Friday, April 14, 2017

Cherish Those Pearls!

These are my reflections from quiet time spent with God today. For more information on how I approach quiet time, go here.
Look: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Jesus, speaking Matthew 7:1-2) 
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)

I used to think that these statements by Jesus were offered in the manner of, “On the one hand...but on the other hand.” You know: “On the one hand, don’t judge your brother and sister in faith by the standards of the law, unless you would be judged by those same standards. On the other hand, don’t entrust the gospel to just anybody.”

This interpretation would be rightly predicated, I think, on Jesus’ teaching about the Office of the Keys. We aren’t to judge people’s fitness for eternal salvation; that”s God’s job. So we shouldn’t judge. On the other hand, we have the responsibility to withhold absolution from those who refuse to repent.

I now think maybe that I’ve been wrong in this interpretation.

The problem is that this construction of Matthew 7:6, would instruct us to stop sharing God’s Word of truth, Law or Gospel, from certain people. And while, in the case of excommunication for unrepentant sin (the only basis on which excommunication should happen, so far as I can see), the sacrament of Holy Communion would be withheld, certainly Jesus wouldn’t want us to stop sharing His Word with the unrepentant, with the desire that they would come home
Otherwise, Jesus’ parable about the farmer indiscriminately sowing seed, which Jesus later says refers to God’s indiscriminate scattering of His Word, would make no sense.

There are many interpretations of Matthew 7:6. But the one that most attracts me is the one that sees this verse not as a countervailing contrast to Matthew 7:1-5, nor as an altogether different topic addressed on a series of statements by Jesus, as I had, at different times, seen it, but as an amplification of the first five verses of the chapter.

Listen: In trying to understand what Jesus is saying in Matthew 7:6, I looked at several different interpretations, including those by Martin Luther, Dallas Willard, and others. But the interpretation to which I’m most attracted is found in The Lutheran Study Bible:

“Jesus may be quoting a proverbial saying, which He applies to His previous teaching. He compares His disciples to ‘what is holy’ and to ‘pearls.’ He warns that hypocritical condemnation of fellow believers (vv 1-5) is tantamount to throwing these precious persons out of the fellowship to the dogs and pigs...Disciples thrown out of the fellowship would obviously suffer spiritual harm, and the congregation would be attacked for its hypocrisy.”

This is a different spin for me, and a convincing one. The pearls here aren’t “the pearl of great price” in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13:45-46). There, the pearl is the gospel itself, a thing so precious and valuable that we should give up all that we are and have to take hold of it.

Instead, the pearls here are sisters and brothers in Christ, people who have been bought with Christ’s blood. Christ looks on each one as a precious jewel. 
I’m reminded of the These Are My Jewels statue, which stands on the lawn of the State House in Columbus. In it, Cornelia Africana, a member of a prominent Roman family and herself thought to be particularly virtuous, stands atop the statue, her hands stretched downward to call attention to seven Ohio jewels, Ohioans who served with prominence and distinction during the American Civil War and portrayed with their own statues. Cornelia is effectively saying, “These are my virtuous Ohio offspring.” 

People who have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are, then, regarded in much the same way by Jesus. We are His jewels.

Don’t, Jesus is saying then, turn them away with your ungracious judgments. To me, it echoes Zechariah 2:8: “For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.’”

This then, is an underscoring and intensification of Jesus’ teaching about judging others in the fellowship of the Church.

Don’t cast these pearls out among the dogs who don’t believe! Otherwise, those dogs could trample these precious gems, Jesus’ jewels, under foot, and they will lose their faith.

It strikes me that when seen in this way, we can see connections to at least two other passages of Scripture, one obvious, the other a bit more obscure.

The first is where Jesus says: ““Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:1-2) When we Christians harshly judge or, whether informally or formally, cast out, fellow believers in Jesus because we perceive their sins to be worse than our own, we may cause the judged believers to stumble in or lose their faith. That’s a horrible thing for a Christian to do, even damnable if we don’t repent.

The other passage I think of is Ephesians’ admonition to fathers: “Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, raise them with Christian discipline and instruction.” (Ephesians 6:4, Good News Translation)

Just as parents are to discipline from love, rather than punish from anger, Christians shouldn’t lash out at fellow believers in anger. Church discipline, if given at all, should be meted out with love, not vengefulness. Otherwise, believers may become discouraged and give up on the faith altogether.

Every believer is a pearl saved by grace through faith in Christ. There are ways to restore sisters and brothers who have fallen into unrepentant sin (Matthew 18:15-20). Condemning them, gossiping about them, shunning them, or tossing them out without a healthy airing of things isn’t Christian and it isn’t loving. Tossing them among unbelievers--who Jesus calls “pigs” and “dogs”--is like taking a Rolls-Royce Ghost and dropping it into a trash compactor. Only the loss is much greater, a person’s eternal relationship with God caused by the discouragement of Christ’s Church. Horrible!

I’ve seen this tragedy happen to Christian believers.

And, often, when the world sees this happen, unbelievers are inclined to trample us under feet.

Respond: No matter what I may be called to say or do today, Lord, let it be informed by Your grace. Help me to love my sisters and brothers in Christ, seeing them as pearls not to be easily judged or dismissed, but as fellow recipients of Your saving grace through faith in Christ. In Jesus’ name.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

The Sacrifice for Sin (Maundy Thursday)

John 13:1-17, 31-35
During Sundays in the Lenten season as we bring our offerings to the altar, we often pray: “Almighty God, you gave your Son both as a sacrifice for sin and a model of the godly life…”

Of course, what’s most important about Jesus is not the life He models. You and I could repeatedly resolve that we are going to live like Jesus...and repeatedly fail.

Not that people haven’t tried. In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin, a deist who didn’t really believe in the God revealed in Jesus, decided to live his life around a set righteous virtues he had identified. Franklin wrote each of these virtues on the top of a piece of paper and gathered them in a small book. His plan was to conquer one virtue, then move to the next, conquering it, and so on. He never conquered the first one.

Without realizing it perhaps, Franklin had learned the truth of the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 7: “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19) Paul concludes: “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:20) In other words, we cannot live a godly life in our own power.

When we try, we seem to get in the way.

Some of you know that last year, I was losing the weight I needed to shed. But more recently, I’ve been eating too much and putting weight back on. God’s Word says that our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). That means that the abuse to which I subject my body is a spiritual issue. It’s a sin issue.

Right now, I must report, that as it relates to the food I’m putting into my body, sin is winning out.

And why has this happened? Because I took my eyes off of Jesus.

To be sure, I took Jesus as an example of the godly life because Jesus was always self-disciplined in the use of His mind and body. I also became subtly proud of my virtuous self-discipline.

I forgot what Jesus tells all who want to follow Him: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6)

The point? If we see Jesus only or even primarily as our example as we set out to lead virtuous lives, we will fall on our faces every time.

We need help.

We need Jesus.

We need Him infinitely less as a model of the godly life than we need Him as the definitive sacrifice for our sin.

We need His righteousness because we are completely unrighteous.

We need His goodness, because God alone is good.

That’s why Jesus does and says things in the order in which He does and says them in tonight’s Maundy Thursday gospel lesson.

John is the most sacramentally minded of the four gospel writers. He begins his account of Jesus' earthly ministry with Jesus' first miracle, turning water into wine, pointing to the two sacraments, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. He draws the curtain on Jesus' pre-resurrection earthly ministry with a soldier piercing Jesus' side and water and blood emanating from the wound, again pointing to Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

Yet in recounting events on Maundy Thursday, John doesn’t talk about Holy Communion, which Jesus instituted on that night. Instead, he focuses on three things from the events of Maundy Thursday:
  • Jesus washing the feet of His disciples; 
  • Jesus telling the disciples to serve each other similarly; 
  • Jesus giving a new commandment, the only new commandment Jesus ever gave. 
Let’s look at each one of these.

During the course of the meal, Jesus ate with His disciples, got up, stripped down to nothing but a towel wrapped around His waist, and prepared to wash the disciples’ feet, starting with Peter’s. You’ve lived through enough Maundy Thursdays to know that washing people’s feet in the first century AD was the work of servants. It seems to get mentioned in every Maundy Thursday sermon.

But feet were seen predominantly in two ways in that culture.

One was to look on them with revulsion, encrusted as they were with dirt from walking in sandals through the sand and rocks of Judea.

The other was to regard feet as euphemistic representations of the most private places of the human body. This is what’s behind the otherwise cryptic passage of Ruth 3:14, which tells us that: “So [Ruth] lay at [Boaz’s] feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, ‘No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.’"

So, Jesus washing the feet of His disciples was not just an act of selfless servanthood, but also one of loving intimacy, the Bridegroom serving His Bride, the Church.

And Jesus points to His washing of the disciples’ feet as symbolizing the great act of servanthood and love that He’s about to accomplish at the cross. “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand,” Jesus tells Peter who, at first protests Jesus’ intention of washing the disciples’ feet.

Hebrews 10 tells us that through Christ’s act of servanthood and love on the cross, all who believe in Him “have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)

And, Hebrews says that, through this sacrifice, we have an advocate for eternity: “...when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12-14)

Baptized believers in Christ are washed clean of their sin. That's why Jesus says that we don't need to be completely rewashed of our sin again and again; once we have been born as children of God in Baptism, we only need to come again to God in the name of the Lord in which we have been baptized to repent and be renewed as God's people.

Each time we repent and trust Christ with our sins and our lives, remembering that we are baptized into His death and resurrection, Jesus cleans us again from the grime of sin and death that’s always dogging us and attaching itself to us in this life.

Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for our sin and when we trust in Him, He takes up residence within us. We experience what Paul talks about in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Martin Luther may have had this passage in mind when he said: "When [the devil] comes knocking at the door of my heart, and asks, ‘Who lives here?’ Jesus goes to the door and says, 'Martin Luther used to live here, but he has moved out. Now I leave here.'”

After pointing to His cross, Jesus gives us two commands, one a re-expression of the Old Testament law regarding hospitality, the other a totally new law with Jesus.

Command one: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:17) In other words, Jesus is telling us, “Serve as I have served you. Without thought to your status in the world, or to how humbling it may be.”

Command two: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) In other words, Jesus is telling us, “Love your sisters and brothers in the faith sacrificially just as I have loved you.”

It’s no accident that Jesus gives these two commands after pointing to the cross, because it’s only after taking up residence in our lives through our faith in Him that Jesus can change the ways we live, the ways we respond to our neighbors.

Jesus may be an example for godly or wholesome living to the whole world, Christian and non-Christian alike; but unless Jesus lives in us and powers us, we cannot lead godly lives.

On Monday, I drove to Cincinnati, where God allowed me to administer Holy Baptism to Jameson, the little guy for whom we’ve been praying through his three years of life, and his older brother, Jackson.

After getting back to Dayton, I went to Columbus to be with my mom and my family at a hospital ICU, where mom died on Tuesday morning.

To tell you the truth, my thoughts weren't prone to focus on the homeless guy standing at the freeway off-ramp that day.

And the Old Mark battled with the Lord Jesus Who has taken up residence in my life. “Who knows if he’s really homeless,” I argued. “Besides, I’m out of the McDonald gift cards I keep for situations like this. And on top of that, I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m concerned about my family. Is this guy really that big a deal, God?”

But Jesus won the argument. (He usually does when you start talking with Him!)

I pulled out a five-dollar bill and handed it to the man at the ramp.

Listen: I would not have done that had I relied on my own reasoning. If I'd only been arguing with myself, I would have easily convinced myself to drive on by. Instead, because Jesus lives in me and I have the assurance that no matter how much duping, using, or humiliation this world may subject me to, I still belong to the God we meet in Jesus, Jesus set me free to part with a little of money.

It was, for all its simplicity and humanity, a divine moment that wasn’t done by me, but by Jesus living in me.

I’ve gotten to the point where I believe the line in the old Amy Grant singalong song: “If there’s anything good that happens in life, it’s from Jesus.”

And when you know that, in the words of the late Baptist pastor, Gerald Mann, through Christ you have "God's cosmic okie-dokie," the humiliations meted out by this world become less important to you. You know that the world cannot rob you of you dignity, because by God's grace through faith in Christ, your life is imbued with an eternity dignity.

I don’t have to know whether the ramp guy spent those five bucks on cigarettes, alcohol, drugs,  lottery tickets, or food.

I don’t care to know whether he was, from the standpoint of the world, “worthy” of my help.

But I do know two things.

First, I know that on the night of His betrayal, even though He knew what Judas was going to do, Jesus washed Judas’ feet. Jesus gives grace to all, worthy in the world’s eyes or not. Think of that!

Second, I know that, in the eyes of heaven, I’m not worthy of the grace, forgiveness, and love God makes available to us through Christ.

I’m a sinner. So, who am I to withhold from another person any smidge of grace God puts it in my power to give away?

Despite my sin, Christ served, loved, and died for me anyway. Romans 5:8 reminds us that, “...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Christ is the “sacrifice for sin and a model of the godly life.”

But Maundy Thursday reminds us that if we would live a godly life, a useful life, a life that even unbelievers would acknowledge to be a life filled with goodness, it doesn’t begin with any of us trying to be good. 

It begins and continues only with Christ loving us, serving us, dying for us, rising for us, and our day in, day out, letting Him into our lives so that God’s will becomes our will, God’s love for others becomes our love for others. 

It begins and ends with Jesus alone!

Jesus’ message for us tonight is simple. Don’t try to be a good person on your own steam. Let Jesus into your life, let Jesus live in you, and He will lead you in the godly life, empowering you to love and serve today and preparing you to joyfully love and serve for all eternity. Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Palm Sunday and the Jesus Path (AUDIO)


[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This is the message from last Sunday, Palm Sunday.]

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Palm Sunday and the Jesus Path

John 12:12-19
Archimedes, the third-century BC mathematician, taught the world that “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” That may be true. But often, traveling the straight line between where you are and where you need to be will only leave you lost.

As followers of Jesus, we believe that the only way we can get to where we need to be as human beings by taking the sometimes convoluted path to which Jesus Christ, God-in-the-flesh, invites us when He says, “Follow Me.” Or, “Repent and believe in the good news.”

Jesus was surrounded by a lot of “straight-line” thinking from the moment He began His public ministry.

Out in the wilderness after He underwent John’s baptism, Jesus was confronted by the supreme straight-line thinker, the devil. “If you’re so anxious to prove that you’re the Son of God,” the devil told Jesus, “just go to it, turn these stones to bread.” “If you want everyone to know Who you are, throw yourself off the temple, and let people see your Father prevent you from getting hurt,” the devil said. “If you’ve come to be the King,” the devil had argued, “just worship me and I’ll give every earthly kingdom to you.” The devil was tempting Jesus with straight-line thinking. “Why suffer?” he was asking Jesus. “Why go through rejection from Your chosen people? Why endure the trial of a kangaroo court? Why be beaten and spat upon? Why have nails driven into Your flesh? Why be crucified, humiliated?” the devil asked. “I’m offering you a straight line to what you’ve come to take. No suffering. No cross. No resistance to sin.”

This is exactly how the devil, the world, and our sinful selves still tempt us today: “You want it, don’t you? It looks good, doesn’t it. Go ahead and take it.” This is the devil's message to us all the time.

But Jesus always knew that a Savior Who did not resist the temptation that had drawn humanity into sin and death would be of no use to the sinners He had come to save, you and me.

And so, Jesus refused to take the straight line, the easy path. He took the harder path, the one that requires faith in the midst of things we can’t fully understand nor explain.

Jesus knew the truth of Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” [ESV]

Jesus’ intention was to go through death, but not end up dead. The straight-line path in this world promises life and may lead to comfort, but always ends in death, separation from God.

Jesus constantly spurned those who tempted him to take the straight line, the easy path.

After He’d fed more than 5000 with a a few fish and scraps of bread, the crowd chased after Him to make Him a king. But Jesus said: “I am telling you the truth: you are looking for me because you ate the bread and had all you wanted, not because you understood my miracles.” [John 6:26, The Message]

The 5000, with their full bellies, wanted Jesus to take the straight line--the shortcut, the easy way--to being the Messiah King they wanted Him to be.

But Jesus knew that doing so would only consign the world, including you and me, to everlasting death and alienation from God.

Jesus could not kill off the power of sin and death over you and me if He did not bear the condemnation for our sins on the cross. For Jesus and for us, the shortest distance between here and the kingdom of God is the way of following God’s plan, no matter where it takes us.

This is why our gospel lesson for today finds Jesus in Jerusalem on the eve of Passover, despite all of the advice given to Him to stay away.

Just before our lesson, Jesus is in Bethany, the place where He had raised Lazarus from the dead. He’s in the home of Lazarus and of Lazarus’ two sisters, Martha and Mary. It’s during this dinner that Lazarus’ sister Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with oil. (Catechism students: Please notice that it was Mary, the sister of Lazarus, not Mary Magdalene, who did this despite how this was portrayed in the excellent movie we’ve been watching together during Lent, Jesus of Nazareth.)

Judas Iscariot, probably speaking for the entire group is horrified. Judas, ever the straight-line thinker, says, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” [John 12:5]

You see, Judas had the same thought that many Christians have today. They look at problems like poverty, abortion, pornography, or gun violence and say that the Church needs to spend its offerings, develop programs, and do lobbying to solve them.

Ministries of mercy will always be part of the work of the Church, of course. They do the same thing that Jesus’ signs or miracles did: They give credibility to our proclamation of repentance and belief in Jesus as the only way to a life with God.

But the Church is not a social service agency.

We don’t offer people political programs.

We offer people one thing and one thing only: Jesus. 

We’re to make disciples for Jesus Christ. That’s it! 

Programs may make us feel as though we’re accomplishing our mission as Christians and as the Church.

But when, as Christ’s disciples filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, we engage in the long, challenging, one-to-one process of making disciples, we do more than change people’s days or earthly lives, God transforms them for eternity to people, like us, committed to following the God who saves people by God’s grace through faith in Christ.

And so, Jesus tells Judas that the poor will always be around and that if their needs are important to him, Judas will always find ways to address them. But Jesus honors Mary’s extravagance: “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial,” He says [John 12:7].

Mary understood what none of Jesus’ other followers nor any of the Palm Sunday crowd nor the religious leaders understood. She knew that the way to God’s kingdom isn’t a straight line that comes by our effort.

The kingdom comes because Jesus died on a cross for us and because the Holy Spirit has given us the gift of faith in Christ and we simply follow Christ. Mary knew that Jesus wouldn’t be the king the crowds wanted. 

Jesus is the King Who would spare no effort--including the offering of His own life on the cross--in order to gain an eternal kingdom in which, He promises, all who follow Him will reign with Him eternally over a new heaven and a new earth. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:12: “...if we endure [in faith], we will also reign with him…” How about that?

And so, we come to Palm Sunday.

Of course, with Passover just days away, Jesus is intent on being the once-for-all sacrifice for our sin, as John the Baptist put it: “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” [John 1:29]

But usually the only time that the straight-line thinking world considers sin is when it catalogs all the ways that others have sinned against them. Jesus’ fellow Jews were expert at listing all the very real ways that their Roman conquerors had sinned against them. They want Jesus to be a king who throws the Romans out of their homeland.

As Jesus enters the city, they think less of Passover, more of Hannukah. Hannukah is a mid-winter festival that commemorates the day, in 164 BC, when, under the leadership of a priest, Judas Maccabaeus, the Jews expelled pagan invaders from Jerusalem, then cleansed the temple.

When Judas Maccabaeus and his followers entered the city, people waved palm branches to welcome the conquering hero. They thought that, under the leadership of Judas Maccabaeus, their country was free. They were mistaken: The Romans conquered the Jews in just a few short years and by 70 AD, just as Jesus predicted, the temple in Jerusalem was reduced to rubble.

But on the first Palm Sunday, around 28 to 33 AD, many welcome Jesus as a king who will go straight after the Romans and make everything right, another Judas Maccabeaus.

They welcome Jesus with palm leaves while chanting: “Hosanna [meaning, “Save us]! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord [A messianic prophecy from Psalm 118]! Blessed is the king of Israel!”

As the disciples watch this, they're clueless about how it all fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. Verse 16: “At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified [after He had been crucified, raised by God the Father, and ascended to sit at the Father's right hand] did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.”

The Pharisees, who held the upper hand in Jewish religious life, are appalled by the Palm Sunday parade. Verse 19: “So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’”

The Pharisees say more than they understand. In the very next verses of John’s gospel, Gentiles--foreigners, non-Jews---will approach one of Jesus’ followers, Philip, and ask if they can see Jesus. Even before Easter, people from other parts of the world starts going after Jesus, following Him.

Jesus promises later in John 12: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." [John 12:32]

The Pharisees think that if they can convince the Romans to take Jesus down, to execute Him, they will also take down talk of Him being the King and the Son of God. People will stop following Him. But as we gather on the sacred days of this Holy Week, we will be reminded again that the straight line--the easy path--isn’t the best route to travel to where we need to be.

There is no Easter without paying heed to Maundy Thursday, when Jesus commands us to love our fellow believers as He has loved us and when He first institutes Holy Communion, sustenance, life, and forgiveness for all who dare to follow Jesus.

And there is no Easter without Good Friday, when Jesus accepts our punishment for sin so that we can live with God for eternity.

There is no Easter, no life with God, for you and me unless we learn to repent, trust in Christ, and follow Him wherever He may lead.

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus tells us: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points. But the surest line to life with God that never ends is to follow Jesus. 

As we prepare for Easter, may we not neglect to follow Jesus on this pathway so that we can celebrate Easter with true gratitude and faith and awe. Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This is the message from that congregation's Palm Sunday worship earlier today.]