Sunday, November 29, 2020
Saturday, November 28, 2020
Today we celebrate the first Sunday of a new Church year. As we prepare for the celebration of the Savior’s first Advent we prepare for His Second Advent – His sure and certain return on the Last Great Day. You and I as 21st Century Christians have no better way to live our lives now then from the perspective of eternity. As we prepare for the observance of our Lord’s first coming we must remember that the entire Christian life is oriented towards the last advent of Christ with its glorious eternal salvation.
God requires of us alertness.
I. The Lord wants us to be spiritually alert at all times.
A. Jesus’ inevitable return in power and glory will be sudden, and unexpected. Verse 35 refers to the four watches of the night - making the point that the Lord’s coming can come at any time. "So keep watch! You do not know when the owner of the house will come back. It may be in the evening or at midnight. It may be when the rooster crows or at dawn.
B. While we wait, there can be many things that cause us to neglect our responsibilities of watching and waiting for the Lord sure and certain return.
1. This can happen by overlooking the threatening dangers of our own sinfulness. This is what we pray for in the prayer of the day that we might be rescued from the threatening perils of our sin and then be saved by the Savior’s might deliverance. Isaiah makes mention of this in the Old Testament lesson for today when he says, All of us have become like someone who is "unclean." All of the good things we do are like polluted rags to you. All of us are like leaves that have dried up. Our sins sweep us away like the wind. [Isaiah 64:6]
2. Then there is the temptation to confirm to the world’s view of the supreme importance of material things. Thinking that have the latest thing will cause us true happiness. Says the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. [Matthew 6:31-34;]
3. Then of course there is the very weakness of our own flesh. We are by nature sinful and unclean. We need, especially in this Advent season to pray to the Lord, “Kyrie Elysian.”
C. The result of yielding to temptation is misbelieve, despair, and prodigal living all of which call forth the wrath of the Lord. Although it is correct to conclude that our neglect of God-given responsibilities calls for God’s wrath and punishment it is not correct to give the impression that we can somehow earn God’s favor by changing our lives and carrying out our responsibilities. In other words, the answer to the Law is not more Law. We can’t get right with God by simply saying “We’ll work harder at it!”
The solution to our issues with sin is found in the sweet and comforting message of the Gospel. The returning Lord has already come to endure in our place the punishment for our sinful disobedience and failings: in Him we have the grace of God and so you do not lack any gift; God has called you into fellowship with His Son, who will confirm us to the end. This Paul announces to us in the Epistle lesson for this day!
Transition: God requires alertness and He works it in you.
II. God Himself affects spiritual alertness in us.
A. Mark’s Gospel proclaims the works of our Savior Jesus. In this new church year we will hear 37 selections from the Gospel of Mark. Mark's Gospel has also been called a story of the death of Jesus with a long introduction. Mark's Gospel is about the period leading up to and just after the death of Jesus.
B. The retuning Lord has already come once to accept the punishment for our failings. This is the story of the cross. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not counting our sins against us and He has now given us this message of reconciliation. This is what causes us to say with joy “Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth!”
C. By bringing us to faith in Jesus, God now motivates and enables us to seek and do His will. The Holy Spirit instructs believers by answering the question that arises from faith-filled hearts “what is my Savior’s will for my Life?” The Holy Spirit helps us realize the importance of spiritual alertness. And in His Supper the Lord provides the nourishment that enables us to remain alert. In providing for us this “food for the soul” we are enabled to remain alert waiting for the Lord’s coming.
Only by God’s grace in Christ can we eagerly and alertly look forward to the Lord’s return. No better preparation can be found, either for Christmas or for Judgment Day, than the spiritual alertness that God wills and works.
Passive Sentences –13%
Readability – 70.9%
Reading Level – 7.5
Advent Image copyright © Higher Things
Friday, November 27, 2020
Matthew 21:1-16 Our reading is the inspiration for the hymn, “O Bride of Christ, Rejoice.”
Exultant raise thy voice
To hail the day of glory,
Foretold in sacred story.
Our King, we bow before Thee.
How does the Savior choose to make Himself known? Not in pomp and circumstance, not with a grand fanfare and a flurry of light and sound. Instead He chooses to be placed in a manger, the feeding trough of the animals. He is born in a stable where beasts are kept. Not the place you would go looking for the savior of the world.
