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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, 20 Oct 2017 19:44:04 -0400

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

Friday of the 18th Week after Trinity

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 19:1-20; Matthew 15:1-20

Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? (Matthew 15:1-3)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Pharisees had given this tradition of the elders regarding hand washing equal authority with the commandment of God, describing hand washing in fine detail, how much water was used, how many hand-rinsings were necessary, and so on. In short, Jesus answers the way He does because nothing, not even time-honored tradition, is to be regarded as equal to God's Word.

Instead of interpreting the spirit of the Law correctly--that the commandment points to the One who's coming to fulfill the Law in perfect obedience to the Father, the same One who's now standing before them--the Pharisees interpreted the command as pointing to the moral obligation they owed God, right down to how they ought to wash their hands in obedience to the Fourth Commandment.

But by interpreting the Law in such a way that it pointed people to more legal obligations, the Pharisees completely missed the spirit of the command. The same Spirit who led Moses to Sinai is the Spirit who inspired Paul to proclaim that, "the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons" (Galatians 3:24).

It is Jesus, not the tradition of the elders, nor any human tradition, which is elevated to the level of God's Word, who fulfills the commandment. That is why Holy Baptism, the Lord's Supper and the preaching of the Gospel (all instituted by Jesus) are gifts from God we can delight in. Beyond those gifts, any tradition that agrees with Scripture, which points solely to Jesus' teaching and work, we can also relish as we gladly hear, learn, and put them into practice. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Restrain, O Lord, the human pride That seeks to thrust Your truth aside Or with some man-made thoughts or things Would dim the words Your Spirit sings. (Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide, LSB 585:5)

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Thursday of the 18th Week after Trinity

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 18:1-22; Matthew 14:22-36

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Sacrament of the Altar is one of those things that Christians can't seem to agree on. The truth is, problems in the teaching of a church about the Sacrament of the Altar can all be solved and answered by Jesus' words.

First of all, some churches give Communion to everyone. But the Words of Institution remind us that it was first given to Jesus' disciples. Disciples are those who hear and learn God's Word, not just anyone who walks in off the street.

Some churches don't give the Blood of Christ to everyone, just the minister. But Jesus' words answer that, too: "Drink of it, ALL of you." Both His Body and His Blood are given to be eaten and drunk by ALL the people.

Some churches claim that the Lord's Supper is merely a memorial meal in which we think about Jesus: The bread and wine are merely symbols of Jesus in some way. The Words of Jesus put that to rest: "This IS my body; this IS my blood." That's what it is because it is the Lord who says it.

But the one thing in common with many of these various false teachings of the Sacrament is that the Lord's Supper is something we do. It's our sacrifice offered to God. It's an obligation we must fulfill. The Lord's Word answers that, too. "Given and shed for you for the FORGIVENESS OF SINS." The Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood is a gift from the Savior who was crucified and risen for you. His Word makes it clear that this holy gift is given for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, You have prepared This feast for our salvation; It is Your body and Your blood, And at Your invitation As weary souls, with sin oppressed, We come to You for needed rest, for comfort and for pardon. (Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared, LSB 622:1)

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St. Luke, Evangelist

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Luke 10:1-9

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 17:1-20; Matthew 14:1-21

"And heal the sick there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'" (Luke 10:9)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. St. Luke was a physician. No doubt he had some interest in the miracles of healing which Jesus did for those who were sick. In the words of Jesus recorded above, our Lord is sending out preachers. They would heal some as a sign that the Word they preached was true. St. Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, faithfully wrote down much of what Jesus said and did, as well as details about His incarnation, birth, and childhood. In this way Luke healed far more than the bodies of sick people. By St. Luke's Gospel the Holy Spirit brings healing to sinners!

His Gospel delivers Jesus. And Jesus gives the forgiveness of sins. The gift of St. Luke's Gospel (like the other three) is that we have the eyewitness testimony of Jesus' life, death, and empty tomb recorded for us so that our preachers even today know what to preach and God's people know what they should be hearing.

St. Luke points out that he made careful inquiry into the things that his readers had heard. The Gospel was written so that those who had heard the preaching of Christ would have a solid and reliable record that what they had heard was, in fact, true. St. Luke's Gospel is a gift which teaches us that our faith in Jesus isn't just a myth or made up, but that the Lord really did come into this world to save sinners.

The Gospel of St. Luke is the story of the Christian life just as it is the story of Jesus. It begins with Jesus' birth, just as our life begins with our being born from above in Holy Baptism. Jesus' preaching and teaching is like our own pastor's absolving us of our sins. His suffering, death and resurrection are what we hear preached in church. And in His Supper, as to the Emmaus disciples, Jesus is revealed to us and gives Himself to us. And just as Jesus ascended to the Father, so we have been brought to sit with Him in heavenly places and will be with Him when we are raised on the last Day.

Indeed, St. Luke's Gospel preaches repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

For that belov'd physician All praise, whose Gospel show The Healer of the nations, The one who shares our woes. Your wine and oil, O Savior, Upon our spirits pour, And with true balm of Gilead Anoint us evermore. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 518:26)

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Tuesday of the 18th Week after Trinity

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 15:19-16:22; Matthew 13:44-58

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Dear Sir or Madam." "To Whom it may concern." "What's up, dude?" Our greetings in letters or email are usually pretty short. But look at the greeting Paul puts on His letter to the church at Corinth! He gushes with the joy that comes from knowing that these Christians, like all Christians around the world, are united in the one Holy Church in Jesus. Christ died for the sins of the whole world. He rose victorious over sin and death and then sent His preachers to deliver that forgiveness in His name to the ends of the earth. Wherever Christ is preached, the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies people, converting them and bringing them into Christ's Church.

