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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: Sat, 24 Jun 2017 15:49:28 -0400

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

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Luke 1:57-80

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 30:1-9,18-33; John 20:1-18

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins. (Luke 1:76-77)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus told His disciples, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me" (Luke 24:44).

From Jesus' words to His disciples we learn that the entire Old Testament points to and is fulfilled in His dying and rising. We also learn what He called the prophets to do: to hear God's word, speak God's word, and point others to Jesus through God's word.

This was John the Baptist's calling as well. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first to see the fulfillment of God's promises in the New Testament. John begins his prophetic calling already in Elizabeth's womb. He leaps for joy when Mary, bearing the Word made flesh in her womb, comes to visit.

And those same arms that flailed with infant excitement were later stretched out, pointing the way to Jesus as John declared, "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). John heard God's Word, spoke God's Word, and then pointed us to God's Word made flesh in Jesus.

In the Church, John's work continues, not with a man clothed in camel hair, but through your pastor, clothed in white robes, washed by the blood of the Lamb, and sent to deliver God's Word to you. Your pastor stands by the Jordan River of the baptismal font and declares, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away your sin!" Like John, it's your pastor's job to decrease, that Jesus' salvation for you would increase. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

We praise You for the Baptist, Forerunner of the Word, Our true Elijah making A highway for the Lord. The last and greatest prophet, He saw the dawning ray Of light that grows in splendor Until the perfect day. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 518:18)

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Friday of the First Week after Trinity

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 27:1-24; John 20:1-18

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. At some point in our lives we've all experienced that feeling of betrayal by someone we thought was a friend or was trustworthy, and who turned out to be secretly betraying us the whole time. Or there's that person who gushed with good things to our face, but secretly was gossiping (or worse) behind our backs. Solomon is right, "Profuse are the kisses of an enemy."

But Solomon's proverb is more than practical advice for dealing with frenemies. In this word of wisdom, Solomon points us to the Wisdom of God in human flesh.

Jesus knew this feeling of betrayal all too well. On that Thursday night of Holy Week, His disciples fell asleep, fled, denied him, and even betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. This proverb is a prophecy fulfilled on that night in which Jesus was betrayed: "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"

And this proverb is also fulfilled the next day, on Good Friday. Jesus was led up to Mt. Calvary, pierced with nails in His hands and feet, and a spear was thrust into His side. In Jesus' wounds we find healing from all the betrayal we've received, and forgiveness for all the times we've betrayed God and others close to us. In Jesus' wounds we are no longer enemies with God. In Jesus' wounds we are saved and set free to bear one another's burdens.

Solomon was right: faithful are the wounds of a friend. But as good as it is to have friends who have your back, it's even better to know that Jesus gave His back, His hands, feet, head, and side for you. Jesus, the Friend of sinners, was wounded for us. "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friend" (John 15:13). In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Come not in terrors as the King of kings, But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings; Tears for all woes, a heart for ev'ry plea. Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me. (Abide with Me, LSB 878:3)

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Thursday of the First Week after Trinity

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 25:1-22; John 19:23-42

Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, "Come up here," than to be put lower in the presence of a noble. (Proverbs 25:6-7)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "If you're not first, you're last." "Last one to the playground is a rotten egg." "First come, first served." That's the way the world and our sinful nature think. Like the sea-gulls in Finding Nemo, we're constantly chattering and thinking, "Mine. Mine. Mine."

And then Solomon comes along with God's radical word of divine wisdom: "Do not put yourself forward." Jesus also uses this very Proverb in parable form in Luke 14 when He declares, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." It's another way of saying the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

What does this mean? It sounds so backwards. Indeed, it is. The wisdom of this Proverb is found in humility, in counting others more significant than yourself. This kind of humility won't come from our sinful, me-first nature. No. This kind of humility comes to us from Jesus crucified. If anyone deserves the title "First," it's Jesus. And yet He became the last one, the least one, and the loser for us. Jesus took the lowest seat possible to save us: He was crucified, dead, and buried.

Jesus baptizes us into His death and resurrection to live in righteousness before God and humility before the neighbor. Jesus places us at the head of His table, in His presence, to feast on His Body and Blood. Jesus, the First One, became the last so that we who were last and lost in sin would be first. For through these backwards ways of God, we are saved. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, You deigned to dwell Among us here on earth As God with us, Emmanuel, To bring this holy birth. Though rich, You willingly became One with our poverty, That we might share Your wealth and name For all eternity. (O Sing of Christ, LSB 362:4)

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Wednesday of the First Week after Trinity

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 24:1-22; John 19:1-22

God threatens to punish all who sin against these commandments. Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not act contrary to these commandments. But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands. (Small Catechism: Explanation to Close of the Commandments)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In the book of Exodus, when God gave Moses and Israel the Ten Commandments, He spoke these words right after the First Commandment: "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments."

