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Reflections Higher Things

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    Reflections

    Reflections

    Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 31:1-29; Matthew 19:16-30

    "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 19:16-19)

    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The beginning of our text in Matthew has always boggled my mind. I've never been sure why the rich young man would say that he had kept all of the commandments since his youth. On top of that, when Christ answers his question, "What good deed must I do to have eternal life?" Christ points His finger to the pulse of the most important thing to the rich young man: his riches. As the rich young man walks away, he doesn't realize that he has broken each of the commandments, including loving his neighbor as himself.

    Christ's death and resurrection definitively answer the question of "doing" good deeds to enter heaven" once and for all. We cannot "do" enough "good deeds" in order to receive salvation. Salvation is through Christ alone. Of course the commandments from God are good and wise and we are to keep them. But we don't. The treasures we hold in our hearts are more valuable to us on earth than the treasure awaiting us in Jesus. So, what shall we do? Trust Jesus. He kept the commandments for you, living a perfect life in your place. Be subject to Him in all things. Love one another, and when you sin, repent, for in the Absolution is the kingdom of God. Rejoice in your Baptism, for through it you belong to God forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

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

    Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

    • 4 min
    St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles

    St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles

    Today's Reading: John 15:12-21
    Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 30:1-20; Matthew 19:1-15

    "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also." (John 15:20)

    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Why do we have a special day to remember St. Simon and St. Jude? Why do we set aside days to remember any of the apostles? Weren't they just men? Are they any better than any other Christian?

    The apostles do hold a special place in the Church. They are the men who were eyewitnesses of Jesus' words and deeds and saw Him alive again after His resurrection. He called and ordained them to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins to the ends of the earth. And that's what they did, not even shrinking in the face of persecution and death. They gladly gave up their lives because they knew that if Jesus rose, they would rise, too.

    We don't commemorate apostles for their own sake but to be reminded that Jesus called real men into the holy ministry to carry out the task of being His voice on the earth. Jesus is one man, but the apostles were twelve. After His Ascension there were twelve mouths to preach Jesus. And the apostles ordained pastors wherever they went, so the number of mouths grew.

    Because of those preachers, the Good News that the sins of the world and death have been overcome by Jesus' death and resurrection is carried everywhere. The washing of regeneration takes place in Baptism; sinners are absolved; the Lord's Supper is given out. The apostolic ministry (the apostles and those after them who preach what they preached) ensures that Jesus will always be giving His Good News to the world and saving sinners just like you—even two thousand years later! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

    Praise, Lord, for Your apostles, Saint Simon and Saint Jude.
    One love, one hope impelled them To tread the way, renewed.
    May we with zeal as earnest The faith of Christ maintain,
    Be bound in love together, And life eternal gain.
    ("By All Your Saints in Warfare" LSB 518, st. 28)

    Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

    • 4 min
    Reflections

    Reflections

    Today's Reading: Ephesians 5:15-21
    Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 29:1-29; Matthew 18:21-35

    Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15)
    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Have you ever heard someone say, "Do you know what the Lord's will is for your life?" Maybe that comes up in discussions about what job to get or what classes to take or what college to attend. Should I date this person? What career do I want to shoot for? Well, what is the Lord's will in all of those things?

    The Lord's will is this: that you be saved from your sins through faith in Christ Jesus, be raised from the dead and have eternal life. That's the Lord's will. He's accomplished that will for you in Jesus, who died for you and rose for you. He's brought that will to bear in your life by baptizing you and making you a part of His Church, feeding you with the Lord's Supper and putting His Word into your ears. His will is done when you hear and believe His Word.

    The "unwise" part that Paul warns us about is living as if that will of God is something other than what it is. Maybe it's living as if God's will is that you "be happy" and therefore you should just do whatever you want, whatever makes you feel good. Maybe it's that God's will is to micromanage your every single decision, making you wonder and worry about whether or not you are doing the "right" thing by picking one choice of college or classes over another. Watch out! That sort of talk about God's will isn't really about Him. It's about you!

    Christ has set you free! His will is that you live freely in Him. You might choose one college or another, drive a new or a used car, have an iPhone or an Android phone. But either way, you're a forgiven sinner in Christ. He didn't save you so that you are burdened by the guilt of trying to "discern God's will for your life." He is loud and clear about what His will is: that you be saved. And more than that, He is dedicated to making that will happen for you, so that you are indeed saved, forgiven, and have everlasting life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

    The will of God is always best And shall be done forever; And they who trust in Him are blest; He will forsake them never. He helps indeed In time of need; He chastens with forbearing. They who depend On God, their friend, Shall not be left despairing. ("The Will of God is Always Best" LSB 758, st. 1)

    Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

    • 5 min
    Reflections

    Reflections

    Today's Reading: Isaiah 55:1-9
    Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 28:1-22; Matthew 18:1-20

    "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)

    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. These words of Isaiah are often quoted when something disastrous happens that we were not expecting. As if We would never cause an earthquake or a baby to die, but things like this happen, so we often think God has something else up His sleeve.

    But these words of the prophet mean much more than just "God does stuff we don't understand." They mean that His whole way of dealing with us is just unthinkable and unfathomable because He doesn't give us what we deserve.

    When bad things happen, the Old Adam can only conclude that God is out to get us. Pay us back. Punish us. What the Old Adam doesn't understand is that everything that happens is given by God to drive us to Christ, who saves us without any of our own effort or merit or worthiness.

    God's ways are not our ways because He brings us into His kingdom without our deserving it or working for it. God's ways are not our ways because He gives up His own Son into suffering and death to save us while we are still sinners. God's ways are not our ways because He gives us what is Christ's and gives Jesus what is ours. God's ways are not our ways because He raised Jesus from the dead. His ways are not our ways because He gives us life when we think we only have death in store for us. His ways are not our ways because He uses water and words and bread and wine to save and forgive us.

    Indeed, the Lord's ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Our ways and thoughts turn to how we can impress God or avoid Him. But His ways and thoughts are all about saving you and giving you everlasting life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

    O Jesus Christ, my Lord, So meek in deed and word, You suffered death to save us Because Your love would have us Be heirs of heav'nly gladness When ends this life of sadness. ("In God, my Faithful God" LSB 745, st. 4)

    Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

    • 4 min
    Reflections

    Reflections

    Today's Reading: Matthew 22:1-14
    Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 27:1-26; Matthew 17:14-27

    So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. (Matthew 22:10)
    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Being good doesn't get you into the Kingdom of God. Being bad doesn't keep you out. Jesus is teaching us that being brought to His wedding feast, being dragged in, is God's work, through His servants—His pastors who preach the Gospel.

    The man gets thrown out because he refuses to wear the customary wedding garment that was freely provided by the host. He doesn't want to live as one who is baptized. Maybe he thinks he's good enough to be there without a wedding garment. Maybe he just doesn't want to be there at all and doesn't care. Either way, it's not the host's fault the man has to be kicked out, it's the man's own fault. He is "speechless." He has no confession. He can't say, "I'm here because of your grace in inviting me and dragging me in."

    Jesus brought you into the wedding feast. He didn't bring you because you are good. He won't throw you out because you are bad. His death on Calvary assures your place. His resurrection means it's a wedding bash and not a funeral supper. He has washed and clothed you for the party in the waters of Baptism. He's the main course in the feast of His Body and Blood.

    There are two kinds of people who will be thrown out to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. First, there are those who didn't want to come in the first place. They are the ones who hear the Good News that Jesus is their Savior and say, "No thanks. Don't need Him. I've got better things to do." Second, there are those who are brought in but throw off their wedding garments, despise their Baptism and then have nothing to say when asked. That's on them. They've thrown it away by unbelief.

    But you have been brought in. You have been clothed. You are ready to enjoy the feast because the Lord has made you a part of His party. Jesus has brought you to an everlasting celebration of life and salvation. Party on in the Name + of Jesus! Amen.

    Grant, we implore You, merciful Lord, to Your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins and serve You with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the 20th Sunday after Trinity)

    Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

    • 5 min
    Reflections

    Reflections

    Today's Reading: Introit for the 20th Sunday after Trinity
    (Psalm 48:1, 9-11; antiphon: Liturgical Text)
    Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 25:17-26:19; Matthew 17:1-13

    We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness, In the midst of Your temple. (From the Introit for the 20th Sunday after Trinity)

    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In the Lord's house, we think of lots of things besides His lovingkindness. In church, while we are singing and hearing the Word of God read and proclaimed, we often think about where we are going to eat after church. We think of the homework we have to do later. We think about that fight we had with someone. We think about that noisy kid a few pews up. We think about nothing at all. It seems that as soon as we're ready to hear God's Word, our sinful flesh tries to think about almost anything else.
    And while your mind is wandering? The promises of Jesus are declared. Proclaimed. They are preached into your ears. It is by those promises that the Holy Spirit grabs hold of you and keeps you in the one, true faith, in His Christian Church.

    The lovingkindness of God is that He doesn't kick us out when we aren't paying attention. Rather, He continues to deliver His mercy through His Word and gifts. He continues to proclaim Christ crucified for sinners. For you. He continues to absolve and feed sinners even when they haven't heard every word of the sermon.

    Repent! Repent of not paying attention. Repent of letting your mind wander. Repent of finding things to think about and pay attention to other than the Word of God you are hearing. Repent and believe the Good News that the Word Christ is speaking to you is really Good News—a Word that saves sinners. For there, in the Divine Service of Jesus' Gifts, His lovingkindness is at work drawing your ears, heart, and mind back to His good gifts—always back to His gifts and your standing as a dear child of God for Jesus' sake. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

    I thank Thee, Jesus, Sun from heaven, Whose radiance hath brought light to me; I thank Thee, who has richly given All that could make me glad and free; I thank Thee that my soul is healed By what Thy lips revealed. ("Thee Will I Love, My Strength, My Tower" LSB 693, st. 3)

    Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

    • 4 min

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