The first bit of Good News in Paul's greeting is that these Corinthians have been sanctified. That means they've been made holy. Their sins would have kept them from God. Their sins made them unholy. Sins make all of us unholy. But they were sanctified by the preaching of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name, just as you were. Where their sins are forgiven there is no more unholiness, but only holiness. Paul says they are called "saints," holy people--not because they never sinned (just read the rest of the letter to see what problems they had)--rather they are saints because they are covered with Jesus' holiness.

The second bit of Good News in Paul's greeting is that they call on the name of the Lord with people all over the place. It's like coming to a Higher Things conference and realizing, during that amazing opening hymn, that there are others who believe and hold to Christ as you do. That's a great comfort in a world that so clearly wants nothing to do with Jesus and constantly throws it in your face that religion and Jesus must be a waste of time. That the Holy Spirit has made us saints and that we are a part of the Church which is made up of saints all over the world is a great blessing indeed!

Paul tells the Corinthians what they are in Jesus. That's nothing but a gift and blessing for them and us. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

O Lord, Let this Your little flock, Your name alone confessing, Continue in Your loving care, True unity possessing. Your sacraments, O Lord, And Your saving Word To us, Lord, pure retain. Grant that they may remain Our only strength and comfort. (Lord Jesus Christ, the Church's Head, LSB 647:2)

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Monday of the 18th Week after Trinity

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Deuteronomy 10:12-21

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 22-23, 28-15:15; Matthew 13:24-43

The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 10:15)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The sad tale of Israel is that the Lord loved them and chose them and rescued them from Egypt and their enemies and yet, they still turned away from Him all the time. How about you? You've been baptized into Christ and confirmed in the faith. Do you love God with all your heart and your soul and your strength? Or do you run after the things of this world: to be popular, to be liked, to be the life of the party, to do what you want, to get away from your parents and be on your own? What matters most to you? The Lord or something else?

You know what matters most to the Lord? You. He delights in you. He smiles when He looks at you. For you He sent His only-begotten Son to be conceived and born of Mary and to grow up to suffer for your sins and to die and take them away. He has loved you by washing you at the font and by absolving you. He has given you a pastor to care for you. He gives His Son's Body and Blood to you as a loving parent feeds his child. Everything God is about is about being delighted in and happy with you for Jesus' sake.

Most devotions at this point would probably say something like, "Now, seeing that the Lord loves you so much, you should try to love Him back." But that's not how you love God back. Jesus loves the Father. Therefore, you love the Father. That's because everything Jesus does counts for you. His love of the Father is your love of the Father. The delight God has for you extends even to Christ living in you and doing good works through you while covering your sins.

There's no way around it. The Lord loves you and delights in you in Jesus. In Christ, there is nothing but good news for you, nothing but a smile from your heavenly Father, nothing but salvation and forgiveness and everlasting life. Whatever sin you have has been taken care of by your Savior. The Lord has chosen you in His Son to be His very own. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End; Godhead, humanity, union supernal, O great Redeemer, You come as our friend! Heaven and earth, now proclaim this great wonder: Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal! (Jesus Has Come and Brings Pleasure, LSB 533:1)

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The 18th Sunday after Trinity

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Matthew 22:34-46

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 13:1-18; Matthew 13:1-23

"If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He his Son?" (Matthew 22:45)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. You won't understand Jesus unless you can answer the question He poses to the religious leaders above. If Jesus is David's son (descendant) how can He also be David's Lord (and God)? The answer is found in the confession, as the Catechism reminds us, that Jesus is "true God, begotten of the Father...and also true man born of the Virgin Mary."

Some people might acknowledge that Jesus was a man, but not God. But if that's so, how can He take away the sins of the world? Some people think Jesus is God, but not man, or that He left behind His body when He rose from the dead. But a God who isn't man is a God who isn't really near us.

Our salvation is founded upon Christ being both God and man. As true God, His sacrifice on Calvary is of infinite value, able to save every sinner ever. As true man, God is able to actually suffer and die as we do and thereby pay the price for our sins. This most amazing and unfathomable mystery of God and man in one person is the center and foundation and anchor of our faith.

The enemies of Jesus figured Him for a teacher. Even those who don't seem to hate Jesus usually figure that's about all He is--just another religious teacher or prophet. But what truly offends people is the notion that God became man. That's not logical. It doesn't make sense. It seems impossible that such a thing could be.

Unbelief, as in the case of the religious leaders of Jesus' day, refuses to answer the question Jesus poses. Faith, on the other hand, is eager to exclaim, "Because as true man, He is born of David's line. As true God He is eternally David's Lord, too! And He's both for David and for me!"

The Son of God took on human flesh to save us. That's how God does things. Just as He uses earthly water and bread and wine to deliver that forgiveness in Baptism and His Supper, where we eat and drink that very flesh and blood which suffered and rose for us. The answer to Jesus' question is taught not only by Jesus but by all the Scriptures. Jesus as true God and true man is our salvation. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

You, Christ, are the king of glory, the eternal Son of the Father. When You became man to set us free, You did not spurn the virgin's womb. (You Are God; We Praise You, LSB 939)

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Saturday of the 17th Week after Trinity

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 12:13-32; Matthew 12:38-50

Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek your good. (Psalm 122:9 from the Introit for Trinity 18)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Why does the Lord seek your good? It's because you have been in His house. The Church is where the Lord is so if you're there, too, the Lord seeks your good. After all, in His Church is where the Lord does His good things, gives His gifts, saves sinners and keeps us in the faith.

When we think of the "house of the Lord" the first thing we should think of is Christ. After all, He is the temple--the place where God dwells because He is true God in the flesh. Where Christ is, there you have God Himself. And where you have Christ's Word, you have Christ. So in the Church, where Christ's Word and Sacraments are present, Christ is present and that means God is there.

The Bible teaches us that God works all things together for good. He does so because you are His child. You are in His Church. When you go to church tomorrow, remember that the Lord is pleased with you. He smiles down upon you--NOT because you dragged yourself out of bed and sacrificed your Sunday morning to be there. Rather, He is pleased with you because Jesus is there and in Christ, the Father says of you what He says of His only-begotten Son: "In you I am well pleased!"

To go to the Lord's house is to learn what the Lord has to say about you, what He promises, what His heart is toward you. The remembrance of Baptism, the Absolution, the Word read and preached, and the Supper of Jesus' Body and Blood--all these gifts shout loud and clear that God seeks your good, forgives your sins, and calls you His child.

That's what goes on in the house of the Lord. So the Lord treats you in His house for that is where He Himself is. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Here stands the font before our eyes, Telling how God has received us. The altar recalls Christ's sacrifice And what His Supper here gives us. Here sound the Scriptures that proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, And evermore, our Redeemer. (Built on the Rock, LSB 645:4)

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Friday of the 17th Week after Trinity

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 11:26-12:12; Matthew 12:22-37

"But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. (Deuteronomy 12:5)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Where do you go to find God? People try to find the Lord in lots of different places to learn something about Him. Some people go out in nature. They see mountains and sunsets and imagine that God is loving and beautiful. But what about tornadoes and tsunamis and earthquakes? What is God then?

Others seek God in their experiences. When things go well, they think they are blessed. When they have money and a job and good health, they assume the Lord is happy with them and looking out for them. Except what happens if they get sick? Lose their job? Suffer some tragedy? Has God turned on them?

Still others seek God in their feelings. If they get a "warm fuzzy" when pondering God, they figure they have found God and can "feel" or "know" His presence. But what happens when they don't have that feeling? Has God abandoned them?

God came to us in the flesh, in Christ. If you want to see God, then behold Jesus, who is true God and man. And what does Jesus teach us about God? That He takes away our sins and doesn't count our wrongs against us. That He rescues us from death and hell and gives us everlasting life.

And where do we find this Jesus? In the water of the font. In the Absolution given in His church. In the Word read and preached and taught. In His very Body and Blood on the altar and in our mouths. These are the sure places Christ has promised to be, to forgive your sins and give you life.

With such a Savior and such gifts from Him, it doesn't matter what nature is doing, or what is happening in our lives, or how we feel--the truth of God's promise, that nothing can snatch us from His hand, can never be contradicted. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

My heart has now become Thy dwelling, O blessed, holy Trinity. With angels I, Thy praises telling, Shall live in joy eternally. Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood Be for my soul the highest good! (Thy Body, Given for Me, O Savior, LSB 619:5)

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Thursday of the 17th Week after Trinity

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Matthew 12:1-21

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 11:1-25; Matthew 12:1-21

Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. (Matthew 12:11-14)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Pharisees plot against Jesus because they fear God. But it's not a reverent fear, or the respectful fear Jesus shows His heavenly Father. It's a dread fear that starts gnawing on a person's heart when he hears God say, "Do this and you shall live...", then sets off trying to do what the Law demands--to prove to God that he is a faithful, obedient servant.

So Jesus comes along saying things only God can say, doing things only God can do. How else are the Pharisees supposed to react? Jesus breaks the Sabbath by working on the Sabbath: He heals a man. Worse yet, He corrects the teachers of the Law--saying it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, as if they didn't understand the commandment's meaning. What He'd done isn't a tender, compassionate act: it's ruthless. Jesus is acting without any restraint, beyond the boundaries of the Law. So they plot against Jesus, to kill Him, because they refuse to take Him at His word. They don't trust that He's got the meaning right. They can't, because they don't believe He's the Word of God made flesh, who spoke to Moses at Sinai, and so they plot to kill Him.

They can't see past their own work to His work. Their dread fear of God's judgment blinds them to the truth. Jesus comes not to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it, to pay the bill that's come due for the sin of the whole world! They can't believe that in Jesus the true Sabbath rest comes to us. They don't trust that by His work we're freed from dreading God's judgment so we may lovingly and reverently delight in the commandments, joyfully hearing preaching and His Word, holding it sacred, and gladly hearing and learning it. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Restrain, O Lord, the human pride That seeks to thrust Your truth aside Or with man-made thoughts or things Would dim the words Your Spirit sings. (Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide, LSB 585:5)

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Wednesday of the 17th Week after Trinity

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 9:23-10:22; Matthew 11:20-30

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Do you jump out of bed on Sunday morning because there's another chance to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus? Or is the Sacrament just one more thing to blow off when you've got other more important things to do? The Catechism reminds us that the Sacrament of the Altar is given to us Christians to eat and drink. That means that if we're Christians, we'll eat and drink it.

Some people let weeks, months or even years pass without receiving the Lord's Supper. But to be a Christian is to hunger and thirst for that very gift by which we have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

Jesus died on the cross and rose again, taking away our sins. That forgiveness is given to us in a special way in the Sacrament of the Altar, because by His Body and Blood, Jesus lives in us and we live in Him. Plus, He promised that to eat and drink His Body and Blood means He will raise us up on the Last Day (John 6:54). Who wouldn't desire that?

The purpose of the Lord's Supper is to deliver Christ's forgiveness. It's a gift--a saving and life-giving gift. On the one hand, we don't make laws and rules about it and say how many times and how often you have to receive it. On the other hand, since Jesus gave us this gift, we have to wonder when someone despises this Holy Supper and doesn't ever come to receive it.

Beware of thinking the Sacrament is just one more religious thing you should do once in a while! Rather, see it as the wonderful gift that it is: forgiveness, life and salvation. Christ has instituted this meal of His Body and Blood for you, dear Christian. The One who hung upon the cross now comes to you on the altar so you can feast upon His flesh and blood and have eternal life. That's not a burden, but a joyous gift! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, You have prepared This feast for our salvation; It is Your body and Your blood, And at Your invitation As weary souls, with sin oppressed, We come to You for needed rest, For comfort, and for pardon. (Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared, LSB 622:1)

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Tuesday of the 17th Week after Trinity

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 9:1-22; Matthew 11:1-19

One Lord, one faith, one baptism; (Ephesians 4:5)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The world around us is filled with lots of different lords, many different faiths and a bunch of baptisms. Through all that noise of different lords and faiths, Christ's Word through the Apostle Paul sounds a clear note of the true Lord's gifts and grace.

One Lord. Jesus. He's true God begotten of the Father from eternity and true man born of the virgin Mary. He was born to be like us in every way except without sin. He came to conquer sin, death, devil and hell by His perfect life, His suffering and death on the cross, and His resurrection. By His blood shed, our sins are forgiven. There is no other Lord, no other God who does this Himself: He saves the world from its sin.

One faith. True and saving faith is a gift. You can't crank it up in yourself. True and saving faith is the faith and trust which cling to Jesus because He has answered for our sins and taken them away. It isn't you with some Jesus sprinkled in. It's not your doing it with a little help from Jesus. It's all Jesus accomplishing your salvation and the Spirit delivering that salvation in the Word and Sacraments. There is only one true faith and that's the one that's not about you, but the one which trusts in Jesus and everything He has done.

One Baptism. Water and the Word and the Spirit. Not a separate baptism of the Spirit which is proven with strange signs like "speaking in tongues." One Baptism. The one that was done at the font whether you were an infant or older. The one by which you are born from above. The one which clothes you with Christ, unites you to His death and resurrection, and is a washing of new birth in the Spirit. That's the Baptism that counts because it's the only real Baptism--the Baptism the one Lord has given you to put you into the one faith.

If the lord, faith or baptism aren't about Jesus, they aren't the one Lord, one faith, one Baptism that God's Word teaches about. For where Jesus is, there's nothing plural or multiple or confusing or unsure. One Lord, one faith, one Baptism because there is one Jesus. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Elect from ev'ry nation, Yet on o'er all the earth; Her charter of salvation: One Lord, one faith, one birth. One holy name she blesses, Partakes one holy food, And to one hope she presses with ev'ry grace endued. (The Church's One Foundation, LSB 644:2)

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Monday of the 17th Week after Trinity

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Proverbs 25:6-14

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 8:1-20; Matthew 10:24-42

Debate your case with your neighbor, And do not disclose the secret to another; (Proverbs 25:9)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. It's just between you and your friend, that little disagreement--until you complain about it to your other friends. Now everyone knows and it's a mess. Perhaps you should have followed the Word of God which says not to blab about stuff to others! If only we could stop sinning just like that!

When the Lord looks at your sins, what does He do? Blab them all over? Broadcast them for all to know and see? No, we do a good enough job of that for ourselves and others! Rather, what the Lord does with our sins is hide them. Cover them up. Forget them.

Jesus came, not to expose our sins, but to die for them. Not to point them out and mock us but to shed His blood to pay for them. He didn't come to tell everyone else about what's wrong with you. He came to trade places with you and take your sins away. The salvation Christ brings is all about God NOT arguing with us over our sins and NOT spreading gossip about them, but just getting rid of them.

Now, you're baptized. Your sins are washed away. They're gone --not displayed for all to see. So why on earth would you want to take what is between you and another person and spread it around for everyone else to get involved? Why would you do that to your friend? Well, because you're a sinner, that's why.

But you're also a baptized child of God. That means the Spirit works through that Word to call your attention to what you've done and why it's bad--it hurts someone else. And that same Holy Spirit works through that same Word and water and Body and Blood to turn you in repentance from such cruelty to faith and trust in Christ. And there, learning that the Lord has put away your sins, you learn to put away the sins of others.

True wisdom from God's Word isn't just that we learn to keep things to ourselves. It's that we learn that such a life flows from the forgiveness we have for our Savior's sake. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Lord, let me win my foes With kindly words and actions, And let me find good friends For counsel and correction. Help me, as You have taught, To love both great and small And by Your Spirit's might To live in peace with all. (O God, My Faithful God, LSB 696:4)

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The 17th Sunday after Trinity

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Luke 14:1-11

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 7:1-19; Matthew 10:1-23

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Christian faith is just plain different from the way the world works and the religions that the world comes up with. The world's way is for you to do your part to make yourself great. Survival of the fittest. Win out over others. So it's no surprise when their religions work the same way: YOU do it. YOU accomplish it. YOU make yourself great. YOU show others that you have what it takes to be the top dog.

The Christian faith is the exact opposite. What is low and humbled is what the Lord lifts up and exalts. The Law does that first of all. It humbles us. It shows us that not only can we NOT do what is required of us, we don't even WANT to. The Law silences our boasting by telling us we haven't done what we should. The Law cuts off every escape route by condemning our attempts at saving ourselves. The Law takes us--we who think we're big shots--and makes us low.

Then there's Jesus. The Son of God. God Himself. Highest of High. Above all things. He humbles Himself, makes Himself low when, as a man, He suffers and is killed on the cross at the hands of men who think they're all that. He who was the highest is the lowest on Calvary. Why? To raise up what His Law has made low: you!

By His death and resurrection, by baptizing you and giving you His Body and Blood, Jesus exalts you. Lifts you up. Raises you up to a place of honor and glory that you could never attain on your own, when He rises from the dead and ascends to the right hand of the Father. Jesus, who was low, has been made high again and He takes you with Him. Jesus is the one who does the humbling and the exalting!

The world teaches us to put down others while we claw our way to the top. Jesus comes down and lifts us up from sin and death to glory and everlasting life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Lord, we implore You, grant Your people grace to withstand the temptations of the devil and with pure hearts and minds to follow You, the only God; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Saturday of the 16th Week after Trinity

Sat, 07 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 6:10-25; Matthew 9:18-38

Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy, And teach me Your statutes. (Psalm 119:124 from the Introit for Trinity 17)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. There are two things you can expect at church tomorrow: the mercy of God put upon you and the statutes of God taught to you. That new, inner man rejoices in the Divine Service tomorrow because God's mercy is delivered. God's mercy is the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinners. God's mercy is the preaching and proclamation that for Jesus' sake, the old Adam doesn't win, can't condemn you, and is being daily drowned by your Baptism. The mercy of God delivered to you is the promise that, for Jesus' sake, your sins don't count against you and you have eternal life. You'll hear all that tomorrow in the Divine Service.

But the new, inner man will also learn the statutes, the laws, and commands of God, namely these: to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. The mercy of God is delivered to you in order that Christ may dwell in you and through you love others. The gifts Christ freely gives in His Church are given to you so that through them you will be a blessing and help to those around you.

This is why we need the gifts of church each week. In them, the Lord puts to death the selfish old Adam and renews and strengthens that new man in Christ. By the Law, the Lord crushes and kills old Adam. By the Gospel, He gives you forgiveness and new life. And in that faith, which receives and lives in His forgiveness, you then love others and live in your daily callings to serve and help them.

Tomorrow, the Lord deals with you according to His mercy. And that means dealing with you according to Jesus. And that means only ever good gifts and blessings. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

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Friday of the 16th Week after Trinity

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9; Matthew 9:1-17

You go near and hear all that the LORD our God may say, and tell us all that the LORD our God says to you, and we will hear and do it. (Deuteronomy 5:27)

In the Name + of Jesus. Have you ever argued with your friends about doing something dangerous? "You do it!" "No, YOU do it!" The Israelites told Moses, "YOU do it! You go up close to the mountain!" The thunder and lightning from the mountain and the fearsome presence of the Lord on Mt. Sinai was more than the Israelites could bear. So they told Moses to go and talk to God.

It's a fact that if we sinners were to approach God's awesome glory and majesty, we'd be toast. You can't just waltz into God's presence and expect to slap Him a high five--not when you've got sins. That's why God becomes man. That's why Jesus comes. Since we can't get near God, He comes near to us and in a way that's not scary or dangerous.

Smoke? Fire? Thunder? The blast of a horn? Nope. As a baby in a manger of all places. Guy in a river, bowing His head to be baptized. Silent before His accusers. Nailed to a cross. How can any of that be scary? But when God looks LEAST like God, that's when Jesus is doing what is most Godly of all: saving you from your sins.

Jesus comes so that God can get near us without killing us. Instead, as true God and true MAN, Jesus can get near us and save us. He can take our sins upon Himself. He can suffer and die for them.

But there will come a day when we stand in His glorious presence. What then? Is that the day we get vaporized? Hardly. That's the day you're prepared for because Jesus died and rose for you. You're ready because you've been clothed with Christ in Holy Baptism and in fact, by His Supper, Christ Himself lives in you. All the gifts that Christ gives you now in His church have prepared you to see the Lord face to face and not die but live. That day will not be a day of terror but of rejoicing forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Around the throne of David, The saints, from care released, Raise loud their songs of triumph To celebrate the feast. They sing to Christ their leader, Who conquered in the fight, Who won for them forever Their gleaming robes of white. (Jerusalem the Golden, LSB 672:3)

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Thursday of the 16th Week after Trinity

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 5:1-21; Matthew 8:18-34

Once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (Malachi 3:18)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Really? When is this going to benefit us? Right now, whenever we see distinctions between godly and wicked people, it looks like the wicked are winning in every way imaginable. Almost across the board, it seems that they have more fun, make more money, and hold greater power than the righteous do.

Yet the Lord isn't speaking of merely telling the difference--something often easy for us to do. He also promises that the difference makes a difference. It's good to be righteous and bad to be wicked; God will punish wickedness and reward righteousness.

But now comes the "oops" moment, when we look a bit more closely at the differences between righteousness and wickedness and realize that we aren't nearly as good as we'd like to imagine. We're troubled by doubt, prone to be judgmental or have bad tempers, are wasteful of the gifts God gives us, and generally are not all that righteous. And in God's eyes, if we're not all righteous, we're not righteous at all.

The only way we look fairly well off is when comparing ourselves to the "big" sinners who surround us. Yet when we do so, we wrongly judge others and break 8th Commandment.

However, when the Lord promises that we'll see the distinction, we can trust that His words mean something different than when Satan told Adam and Eve that they would be "like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5). For in Him, we not only see the difference but He establishes us to be different, set aside, holy in His sight.

For while sin continues to cling to us as long as we inhabit these bodies of death, we know that the righteous covering that is ours in Baptism marks us as distinct, valued, saved children of God. This is the difference between wickedness and righteousness, between death and eternal life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

My faithful God, You fail me never; Your promise surely will endure. O cast me now away forever If words and deeds become impure. Have mercy when I come defiled; Forgive, lift up, restore Your child. (Baptized into Your Name Most Holy, LSB 590:3)

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Wednesday of the 16th Week after Trinity

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 4:21-40; Matthew 8:1-17

What do you believe according to these words? I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself. (Small Catechism: Office of the Keys)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus died and rose for all our sins, every last one of them. There isn't a sin that Jesus didn't die for. All sins--not just ours but the whole world's sins--are atoned for by His most holy blood. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, being crucified for our transgressions and raised for our justification. There is free forgiveness for all--you included.

We want to do better. We try so hard to please the Lord, and then we just mess it up. We want to love our neighbor, our coworkers, our classmates, our teachers, our parents, brothers, sisters, friends, but you know how it goes. Something happens and we don't. We know the Lord is displeased with this so we try and make it up to Him and them, but that doesn't really get us anywhere except living life with an infinitely long to-do list.

The Lord's forgiveness can't be bartered. We can't play the "Lord if you forgive me, I will" card, even though we try this daily and much. So how do we get it? Repent of our sins, even our bartering. The Lord forgives us, apart from us. The Lord calls us to repentance, to confess, but this is only the means to deliver His forgiveness to us. We can't get to the cross to hear Jesus say, "It is finished," so we go where we can hear the same thing: our pastor. He's sent there by Jesus to forgive us of our sins. When he forgives us, Jesus forgives us. It's as valid and certain, even in heaven. The gates of heaven are opened to us. Jesus' death unbarred the doors, your pastor unlocks them. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

The Words which absolution give Are His who died that we might live; The minister whom Christ has sent Is but His humble instrument. ("As Surely as I Live," God Said, LSB 614:5)

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Tuesday of the 16th Week after Trinity

Tue, 03 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Ephesians 3:13-21

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 4:1-20; Matthew 7:13-29

So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. (Ephesians 3:13)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Piling on"--it's usually something bad, like a few tons of football players crashing down on the poor guy at the bottom. Or teachers who seem to sense when you already have too much homework so they can assign a quick five-page paper due the next day. Sometimes it's even friends who abandon you, one after the other, just when you need them most.

The apostle was no stranger to troubles piling on him. He'd already been through a mountain of troubles and knew that the Lord would continue keeping the promise that Paul would suffer greatly for the Gospel.

Yet here, Paul barely mentions any afflictions that he might have been facing. He's too busy piling on the Ephesians to notice what troubles may have ganged up on him. And when we read what he's pouring out on them, we see why he could continue with such enthusiasm.

Paul takes shovels full of blessings, wheelbarrow loads of grace, dump trucks filled with hope, joy, and peace and pours the whole lot out on the heads of the Ephesians. His extravagant descriptions of Christ's love are matched by the promise that the Church will be filled with her Savior--strengthened, rooted, grounded, and growing in the Lord.

What a way to face life's problems! After briefly acknowledging that yes, we have issues, we can turn to the earth-shaking, overwhelming, creation-filling gifts that are poured out in Word and Sacrament.

If it were possible, we'd be drowning in God's goodness, smothering under the weight of His glory. Yet we discover that as these gifts are piled on, we take them into ourselves, dress ourselves in their finery, and nourish ourselves on their richness. As grace is piled on, it doesn't weigh us down. Instead, it lifts us up. When God adds the weight of His love in Christ Jesus to that of life's burdens, we discover, astonishingly, that our load of sin, doubt, and worry is lessened. In the Name + of Jesus. 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 for this world's strife. (The Gifts Christ Freely Gives, LSB 602:4)

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Monday of the 16th Week after Trinity

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 17:17-24 Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 3:1-29; Matthew 7:1-12 "You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!" (1 Kings 17:18) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sometimes God's holy Law is at its loudest when not a word is spoken. The widow, who had lived on the edge of Israel and whose relationship with the Lord was just beginning, was crushed. She went from certain death in the famine, to oil and flour being daily replenished, back to death. She was convinced that God had played this cruel trick on her to expose the depths of her sinfulness. However, while she rightly identified the cause of her boy's death (the Lord), she was wrong about the reason (her sin). We can make the same mistake in our own lives or as we examine those around us. We may act like Job's friends or like Jesus' disciples with the man born blind (John 9:2). Struggling to make sense of an often senseless world, we tangle cause and effect, often compounding the mess by mixing Law and Gospel. We don't like the idea of randomness, nor of a capricious God who brings illness, accident, and death on a whim. We want solid reasons and if we can't find any in the evidence at hand, we start inventing them. Yes, death is God's final judgment on sin. We must face it because we are born sinful and have continued to sin throughout our lives, no matter how long or short they may be. But death as a punishment was taken away when Jesus died on our behalf. Jesus reminds us of this: "I did not come to judge the world but to save the world" (John 12:47). The only Son of the Father died to pay for the sins of the widow and her son, the prophet, you, and all mankind. In light of this promised forgiveness and restoration, Elijah could call on the Lord in confidence, asking for the child's life. And when we face death, we do so knowing that Jesus already passed through and came out victorious, so also we who believe will live. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lord, let at last Thine angels come, To Abr'ham's bosom bear me home, That I may die unfearing; And in its narrow chamber keep My body safe in peaceful sleep Until Thy reappearing. And then from death awaken me, That these mine eyes with joy may see, O Son of God, Thy glorious face, My Savior and my fount of grace. Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend, And I will praise Thee without end. (Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart, LSB 708:3) This reflection is available as an mp3, click here to download and listen to it. [...]

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The 16th Sunday after Trinity

Sun, 01 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Luke 7:11-17

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 2:16-37; Matthew 6:16-34

The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother (Luke 7:15).

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. No pension. No insurance. No retirement plan. No Social Security. The widow of Nain was left without family and without support for her physical needs. Her grief at losing her only son, whom she'd borne and loved, was compounded by losing her sole support as she grew old alone.

Almost all of us know someone in a similar condition. Some who read this today are feeling the pain of loss, knowing first hand that not only the elderly die, but also parents, siblings, even children. Others haven't seen close loved ones die, but divorce, job loss, or difficult financial situations threaten their homes or their family unity. Like the widow, some endure losing both loved ones and the security they provided.

We feel sorry for these people--or for ourselves, if we're the ones suffering. If often feels worse for Christians. Our God of love takes loved ones away. He promises us our daily bread, and our main support vanishes through layoffs, illness, injury, or death.

Such losses not only cripple those experiencing them, they also often paralyze the actions of family and friends. We watch, feel sorry, and don't know what to do. Such is the way of our sin-sick world.

Jesus, however, knew exactly what to do. When He felt compassion, He acted on it quickly and decisively. He restored the one earthly treasure this widow needed above all others. He undid another's death so this one might continue to have a good life.

His compassion continues today. Sometimes He acts miraculously, but He normally works through His people's vocations. His love overflows in the lives of His forgiven family and flows into the lives of others. As Christ acted in the widow's life, so His Church acts in the lives of its neighbors. The world receives testimony that sin, which brings decay and death, is being undone and new, full life belongs to all who believe in Him. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

O Lord, we pray that Your grace may always go before and follow after us, that we may be continually given to all good works; 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 16)

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Saturday of the 15th Week after Trinity

Sat, 30 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 1:37-2:15

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8 from the Introit for Trinity 16)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Israelites of Nehemiah's time were unsure about sound doctrine and unsure whose teachings they should follow. They were returning from an exile precipitated by their ancestors' failure to know and follow God's Word and by poor, misguided, sinful, or non-existent spiritual leadership from kings, priests, and false prophets.

The "Book of the Law of Moses" that they heard was likely either Deuteronomy or else the whole Pentateuch--the first five biblical books. This means that they not only heard words of command and punishment (Law) but also words of forgiveness, restoration, and hope (Gospel). And because they might have not grasped everything, Ezra and the Levites took time to explain as they read.

God continues to explain His Word to us. Parents, pastors, and teachers should be part of the process. Lutherans have a special example in the makeup of the Small Catechism, where both Law and Gospel are explained as they are applied.

We never outgrow the need to have the Word explained and applied by God's servants. Men, women, and older children all gathered to hear the reading (8:2) and they must have heard things that cut them to the heart, since Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites had to console the people. We receive the same from faithful pastors today.

As we grow up, we grow in the need to apply Scripture to complex life situations. We need pastors whose explanation and application of God's Word both accuses and comforts us in preparation for external challenges, while guarding against complacency or spiritual boredom as we grow in body, mind, and spirit. Through this, you'll continue to hear the same simple message of Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection on your behalf even as you gain confidence that this message of hope is suitable for even the darkest, most complex moments of 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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St. Michael and All Angels

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Luke 10:17-20

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 1:19-36; Matthew 5:21-48

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. (Psalm 91:11)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Who is like God? Is that a stupid question? A rhetorical question? A stupid rhetorical question? After all, there's no one like God--that's why He's God!

Yet that's exactly the question asked--or the absolute stated--by the name "Michael." If it is a question, doesn't it demand an answer from us? And if God is speaking an absolute about Himself, why do it through the name of the archangel (Jude 9), the "great prince" who had charge over Israel (Daniel 12:1), the leader of the angels who threw down "the great dragon ... Satan" from heaven (Revelation 12:9)?

We can say with certainty that we are not like God. While we may make gods out of ourselves, we lack His infinite majesty, His absolute holiness, and possess, at best, a minuscule shadow of any of the divine attributes. It's because we are not like God that we are born as His enemies, as children of wrath who deserve nothing good.

Yet if you ask a small Christian child who they think is like God, you'll probably hear the reply, "Jesus!" And as our creeds confess, that's exactly correct. The Son of God is like God because He is God. Among all people who've ever lived, only the Son is like the Father.

Perhaps that's why the Spirit moved John to tell of "Michael and his angels" at war with Satan. Only One who is truly like God in His own nature can command God's holy angels. Maybe Jesus "saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" because He was at the forefront of the battle.

But while that's interesting speculation, we still face the basic question: Who is like God? Jesus, yes--but also all who believe in Him. This isn't the false likeness promised by the devil (Genesis 3:5). Nor are we like Him according to might and power nor even the fact of our holiness. But we are like Him because He credits Christ's righteousness to the faithful and calls us holy as He Himself is holy. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus, send Your angel legions When the foe would us enslave. Hold us fast when sin assaults us; Come, then Lord, Your people save. Overthrow at last the dragon; Send him to his fiery grave. (Christ, the Lord of Hosts, Unshaken, LSB 521:6)

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Thursday of the 15th Week after Trinity

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 1:1-18; Matthew 5:1-20

Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. If you could earn your salvation, you would need to try a lot harder than you have so far. Indeed, you're going to have to start life completely over, since you were already conceived and born sinful. That's the point of these words of Jesus: You cannot do enough to enter the kingdom.

Because we're familiar with the Scriptures, we think of the Pharisees as a bunch of hypocrites who were no more righteous than the worst sinners of Jesus' day. However, Jesus is calling for a surface comparison, not judging the heart but merely emphasizing the deeds.

The Pharisees tithed, prayed, read Scripture, and devoted themselves to acting as righteously as possible. They went out of their way to avoid becoming unclean and set firm boundaries so they'd never be accused of working on the Sabbath. And Jesus says, "That's not good enough!"

To save yourself through the Law you must keep it perfectly, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it" (James 2:10). In the context of Matthew 5, you must be poorer in spirit, more desirous of righteousness, meeker, purer, and more peaceful than anyone has ever been in order to save yourself.

Jesus doesn't give you any wiggle room, either. He says that He came not to abolish the Law but to guarantee that it is accomplished. Perfectly. What can we do if righteousness, meekness, and peacefulness are not ever foremost in our hearts and minds? Self-promotion, self-love, and self-serving (our customary strengths) have no place in the kingdom.

Yet there is hope, for what the Law demands, Jesus did. Rich beyond measure, He became poor for you. From heaven's joy, He came to sorrow with and for you. Almighty, He meekly accepted His death. Hungry and thirsty for righteousness, He always did His Father's will. What He did far exceeded the righteousness of the Pharisees and what He accomplished, the Father credits to you as you believe in Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

O keep me watchful, then, and humble; Permit me nevermore to stray. Uphold me when my feet would stumble, And keep me on the narrow way. Fill all my nature with Thy light, O Radiance strong and bright. (Thee Will I Love, My Strength, My Tower, LSB 694:4)

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Wednesday of the 15th Week after Trinity

Wed, 27 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Malachi 3:6-4:6; Matthew 4:12-25

What is Confession? Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven. (Small Catechism: Confession)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We say it all the time, "I, a poor, miserable sinner confess unto You..." Week in and week out we say that we are by nature sinful and unclean, that we've sinned in thought, word, and deed. We can handle the idea that we're sinners. After all, the Bible says so, and we have to agree with that, right? But we don't like that we have sins. Real sins. Flesh and blood sins. With our flesh and blood, mouths, bodies, and minds we've sinned. We've hurt real flesh and blood people, used them, treated them badly. We have real flesh and blood sins that we commit daily and much, and we have those sins rotting in the closets of our consciences--skeletons we hope never see daylight.

This is why we don't like confession. We're ashamed by what we've done, and we think that confession is embarrassment time. We think God invites confession so that He can shame us. But that's just our old Adam talking. He wants to stay hidden. He wants our sins to rot and fester. He wants to hang on to them, to hide them, and to make up for them. He may even try to use our own confession to do so!

But confession is there to take out the trash, to remove your burden of sin, and to take away your shame. The Lord isn't going to cast you out because of your sin. He knows you've done it anyway. He calls you to Himself for you to confess what you've done--not to embarrass you but to forgive you. He says, "That sin, that exact one, the one you've done again and again, again and again, the one you're ashamed of, it's forgiven. Jesus has died for it. His blood covers it. He left it in the tomb. He rose and left your sins behind." You hear this when your pastor says, "In the stead and by the command of my Lord, Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Amen.

From Your own mouth comes forth a word; Your shepherd speaks, but You are heard; Through him Your hand now stretches out, Forgiving sin, destroying doubt. (Baptismal Waters Cover Me, LSB 616:4)

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Tuesday of the 15th Week after Trinity

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Galatians 5:25-6:10

Daily Lectionary: Malachi 2:1-3:5; Matthew 4:1-11

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. You've probably learned that good manners are the grease that lubricates society. A little politeness goes a long way in smoothing our personal and societal interactions. We avoid stores with rude help and none of us wants to be on the road among ill-mannered drivers.

Society benefits from people who know how to balance minding their own business with looking out to help others in need. At its heart, this is more than a civic virtue: The Second Table of the Law (Commandments 4-10) sums up the "good manners" that God expects of His people.

Unfortunately, we are too often the impolite ones, sinning against our neighbor by putting our needs above his or by failing to give him the physical, moral, or spiritual support he needs. We engage in judgmental behavior through the sins of our mouths, whether by lying or by passing on truthful information that would be better off buried and forgotten.

Yet while mankind is caught up in thinking it is something when it's really nothing, Jesus engaged in the opposite: He, the Alpha and Omega, the Source of all that is, made Himself nothing, that we might have every good thing. He forgives us now and promises that in the Resurrection we will be holy and perfect in every way.

As redeemed children of God, we are to join "with gladsome voice" to "praise the God of heaven" who "His own Son hath given" (LSB 390:1). Even as He forgives our self-centered attitude and self-serving speech, Jesus leads us to use our "gladsome voice" to praise, honor, and bless our neighbor and to refrain from speaking that which brings shame and dishonor on him.

In so doing, we "fulfill the Law of Christ," even though that fulfillment is hesitant, halting, and imperfect. We discover the ability to open the doors of our hearts and step aside to let the needy enter, just as He has opened the door to His kingdom and stood aside for us to come inside. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

We are rich, for He was poor; Is not this a wonder? Therefore praise God evermore Here on earth and yonder. (Let Us All with Gladsome Voice, LSB 390:3)

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