By placing this Bible passage and explanation at the close of the Ten Commandments, Martin Luther makes the First Commandment the bookend to this section of the Small Catechism. It's easy to see why. Wherever the First Commandment is broken, so are the others. And wherever any other commandment of God is broken, it leads us back to the First Commandment. It's also a reminder that though we sin against our friends, family, and neighbors, we also sin against God. And the wages of sin is death.

The close of the Ten Commandments is one more reminder of why God gives us the Law. It wasn't for us to earn His love, or for us to climb the stairway to heaven. Rather, God speaks His Word of Law to show us our sin, and our need for salvation in Jesus. Jesus crucified and risen is our hope in the face of the Law's punishment and God's wrath for our sin. Jesus perfectly kept God's Law for you. Jesus was obedient for you. Jesus was judged for you. Jesus bore God's wrath for you. "Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Our works cannot salvation gain; They merit only endless pain. Forgive us, Lord! To Christ we flee, Who pleads for us endlessly. Have mercy, Lord! (These Are the Holy Ten Commands, LSB 581:12)

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Tuesday of the First Week after Trinity

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: 1 John 4:16-21

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 22:22-23:12; John 18:15-20

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Why do you help a friend at school study for a history test? Because you want them to owe you a favor some day? Why do you give your mom or dad something thoughtful for Mother's or Father's Day? Because you hope they'll remember that gift when your birthday and Christmas rolls around? Why do you acolyte, fold bulletins, or help with projects around church? Because you think God will be impressed by your hard work?

Perhaps we often do think these things. But that is how our sinful nature thinks. We do something good for someone and they owe us. We do something for God and surely, He'll love us more. This is a deadly trap of despair, thinking that our doing anything will earn us something from others or God. We have it all backwards.

Thankfully, John helps us out of the self-justifying mess in which we find ourselves. "We love because he first loved us." That means our faith towards God and our fervent love for one another is God's gifts, just as His life and salvation are His gifts to us, too. That means our good works aren't done to earn, merit, or receive something from our neighbors or before God; rather, good works serve the neighbor and supply proof that faith is living, we sing in a famous hymn of the church.

In other words, God doesn't need our good works, but our neighbor does. We love our neighbor because Christ first loved us in His death on the cross for us. Jesus loves us unto death and we respond with thanks and praise. That's the pattern of the Christian life. God gives us forgiveness. And God gives us good works. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10). In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Faith clings to Jesus' cross alone And rests in Him unceasing; And by its fruit true faith is known. With love and hope increasing. For faith alone can justify; Works serve the neighbor and supply the proof that faith is living. (Salvation Unto Us Has Come, LSB 555:9)

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Monday of the First Week after Trinity

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Genesis 15:1-6

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 22:1-21; John 18:1-14

"Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." (Genesis 15:5)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. After the fall into sin, God made a promise to Adam, Eve, and all people in the form of a curse to Satan: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

God repeated his promise to Abraham. Through the Offspring, or Seed of Abraham, all nations on earth would be blessed. God's promise passed down from Abraham to Isaac, and from Isaac to Jacob, and from Jacob on down through the Old Testament history.

When Abraham's family tree was cut down because of Israel's wickedness, God repeated His promise: "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit" (Isaiah 11:1).

At the dawn of the New Testament, God's promise is planted, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. The long-expected Offspring, the Seed of Abraham, was born at last. "He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His Seed forever," Mary sings in the Magnificat.

Jesus is the Offspring of Abraham, the Seed by whom all nations of the earth are blessed. As Jesus approaches the cross, He declares, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24).

And, as St. Paul declares, "In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith...And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel's hope and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art, Dear desire of ev'ry nation, Joy of ev'ry longing heart. (Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, LSB 338:1)

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The First Sunday after Trinity

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Luke 16:19-31

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 20:5-25; John 17:1-26

'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.' (Luke 16:31)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus tells this story of The Rich Man and Lazarus to a group of Pharisees who were seeking to justify themselves. Jesus tells this story to reveal their unbelief. The Pharisees were lovers of money, St. Luke tells us. Their wealth, wisdom, and works had become their god. They rejected Jesus. For, "if they do not hear Moses and the Prophets" who point to Jesus, nothing will convince them that someone can rise from the dead.

In other words, God's Word gives us faith and confidence before God, not our wealth, wisdom or works, as the Pharisees so foolishly thought. Jesus also tells us this story as a warning to the Pharisee in each of us--our sinful nature--who is full of unbelief, sin, and death. Like the Pharisees, in our sinful nature we think we can justify ourselves with our wealth, wisdom, and works. But these are false gods.

"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief," we pray. Thankfully, Jesus does more than lend a helping hand or give us some good advice. He raises us from the dead by His dying and rising, to which we are joined in Holy Baptism. Jesus speaks to us in His Word of the Prophets and Apostles, giving us faith and trust in Him. Jesus justifies us by His death on the cross for us, and announces the verdict to you in Holy Absolution: "You are forgiven!" Jesus pours out the saving draught of His Body and Blood for our forgiveness in Holy Communion.

Through these gifts, Jesus gives us the great gift of faith, just as He did to Moses and the prophets, all by His Word. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

O God, the Strength of all those who put their trust in You, mercifully accept our prayers; and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing, grant us the help of Your grace that in keeping Your commandments we may please You both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Trinity 1)

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Saturday of the Week of the Holy Trinity

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 17:1-28; John 16:17-33

I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:6, from the Introit for Trinity 1)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Ever noticed how often people sing in the Bible? Singing is everywhere! Miriam and the people of Israel sing a victory song of the Lord's rescue in the exodus: "I will sing unto the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea" (Exodus 15:21). The angels sing before God's throne in Isaiah 6, they announce Jesus' birth in Luke 2, and sing the praises of the Lamb who was slain and yet lives in Revelation. The book of Psalms is a hymn book, full of songs of lament, prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and many more.

Wherever God's people gather, they sing. We sing in the Divine Service. We sing in our homes. And we will be singing in Jesus' presence in the new heavens and new earth. And yet, here in this valley of tears, we often sing a lament, mourning the suffering around us in this fallen world. We sing of our repentance and we grieve our sin. We sing with joy through tears as we attend the funeral of a loved one, knowing that death does not win the final victory. And, as Psalm 13 reminds us, we sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with us.

On the day of your Baptism, there was singing. When God gathers us for Divine Service tomorrow, to hear His bountiful grace and mercy, there will be singing from start to finish. And when you go to the altar there will be singing as we worship with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven, rejoicing in the Lord who deals bountifully with us. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Friday of the Week of the Holy Trinity

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 16:1-24; John 16:1-16

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. (Proverbs 16:24)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Everyone enjoys receiving a compliment. "Hey, nice shoes." "I love your iPhone case." "That was a great corner kick on the pitch today." In our daily vocations as students, siblings, children, parents, spouses, workers (and the list goes on), Solomon's words in Proverbs prove true. Gracious words are like a honeycomb.

And if gracious words we speak to one another are good, how much greater, then, are the gracious words Jesus--the Word made flesh--speaks to us daily and weekly!

We need Jesus' gracious words because our words are not always like a honeycomb; they are more like poison from our sinful hearts. We gossip about our friends behind their backs. We disrespect our parents and others in authority over us. From our mouth comes both blessing and curse. Apart from Jesus' gracious words we remain in the bitterness of sin and death. But our sinful words are no match for Jesus' gracious words.

In His gracious Word Jesus declares, "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). In His gracious Word Jesus promises, "Baptism now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21). In His gracious Word Jesus proclaims, "If you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven" (John 20:23). In His gracious Word Jesus delivers food for body and soul as He says, "Take, eat; this is my Body. Take, drink; this cup is the new testament in my Blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins."

Jesus fills us with His gracious words in Baptism, Absolution, the Gospel, and the Lord's Supper. And then, with David in Psalm 51:15, we pray, "O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

To hope grown dim, to hearts turned cold Speak tongues of fire and make us bold To shine Your Word of saving grace Into each dark and loveless place. (Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide, LSB 585:3)

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Thursday of the Week of the Holy Trinity

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Isaiah 6:1-7

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 15:1-29; John 15:12-27

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" (Isaiah 6:3)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Lord gives Isaiah a vision of the heavenly throne room and you would think he would be dancing for joy like King David on his way into Jerusalem, but he's not. He heard the seraphim singing, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" He felt the shaking. He saw the smoke. And he cried out, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!"

Left to our own holiness, which isn't holiness at all, this is what it's like to be in the Lord's presence. In our sin, we are like dried tinder before the Lord's consuming fire. Like Isaiah, our lips, hands, head, and heart are unclean. In our sin we are lost.

And yet the judgment Isaiah deserves doesn't fall on him. One of the seraphim took a burning coal from the altar, touched his lips, and declared, "Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." Isaiah was clean, holy, and forgiven. In the Lord's presence, holiness is received, not achieved.

The Lord does the same for us, too. The judgment we deserve doesn't fall on us. Instead, God's wrath is poured out upon Jesus on the cross for you. Jesus is judged unclean to make you clean. Jesus becomes unholy to give you His holiness. Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for you to declare you righteous. In Jesus, it is safe to be in God's presence, where we join the angels in singing, "Holy, holy, holy" as we come into the Lord's presence. And from the altar comes the burning coal of Jesus' Body and Blood. Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. In the Lord's presence our holiness is received, not achieved. And in Jesus we are clean, holy, and forgiven. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

With cherubim and seraphim Our voices join the endless hymn, And "Holy, holy, holy" sing To Christ, God's Lamb, our Priest and King. (The Infant Priest Was Holy Born, LSB 624:7)

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Wednesday of the Week of the Holy Trinity

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 14:1-27; John 15:1-11

You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his cattle, or anything that is his. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we may not turn, force, or entice away our neighbor's wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and carefully do their duty. (Small Catechism: 10th Commandment and Explanation)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Hey, wait a minute...didn't we just hear about coveting in the 9thCommandment? What's up with that? After all, no one can see when I covet. What's the big deal, anyhow?

Remember when Jesus said, "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander" (Matthew 15:19). Evil thoughts include our thoughts of coveting. Like Eve, we see things we think are good, pleasing to our eyes, and desirable for wisdom (Genesis 3:6). Like David, we covet when we look at men or women with lustful thoughts. Not a day goes by when we don't break the 10thCommandment, too.

So what's the answer to our problem? Try harder, do better, stop coveting? No. We won't find the cure for the diagnosis of the Law in our keeping of the Law, no matter how hard we try. Our answer, comfort, and forgiveness for breaking the 10thCommandment are found not in us but in Jesus. Should we strive to live a holy life? Yes. That's important. But it's even more important to know that Jesus lived a holy life for you. Jesus kept the 10thCommandment for you. Jesus fulfilled the Law's demands, every "Thou shalt and Thou shalt not," for you. Jesus' only desire was your salvation. In Jesus, all our coveting has been put to death (Colossians 3:5). And that means we are free to love and serve our neighbor. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

You shall not crave your neighbor's house Nor covet money, goods, or spouse. Pray God He would your neighbor bless As you yourself wish success. Have mercy, Lord! (These Are the Holy Ten Commands, LSB 581:10)

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Tuesday of the Week of the Holy Trinity

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Romans 11:33-36

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 13:1-25; John 14:18-31

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. June seems a long way from the O Antiphons of Advent. And yet, as Paul declares the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God, one of these ancient prophesies of Christ comes to mind.

"O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence" (O Antiphon for December 17th).

Yes, God's wisdom is unsearchable from our perspective. Think about it this way: If the ocean depths, the great expanse of space, and the mind of man are still full of mysteries, how much greater, then, is the mind of God the Father, maker of heaven and earth?

But as great as the mystery of God's knowledge is, there is one mystery that is the greatest of all. We confess it weekly in the Creed: He became man. In Jesus' incarnation the unsearchable God takes on human flesh to search you out. Though His knowledge and wisdom is infinite, He becomes one with finite creatures. Though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty we might be made rich.

In Jesus God is heard, seen, touched, and witnessed in human history. As Paul writes elsewhere, Jesus is God's wisdom in human flesh. Paul's words are true. God's wisdom is unsearchable, deeper than the depths of the sea and higher than the heavens. But in Jesus, so is His steadfast love for you. 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 one from age to age. (O Word of God Incarnate, LSB 523:1)

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St. Barnabas, Apostle

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3

Daily Lectionary: Proverbs 10:1-23; John 14:1-17

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Holy Spirit set apart Barnabas for the work of proclaiming the Gospel to all nations. Barnabas and Saul (St. Paul) were set apart by God and sent on the first missionary journey.

This is not the only time God has set apart someone for His work and calling. The Lord set apart Noah and called him to build an ark. The Lord set apart Abraham and called him the father of many nations, for by the Seed of Abraham, all nations on earth would be blessed. The Lord set apart the Old Testament people of Israel to be the family tree that would bring about the birth of Jesus.

Jesus, too, was set apart, which is another way of saying something or someone is holy. Jesus is born for you and called the Holy Child, the Holy One of Israel. Jesus is God and man to deliver us from everything we think, say, and do that is unholy. Jesus is holy for you. He is called and set apart in His perfect life, lived for you, and His perfect death on the cross where He died for you. Jesus was set apart and called by God to accomplish salvation for Barnabas, Abraham, and for you.

Through Jesus' dying and rising you are also set apart and called by the Holy Spirit. In your Baptism you are set apart from your sin, and you are holy. In your Baptism you are set apart by God for His calling: your calling to faith in Jesus, and love for the neighbor. Your vocation may be entirely different from Barnabas', but like Barnabas, you are set apart to receive the Lord's treasures: His Word, water, Body and Blood, and called to speak that Good News to anyone who asks you for a "reason for the hope that is within you" (1 Peter 3:15). In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

For Barnabas we praise You, Who kept Your law of love And, leaving earthly treasures, Sought riches from above. O Christ, our Lord and Savior, Let gifts of grace descend, That Your true consolation May through the world extend. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 518:17)

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Holy Trinity

Sun, 11 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: John 3:1-17

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 35:9-30; Luke 24:28-53

Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:7-8)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We don't see the wind, but we hear it rustling leaves and branches, conducting a melody on the neighbor's wind chimes, and whistling through the cracks in doors and windows. We don't see the wind, we hear it, Jesus says.