But this is the amazing thing about our Savior, He chooses to be found in those places the world would least expect. He chooses to reveal Himself in those places the world considers unimportant. He chooses to exert His power in what an unbelieving world considers weak and of little consequence.
The cruel cross of Calvary looks ahead of us even in Advent. Does the death of a condemned man seem compelling enough to offer atonement? Could His life and sacrifice really save you? The surroundings and the circumstances of His birth predict His death. They are the means by which we find peace with God and absolution for our sin.
Collect for Advent 1 -Stir up Your power O Lord and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
 Collect for Advent 1, Lutheran Service Book © Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Psalm 80:1-7 This Psalm is the appointed psalm for this coming Sunday. Verse 7 is the key verse, “Restore us and we shall be saved.”
The critical question of "how long" (verse 4) is a key to understanding the situation behind Psalm 80. It is not clear that God is angry at the people's prayers. The verb translated "be angry" literally means "to smoke." "Anger" is sometimes the subject of this verb (as in Psalm 74:1b), but the expression here is unusual. An alternative translation might read, "how long will you be angry during your people's prayers?"
The point seems to be that the people's prayers do not help their situation. Hence, Psalm 80:1-7 ultimately helps the church prepare for the coming of Christ by reminding believers that salvation depends completely on the Father’s gift of His own Son - Christ. Although we come to God believing God will hear and answer, not even our prayers can bring God's favor. That is the Father's gift.
The Father could not save what he did not make. To prove His love for you He sent Jesus who became human to redeem this human world.
Jesus who as a full human; has the capacity to feel the hurts of friends. He shares the sorrow of Martha. He weeps with Mary over Lazarus’ death. He expresses His love for his friends. Jesus did not really need to cry. He knew what he was going to do in the raising of Lazarus. Yet, human as He was, He was caught up in the situation. He identified with His friends.
When we are ill, Christ’s healing reveals His glory. When we are dead, Christ’s raising us, like Lazarus, all for the glory of God. In the resurrection, the glory of God’s power is manifest. This offers hope to the afflicted, for they are assured of the Lord’s help.
The creative power of God is found in his vast creation. Luther sums it all in his explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed; the very words we used to confess our faith just yesterday. Christian, what do you believe?
“I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.Collect for Psalm 80: Lord God, you so tend the vine you planted that now it extends its branches even to the farthest shore. Keep us in your Son as branches on the vine, that, rooted firmly in your love, we may testify before the whole world to your great power and working everywhere; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
How can we be thankful, amidst this dark unknown?
For starters, we can remember that this is not the year to get everything you want but to appreciate everything you have.
We can remember that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” -John 3:16.
Jesus entered this world to live a perfect life for you. He bore your sin as His own all the way to the blessed cross to die in your place and then victoriously rise from the dead on the third day to give you His life. His resurrection brings hope of an eternal future for those who trust in Him.
Because of His work you are free – to help and serve your neighbor in love. We have a glorious future with the Savior! Even as we face this microbial foe; remember that, “He who did not spare His Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him graciously give us all things.” -Romans 8:32
We can remind ourselves that “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” -Psalm 91:2
We can take comfort in knowing that, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast” -Psalm 139:9-10
We can chide ourselves into wakefulness, asking, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” -Psalm 42:5
We can follow the example of the Apostle Paul, who, in his time of trial, told the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7
Still the question lingers. How can we be thankful, in the midst of this pandemic?
We can be thankful in truly knowing and calling upon that same “peace of God” that Paul knew—the mysterious peace which comes through faith in the Father’s providence.
This is the same peace that Jesus left to His disciples. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. -John.14:27;
that Paul called a “fruit of the Spirit” -Galatians 5:22;
the peace that the Savior gives to those whose minds are fixed on God -Isaiah 26:3-4;
the peace of which Jesus spoke when He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30
Give Christ your fears and He will engulf you with His peace. Rest on His love and providence. In the midst of fear, recall the empty tomb and the words of Jesus to His disciples: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33 b
Especially at this difficult hour - turn to Jesus. Throughout the most trying of times in human history-wars, famines, plagues, oppression and persecution-Christians have found solace in the Savior. They have discovered His strength when theirs failed. They found comfort in His presence and calming rest in His promises. They endured because of His example. They overcame because He guided them through.
