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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: Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:30:20 -0500

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

Thursday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 44:1-16, 23-29; Romans 9:1-18

Masters, do the same to [your servants], and stop threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. (Ephesians 6:9 from the Small Catechism, Table of Duties: To Employers)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We Christians ought to be the best bosses around. Dealing kindly, gently, and fairly with those who work for us. Not threatening those who are under us. Making sure that they have good working conditions, receive a decent wage for a day's work, making their work a joy and not a burden.

Why? Because we're servants of God and baptized priests in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. And God doesn't care who the boss is.

The old Adam in us is an opportunist and a power grabber. He likes to be in charge. He likes to boss people around. He likes to threaten and browbeat and use authority as an excuse for power. Give people who are nobody a little authority over someone, and they will turn into little tyrants. Our old Adam doesn't simply want to be the boss, he thinks he's a god who deserves absolute obedience and worship. He hasn't gotten the memo yet: You've been drowned in baptism.

Like the home, the workplace is a place where sinners need to work together to get things done. That's why there are employers and employees, management and labor, bosses and workers. Workers need supervision. Supervisors need workers. We're all in this together. And when everything is working properly, workers do their work and bosses provide a productive environment for workers to accomplish things and reap the rewards of their labors. Sin always messes things up. Christian bosses understand this.

They also understand that how they hold authority reflects God's authority since all authority comes from God. What sort of Master is our Lord? He's the One who came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for the greatest and least, for those who are masters in this world, and for those who work for them. Someday you might be an employer. Remember that everyone who works for you is one for whom Jesus died. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Gracious Father in heaven, grant wisdom to all who supervise others, that those who work for them might find joy in their labors, a just reward for their work, and see a reflection of your merciful goodness as Lord and Master of all; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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The Confession of St. Peter

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Mark 8:27-9:1

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 40:1-4; 43:1-12; Romans 8:18-39

But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." (Mark 8:33)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Watch out for faith like Peter had before Jesus rose from the dead! He confessed that Jesus was the Christ, but he didn't yet know what it meant. Jesus said, "I am going to Jerusalem to die." Peter replied, "No way!" Later on, Jesus said that all His disciples would fall away. Peter replied, "No way!" Jesus told Peter he would deny even knowing Him. Peter insisted "No way!" In the garden, when they tried to take Jesus, Peter drew his sword, declaring, "No way!" And then, standing around the fire, three times Peter was asked if he knew Jesus. And each time, He answered, "No way!"

Some confession! He said Jesus was the Christ and then figured He must be some other kind of Christ. This is what makes Peter's confession of Jesus so important. Jesus' being the Christ means that He can save even a guy like Peter who thinks he's got it all figured out. When Jesus goes to the cross, it is for sinners like Peter and us who think that faith is about how strongly we believe, rather than about who Jesus is and what He has done.

Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ is a confession that it is Jesus who must be the one to save us. Even Jesus says this. "Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses it for my sake will be saved." Jesus dies for sinners, but we don't then "get saved" by wanting to be saved. Rather, we have to lose our lives. We have to die. The Lord does that when He drowns us in Holy Baptism. There we lose our sinful lives and are saved. There the Christ who saved Peter saves you.

We celebrate the Confession that Peter made, not because it teaches us about Peter, but because it teaches us about Jesus. It shows that Peter is a sinner as we are and that Christ is the Savior of sinners. People have lots of ideas about who Jesus is, but Peter sets the record straight: "You are the Christ." He is the Christ who saves Peter and you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; No merit of my own I claim But wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand. (My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less, LSB 575:1)

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Tuesday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Romans 12:6-16

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 39:1-10, 17-29; Romans 8:18-39

"And having gifts according to the grace given to us differently; if prophecy, according to the analogy of the faith; if service in the serving, if the teaching, in the teaching." (Romans 12:6-7)

In the Name + Jesus. Amen. Boy, are there a lot of different perspectives out there nowadays! Some follow a Goth or an Emo track, while others a more traditional path. Atheists, agnostics, new-age religionists, Muslims, Mormons, charismatics, conservative Christians, and a host of other religious points of view can be found. Because people themselves are so different, so, too, are their spiritual pursuits.

But what about us Bible-believing Christians? Is it okay to saunter off of the beaten path to embrace all sorts of new ideas and belief systems? After all, each one of us is gifted differently from other Christians. Is there a way that's only right for you, and a different path that's equally valid for the next person? Just how do Christians who are different deal with their different gifts?

In this so-called "post-modern" age where everybody does their own thing, and no one truth seems better than any others, Christians are to take a stand. However different your gift might be, the proclamation of truth today is still according to the analogy of the faith. This means that you compare any new truths to the "Faith" of Holy Scripture.

For it is not "any old teaching" that pleases God, rather, He wants us to embrace the Teaching that comes from the prophets of old, and from Jesus and His apostles. So if your friends are enticing you to become interested in some new teaching from an odd group, beware. Take the time to compare these new teachings to the Law and Gospel teaching of God's Word.

For the grace of God, and the faith in Him that you hold to don't ever change. The Law/Gospel message of your sin and God's mercy is still the same. God's love for you in Christ Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. The forgiveness He offers in Gospel preaching, at the font, and at the Communion rail remain just as trustworthy as ever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

"O Word of God incarnate, O Wisdom from on high, O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky; We praise You for the radiance That from the hallowed page, A lantern to our footsteps, Shines on from age to age." (O Word of God Incarnate, LSB 523:1)

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Monday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Exodus 33:12-23

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 38:1-23; Romans 7:1-20

But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." (Exodus 33:20)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Before Christ came, you couldn't see the face of God and live. The Lord was holy, awesome, mighty, shaking Mt. Sinai. He passed by Moses in all His glory, but Moses could not see His face, because he would have died. That's what happens when the glory of God comes into contact with sinners. They die.

Unless that glory of God is wrapped up and hidden like it is in Jesus. The glory of the Lord is hidden in the flesh of Christ. Look at Jesus. Is He scary? Can you look at a man? He's at a wedding making wine. Who can think such a God is so terrible now?

When we think of the glory of God, we usually picture some image of a blazing throne and clouds and light and angels around the Lord. But consider the glory of God in Jesus. The glory of God in a hay-filled manger. The glory of God in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. The glory of God in a man crowned with thorns. The glory of God in the blood and sweat of His crucifixion. The glory that would consume sinners is now covered in flesh, which is covered in our sins. Now, instead of destroying sinners, the glory of God saves them by suffering shame and death.

When Jesus was pierced, the blood and water that flowed went into the font and cup, delivering to you that salvation and glory in the water of your Baptism and the Body and Blood of the Supper. It is for that reason that the "cleft of a rock" in which Moses was hidden from God's glory is often compared to Christ. It is in Him that we are hidden from the glory of the Lord which would otherwise destroy us. Or to put it the other way: in Christ, the glory of the Lord is what saves us, for it was hidden in His sacrifice for our sins.

Now, someday, when you look upon the face of God, you will see the face of Jesus, the man who is true God, shining with the glory that is your comforting light forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure: Cleanse me from its guilt and pow'r. (Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me, LSB 761:1)

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The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: John 2:1-11

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 37:15-28; Romans 6:1-23

Now there were set there six water pots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. (John 2:6)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus came to fulfill the Law. He came to bring a New Testament. He begins it with His first miracle of changing water into wine. Notice what He uses―water pots of the law. The purification jars of the Jews. He has them filled with water and they draw out wine. Here we are reminded that the Law was given to be fulfilled by Christ because we could not keep it.

Some say we can. There are preachers who say, "God wouldn't have given us His commandments if we couldn't keep them." But that contradicts St. Paul who says the Law was given to show us our sin. (Galatians 3). When Jesus has those jars filled with water that turns into wine, He's teaching us that He has come to do what we could not: keep the Law. Love God. Love neighbor. He did both. Perfectly.

And what is the result of His filling up of the Law? They drank and were merry! An open bar at a wedding! This miracle is a picture of what Christ truly does for us by dying for our sins. He fulfills the Law. He loves God the Father. He loves His neighbor by dying for us. And we drink of that salvation in the Holy Sacrament where the wine is given to us to drink the very Blood of Christ.

The miracle of the water into wine is also a reminder that what Christ is doing on Calvary is also about having a Bride, His Holy Church. Just as the wedding party went from water to wine in celebration of their marriage, so Christ's Church is made alive by baptism, and celebrates through His Holy Supper that He has redeemed her. That's you. You are the Bride of Christ. The ones for whom He gave His life. The ones for whom He turned the jars of God's Law into a saving and refreshing drink of grace even as He Himself fulfilled that Law.

This, the first of the signs that Jesus did, points to Him as the true Savior and Bridegroom. Your Savior and Bridegroom. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, Governor of all things in heaven and earth, mercifully hear the supplications of Your people and grant us Your peace in our time; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Epiphany 2)

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Saturday of the First Week after the Epiphany

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 36:33-37:14; Romans 5:1-21

Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. (Psalm 66:5 from the Introit for Epiphany 2)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Want to see something awesomely amazing? Go watch a baptism. Go tell your pastor your sins and listen to Him absolve you. Kneel at the Lord's altar and eat and drink Jesus' Body and Blood. Sit and listen to a sermon proclaiming Christ crucified. What? You don't think that stuff is amazing? The Psalmist says it is. He says to "come and see the works of God."

The "works of God" aren't things that the movies show: power and light and magic and lighting and all of that stuff. The works of God are hidden. Foolish. They look silly. A man beat up and hanging on a cross? A baby getting water splashed on her. Seriously? Awesome? More like mundane. Same ol', same ol'. But it's not. Those are the awesome works of God.

Why are they so awesome? Because there, in the Divine Service where you'll be tomorrow, the Lord of heaven and earth unloads His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation on you. By water, Word, Body and Blood, Jesus is doing awesome things.

By those gifts, the same Lord who shed His blood on the cross and rose triumphantly on Easter wipes out your sins and drives the devil away and robs death of its sting.

The world looks for miracles and healings and strange things to happen. Lots of preachers are out there telling people that those things are the awesome works of the Lord. But the Lord hasn't promised any of that. He has promised by His means of grace to forgive your sins and bestow Jesus and His gifts of life and salvation on you. What could be more awesome than that?

When you go to the Divine Service, look with the eyes of faith and you will be amazed at the awesome things the Lord is doing by His powerful Word and Sacraments. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

The gifts Christ freely gives He gives to you and me To be His Church, His bride, His chosen, saved, and free! Saints blessed with these rich gifts Are children who proclaim That they were won by Christ And cling to His strong name. (The Gifts Christ Freely Gives, LSB 602:1)

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Friday of the First Week after the Epiphany

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 8:6-13

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 36:13-28; Romans 4:1-25

Then the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the Most Holy Place, under the wings of the cherubim. (1 Kings 8:6)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. There's no doubting where the Lord was. If you wanted to know where the Lord was, you went to the temple. There, in the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant dwelled, the cloud of God's glory could be glimpsed. There was the Lord to receive the blood of lambs and bulls and goats to atone for sins.

The thing about God is that you don't have to go looking for Him. He comes to us and He makes sure He tells us where He'll be. When the Son of God came down, St. John says He "tabernacled" among us. What the temple was in the Old Testament, the place where God was, is what Jesus is―the place where God is. Want to see the Lord? Look for Jesus.

Where do we find Him? He was there in the flesh. In Jerusalem and Galilee. On the cross. In the Upper Room. Now He's at the right hand of God. How will we find Him now? Not to worry. He's told us that, too. At the altar with His Body and Blood. At the font by water and the Word. Where your pastor is at work teaching God's Word and absolving. In the Scriptures, which Martin Luther once said are like the manger where Jesus was. God comes to us in Jesus Christ and He does so in the places He promised to be.

He does this to rescue us from looking for Him in places He doesn't want to be found. Don't look for Him in your feelings. Those go up and down and change as fast as the weather outside. Don't look for Him in the things that go wrong or right in your life as if God loves you one minute and hates you the next. Don't look for Him in the disasters and trials that afflict the world, trying to figure out what He's telling you.

No, He's there in His temple. There on the cross. He was in those places for you and your salvation. Now it's font, altar, pulpit and Bible. He's not far away. You don't have to track Him down. He came to you and will always be there in those holy gifts to forgive your sins and comfort you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

In His temple now behold Him, See the ­long­­-expected Lord; Ancient prophets had foretold Him, God has now fulfilled His word. Now to praise Him, His redeemed Shall break forth with one accord. (In His Temple Now Behold Him, LSB 519:1)

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Thursday of the First Week after the Epiphany

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Luke 2:41-52

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 34:1-24; Romans 3:19-31

And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. (Luke 2:42)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Bible doesn't mention much about Jesus being a child. He was a baby, then He was twelve and then He was grown up and getting baptized by John. But the fact that St. Luke tells us this story of Jesus when He was 12 should be a great comfort to us. It means that Jesus really was like us in every way. Imagine if Jesus had just appeared one day, all grown up. But He doesn't. He comes to us as a baby. He's a tween. A teen. An adult. Whatever we are, Jesus has been, be it the baby growing in His mother's womb or the young man in the same way you are a young man or woman.

It's a reminder that when God comes to us, He doesn't do it in a way that is different or unreal or frightening. Baby in a manger. Tween going up to the feast. He's one of us. The Son of God is like you, with one important exception: He was about His Father's business.

Unlike you, who wants to sleep in on Sundays because you were out late; or who like to make fun of that other kid when he's not around; or who backtalk your parents over the littlest thing. Unlike you, Jesus obeyed His parents and His heavenly Father. He never lost sight of the purpose for which He was born into the world. While you may have no idea where you want to go to college or what you want to do with your life, Jesus knew He was to be about His Father's business of saving sinners by suffering and dying for them.

And it is by that suffering and death and by that perfect obedience to His heavenly Father and earthly parents that rescues you from being a sinful kid. By your baptism into Jesus, His being the perfect kid makes you into the perfect young man or woman in the Father's sight. Jesus doesn't just do what He's supposed to in order to show everyone how great He is. No, He is like you in every way except without sin so that you will stand before God with no sins. He became what you are to rescue you from what you were and to make you a child of God in Him. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Within the Father's house The Son has found His home, And to His temple suddenly The Lord of Life has come. (Within the Father's House, LSB 410:1)

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Wednesday of the First Week after the Epiphany

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 33:1-20; Romans 3:1-18

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart (Ephesians 6:5 from the Small Catechism, Table of Duties: To Workers)

We Christians ought to be the best workers around. Showing up on time--even early. Working hard and smart. Not wasting time on Facebook or texting while on the clock. We ought to take pride in our work, honing our skills to their very best, no matter how trivial the task. We ought to do good work whether someone is watching or not.

Why? Because we are priests in the priesthood of Christ. Everything we do, including our work, is priestly work, living sacrifices of our bodies (Romans 12:1), thank offerings to God for His mercies in Christ. We don't simply work for "the Man," we work for the God-Man, Jesus, our Lord. We are His servants, His priests. And we serve our employers and bosses as though serving Christ Himself.

We're conflicted. Our new man in Christ loves this and gladly does it even without so much as a poke or a prod. But our old man in Adam hates this, rebels against this, tries to subvert it. He wants to be the Man, the big boss, in charge. Old Adam believes he's a god and won't let anyone tell him what to do. Oh, he'll work, but only when someone is watching, and only for reward, and only for what's in it for him.

He needs to die. You need to repent, think again, think anew. See yourself and your work in Christ: redeemed, restored, raised up for good. You're a priest in Christ's priesthood. And priests do their work even when "no one is watching" because they serve the Lord who is always watching, through the forgiving, merciful eyes of Jesus, our High Priest, who came not to be served, but to serve, and to lay down His life to save the world and you.

With the Lord begin your task; Jesus will direct it. For His aid and counsel ask; Jesus will perfect it. Ev'ry morn with Jesus rise, And when day is ended, In His name then close your eyes; Be to Him commended. (With the Lord Begin Your Task, LSB 869:1)

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Tuesday of the First Week after the Epiphany

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-32; Romans 2:17-29

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God -- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption -- that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD." (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Go on. I dare you. I triple dog dare you. Tell your friends how awesome your baptism is! Tell them that in baptism, Jesus Himself has sprinkled you with His blood, forgiven your sins, rescued you from death and the devil, given you eternal salvation, saved you, clothed you and washed you with His grace. They might go nuts! They might say to you, "No! Baptism shows your obedience. Jesus died for you, but now YOU have to..." fill in the blank. Accept Him. Choose Him. Follow Him. Whatever.

St. Paul tells us to boast in the Lord. Our wisdom--being "smart" in God's sight, is Jesus. Our righteousness--our being right with God--is Jesus. (Remember He's in the water taking our place!) Our sanctification--our holy life--is Jesus. Our redemption--our being bought back from sin is Jesus. Every aspect of your salvation is accomplished by Jesus. No strings attached. Nothing for you to do. It's all a gift of Christ Himself for you.

Jesus died on the cross, taking away sin and destroying the Devil's power. Boast in that! Jesus rose from the dead, throwing death down like a dirty towel. Boast in that! Jesus washed you at the font. Boast in that! He fills your ears with His Word. Boast in that! He gives you His very Body and Blood to eat and drink. Boast in that! Boast and brag in Jesus. You? Not so much. Never mind your efforts and intentions and feelings. Jesus? All the way! 24/7/365: It's all Him.

Boast like that, though, and the "holy" Christians will get nervous. Boasting as if you don't have to do anything to be saved or stay saved is the kind of talk that raises their hackles. They want to think there's something they've got to be doing. But that's boasting in themselves. Set them straight and go on and on about what Jesus has done by His life, death and resurrection and how He continues to work in you through the means of grace of His Church. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Not unto us, not unto us be glory, Lord; Not unto us but to your name be praise; Not unto us but to Your name all honor be giv'n For matchless mercy, forgiveness and grace. (Not unto Us, LSB 558:1)

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Monday of the First Week after the Epiphany

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Joshua 3:1-3, 7-8, 13-17

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 3:12-27; Romans 2:1-16

Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan. (Joshua 3:17)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus' baptism is not the first time the Lord has stood in the Jordan River. When Israel crossed over that river and entered the Promised Land, the Lord was there. Where the ark was, that was where the Lord was. No doubts and uncertainty—they knew exactly where He was. See the ark? There is the Lord.

Same with Jesus. See Jesus? See the Lord. Want to know where God is? What He is doing? Look for Jesus. When Jesus stands in the Jordan River, the Lord is doing exactly what He did in the Old Testament—bringing Israel into the Promised Land. But this time it's not just Israel but all people. And now it's not the Promised Land as defined by GPS coordinates, but the Promised Land of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

In fact, when the Lord was in the midst of the Jordan River the first time, He was pointing ahead to this time, when He would stand there in human flesh to be baptized for sinners and begin His work of carrying our sins to Calvary to get rid of them by His suffering and death for us.

This is really how we need to read the Old Testament. We need to see that the events and people and places where the Lord was active in the Old Testament point us in some way to His Work in the flesh to save us from our sins. See the Lord in the Old Testament? That points to Jesus. See Jesus? There's the Lord. See Holy Baptism, Supper, the Word? There's Jesus. And there's the Lord for you.

The Lord gets in the water. And by doing that He brings you along, crossing over from death to life. The Promised Land, eternal life, is yours, because the Lord stood in the Jordan for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

There stood the Son of God in love, His grace to us extending; The Holy Spirit like a dove Upon the scene descending; The triune God assuring us, With promises compelling, That in our Baptism He will thus Among us find a dwelling To comfort and sustain us. (To Jordan Came the Christ, LSB 406:4)

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The Baptism of Our Lord (First Sunday after the Epiphany)

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Matthew 3:13-17

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 2:1-3:11; Romans 1:18-32

But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him. (Matthew 3:15)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Warning! Heavy theological word ahead! "Righteousness." What is it? What does it mean? If you hear that word in the Bible or your pastor tosses it out in a sermon or something, what does it mean? Jesus answers that question today and He does it quite simply. He shows up to be baptized by John the Baptist. Now, John knows that Jesus is sinless; He's the spotless Lamb of God. So why on earth should Jesus be getting baptized, something which was for sinners? Jesus says, "Permit it to be so now for thus it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness."

"Righteousness" is, simply, Jesus taking your place. He comes to suffer FOR you and INSTEAD of you. When Jesus gets in the water, He's saying, "I'm going to be a sinner, too. Not with my own sins, but with yours. And I'll take them to the cross and get rid of them for you."

Righteousness is Jesus living for you. Keeping the commandments for you. Loving God the Father with all His heart for you. Loving others as Himself for you. Healing and preaching and teaching and fighting the devil. All for you.

Righteousness is Jesus suffering for you. On the cross. Loaded down with your sins. Your suffering. Your punishment. Your judgment under the Law of God. Your death.

Righteousness is Jesus rising from the dead for you. Conquering sin and death for you. Throwing down the powers of hell for you.

Righteousness is Jesus taking your place and giving you His. He covers you with His righteousness in baptism and makes all He did yours. He, Himself, lives in you through His Body and Blood. Jesus for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

O God, our heavenly Father, whose voice was heard at the baptism of Your only-begotten Son, declaring Him to be the one with whom You are well-pleased, pour down Your Holy Spirit upon Your faithful people that we may rejoice in this same sonship that we have received from You through our baptism into Christ; who lives and reigns with You and the same Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Epiphany 1)

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The Saturday After Epiphany

Sat, 07 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 1:1-14,22-28; Romans 1:1-17

My mercy I will keep for him forever, And My covenant shall stand firm with him. (Psalm 89:28 from the Introit for Epiphany 1)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Tomorrow we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord. Jesus shows up at the Jordan river to fulfill all righteousness by being baptized with the sinners--not because He is a sinner but because He is taking the sins of the world upon Himself. When Jesus is baptized and the Father declares, "This is my beloved Son!" He is showing that His covenant, His promise, stands firm.

God promised Adam and Eve that He would send a child born of a woman to crush the serpent's head. The Lord promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that their descendants would become a great nation. The Lord promised the Israelites who left Egypt that they would be His holy people. Over and over and over, God made promises.

And when Jesus stands in the Jordan river, God the Father announces that all those promises are being kept. In His Son. The Son who takes on our sins and goes to the wilderness to battle the devil. The Son who carries our burdens to Calvary and dies for our iniquities there. The Son who on the third day rose again to throw down the power of death and the grave.

The mercy of God is kept for Jesus. In fact, the mercy of God is in Jesus, and with all who are in Him. The mercy of God is kept for you in the waters of your baptism, in the Absolution proclaimed by your pastor, and in the Body and Blood of the One who is the fulfillment of all God's promises.

Tomorrow, in the Divine Service, we hear again of Jesus, the One in whom all God's promises come true. Not just true in general, but true for you, His holy and redeemed people. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

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Fri, 06 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Matthew 2:1-12

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 66:1-20; Luke 3:21-38

So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'" (Matthew 2:5-6)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Notice that the star didn't guide the wise men straight to Jesus. It brought them to where they would hear the Scriptures. There, in the Word, they learned that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. When they went to Bethlehem the star rested over the house where Jesus was.

This is still how our Lord does it. He reveals Himself in His Word. His preachers point out where He is. The Word reveals that the Son of God is born in Bethlehem. From the Scriptures we learn that Jesus lived, suffered, died, and rose. From the preaching of the Gospel we hear that this all happened to save us. At the baptismal font, from the altar, and from the pulpit, the "star" of your pastor points to Christ. "There He is!" In the water. The Word. The Body and Blood. The Lord doesn't leave anyone--Jew or Gentile--in uncertainty as to where He is.

Epiphany is not only a reminder that Christ is for all people, it's also a confession that He's in a particular place--His Word--for all people. Jesus is made known to these magi from the east because the promise He fulfills is for all nations.

It's possible that wise men had heard the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) from men like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When the Israelites lived in exile in Babylon and under the Persian kings, the Word of God was there. In what seemed like horrible circumstances, the Lord was preserving His people, to keep His promises and bring about salvation not just for the descendants of Abraham but for all people. So those "nations," the Gentiles, show up in Bethlehem, and they, too, fall before Jesus to worship Him, who came to die and rise for them, too. And for the whole world! Happy Epiphany! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

O God, who by the leading of a star made manifest Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we, who know You now by faith, may after this life joyfully behold Your glorious Godhead; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Epiphany)

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The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Thu, 05 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 65:8-25; Luke 3:1-20

If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. (1 Peter 4:14)

Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sad, but true, the world doesn't really like the name of Jesus. We see it somewhat superficially in the battle to "keep Christ in Christmas." (Just look around. Christmas ended twelve days ago for the world while the Church keeps celebrating). But if the world hates the name of Christ, then it will hate you who bear His name.

It's strange to think that the Christmas season, which began with the announcement of "peace on earth" ends with the assurance that our reproach and suffering are to His glory. But there you go. You bear the name of Jesus. You'll suffer.

But remember what that Name means! "Yahweh saves!" There is no reproach or hatred or mockery or suffering that you could suffer from which Jesus does not deliver you. His death. His resurrection. His baptizing you. His putting His Word in your ears. His giving you His Body and Blood to eat and drink. All of that is the glory of God at work in you while the world blasphemes and mocks.

As much as we want Christmas to be a time of "peace" and "joy," those things aren't given by God the way the world thinks of them. Remember, the true peace and joy are a quiet conscience before the Lord and the good news that your sins no longer condemn you but are forgiven.

As the Christmas season draws to a close, we give thanks for the birth of our Lord in the flesh. He comes to take away any reproach we would have before the Father and to make us God's dearly beloved children. That is a true gift that the world doesn't understand but can never take away. Merry Christmas in the Name + of Jesus! Amen.

Thou Christian heart, Whoe'er thou art, Be of good cheer and let no sorrow move thee! For God's own Child, In mercy mild, Joins thee to Him; how greatly God must love thee! (O Jesus Christ, Thy Manger Is, LSB 372:4)

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The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 63:15-65:2; Luke 2:41-52

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and your mother"--which is the first commandment with a promise--"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." (Ephesians 6:1-3 from the Small Catechism, Table of Duties: To Parents and Children)

Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. If only parents and children got along! If only your parents didn't drive you crazy and if you didn't make them shake their heads in frustration! But they do. We do. Parents and kids have been butting heads ever since there have been parents and kids!

Jesus, we recall, grew up obedient to Mary and Joseph. We can say it this way: When it comes to the Fourth Commandment, Jesus kept it. But His keeping it doesn't make Him that annoying goody-goody kid. It makes Him your Savior. That's the way Jesus works. Every bit of the Law that He keeps, gets put on your account, your record. Every bit of the Law you break, that is laid on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God.

When it comes down to it, parent-child relationships aren't going to get better because parents and kids stop driving each other crazy. Rather, they'll survive through the forgiveness of sins each receives from Jesus and then gives to the other.

Parents: Jesus died for your mistakes and failures as mothers and fathers. He forgives you. Your baptism says that your failings as a parent will never count against you but against Him on Calvary. Living in the glad confidence of that forgiveness, you can learn to forgive your children and ask their forgiveness when you sin against them.

And children, likewise. Every bit of dishonor toward your parents has been laid on Jesus and is forgiven you. Therefore learn to forgive your parents their faults and to ask forgiveness when you sin against them.

Then both, parents and children, rejoice to go the Lord's house together, receiving His forgiveness and living joyfully in that blessed gift. Merry Christmas in the Name + of Jesus! Amen.

Let all together praise Our God Before His glorious throne; Today He opens heav'n again To give us His own Son, to give us His own Son. (Let All Together Praise Our God, LSB 389:1)

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The Tenth Day of Christmas

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Ephesians 3:1-12

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 63:1-14; Luke 2:21-40

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 3:8-9)

Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Some people think this is how things work: God made everything. Man messed it up. Then God had to come up with an alternate plan: Jesus' coming to die and rise and fix it. But that's not how it went down. Paul writes that the salvation we have in Christ has been since before the ages. The Son's coming in the flesh to save sinners has always been the plan.

Now, don't get sidetracked by a lot of "whys" and "how comes" about the way the Lord did things. What matters is Christ, in whom we have the unsearchable riches and the fellowship of the mystery of God's saving sinners.

Jesus came because that's always what was going to happen. God made a promise and He kept it. He sent His Son. The Son became man. He was born, lived, suffered, died, and rose from the dead. All for you and the whole world. That's always been what God was going to do. Jesus isn't a backup plan or an alternate play in God's playbook. He's the Main Event. Jesus is the purpose and fulfillment of all of God's promises to man.

Christmas doesn't represent a sidetrack in the program. It is the revealing of the One who has always been there, awaiting the time of the Father's choosing, that "fullness of time," to come and redeem us who were under the Law and to make us sons of God.

Don't ever let anyone or anything shove Jesus aside as the center of all things. His life, death, and resurrection; His water, Word, and Body and Blood--these are the things by which you have life. It was always going to be this way. And now that Jesus has come in the flesh, we know what it is and what it is all about. Merry Christmas in the Name + of Jesus! Amen.

Oh, that birth forever blessed, When the virgin full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bore the Savior of our race, And the babe, the world's Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face Evermore and evermore. (Of the Father's Love Begotten, LSB 384:2)

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The Ninth Day of Christmas

Mon, 02 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Genesis 46:1-7

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 62:1-12; Luke 2:1-20

So He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. (Genesis 46:3)

Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. One of things we should notice about Jesus' life is that He does things that Israel did in the Old Testament. Jacob (whose name was Israel later on) took his family and moved to Egypt. When Jesus was little, Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt to avoid King Herod's trying to kill Jesus. Later, the Lord sent Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Later on, the angel told Mary and Joseph to return home. God called His Son out of Egypt.

God made promises to Abraham. Also to Isaac. Also to Jacob. The fulfillment of those promises is Jesus. In doing a sort of "reliving" of Israel's life, Jesus shows that He is the fulfillment of those promises. Those promises are about Him.

But He takes it farther. Where Israel kept turning away from the Lord, Jesus steadfastly set His face to do His Father's will, to go the way of suffering and death for sinners. To be under the Law and redeem those under the Law. He is, in essence, the perfect "Israel."

And you are now part of that "great nation" which the Lord promised to Jacob. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not just those who are related by blood. Rather, through faith in Jesus Christ, through our baptism into Him, we are all part of God's family. Through faith, we are all descendants of Abraham and that means heirs with him and all of God's people. We are heirs of all of God's good gifts and promises. Forgiveness, life, salvation, a place with God--all these things are yours, too, for Jesus' sake.

Jesus is born to save the world. He does this by being all that the Lord promises for all the people to whom He promised it. And to all people. Jesus is the proof that God always keeps His promises. And those promises are yours because you are included in that great nation of His. Merry Christmas in the Name + of Jesus! Amen.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it, The rose I have in mind; With Mary we behold it, The virgin mother kind. To show God's love aright, She bore to us a Savior, When half -spent was the night. (Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming, LSB 359:2)

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Circumcision and Name of Jesus

Sun, 01 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Luke 2:21

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 61:1-11; Luke 1:57-80

And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Jesus." That's Greek for "Joshua." And "Joshua" is Hebrew for "Yahweh saves." Because Jesus will save His people from their sins. And He will do it by shedding His blood. And here is first blood! The first blood shed, when Jesus is circumcised.

The circumcision of Jesus is a double reminder. First, it's a reminder that Jesus keeps the Law for you. Every last commandment. Every last thought, word, and deed of Jesus will be pure and perfect in line with the Law. And that counts for you. It is the promise that this little child will grow up living your life that you should have, but have not.

It's also a reminder that He will die your death. He will suffer the price for breaking the commandments. For violating the Law. Your sins will be laid on Him. Your sin will be counted as His. And it will draw blood. Today with a knife. Later with a crown of thorns, scourge, and nails. This One will die your death to set you free from the wrath and judgement of God.

All that is what His name means. Yahweh saves. That's what Jesus does. His name isn't "Yahweh judges" or "Yahweh condemns" or "Yahweh lets you get away with anything." It's Yahweh saves--by bleeding for you. From the moment the angel told Mary and Joseph that this child would be called "Jesus" to the moment they gave Him that Name when He was circumcised...that Name says it all: He saves. That's what He does.

Eight days after He is born, the Lord sheds His blood for you. Circumcision was the sign of God's promise that the Savior would one day be born. Now, carried out on the Savior Himself, circumcision is the sign that God's promises are kept and that Yahweh saves His people. Joshua, Jesus. His Name. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in the Name + of Jesus! Amen.

He undertakes a great exchange, Puts on our human frame, And in return gives us His realm, His glory, and His name, His glory, and His name. (Let All Together Praise Our God, LSB 389:4)

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Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Luke 12:35-40

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 60:1-22; Luke 1:39-56

Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (Luke 12:40)

Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. So predictable. Every year. The countdown. The ball drops in Times Square. We have it down to the second. Happy New Year! And again in a year. And again. As if it will never change. But some day, some time, Jesus will come again. Are you ready? What if He were to interrupt the countdown tonight and appear in the sky like the lightning flashing from east to west? Would you be ready?

You already are ready! He's made you ready. He made you ready for His return the moment the water and Word were splashed upon you at the font. He makes you ready and prepared every time you eat and drink His Body and Blood and every time your pastor declares your sins forgiven.

And that's because He's made you ready before that. He made you ready at Calvary when He shed His blood to blot out your sin. He made you ready when He prepared you for death by dying on the cross. He made you ready when He made possible your resurrection by His own rising from the dead.

New Year's Eve is sort of funny. It's a great, big party for something we know is going to happen. Yet when we gather in the Divine Service, we are celebrating and anticipating something without knowing when it will occur. Yet we are ready because Jesus has told us that He is coming back.

The first time He showed up was unexpected. The shepherds heard about it and later the wise men. When He comes again, the world will still not be ready. But you are ready. Jesus Himself has prepared you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in the Name + of Jesus! Amen.

Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear; Arise, O Sun so longed for, O'er this benighted sphere. With hearts and hands uplifted, We plead, O Lord, to see The day of earth's redemption That sets Your people free! (Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers, LSB 515:4)

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The Sixth Day of Christmas

Fri, 30 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Galatians 4:1-7

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 58:1-59:3,14-21; Luke 1:26-38

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In the fullness of time. When Roman roads connected the world. When travel was relatively safe. When the Word of God has spread far and wide through the Jews who had traveled with it. When it was just the right time for the Lord to keep the promise He had made to Adam and Eve and the generations thereafter.

God sent forth His Son, born under the Law to a faithful Jewish mother, a daughter of Israel, married to a man of Israel. Circumcised the eighth day, sacrifices offered at His presentation in the temple. Jesus, born to be bound under the Law and Commandments, to keep and follow them perfectly.

He came to redeem those who were under the Law because we haven't kept the Commandments. Because we don't love God and love our neighbor. Jesus came to redeem--to buy us back--not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, and then by rising from the dead the third day.

And He did this that we might receive the adoption as sons. What He did in redeeming us, He gives to us in the waters of Holy Baptism, in which we are born from above. New birth. A new creation. Now, God is our Father. Jesus, our brother. We are a part of the Lord's family and people--not orphans but His precious and holy ones, for whom His Son came into this world.

There's a lot in those few words of St. Paul. Fullness of time. God's Son. Redeeming. Adopting. It's a beautiful summary of salvation on this, the sixth day of our celebration of our Lord's birth. Merry Christmas in the Name + of Jesus! Amen.

Hail, the heav'n born Prince of Peace! Hail, the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris'n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sins, "Glory to the newborn King!" (Hark! The Herald Angles Sing, LSB 380:3)

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The Fifth Day of Christmas

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 55:1-13; Luke 1:1-25

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22 from the Small Catechism, Table of Duties: To Wives)

Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Modern sensibilities don't like that word "submit," especially applied to wives. As if the wife is supposed to just do whatever the husband says all the time and let him boss her around. But that would be a bad and distorted idea of "submit" that doesn't include the phrase St. Paul actually used: "As to the Lord." What does that mean? Well, how does the Church submit to Christ? Very simply, she lets Him do the work of saving her. He gives His life into death and then washes her to make her spotless and blameless.

A wife should expect that of her husband: to overlook and forgive her sins; to be the one person in the whole world who will forgive her and love her unconditionally like Jesus does. Considering that, the idea of a wife submitting to her husband really goes against the world after all but not in the way we think. Rather, it calls husbands to love their wives in a way that the world wouldn't recognize in its selfishness.

Even though it's Christmas time and we think of Jesus' time as a baby, this Baby will grow up to be the heavenly Bridegroom. His first sign will be at a wedding. And the blood and water that flow from His side on Calvary remind us of the creation of Eve from the rib (the side) of Adam. As the church, the Bride of Christ, we look to Jesus to care for us, to love us, to forgive us, and cleanse us and make us spotless in God's sight.

Baptism and the Supper of Jesus remind us that Christ's Bride, the Church, wears the robe of His spotless righteousness and there is an eternal wedding feast waiting for us. The love of a wife for her husband in an earthly marriage is a beautiful picture and reminder of this reality which Christ brought about when He came into this world. Merry Christmas in the Name + of Jesus! Amen.

The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord; She is His new creation By water and the Word. From heav'n He came and sought her To be His holy bride; With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died. (The Church's One Foundation, LSB 644:1)

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The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Wed, 28 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Matthew 2:13-18

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 52:13-54:10; Matthew 2:13-23

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem... (Matthew 2:16)

Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Well, so far since Christmas we've heard about St. Stephen who was stoned to death, St. John who had been exiled, and now the children of Bethlehem being slaughtered by wicked King Herod. Maybe it's good to be reminded that no one who is a child of God escapes the world's hatred. The devil and the world don't care that children die as long as they can try to kill Jesus. But they can't!

These little children of Bethlehem remind us that God's salvation in Christ comes to us in a world filled with suffering and death. But it is also a reminder that God works everything out for our good. Yes, even these little ones die under the eye of the Father, who preserves the life of His only-begotten Son for now, but who will give Him up into death later on.

Some might accuse God of being cruel for allowing such a thing to happen. However, it's not God's cruelty but that of evil men who hate the Lord and His Son. Jesus didn't come to shove King Herod over and take his throne. He came to establish the Kingdom of God--a kingdom established in grace, mercy, and the forgiveness of sins.

In the end, it is the death of Jesus that redeems these little ones. It is His resurrection that ensures they will live again and forever. Into Christ's wounds we cast all our sufferings and cares, trusting that in Him, we will be saved from all that is horrible and evil in this world. Let the world do what it may, Jesus will make all things new when He comes again in glory.

And He already has begun to make all things new. Starting with the new you of your baptism. His Body and Blood and Word deliver His forgiveness and promise of everlasting life. We, too, will join those little ones in death and live with them forever with Jesus. Merry Christmas in the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

All praise for infant martyrs, Whom Your mysterious love Called early from their warfare To share Your home above. O Rachel, cease your weeping; They rest from earthly cares! Lord, grant us crowns as brilliant And faith as sure as theirs. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 517:9)

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St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: John 21:20-25

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 51:17-52:12; Matthew 2:1-12

Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?" (John 21:23)

Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Another festival day in the Christmas season. This day we remember St. John, the Evangelist, who wrote that the Word was in the beginning and that "the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us" (John 1:14). John was the longest living Apostle and Evangelist (Gospel writer). While the New Testament was being written, you could always check with John as to whether something was true or not. John proclaimed Christ, the Word-made-flesh and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

A great gift of the preaching of the Gospel in the Christian Church is that the death and resurrection of Jesus are confirmed by eyewitnesses. John was one of those. He was there when Jesus was nailed to the cross on Calvary. He was there to see Jesus' side pierced with a spear. He was there to see the empty tomb and Jesus alive on the third day.

It is John who teaches us that the Word-made-flesh saves us by His blood and water. John records Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus that we are born "from above" by water and the Spirit." He relays Jesus' words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. It is John who presents Jesus to us as the Bridegroom who makes water into wine. As the Lord who provides for His people bread. Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. John tells us that Jesus sent His apostles into the world to forgive sins. Everything about John's witness as an Apostle and Evangelist points us to Jesus who saves us from sin, death, and the devil.

As we continue to rejoice in the birth of Jesus, celebrating the festival of St. John reminds us that the big deal of Christmas is that Jesus came in the flesh to shed His blood and save us. Merry Christmas in the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

For Your belov'd disciple Exiled to Patmos' shore, And for his faithful record, We praise You evermore. Praise for the mystic vision Through Him to us revealed; May we, in patience waiting, With Your elect be sealed. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 517:8)

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St. Stephen, Martyr

Mon, 26 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Today's Reading: Acts 6:8-7:2, 51-60

Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 49:22-26; 50:4-51:8,12-16; Matthew 1:18-25

"However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 'Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? (Acts 7:48-49)

Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Merry Christmas indeed! Not for St. Stephen. Stoned to death by the religious leaders who hated what he preached. What was the accusation? That Stephen preached, for one thing, that Jesus was going to destroy the temple. So Stephen preaches Jesus, the true temple, the genuine tabernacle in which God dwells. For Jesus is, after all, the "Word become flesh who tabernacled among us" (John 1:14).

Jesus didn't come to destroy the temple but to fulfill that for which it was a picture: God, right there among His people. That's Jesus. God-in-the-flesh. That's what Stephen preached. But for those hard-hearted men that was not good news. It didn't mean peace with God. It meant threatening their self-righteousness and self-concocted religion. And in their rage they murdered Stephen.

It doesn't seem like a very Christmasy story. It's only the day after the holiday! But it is a reminder that those who believe and trust in Jesus will be hated by the world. For the world doesn't want a Savior and doesn't think it needs one and will try to silence anyone who says otherwise.

And so St. Stephen gives his life as a martyr, that is, a "witness" to Jesus. He proclaims Christ. He dies for that confession of faith. St. Stephen, on the heels of our Christmas celebration, is a sober reminder of why it was that Jesus came into this world in the first place: to save sinners. All sinners. Even the sinners who killed St. Stephen! Even the sinners who killed Jesus! And by water and Word and Body and Blood, the people of God have the witness of Jesus in every generation. That witness is that no matter what happens, the God who has come in the flesh has redeemed and saved you. Merry Christmas in the Name + of Jesus! Amen.

Praise for the first of martyrs Who saw You ready stand To help in time of torment, To plead at God's right hand. Like You, our suff'ring Savior, His enemies he blessed, With "Lord, receive my spirit," His faith, by death confessed. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 517:7)

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