So it is with the work of the Holy Spirit. Like the wind, you can't see the third person of the Trinity. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit appeared like tongues of fire. At Jesus' Baptism He appeared in the form of a dove. But in both places God's Word was the main event. Peter and the disciples proclaimed Jesus crucified and risen in the languages of many people. The Father spoke from heaven declaring Jesus His beloved Son. God's Word is what matters most.

That's why Jesus calls us and Nicodemus to look for the Holy Spirit in His Word. Jesus calls us to see the work of the Holy Spirit with our ears. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ," writes Paul (Romans 10:17).

We don't find the Holy Spirit by looking inward to our liver-shivers or a burning in our bosom. We won't find the Holy Spirit by looking at ourselves and all the good works we do for our neighbor. We find the Holy Spirit right where Jesus promised we would find Him, in God's Word. And the Holy Spirit brings the rushing wind of God's Word and fills the font, the Scriptures, the Absolution, and the altar with God's saving Word for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, who has given to us, Your servants, grace, by the confession of a truth faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity, we implore You that You would keep us steadfast in this faith and evermore defend us from all adversities; who lives and reigns, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Trinity Sunday)

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Saturday of the Week of Pentecost

Sat, 10 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 32:1-6,16-27; Luke 24:1-27

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. (Psalm 8:1 from the Introit for Holy Trinity)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Moses saw the glory of the Lord in the burning bush, and he was hidden in a cleft of a rock from seeing God's glory face to face. The people of Israel saw the glory of the Lord lead and protect them in the Exodus by a pillar of cloud and fire. The tabernacle and later the temple were filled with the glory of the Lord.

All of the appearances of God's glory in the Old Testament find their fulfillment in the New Testament when John declares, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

In Jesus the words of Psalm 8 are fulfilled. Jesus' name, Yahweh saves, is the majestic Name that fills the earth. God's great glory is revealed to us in the God-man Jesus Christ. We no longer need a burning bush, or a cleft of a rock, or a pillar of fire and cloud to hide God's glory. God reveals His glory to us in Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension for you. God reveals His glory in Jesus' Word declared to you. God reveals His glory in Jesus' death and resurrection that we receive when we are baptized. God's glory is revealed to us in the Lord's Supper where the Word remains flesh and gives His Flesh and Blood for you.

Now because of Jesus' ascension, His glory along with His humanity, rule and reign above the heavens. Tomorrow as we celebrate the Holy Trinity we give thanks to God who revealed His glory to us in the person of Jesus. We rejoice, pray, and give thanks to God, whose glory fills the heavens and the earth, but also our hearts and minds. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Christ, the Word of God incarnate, Lord and Son of Abraham; Christ, the radiance of the Father, Perfect God, the great I AM; Christ, the light, You shine unvanquished, Light and life You bring to all; Light our path with Your own presence, Grant us grace to heed Your call. (Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, LSB 540:1)

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Friday of the Week of Pentecost

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Acts 9:14-17

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 27:12-23; Luke 23:26-56

So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 9:17)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sin is described in many ways throughout Scripture. Sin is separation from God. Sin is falling short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin is sickness (Matthew 9:12). And here, in the story of Saul's conversion, sin is depicted as blindness.

In Saul's case, his physical blindness reflected his deeper spiritual blindness. His lack of sight mirrored his unbelief in Jesus, the true Lord and Messiah whom he had been persecuting. Saul was in darkness.

Like Saul, our sin blinds us to the true diagnosis of our sickness. Like Saul, we attempt to please God by what we say and do but fall short of the glory of God. Like Saul, the wages of our sin is death. We were in darkness. And like Saul, the Lord rescues us from our darkness, sin, and death.

Jesus sent his servant Ananias to Saul to baptize him. And something like scales fell from his eyes. Saul was blind, but now he could see. But more than that, Saul the unbeliever became Saul the believer, and eventually Paul the Apostle. Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit.

So it is for you. Jesus sends you his servant, your pastor. You are baptized. We were blind, sick, and dead in sin. But now we see, are healed, and alive in Christ. In your Baptism, you are filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit who transformed Saul, whom we know as i Paul, and filled him with words to point you to Jesus crucified for you that like Saul, you may see the Lord and be filled with the Holy Spirit. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Praise for the light from heaven And for the voice of awe; Praise for the glorious vision The persecutor saw. O Lord, for Paul's conversion, We bless Your name today; Come shine within our darkness And guide us on our way. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 517:12)

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Thursday of the Week of Pentecost

Thu, 08 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Joel 3:1-5 Daily Lectionary: Numbers 24:1-25; Luke 23:1-25 For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem. (Joel 3:1) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Just before Jesus' ascension, He was teaching His disciples when they asked, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6) Jesus was the Messiah, they reasoned. And that meant a kingdom, power, and glory. The Messiah was supposed to kick out the Romans, establish David's throne, and make Israel great again! But who are we to point fingers? After all, we're no different than the disciples. We look for God's kingdom in all the wrong places: in our opinions, thoughts, feelings, and our good works. We like to be kings and queens of our own little kingdoms, seeking after popularity and pleasure. Like the disciples, we set our minds on the things of men, not the things of God. And like the disciples, King Jesus must reveal His Kingdom to us, just as we pray in the Lord's Prayer: "Thy Kingdom come," and not "My kingdom come." The Lord sent the prophet Joel to speak His promise of restoration in Jesus' death and resurrection. Ten days after Jesus' ascension, the Lord sent the disciples and apostles to Jerusalem to speak of the restoration accomplished in Jesus' death and resurrection. That's where the promised Kingdom of God is found: in Jesus crucified for you; in Jesus' resurrection for you; in Jesus' ascension for you; in Jesus' Word spoken to you; in Holy Baptism that brings you into His Kingdom; in the Lord's Supper where you feast at the King's table with His Body and Blood; in the Absolution where you hear the King's decree: You are forgiven all your sin! The kingdom, power, and the glory of Jesus are found on the cross and the empty tomb, in His Word, water, Body and Blood for you, for that is where He restores, heals, and saves us. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Your kingdom come. Guard Your domain And Your eternal righteous reign. The Holy Ghost enrich our day With gifts attendant on our way. Break Satan's pow'r, defeat his rage; Preserve Your church from age to age. (Our Father, Who from Heaven Above, LSB 766:3) This reflection is available as an mp3, click here to download and listen to it. [...]

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Wednesday of the Week of Pentecost

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 23:4-28; Luke 22:47-71

You shall not covet your neighbor's house. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we may not craftily seek to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, or obtain it by a show of justice and right, or any other means, but help and be of service to him in keeping it. (Small Catechism: 9thCommandment and Explanation)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The 10 Commandments can be summarized into two tables, as Jesus does in Luke 10:27: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." In response to Jesus' summary of the Law, the lawyer (a teacher of the Torah) asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?"

Like the lawyer, we often ask the same question: Who is my neighbor? Has God really called me to love all people, even the ones who are hard to get along with? Did Jesus really say, "Turn the other cheek"? Yes, there's no getting around Jesus' command to love our neighbor, that is, anyone we meet in our vocations of home, church, and society. This includes the way we treat our neighbor's house and possessions.

The 9thcommandment exposes our sin of coveting, of looking over the fence where we think the grass is greener, the cars are faster, and the square footage is bigger. It exposes our lack of trust in God's promise to provide us with daily bread--all that we need for this body and life. It also reveals that even our thoughts and desires are soiled with sin.

Truth is, we don't love the Lord with all our heart, or our neighbors as ourselves. But Jesus does. Jesus did for you. Jesus kept the 9thcommandment in your place. Jesus loved the Father perfectly for you. Jesus loved you, His neighbor, unto death. Jesus did not covet, for you! Jesus' every desire, instead, was for your rescue, to die on the cross, rise again, and save you from every covetous thought, and from all sin. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

You shall not crave your neighbor's house Nor covet money, goods, or spouse. Pray God He would your neighbor bless As you yourself wish success. Have mercy, Lord! (These Are the Holy Ten Commands, LSB 581:10)

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Tuesday of the Week of Pentecost

Tue, 06 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Acts 2:1-21

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 22:21-23:3; Luke 22:24-46

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Names are important. Adam named the animals. Parents carefully choose a name for their children. Little children even name their stuffed animals.

But there is no more important Name than the Lord's Name. Yes, even God has a Name, I AM, or YHWH (Yahweh). God reveals His personal Name to Moses and Israel in Exodus. "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you'" (Exodus 3:14). And along with God's personal Name came His promise to redeem and rescue Israel from slavery. To call on the Name of the Lord is to call upon Him as Savior.

We hear the same good news from the angel: "You shall call His Name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Jesus' Name means "Yahweh Saves." Jesus' Name reveals who He is and what He came to do for us.

And once again, God becomes personal for us. The Name above all names takes a human name and becomes man for you. The Lord who spoke to Moses in the burning bush is the Word who became flesh to dwell, die, and rise among us and for us. The Name at which every knee will bow and every tongue confess places the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit upon you in Holy Baptism.

The Name of Jesus saves you by water and the Spirit. The Name of Jesus saves you as you hear Absolution pronounced in His Name. The Name of Jesus saves you as you receive the true Body and Blood of "Yahweh saves" in Holy Communion. The Name of Jesus saves you as He speaks to you by His Word in the burning bush of His Holy Gospel. Jesus is the Name by which we are saved. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

At the name of Jesus Ev'ry knee shall bow, Ev'ry tongue confess Him King of glory now. 'Tis the Father's pleasure We should call Him Lord, Who from the beginning Was the mighty Word. (At the Name of Jesus, LSB 512:1)

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Monday of the Week of Pentecost

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: Genesis 11:1-9

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 22:1-20; Luke 22:1-23

Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:9)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sin separates us from God and from one another. It all began with the fall into sin. Adam and Eve separated from God--they even tried to hide from Him. Adam and Eve separated from one another. Their children were no different: Cain killed Abel. Sin spread to all men through the one man's disobedience. The downward spiral of sin continued through the flood and spread through Noah's family and descendants, eventually to the tower of Babel.

Yes, sin separates us from God and from one another. We see this in the account of the Tower of Babel. "Come, let us build ourselves a city and tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:4).

They wanted to make a name for themselves and be great. What's wrong with that? It goes against God's command to Noah and his family after the flood: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Genesis 9:1).

In attempting to make a great name and accomplish great things for themselves, the people separated themselves further from God and from each other.

We're no different, really. Our sin separates us from God and from one another: in family, marriage, church, school, among our friends, on the soccer field, or at work. We may not build towers ascending to the heavens, but we carefully craft our own idols in our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.

Thankfully, while sin separates, God joins together, redeeming, and reconciling in His Son Jesus, crucified and risen for you. Our sin no longer separates us from God, for God has come near to each of us by placing His name upon us in Holy Baptism and making us greatest in the kingdom of God. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

As by one man all mankind fell And, born in sin was doomed to hell, So by one Man, who took our place, We all were justified by grace. (All Mankind Fell in Adam's Fall, LSB 562:5)

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The Eve of Pentecost

Sat, 03 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: John 14:15-21

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 20:22-21:9; Luke 20:45-21:19

The Spirit of the Lord fills the world. Alleluia. Let the righteous be glad;

let them rejoice before God; yes, let them rejoice exceedingly. Alleluia. (Antiphon for the Introit for Pentecost)

He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. This is what happens tomorrow. The Spirit fills the World through the preaching of the Gospel and the delivering of Jesus' Gifts. That's the Spirit's job, after all. That's what we heard this past Sunday. This filing the world with Jesus is going to happen in all the Church "in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered." (Augsburg Confession: VII, The Church)

We can truly rejoice tomorrow because it's all a free gift. It's not based on anything we do. The Spirit delivers according to the promise that Jesus makes, and we don't have to work to get it, wonder where it is, or be good people before we can get it.

It's all rooted in Jesus' death and resurrection. There He won salvation. He didn't ask if you wanted to be saved. "While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly." He delivered the Spirit to you. In His Baptism, His Word, His Absolution, and His Supper the Spirit has worked faith within you, He strengthens that faith, and He'll keep you in that faith unto eternal life.

He moves you to come and receive it. Just like the Israelites were moved to look at that serpent, so you're moved by the Spirit to come and receive Jesus' Word and gifts. He not only fills the whole world with Jesus' Word and gifts, but He fills you and your world with the very same things. He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

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Friday of the Seventh Week after Easter

Fri, 02 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 20:1-21; Luke 20:19-44

He is not the God of the dead but of the living. (Luke 20:38)

He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We're sad when people die. We don't want our loved ones to die. We don't want to die either!

God doesn't like death either. It's not how He created us to be. He breathed into Adam the "breath of life." (Genesis 2) It was to be a forever kind of life, and then Adam sinned. Then death was the "natural" way of things, but it's not natural at all! God hates death, and as much as it makes us cry, He weeps when confronted with death, too. He wept because of His dead friend, Lazarus, and what his death did to all those who loved him. (John 11)

But death isn't the end. God's not the sort to just let death win. No, He takes death on. He conquers it. He endures it. He's crucified, dead, and buried, and on the third day He rose again from the dead. Not only that, He's still the God of those who die in Him--with faith in Him.

You're loved ones who've died in Christ, aren't just your loved ones. They're God's loved one, too! Their death is precious in His sight. (Psalm 116) He takes them to Himself, and present them to His Father. He died and rose for them that they might live forever with Him in His Father's eternal kingdom. You, too! All the Lord's loved ones, His saints, those He's saved and baptized and absolved and fed with His Body and Blood live to Him. "He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

That's what we'll see on the Last Day. When we close our eyes in death, we'll see our God, the Lord Jesus, face to face. On the Last Day, the Holy Spirit will raise all the dead and give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ. Death will be undone. Christ already did. By the Spirit He'll do it forever on the Last Day. He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus, my Redeemer lives; Likewise I to life shall waken. He will bring me where He is; Shall my courage then be shaken? Shall I fear, or could the Head, Rise and leave His members dead? (Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense, LSB 741:2)

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Thursday of the Seventh Week after Easter

Thu, 01 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 16:41-17:13; Luke 20:1-18

And throwing Him outside of the vineyard, they killed Him. (Luke 20:15)

He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus came to His people, and He was rejected. He came to the vineyard that He Himself planted. He brought it out of Egypt, gave it His Word, and planted it. It grew and blossomed, but those He called to care for it didn't care for Him. They only cared for the vineyard so they could get what they wanted. They were selfish. So they cast Him out and killed Him.

That's what human selfishness does. It rejects God, and kills Him. For our selfishness, too, Jesus was crucified and killed.

But He rose! He wouldn't stay dead, and out of His love and mercy He saves us. He's selfless in His doing and giving. He does it all, gives it all, even His own life. His life for yours. He gives all His benefits to you, too. His life, His righteousness, His perfection, His selflessness is given to you. It's now yours: in and through the Baptism, the Absolution, and His Body and Blood.

You blossom and grow because of Jesus. He's planted you into Himself. It's really the Spirit's work, too. He enlivens you in Jesus. So, you're alive. Just like Jesus. Yes, selfless Jesus was killed by the selfish, but still He's selfless in His continual giving to you. He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Here might I stay and sing, No story so divine! Never was love, dear King, Never was grief like Thine. This is my Friend, In whose sweet praise I all my days Could gladly spend! (My Song Is Love Unknown, LSB 430:7)

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Wednesday of the Seventh Week after Easter

Wed, 31 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 16:23-40; Luke 19:29-48

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. (The Small Catechism: Eighth Commandment)

He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Yeah, that's not true, is it? Words hurt. You know that. You know what people have said about you. They could've said it to you, but they didn't. Instead they said it behind your back, or on social media, or in texts to your friends. And it hurt.

You know what you've said about others, too. You know what you've said wasn't true, or maybe not as true as you made it out to be. But what's worse is when it is true! You use the truth--your neighbor's sin and shame--and you used it against them, and then you defended yourself and said, "But it was true!"

We'll defend our reputation to the death, but we won't defend our neighbor's reputation. Maybe we won't say anything bad about our neighbor, but we sure won't speak up to defend him.

For your slander and betrayal, Jesus was made fun of, slandered, gossiped about, and condemned to death. Words hurt. They kill. They killed Jesus. For the words of death you pass around for others, the eternal God died.

Now, you're set free from words of death and given the Word of life. Jesus rose from the dead, and He's brought you along for the ride. He raised you up in His resurrection, and now you walk in the newness of life. He fills you with the Word of life: He covers your sin and absolves you.

Your words of death are swapped out for Jesus' Word of life. It's a Word that forgives your neighbor, and speaks good about them. All they are is what Jesus says about them: redeemed, baptized, forgiven. That's you, too, in Jesus. He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

He brings me to the portal That leads to bliss untold, Whereon this rhyme immortal Is found in script of gold: "Who there My cross has shared Finds here a crown prepared; Who there with Me has died Shall here be glorified." (Awake, My Heart, with Gladness, LSB 467:7)

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Tuesday of the Seventh Week after Easter

Tue, 30 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Today's Reading: 1 Peter 4:7-14

Daily Lectionary: Numbers 16:1-22; Luke 19:11-28

"If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." (1 Peter 4:14 ESV)

He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Blessed are the beautiful. Blessed are the intelligent. Blessed are the rich and famous. But that's not what St. Peter says, is it? Far from it.

Blessed are those who are insulted for the Name of Christ. Jesus said the same: "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." Christianity seems so upside down and backwards from the ways of the world. God' s blessings are found, not in power, wealth and glory, but in the midst of weakness, suffering and humility.

So, when my teachers mock me for believing that Jesus really died on the cross and rose again, I am blessed? Yes. When my friends ridicule me for going to bed a little early on Saturday to get ready for church on Sunday, I am blessed? Yes, now you' re catching on. And I'm blessed even in the midst of my suffering? Precisely. Now you've got it.

"Do not be surprised at the fiery trial." But be thankful that the fiery trial burned the hottest for Jesus. On Calvary, Jesus was baptized with fire and blood so that you would not have to endure the scorching heat of God's wrath over sin.

Every drop of spit, every ounce of blood, every insult, blasphemy and mockery, He endured for you. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, He did not open His mouth. Christ's cross is your greatest glory. Rejoice, for in the backwards, upside down ways of God, you are saved.

Christ counts you worthy to suffer for His Name. You are found faithful when you are insulted for confessing that Name. It doesn't mean you go looking for a fight, but when a war of words comes your way, know that the battle has already been won on the cross. He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, The guilt of sinners bearing And, laden with the sins of earth, None else the burden sharing; Goes patient on, grows weak and faint, To slaughter led without complaint, That spotless life to offer, He bears the stripes, the wounds, the lies, The mockery, and yet replies, "All this I gladly suffer." (A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth, LSB 438:1)

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