 579:6)



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Monday of the 13th Week after Trinity

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: 2 Chronicles 28:8-15

Daily Lectionary: 2 Chronicles 29:1-24; Philippians 3:1-21

And now you intend to make the men and women of Judah and Jerusalem your slaves. But aren't you also guilty of sins against the Lord your God? Now listen to me! Send back your fellow Israelites you have taken as prisoners, for the Lord's fierce anger rests on you." (2 Chronicles 28:10-11)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "But aren't you also guilty of sins against the Lord your God?" Christ speaks quite often about this very thing. "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." And not one stone flew through the air. Here we see the Israelites, God's own people, who have captured men and women of both Judah and Jerusalem and made them slaves and treated them poorly.

Israel cast stone after stone by subjecting their neighbors to slavery and continuously sinning against them. We, too, sin against God our Father like the Israelites and cast stones before we even think. And just like God the Father poured out His anger and it rested on the Israelites, so also He poured out His anger and wrath for us! For us, but not on us! Rather, He poured it onto His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who was crucified for us on the cross.

It was on that cross that our Lord Jesus Christ bore all of God's wrath against sin and became the final sacrifice for that sin! It was on that cross that our Lord became the final broken sinner, not because He sinned but so that we might have forgiveness. And this forgiveness is poured over us in Holy Baptism, in which we are crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, and arise sanctified in Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Salvation unto us has come By God's free grace and favor; Good works cannot avert our doom, They help and save us never. Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, Who did for all the world atone; He is our one Redeemer. (Salvation Unto Us Has Come, LSB 555:1)



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The 13th Sunday after Trinity

Sun, 10 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Luke 10:23-37

Daily Lectionary: 2 Kings 9:1-13; 10:18-29; Philippians 2:12-30

"Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." (Luke 10:36-37)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Who is my neighbor? Would we ever be so bold as to claim that there is not a person out there who is not our neighbor? Yet, most times we find ourselves settling into the most comfortable scenarios. In other words, my neighbor is the closest person like me or the person whom I like the most.
But that, to put it simply, is not God's Word. It is contrary to God's Word. It is even repulsive to the command of God to love one another even as Christ loves the Church. Christ doesn't command us to love only others with whom we sit at the lunch table at school. Rather He calls us to love everyone--even the one on the side of the road who has been beaten and robbed.

But when Christ tells us to "go and do likewise" we are faced with our limitations as sinful humans! We are faced with our absolute need for grace and forgiveness! We are broken by God's Law. But then, when all seems lost, Christ proves to be our true neighbor! It is Christ who, through the cross, binds our wounds and feeds us with His Body and Blood and awakens us each day in our Baptism. Christ proves to be our neighbor time after time by His forgiving and renewing of a right spirit within us. We are loving our neighbors when we point them to the Word and the Sacraments, that they may find rest in the forgiveness of Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, give us an increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain what you have promised, make us love what you have commanded; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Trinity 13)



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Saturday of the 12th Week after Trinity

Sat, 09 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: 2 Kings 6:1-23; Philippians 1:21-2:11

O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? (Psalm 74:1 from the Introit for Trinity 13)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sometimes it just feels like the Lord is out to get you. Whatever happened in school, at home, with your friends, at your job, in the world. To you or someone else. Bad things. Things that, when you stop to think about them, can only make you conclude that God doesn't care. That He's not there. That He's not paying attention. Or worse, that He IS paying attention and has it in for you! So the Psalmist cried out and so we cry out in the Lord's house tomorrow.

Then the Lord answers with all kinds of ways by which we know our fears are not true. Baptism. Absolution. The Word read. The Gospel preached. The Body and Blood of Jesus received. And what do all these have and give? Jesus.

Look to Jesus to see whether God has cast you off. Jesus. Crucified for sinners. Dead on the cross. Buried in the tomb. Alive on Easter. God can't be against you when He was against His own Son for you! The Lord can't be your enemy when He came as your Savior!