And isn’t that the point with the healing of the ten lepers? They literally had nothing. No home. No income. No future. Nothing.
Ten lepers cry out to Jesus with one voice: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” All ten share in the same condition. They are all leprous. They are all outcasts. Cut off from society. All of them. Yet they all had faith in Jesus to heal them. “Have mercy on us!”
"Ten" is a perfect number. All together they cry out for mercy but at a distance. They had nothing left to lose.
Lepers were like death-row inmates. They were as good as dead. - Dead men walking. For death itself, was in their flesh. Lesions, sores, and scabs, bore witness to their decay as living symbols of death. They were unclean.
As such, they were shunned from society. They were cast out of the community; barred access to home, market and synagogue.
Their leprosy made them dead to family and friends. Leprosy made them dead to religious practice. Only a cure for their leprosy could bring them life. But cures were rare. So rare, in fact, that the rabbis of the day considered the cure of a leper equal with raising a person from the dead. Lepers were the living dead.
The men in today’s Gospel reading didn’t call out to Jesus just to say “Hello.” They called out because they were sick. In fact, they were dying a very slow death.
And it is precisely those people whom our Lord came to rescue. Perhaps the greatest virtue of the Samaritan was his sense of self. The man knew precisely what he was. And what he needed. More to the point, he knew where to get it.
So, above all, give thanks for Christ; for grace, for faith and for the Father’s everlasting love.
In the meantime, continue to love and serve others in response to the Savior's love for you. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. -1 John 4:9-11
Find safe ways to reach out to those who are struggling amid the economic uncertainties that are accompanying the pandemic. “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” -Mathew. 25:35-36.
Recite the Lord's Prayer and/or the Twenty-third Psalm in those times of anxiety that will surely come. Hasten to the words of the Apostle Peter: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may life you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" -1 Peter 5:6-7
And finally, "Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." -1Thessalonians 5:17-18
The Bible assures us: God will be with us in the pandemic and God will see us through. God is great...all the time! Thank be to God! And yes, Happy Thanksgiving!
Readability – 83.3%
Reading Level – 4.3
The Ten Lepers copyright © Ed Riojas, Higher Things
 From a sermon delivered by Pr. Ken Kelly Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity posted 9.18.2019 via facebookTM
Mark 13:33-37 -Watch for Jesus’ unexpected coming. Because the time of Christ’s return is unknown, we must watch for Him. In this brief lesson the word “watch” is used four times. Twice Jesus says, “You do not know when the time will come.” This fact is the reason for being on the alert. The emphasis is laid on Jesus’ return as sudden and unexpected.
There is no place here for speculation when the time of the return of Christ will be. It is an exhortation to be ready whenever He comes. Since no one knows the time, it is necessary for the faithful to look for Him every day. The mood of Advent is not speculation but joyful anticipation of the Lord’s return. Be on the alert for the sudden, unannounced coming of Christ.
Today is Thanksgiving. The first National thanksgiving was enacted by President Lincoln in the midst of bloody civil war -1863. This parish has never missed thanksgiving neither shall we miss this years’ however strange it may be. This community has faced numerous challenges; a pandemic one-hundred years ago, fierce wars, economic hard times, poor crops, severe storms. We’ve also witnessed much bounty and numerous blessings. Through the passing of time we were born, went to school, were confirmed, married, had our children, focused on our career and entered into retirement.
We make it the habit of marking time. It helps us remain connected to what has happened in the past and it gives us some sort of indicator by which to predict the future. Yet, we worship a Savior who is timeless, who has prepared for us a place where there is no time. As we recall the changes and changes of this ever-churning world may we recall that in Christ we live and move and have our being. He will direct us. He will sustain us. For His mercy, which endures to this present day, may we thank, and praise, serve and obey Him. Blessed Thanksgiving!
Collect for Thanksgiving - Almighty God, Your mercies are new every morning and Your generously provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may acknowledge Your goodness, give thanks for Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience all our days.