All week long your life is filled with lots of things that can make you wonder whether God has cast you off. But on the Lord's Day, the Divine Service is filled with sure and certain promises of exactly the opposite. Not only has the Lord not cast you off, not only does His anger not smoke against you, He has also taken you in and smiled upon you in the forgiveness Jesus won for you. And that will always be true no matter what the world has going on. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Thou my faith increase and quicken; Let me keep Thy gift divine, Howsoe'er temptations thicken; May Thy Word still o'er me shine As my guiding star through life, As my comfort in all strife. (Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty, LSB 901:4)



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Friday of the 12th Week after Trinity

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: 2 Kings 5:9-27; Philippians 1:1-20

But [Naaman's] servants came near and said to him, "My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (2 Kings 5:13-14)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Naaman has come to find God's prophet. Instead of doing what he expected, instead of doing something extraordinary to heal him, Elisha told him to bathe in the river. Naaman was angered by this. This is not how a real God does things. But at his servants' urging he obeyed the prophet's command. He washed and his leprosy was healed. God had used ordinary water to heal his leprosy. This was God's showing how He will be toward Naaman and all people. He will not be the God of Israel only. He reveals to Naaman how His judgment falls--how His righteousness is fulfilled. God added His promise to the water so that Naaman was healed of his bodily disease and converted at the same time. In the Jordan River, in the water, God put His Name on Naaman.

God has put His Name on you, too. With the water His Name was put on you at your Baptism, and most certainly at Jesus' Baptism, too. There Jesus is in solidarity with you and you with Him. Because He is the beloved Son, you along with Him are beloved sons and daughters. You are delighted in and beloved by God. So you can't just drag along the old Adam and his dreary, fearful, guilt-ridden, nobody-loves-me, me-standing apart, all alone way. When John saw Jesus as separate, Jesus said, "No... Us." When Jesus says, "Us," He takes on what we are and gives us what He has. The Righteous One fulfills all righteousness. And you are in the object of His delight, with Jesus. As if that were not enough, Christ gives to you His Body and Blood, together with Him. "Us." It goes with you as it goes with Him. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

All Christians who have been baptized, Who know the God of heaven, And in whose daily life is prized The name of Christ once given: Consider now what God has done, The gifts He gives to evr'y one Baptized into Christ Jesus! (All Christians Who Have Been Baptized, LSB 596:1)



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Thursday of the 12th Week after Trinity

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Romans 10:9-17

Daily Lectionary: 2 Kings 4:48-5:8; Ephesians 6:1-24

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Faith comes by hearing. Hearing comes by the Word. The Word is brought to us by the preachers Christ calls. That's how He sets it up.

One big reason that people don't want to be a part of the church is that they suppose they don't need "organized religion." What they're really saying is that they must have some other way to get God's Word apart from their pastor and the Bible. But there is no other way to have God's Word. He doesn't send it any other way.

You have a preacher to teach you what is in the Bible. You have the Bible so you know what your preacher should be teaching and preaching. But of those are outside of you. No going inside your head or your heart to figure out what's up with God. The Lord tells us Himself in His Word.

And what does His Word say? It declares Christ true God and man, who is our Savior from our sins. Over and over the Word directs us to Christ and away from ourselves. By the Word we learn repentance for our sins and faith in Jesus. The Word directs us to have Jesus at the font and altar, and from the pulpit. The Word rescues us from the vague ideas about God in our hearts and gives us real, solid truth.

To not want a pastor--not want to be under his care or not want to be a part of Christ's Church--is to say that there is some other way to have and know God. And there isn't any other way.

Yet the Lord's way of doing things is given for our assurance and certainty. After all, the crazy ideas we have will come and go but the unchanging Word of God, faithfully delivered by the pastors He calls, will always serve to rescue us from sin and death and give us forgiveness and life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

God's Word is our great heritage And shall be ours forever; To spread its light from age to age Shall be our chief endeavor. Through life it guides our way, In death it is our stay. Lord, grant while worlds endure, We keep its teachings pure Throughout all generations. (God's Word Is Our Great Heritage, LSB 582)



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Wednesday of the 12th Week after Trinity

Wed, 06 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: 2 Kings 4:8-22, 32-37; Ephesians 5:15-33

What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. (Small Catechism: Baptism, Part 2)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We often think worldly pleasures and enjoyments will make us happy and satisfy us, and so we chase after them like a thirsty animal chasing after fresh water. Then it all passes away. Everything will be counted as loss. And death will finally come for each of us, and it will be, by no means, accounted to anyone as gain.

But by Jesus' death in our name, and by our death in His Name, we have overcome the world, and we have been given the final victory by our Savior. In God's baptismal promise you and all God's children can rest, not in your heart's desires, which fade, wither, and wear out over time, but in the grace of God which works entirely by raising the dead. No uncertainties. No anxiety. Just God's abundant, unbreakable promise that, "We were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of God the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His" (Romans 6:3-5).

Now may the Lord of peace Himself, Jesus Christ, lead you through the darkness and dread of sin and death to peace, hope, and courage at all times in every way until He takes you from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven at the Last Day. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

We share by water in His saving death. Reborn we share with Him an Easter life As living members of a living Christ. (We Know That Christ Is Raised, LSB 603:2)



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Tuesday of the 12th Week after Trinity

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:4-11

Daily Lectionary: 2 Kings 2:19-25; 4:1-7; Ephesians 4:25-5:14

For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. (2 Corinthians 3:9)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Law condemns sinners but that doesn't mean the Law of God is bad. The problem is not the Law but our sins! But if the Law can condemn us, how much more awesome is it that the Gospel saves us by giving us Jesus?

The Law was given on Mount Sinai. There was smoke and fire and thunder. Only Moses could dare to approach at the Lord's invitation. There the finger of God wrote upon stone tablets the Law declaring that God's people would love God and their neighbor.

The Gospel was accomplished on a mountain, too--Mount Calvary. There was darkness and an earthquake. There the hands and feet and side of God Himself were pierced for every sinner on account of every sin--every breaking of those stone tablets we've done.

The Law teaches us what to do: how to live and how God says we should be. It declares that if we can keep it, we can have life. If we were to live life as the Lord's Law teaches, how much joy there would be instead of the misery and sorrow we make for doing our own things! Yet we cannot do it. And so, it condemns us.

The Gospel teaches us what has been done. What we could not do Jesus did. It teaches us His suffering and death for our sins. It teaches us that God the Son loved His Father above all things and His neighbor as Himself by taking our place under judgment. The Gospel says that what we could not do under the Law has been done for us, and so we are set free from condemnation.

The Law shows us our sin. The Gospel shows us our salvation. The Law condemns. The Gospel sets us free. The Law teaches us how to live. The Gospel shows us Christ living for us.

Two ministries--one of condemnation and one of righteousness. Both are wonderful, for they are from the Lord. But even more glorious than the Law which shows us God's holiness is the Gospel which shows us His salvation. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

To Jesus we for refuge flee, Who from the curse has set us free, And humbly worship at His throne, Saved by His grace through faith alone. (The Law of God Is Good and Wise, LSB 579:6)



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Monday of the 12th Week after Trinity

Mon, 04 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Isaiah 29:17-24 Daily Lectionary: 2 Kings 2:1-18; Ephesians 4:1-24 In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. (Isaiah 29:18) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. When Jesus heals the deaf and the blind, it's not just a miracle that benefits the person who is healed. To see the eyes of the blind opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped is to recognize this Jesus as the Lord of the Old Testament and the One who was promised to come and do these things. That Jesus does these things is proof that He is the promised Savior because they are the things the prophets prophesied the Savior would do. Jesus is the fulfillment of a promise made to the first two people in paradise after they fell into sin. Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets spoke of His coming and told of the things He would do. When Jesus comes, He does those things and thus proves that He is the Savior. The fact that He did things that were spoken of a thousand years before and more shows that He really has the credentials to claim that He is Israel's Messiah and the world's Savior. The most important thing He did, however, in fulfillment of the prophets, was to die for the sins of the world and to rise again. Jesus' death and resurrection, easily demonstrated to any reasonable historical standard, serve to call attention to Jesus as the real deal. But all these prophecies fulfilled aren't to call attention to Jesus for His own sake. They are reminders that God keeps His promises. Sometimes they seem a long time in coming. It was a long time from Adam and Eve to Jesus. But the Lord didn't forget. He kept His promise and that means something. Jesus made the promise that He would raise us from the dead on the Last Day. How can we be sure? Well, God keeps His promises. How do we know? The promises He made in the Old Testament came true when Jesus came. Therefore, whatever Jesus says, we can be certain it will come true, too. But also what He says now about you is true: By Baptism and Absolution and His Supper your sins are forgiven. You are a child of God. And, you will rise from the dead on the Last Day. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Praise the One who breaks the darkness With a liberating light; Praise the One who frees the pris'ners, Turning blindness into sight. Praise the One who preached the Gospel, Healing ev'ry dread disease, Calming storms and feeding thousands With the very Bread of peace. (Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness, LSB 849:1) This reflection is available as an mp3, click here to download and listen to it. [...]


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The 12th Sunday after Trinity

Sun, 03 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Mark 7:31-37

Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 19:1-21; Ephesians 3:1-21

Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7:35)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We learn to speak by what we hear. We hear our parents talking and so we learn to talk. We hear them using foul language or hear it from others and we repeat it. We learn to say our prayers by hearing them over and over in the liturgy. What goes in our ears comes out our mouths.

That's why Jesus' miracle is teaching us about how He saves us, too. You may not be physically deaf or have a speech impediment, but being born sinful, your ears are blocked up and your mouth has nothing good to say about God.

Therefore, Jesus comes to open your ears and loose your tongue. He does this at the font and whenever you are absolved and every time you eat and drink His Body and Blood and hear His Word preached and taught. We learn His Word as we hear it repeated each week in the liturgy and order of service of the church, in the hymns we sing and from the catechism we learn and memorize.

Jesus does things this way to save us. He knows the world is filling our ears with junk and our mouths spew it back out. Filthy talk. Gossip. Hateful and hurtful words that break others' bones. So the Lord saves us by putting His Word into our ears. The Words of life and salvation. The words of forgiveness. The Words of the truth that He is our Savior for He has paid the price for all our sins, even our words.

Jesus opens our ears so that we will hear clearly and unmistakably the Good News: Our sins are forgiven because Jesus has died and risen. And to that our mouths speak a loud and clear "Amen!" In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Almighty and merciful God, whose gift it is that Your faithful possess all things pertaining to faith and life, we implore You that we may so faithfully cling to Your promises in this life that we fail not finally to attain to Your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Trinity 12)



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Saturday of the 11th Week after Trinity

Sat, 02 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 18:20-40; Ephesians 2:1-22

But I am poor and needy; Make haste to me, O God! (Psalm 70:5 from the Introit for Trinity 12)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Poor and needy" doesn't mean you have no money and you need to grab a meal at the local soup kitchen. The Lord promises our daily bread. His making haste to come and help us is way more than to give us something to eat!

To be poor and needy in God's sight is to have nothing with which you can defend yourself from your enemies: sin, death and the devil. To be poor and needy is to have no way to earn a place at the Lord's heavenly feast. To be poor and needy is to be a sinner who cannot save himself or herself.

Therefore, we pray for God to come quickly! Make haste! Hurry up! That's probably not far off from what we are thinking during church on Sunday. "Hurry up! Is it over yet?" Repent of that, but also pay attention to how the Lord gets right down to business.

When we enter the Lord's house, there's no dawdling. The service starts with your Baptism and the sign of the cross. It goes right to confession and Absolution, which is delivered without delay--right to the main prayer of the day and the readings. What gifts does the Lord have? The gifts delivered in the sermon: Jesus is crucified and risen for you. Your sins are wiped away. These riches are yours in Jesus! Then there is calling upon the Lord in prayer and then the feast, prepared by the Lord Himself. From one thing to another straightaway. No pauses. No rambling. Just a constant flow of Jesus from start to finish. That's haste! That's the Lord not messing around but getting right to work for His people, delivering to them what He won for them, for YOU, on the cross. No hitches. No delays. All haste.

Poor and needy, yes. But the Lord doesn't wait to make you rich and full of His saving gifts! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, be present now; Our hearts in true devotion bow. Your Spirit send with light divine, And let Your truth within us shine. (Lord Jesus Christ, Be Present Now, LSB 902:1)



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Friday of the 11th Week after Trinity

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-10 Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 18:1-19; Ephesians 1:1-23 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:9) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Those who think that they can be holy on their own can't stand those who only trust in Christ. Saul was like that. He was a Pharisee and he worked really hard to prove himself by rounding up Christians and getting rid of them--until he became a Christian himself. And doesn't that prove God's grace! Certainly Saul (also known as "Paul") didn't decide he wanted to follow Jesus. Rather, Jesus went after Saul, took him down a whole lot of notches, and raised him up again in the waters of Baptism. From then on, only death would be able to stop Paul from preaching Christ crucified for sinners. You can only look down on others and persecute them when you think that you have to prove something to God. We're sinners. We can't prove anything. The only thing we have is the evidence that we deserve everlasting death. There's no religion or holiness in us--not without Jesus. But where Christ is, there is mercy and salvation. There is forgiveness of sins. There is no need to look down on others as if you're better than they are--as if you're more religious or a better person in God's sight. Your standing before God is all Jesus. His perfect life. His death which answers for all your sins. His resurrection which declares death defeated. His ascension where He pleads to the Father for you. Your Baptism which, like Saul's, has made you God's child. The Absolution which has taken away Saul's sins and all of yours, too. The Body and Blood of Jesus whereby He lives in you. Paul started off as a killer of Christians. He was beheaded for confessing the Name of Jesus. You only go from one to the other by the grace and mercy of Christ. But why? Not for Paul's sake. Rather, through Paul, the Lord brought many to faith. Through Paul's preaching, sinners were led from darkness to light and to the confession of the true God in whom they have salvation. You, too, have been given such mercy. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Thy works, not mine, O Christ, Speak gladness to this heart; They tell me all is done, They bid my fear depart. To whom save Thee, Who canst alone For sin atone, Lord, shall I flee? (Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ, LSB 565:1) This reflection is available as an mp3, click here to download and listen to it. [...]


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Thursday of the 11th Week after Trinity

Thu, 31 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 16:29-17:24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sin doesn't mean we're defective. It doesn't mean we're broken. It doesn't mean we have some "tendencies." Sin means we're dead. Without life. A corpse. And the Lord brings to life our sin-corpses.

He makes us alive by speaking His Word. When the Lord made man, He formed him from the dust of the earth and then breathed into him the breath of life. When Lazarus lay dead in the grave, Jesus spoke His Word and Lazarus came out. When the apostles were cowering in the death of post-Good Friday fear, the risen Lord showed up to breathe on them and speak them back to life by giving them the Holy Spirit.

But without the Lord, the dead don't rise. The Lord must do it or it won't happen. This is why it's silly to think that becoming a Christian is something we can do or work out for ourselves. We can't choose to be a follower any more than a dead body can choose to get up and dance.

Jesus gives life to us through His Word. The same Voice that called Lazarus from the grave calls you to come forth from the grave of sin through Baptism. The same Voice declares the Absolution by which you hold death at arm's length. The same Voice declares that His flesh and blood feasted upon means you will be raised up on the Last Day.

You were dead. But now you are alive. Christ has made you alive. That's something you could never do yourself. When St. Paul writes a few verses down that we are saved by grace, not of ourselves, he really means it! That's what it means to be saved by grace--to be made alive when you're dead. It's salvation from outside yourself so that it is always certain. It's from Jesus, who is your life, by giving you life from death. That also means physical death, for your resurrection in Baptism promises you will rise from the grave, too. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

But all of that was washed away--Immersed and drowned forever. The water of your Baptism day Restored again whatever Old Adam and his sin destroyed And all our sinful selves employed According to our nature. (All Christians Who Have Been Baptized, LSB 596:3)



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Wednesday of the 11th Week after Trinity

Wed, 30 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 12:20-13:5, 33-34; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24

Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's word. (Small Catechism: Baptism Part 1)

 

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We are not strays left to wander this world until death takes us. We are children of our heavenly Father by water and His Word, made alive, set in motion, sent to live and share the life of Christ.
You were born again in Baptism, which is new life given to you. You are being born anew each day. Each day is pregnant with the next, for you are going to the Father. That is His most trustworthy promise to you. Enlivened by God's Spirit, you go with Christ who promised, "I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no man can take your joy from you" (John 16:22).

That is life. Your life is bound up and joined with His. That is what Jesus is about. You are baptized into Jesus' life by your Baptism into His death. And to keep you strong in baptismal faith, He feeds you His Body and His Blood--the power of Jesus' resurrection in a Supper. That is Him given to you as dead for your sins in His Body broken, given to you as His Blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
You live every second of your lives in the very presence of that judgment, that by Jesus' resurrection from the dead He absolves you of all sins. He promises you eternal life beyond bodily death. Jesus is what life is about. "He is the source of our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). Our wisdom is Christ. Our Righteousness is Christ. Our Sanctification is Christ. Our Redemption is Christ. Our Life is Christ, today and forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

 

The gifts flow from the font Where He calls us his own; New life He gives that makes Us His and His alone. Here He forgives our sins With water and His Word; The triune God Himself Gives pow'r to call Him Lord. (The Gifts Christ Freely Gives, LSB 602:2)



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The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Mark 6:14-29 Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 11:42-12:19; 2 Corinthians 7:1-16 Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. (Mark 6:20) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Herod has some outward respect for John. Probably being one to hedge his bets, he figured a preacher was good to have around. Maybe he even almost believed what John preached. But when it came down to it, Herod didn't love John's preaching more than he loved his stepdaughter dancing for him. But there's a warning in that for us. It's easy to go and hear God's Word week in and week out but then live as if it doesn't really make a difference. The Lord takes a back seat to the things we love more. The people we are supposed to love and serve get our demands and bad attitude instead. It's as though we hear the Word but not at all. Repent of hearing your preacher like Herod heard his! In the end, Herod's crooked heart cost John his life. It's sad in a way. John preached the Lamb of God. He was the forerunner of Jesus and yet didn't get to see the promises fulfilled, but had his head lopped off in the dungeon instead. Yet even John's death pointed to Jesus, for Jesus often told His disciples that they would suffer for Him, and so John did. But that suffering points to Jesus' own suffering because He was crucified by those who knew the Scriptures even better than Herod. In the end, it's all our sin that cost Jesus His life. But He is the Lamb that John declared and so John's death is not in vain, because Jesus' death was not final. He rose again. And just as John prepared the way of the Lord by pointing people to Jesus, so Jesus sent His apostles to point to Him in their preaching and baptizing. Your preacher, in the line of the apostles and prophets like John, has baptized you and declared that your sins are forgiven. John's Savior is your Savior. And so we thank the Lord for John's faithful testimony and the blessed crown of life he has received and that we will receive, too. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Our thanks for John the Baptist Who, till his dying day, Made straight paths for the Savior And heralded His way! In witnessing to Jesus Through times of threat or shame May we with faith and courage The Lamb of God proclaim. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 518:24) This reflection is available as an mp3, click here to download and listen to it. [...]


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