Collect for Thanksgiving © 2006 Lutheran Service Book Concordia Publishing House, St Louis
Thanksgiving Image © Google Images
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Once again it’s Thanksgiving – yet some are not feeling too thankful. Not that they don’t want to be this way…it’s more complicated than that. What it all boils down to is that there are a number of people living these last days of 2020 in worry and fear. It seems as if there is so much stress to go around these days…mounting bills, a sense of fear of the unknown, of tomorrow, or just needing enough energy to make it through the day.
It’s not that we don’t want to be thankful but rather there are some who feel so burdened and burned out by life that they can’t see the forest for the trees, and the bushes, and the brambles, and all other obstacles "in our road". The question that is therefore being asked is "Will God help us?" will He sustain us when life’s twists and turns seems to set us on a course of which there are unforeseen obstacles lurking at every turn?
Here we find the Lord’s "Yes" and "Amen"! Of course He will see us through this is what He tells us in His word for today. Jesus reminds us that we need not worry for He is in control. We need not fear for He is able to quiet our panic and fright. Jesus tells us we have nothing to fear.
1. Do Not Worry
About your life—what you will eat.
We need not worry because life is more than food. Life is more than merely existing and sustaining our way of living. There is more to life than just living.
Jesus reminds us that life is meant to experience God. That is why He has called us to His marvelous light of the Gospel. He called us to belong to Him, to have fellowship with Him. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of John "I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.”
In Him, St. Paul reminds us "we live, and move and have our being". When we seek after Him then we will be doing more than just living from day to day we will live life with a purpose-a divine purpose.
Life is more than food. It is more than fashion as Jesus goes on to explain to us that neither should we become anxious
About your body-what you will wear. Our body is designed to be more then to be a model upon which we don our clothing.
The body is more than clothes. This statement is one that is needed to be contemplated today. Already merchants are gearing up for the Christmas season shopping spree which might look quite different this year due to the pandemic. I suspect there will be more on-line shopping than ever before.
And still, there will be plenty of people spending money which they do not have buying things they do not need only to impress people they really cannot stand!
True, there is something to be said about dressing appropriately and fashionably but we can take any good thing to extremes. Do we need to buy into the temptation that we should desire the $100 shoes as opposed to the $30 pair which is made of the same material, and assembled at the same factory but the one is more expensive because the product has a certain label on it, or it is indorsed by a certain celebrity. Does the clothing really make the man or woman? Jesus would tell us otherwise.
The body is not merely meant for cloths, rather it is meant to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. As the Savior has redeemed us to be His own He now lives within us through His Spirit. Thus by these words we are called to remember that our bodies are meant to be lived with a noble and holy purpose. We are called to live as His people being His witnesses in this world; and in this generation. As we live for Him we are called to trust in Him.
2. Trust God
Consider the Ravens
They do not sow, reap, or contribute anything to life.
They have no storehouse or barn.
Yet God feeds them. He sustains all of the created order.
You are of more value then birds! If God is able to sustain even the smallest and the most insignificant of creatures He will sustain you for you are of tremendous value to him. He suffered and died for you. He redeemed and rescued you. He has called you to be His own dear child. Consequently He will sustain and care for you.
Consider how the lilies grow.
They do not labor.
They do not spin.
Yet not even Solomon in his entire splendor was dressed as these. If there is inner beauty which comes to the creatures how much more will He maintain your life and sustain it?
Consider the grass
It’s here today gone tomorrow, like so many things in this "throw away society"
You and I, on the other hand. Will spend eternity with Christ. Thus the Savior sets for us a pattern of life by which we will find contentment.
Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink. In other words, look beyond living only for today.
This is what the Pagans run after. They seek the thrill of the moment, which lasts but a moment. Live rather, with an eternal perspective.
God already knows you need these things to survive!
Seek first, Christ and His kingdom.
Through word, sacraments, fellowship, prayer draw close to God.
As you do these things, all that you need will be added to you. That is the Savior’s promise to you and to me. By Him and through Him He will sustain us.
The Savior is not giving us a simplistic rule for life. It’s not simply going by the phrase "Don’t worry – be happy" Rather He calls us to fear not for He is in control. He’ll fight our fight; He’ll accomplish for us what we cannot do. Yes, He is for us; He will overcome and give to us the victory! As we seek Him we will find contentment in life, and there find reasons to rejoice knowing that we can be a peace as God is at peace in what he has created and how He sustains His own creation. Let us then live contented lives on this Thanksgiving. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Passive Sentences – 13%
Readability – 82.9%
Reading Level – 4.8
“Consider the Ravens” copyright © Ed Riojas, Higher Things
1 Corinthians 1:3-9 -By grace Christians lack no spiritual gift as they wait for Christ’s return. This section of Scripture was chosen for this “Second Coming” Sunday because Paul refers to the return as the day of Christ. As the Christian waits for that final event, the promise is given that we are sustained by Christ’s grace and will be guiltless for Christ’s appearance. God is faithful in His gifts and promises.
Paul teaches us to ‘wait.’ V.7 Christians are living between the times of the first and second Advents. For some it is not easy to wait. We do not have the patience to wait. Modern life is one wait after another – waiting for a traffic light to change, for a salary increase, for a person to write out a check and the check-out counter, for the line to move, for Black Friday to come, for a vaccine to finally become public. In many cases as it is with the Lord’s second coming it either wait or do without.
Can we last until the ‘end’? V.8 The end of the world may be a long time off. Can we bear the pain of separation from loved ones? Can we last through months and years of suffering? The promise is that Christ will sustain us with his presence and grace down to the very end.
Paul assures us that God is ‘faithful.’ V.9 That is good to know when people are faithless. Whom can you count on today? Whose word is reliable? We can trust God, for he can be trusted in his promises. You can believe he is faithful in his promise to return, in his sustaining us during trouble, and in his presenting us blameless to the Father.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We thank God for a successful harvest and ask the Lord’s blessing upon all those who bring food to our tables.
Collect for the Harvest – Almighty God, Your crown the fields with Your blessing and permit us to gather in the fruits of the earth. As stewards of Your creation, may we receive Your gifts in humble thankfulness and share Your bounty with those in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
A Prayer for Agriculture – Almighty God, You blessed the earth to make it fruitful, bringing forth in abundance whatever is needed for the support of our lives. Prosper, we implore You, the work of farmers, grant them seasonable weather that we may gather in the fruit of the earth and thus proclaim Your goodness with thanksgiving. May we see by this noble vocation that with Your help they feed the world. And cause all those who give thanks over their food to treat those who produce it with both honor and respect; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Monday, November 23, 2020
Isaiah 64:1-9 -An appeal for the Lord to return to save His people. This lesson comes from the third section of Isaiah (chapters 56-66). It was written in the period of 540-500 BC. The Jews returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile. The exiles find a pathetic situation: Jerusalem is desolate and the temple has been burned to the ground. The people are despondent and impatient for God to come and do something about their condition. They feel that God is angry and has hidden His face from them. He is accused of causing them to sin. The people confess their sins and feel confident that God will not reject them for He is the potter and they are the clay.
The word “polluted” v.6 is a strong word. Here is substance for the doctrine of man’s total depravity. The whole human race is polluted by sin. But Isaiah goes beyond sin too humanity’s goodness. Even good works are considered as ‘pollution.’ Our righteousness is as filthy rags. In modern times there is great concern over pollution. Even the rain that now falls is considered, ‘acid rain,’ which destroys crops, forests, and lakes. The source of all pollution is sin. If even people’s goodness is pollution, it proves how desperate we are for a Savior.
Here we see the victory of faith. The Jews are in a desolate situation. They are overwhelmed with their sin. They feel God has absented and hidden himself. “Yet” v.8 they hold on to God and place themselves in his hands. He is still their God and they are his people. In our time of personal and national distress when we thing God has forsaken us because of our sin, we need to go back to our basic faith: God is the potter and we are his pot. With the Lord comes forgiveness Vv.6-7 as well as deliverance. V.7
Lord God You promise to help and comfort those who call upon You in the day of trouble. Grant to us Your deliverance in Christ Jesus by the power of Your Holy Spirit that we may not be overcome in adversity but be strengthened to live confidently in Your love and peace. Make us to know that in all things You work for the good for those who love You and that nothing can separate us from Your love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives, and rules with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen