31 October 2010

Justified by Grace through Faith in Christ

Two things are true for each of you, and for everyone on earth, for everyone of every nation, tribe, tongue and people: (1.) You are a sinner, enslaved by sin, and (2.) you are redeemed by Christ the Crucified, in order to be set free by His grace through faith in His forgiveness.

That you are a sinner is true in yourself and your experience.

That you are redeemed and set free is true for you in Christ.

The first truth is made known and made worse by the Law, which judges you guilty and condemns you. The second truth is manifested and made yours by the Gospel, which judges you righteous and vindicates you.

The inherent contradiction and constant tension between these two facts cannot remain forever. If you continue in the Word of Christ, and thus abide in Him, then you will be free indeed, and you will remain with Him in the house of His God and Father forever. But apart from Christ, you remain enslaved by your sin, and you cannot remain in the house but will finally be imprisoned by the Law, sentenced to eternal death and damnation.

If you would know the truth that sets you free, then die to sin and live unto righteousness. How so? By hearing and heeding the Word of Christ Jesus, and by following Him as a disciple through faith in His Word.

Believe the Word of the Law, which exposes your sin for what it is, and so confess that you are a sinner, enslaved by your sin.

Believe also in Christ Jesus and His Word of the Gospel, which forgives your sin freely for His sake, and so confess that He is the Son of God, your Savior and Redeemer, by whom you are set free to live.

The problem is that you do not recognize your slavery, nor Christ’s freedom for what they are. You imagine that your slavery to sin is really freedom, and that your death is really life. And you suppose that the freedom of Christ and of faith in His Gospel is a burden and a bondage that imprisons you; that life in Christ is onerous, tedious, pointless and boring.

Do you not imagine that doing whatever you want would be perfect freedom?

And do you not suppose that giving attention to the Word of Christ, watching to prayer with Him, and taking up the Cross to follow Him, is rather a lot of effort and work which you’d prefer not to bother with?

Like a child (of whatever age) you falsely believe that life would be such a sweet dream and a happily-ever-after without the boundaries and rules and structures of a household and family. If only you could be in charge! If only you were the boss!

And as a proud, self-sufficient, self-righteous, independent adult, you boast of your wisdom and experience, your keen knowledge and savvy understanding, your accomplishments, your plans, your progress, your prizes, your pedigree and place in the world.

You’ll do what you have to do — to get by and to avoid punishment — but you’ll resent whatever isn’t by your own choice or to your personal liking.

Yet, for all your boasting and all your prideful self-reliance, you are not free. Not apart from Christ. To do whatever you want is simply suicide in slow motion (or on fast forward): It ends in death and the grave.

You’re so addicted to your sin, you don’t even realize or recognize that it’s killing you. What you regard as your own “free will” is really a ravenous monster, which consumes you with your own craving hunger and destroys you with your own burning desires.

You’re searching for a place of peace and rest, a place where you belong, where you are safe and sound and satisfied. You’re searching for your house and home. But you won’t find it on your own, and you won’t find it anywhere outside the Church of Christ.

Does that seem harsh or unfair? Does it seem too demanding or even legalistic to say that your freedom and life are found only in Christ, and that Christ is found in His Church, where His Word is preached and taught, confessed and prayed in the fellowship of His Family?

Again, at the heart of your sin is your confusion of slavery with freedom, and vice versa.

But, in truth, “freedom” from God is nothing but the slavery of sin and death, from which you can by no means set yourself free; whereas faith in Christ and Christian discipleship are real freedom, unto life everlasting.

Because righteousness and holiness, innocence and blessedness, and divine life are all yours by divine grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, apart from any works of your own doing or decision.

Christ and His Gospel, His Church and Ministry are not some means to an end by which you achieve and accomplish salvation for yourself. But He and His Word, His works of love and His gifts of grace are your life and salvation, on earth now as in heaven forever.

The purpose of His Law is not that you should justify yourself. That never was the plan.

And the purpose of His Gospel is not mere information that you must study in preparation for a final test or pop quiz.

But, no, to continue in His Word; to be catechized from infancy through adulthood and old age; to live in the regular rhythms of His Church, day by day, week by week, season by season, year by year; to remember your Baptism; to confess your sins and receive Holy Absolution; to eat and drink His Body and His Blood at His gracious invitation — all of this is simply to live in and with Christ Jesus, by His grace.

To depart from these ways and means of life in Christ; to turn your back on Him; to shut your ears to the preaching of His Word; and to absent yourself from His Church — is to leave the house and home of your God and Father for the false “freedom” of sin and death.

Dear one, don’t run away from home. Don’t despise the Gospel or refuse the real freedom of forgiveness and life in Christ. Nor drive yourself to despair by seeking and striving to save yourself. You can’t do it. But neither do you have to.

Although it may seem onerous or hard, tedious or boring, the gifts Christ freely gives to you in His Gospel are blessed gifts of life and salvation. All these really are free — for you — and for all.

What neither you nor the Law could accomplish, Christ has done and accomplished for you: in His flesh and with His blood.

He has kept the Law perfectly, fulfilled and satisfied it. And He has also suffered all its judgments, condemnations and punishments in your place and on your behalf.

He has given Himself unto God in perfect faith, and He has given Himself for you in perfect love.

He has shed His own blood as the propitiation for your sins — and not for your sins only, but for the sins of the whole world; so you need not ever fear that you and your sins are an exception or excluded.

And with that holy and precious blood, He has also redeemed you, purchased and won you, from sin, death, the devil and hell. He has bought you with that price, and you are His; not as a slave, but as a beloved brother or sister, as a beloved child of His God and Father.

Not only that, but day after day He cleanses you and sanctifies you with that same blood, so that you are without any flaw or blemish or spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

He sends His angels, His messengers, to preach His everlasting Gospel as a voice from heaven on earth, to work His works and to give His gifts in His Name. He has never failed to provide such faithful servants of His Gospel, such ministers of His Word in every gen-eration, but He has always raised up faithful pastors and teachers for His Church, to preach, teach and catechize, to shepherd His sheep and to feed His lambs.

Fear God, therefore, and worship Him, not in the terror of His wrath, but in the faith of His forgiveness. For the Hour of His Judgment has come in the Cross of Christ, His Son, who was crucified for your sins and raised for your justification. His Cross is your Atonement, and His Resurrection is your righteousness. That is how sure and certain it is.

The Hour of that Judgment is here now for you, in the giving of Christ’s Body and the pouring out of His Blood for the forgiveness of all your sins. That is His good judgment.

To eat and drink these sacred gifts is not slavery but freedom. It is to live, not as a slave, but as a son of God in your Father’s house. Even so does it strengthen you and keep you steadfast in the one true faith, unto the life everlasting. For the Son has set you free, and you are free indeed, forever and ever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Up a Tree to See Jesus

Beloved, your God comes, and He is not silent. He speaks to you by His Son: in the flesh. For Jesus enters this city and comes to this house, and He is passing through this place on His way, even now, with His Word. How shall you abide with Him? What shall you do?

Hear and heed His Word. Give ear to His instruction. Repent of your sin.

Cease to do evil, learn to do good, and walk in the ways of the Lord; lest you perish with your possessions and not live to see the glory of God.

The fact is that worldly wealth and spiritual stature often do not coincide or run together.

For those who are rich in this world and small toward God, shall not see His salvation. But those who are small in this world, and yet rich toward God, they shall be saved.

So then, in what ways are you rich? What sort of wealth do you possess? What is your strong suit? What are your treasures and talents? And what do you do with those riches?

By the same token, in what ways are you small? Where and how are you little and weak? Where do you struggle to get by and make ends meet? How do you compensate and cope?

From what you have heard, you know that you need to see Jesus, and you want to be able to see who He is. Rightly so, for He is your Savior and your God. He comes to deliver you from sin and death and every evil, and to bring you into heaven, to the bosom of Abraham in the house of His God and Father.

But you are unable to see Jesus because of the crowds, both inside and out: that is, the noisy throngs of people round about you, and the competing thoughts and feelings always running amok in your heart and in your head. Such things crowd out the sight and sound of Jesus.

Run, then, to the tree, in order to see Him and know Him.

For it is to the tree of the Cross that Jesus is making His way, and by the tree of the Cross that He passes through death into life. So, too, it is by the Cross that you see Him as He is; for God is glorified in Him, in His Passion, in His voluntary suffering and sacrificial death.

Not by your own cross, but by the Cross of Christ do you see Him. Not your tree, but His.

You shall not climb up and ascend to Him by your own sacrifice and suffering, but He descends and comes down from heaven to you, in order to sacrifice Himself for you and for all. He comes down, in order to be lifted up in death upon the Cross, and to raise you up in and with Himself in His Resurrection from the dead.

You, therefore, come down from the heights of your own efforts, so to be raised up with Him in His righteousness. Come down from your precarious perch, for He has come down to abide with you, a sinner though you are, in order to bear your sin and be your Savior.

So does salvation come to this house, and to you.

Receive Him gladly, for He comes to you by grace, with mercy and compassion for you, with free and full forgiveness for all of your sins.

By His sacrifice of Atonement for you, offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Him. How so? Bear the Cross of Christ in your life, in faith toward God and in love toward your neighbor.

Be rich toward God in fear, love and trust, but small before Him in the humility of repentance. Likewise, be small in your own eyes and in your estimation of yourself, but be rich in your love for one another.

So is God glorified in you, and you in Him, according to His grace toward you in Christ.

So may He count you worthy of your calling and fulfill every desire for goodness in you.

And so may you reprove the ruthless and seek justice for the oppressed, for the wee little men, women and children, the least, the last, and the lost. Be not proud, but defend the widows and the orphans, speak up for the silent unborn, and visit the sick and the dying. Share the tribulations of your neighbor. Help to bear his or her burdens in love.

And in the midst of suffering and sorrow, take up the Cup of Salvation, and call on the Name of the Lord. Thus may you and your neighbor wash your robes and make them white in the Blood of the Lamb. For, see, He has come with salvation to abide with you here in this house of His. He has sought you out to save you, and He has made His House your home.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

11 October 2010

The High and Holy Calling of Marriage

From the beginning, when God created man in His Image—male and female, the woman for the man—the divine institution and sacred estate of marriage has been an icon of Christ and His Bride, the Church. All manner of attacks against marriage, therefore, whether outright adultery or otherwise, are implicit attacks against Christ and His Gospel. By the same token, Luther’s defense and praise of holy marriage is really a confession of faith in Christ Jesus, the heavenly Bridegroom. Building on the teaching of vocation and office in his explanations of the Fourth and Fifth Commandments, Luther’s catechesis on the Sixth Commandment addresses not only the faithfulness and love of husband and wife for each other, but the high and holy esteem with which all people ought to regard marriage. The following excerpts are from his Large Catechism (McCain edition); the numbers in parentheses indicate the paragraphs of the LC.


"Among us there is such a shameful mess and the very dregs of all vice and lewdness. Therefore, this commandment is directed against all kinds of unchastity, whatever it may be called. Not only is the outward act of adultery forbidden, but also every kind of cause, motive, and means of adultery. Then the heart, the lips, and the whole body may be chaste and offer no opportunity, help, or persuasion toward inchastity. Not only this, but we must also resist temptation, offer protection, and rescue honor wherever there is danger and need. We must give help and counsel, so as to maintain our neighbor’s honor" (202–204).

"But this commandment is aimed directly at the state of marriage and gives us an opportunity to speak about it. First, understand and mark well how gloriously God honors and praises this estate. For by His commandment He both approves and guards it. He has approved it above in the Fourth Commandment. But here He has hedged it about and protected it. Therefore, He also wishes us to honor it and to maintain and govern it as a divine and blessed estate because, in the first place, He has instituted it before all others" (206–207).

"I have always taught that this estate should not be despised nor held in disrepute, as is done by the blind world and our false Church leaders. Marriage should be regarded as it is in God’s Word, where it is adorned and sanctified. It is not only placed on an equality with other estates, but it comes first and surpasses them all—emperor, princes, bishops, or whoever they please. For both Church and civil estates must humble themselves and be found in this estate" (209).

"In the second place, you must know also that marriage is not only an honorable but also a necessary state. In general and in all conditions it is solemnly commanded by God that men and women, who were created for marriage, shall be found in this estate. Yet there are some exceptions (although few) whom God has especially set apart. They are not fit for the married estate. Or there are individuals whom He has released by a high, supernatural gift so that they can maintain chastity without this estate" (211).

"Now, I speak of this in order that the young may be guided so that they desire the married estate and know that it is a blessed estate and pleases God. For in this way, over time we might cause married life to be restored to honor. There might be less of the filthy, loose, disorderly ends that now run riot the world over in open prostitution and other shameful vices arising from disregard for married life. Therefore, it is the duty of parents and the government to see to it that our youth are brought up with discipline and respectability. When they have become mature, parents and government should provide for them to marry in the fear of God and honorably. God would not fail to add His blessing and grace, so that people would have joy and happiness from marriage" (217–218).

"Let me now say in conclusion what this commandment demands: Everyone should live chaste in thought, word, and deed in his condition—that is, especially in the estate of marriage. But also everyone should love and value the spouse God gave to him. For where marital chastity is to be maintained, man and wife must by all means live together in love and harmony. Then one may cherish the other from the heart and with complete faithfulness" (219). (Concordia, CPH, 2006)


(This was prepared as a contribution to Women United for the Book of Concord, a website hosted by my adult adopted daughter, Myrtle, and our mutual good friend, Brigitte Mueller. Their goal is simply to promote the reading and learning of the Lutheran Confessions. They have directed their efforts and encouragements especially toward other women, that the hands which rock the cradle might also be encouraged and equipped to hand over the good confession of Christ to their sons and daughters.)

10 October 2010

10 x 10 = 100 favorite songs by ten of my favorite HR/HM bands

I recently posted a dozen hard rock / heavy metal benchmarks which have been standards defining those genres for me and my own listening pleasure. Included in that list were Led Zeppelin and Bon Jovi, my favorite songs of which, respectively, I have also recently posted.

So, in honor of the other ten, on this tenth day of the tenth month of 2010, I've compiled a list of 100 favorite songs, including my top ten favorites by each of those other ten HR/HM benchmarks.


1. Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne)

2. Iron Man (Black Sabbath)

3. One (Metallica)

4. Photograph (Def Leppard)

5. Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns N’ Roses)

6. Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden)

7. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (AC/DC)

8. Dance the Night Away (Van Halen)

9. I Don’t Know (Ozzy Osbourne)

10. Enter Sandman (Metallica)


11. Back in Black (AC/DC)

12. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ (Judas Priest)

13. Phantom of the Opera (Iron Maiden)

14. Welcome to the Jungle (Guns N’ Roses)

15. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath)

16. Rock of Ages (Def Leppard)

17. Bark at the Moon (Ozzy Osbourne)

18. Rock You Like a Hurricane (Scorpions)

19. The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown) (Priest)

20. Master of Puppets (Metallica)


21. No One Like You (Scorpions)

22. 2 Minutes to Midnight (Iron Maiden)

23. Bringin’ on the Heartbreak (Def Leppard)

24. And the Cradle Will Rock . . . (Van Halen)

25. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Black Sabbath)

26. November Rain (Guns N’ Roses)

27. Paranoid (Black Sabbath)

28. War Pigs (Black Sabbath)

29. Diamonds and Rust (Judas Priest)

30. Can I Play with Madness (Iron Maiden)


31. Living After Midnight (Judas Priest)

32. You Really Got Me (Van Halen)

33. Diggin’ Me Down (Ozzy Osbourne)

34. Still Loving You (Scorpions)

35. Nothing Else Matters (Metallica)

36. Patience (Guns N’ Roses)

37. Pour Some Sugar on Me (Def Leppard)

38. It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) (AC/DC)

39. You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC)

40. Diary of a Madman (Ozzy Osbourne)


41. (Oh) Pretty Woman (Van Halen)

42. Miss You in a Heartbeat (Def Leppard)

43. Hell Bent for Leather (Judas Priest)

44. Run to the Hills (Iron Maiden)

45. Breaking the Law (Judas Priest)

46. Rhythm of Love (Scorpions)

47. Changes (Black Sabbath)

48. Civil War (Guns N’ Roses)

49. Aces High (Iron Maiden)

50. Women (Def Leppard)


51. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (AC/DC)

52. Let There Be Rock (AC/DC)

53. Dancing in the Street (Van Halen)

54. Fade to Black (Metallica)

55. Exciter (Judas Priest)

56. Foolin’ (Def Leppard)

57. Blackout (Scorpions)

58. No More Tears (Ozzy Osbourne)

59. Creeping Death (Metallica)

60. Paradise City (Guns N’ Roses)


61. Heading Out to the Highway (Judas Priest)

62. Flight of Icarus (Iron Maiden)

63. Over the Mountain (Ozzy Osbourne)

64. Don’t Cry (Guns N’ Roses)

65. Jump (Van Halen)

66. Holiday (Scorpions)

67. Fairies Wear Boots (Black Sabbath)

68. Let’s Get Rocked (Def Leppard)

69. Beyond the Realms of Death (Judas Priest)

70. Goodbye to Romance (Ozzy Osbourne)


71. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Guns N’ Roses)

72. After Forever (Black Sabbath)

73. Panama (Van Halen)

74. The Zoo (Scorpions)

75. Seek and Destroy (Metallica)

76. Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution (AC/DC)

77. Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop) (Def Leppard)

78. For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica)

79. Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Iron Maiden)

80. Symptom of the Universe (Black Sabbath)


81. Flying High Again (Ozzy Osbourne)

82. Beautiful Girls (Van Halen)

83. Think About You (Guns N’ Roses)

84. Shoot to Thrill (AC/DC)

85. Before the Dawn (Judas Priest)

86. The Unforgiven (Metallica)

87. Live and Let Die (Guns N’ Roses)

88. Big City Nights (Scorpions)

89. Why Can’t This Be Love (Van Halen)

90. Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad (Def Leppard)


91. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (Iron Maiden)

92. Mama, I’m Coming Home (Ozzy Osbourne)

93. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love (Van Halen)

94. Children of the Grave (Black Sabbath)

95. Can’t Live Without You (Scorpions)

96. Ride On (AC/DC)

97. Wasted Years (Iron Maiden)

98. T.N.T. (AC/DC)

99. Hit the Lights (Metallica)

100. Bad Boys Running Wild (Scorpions)

09 October 2010

U25

Acknowledging that U2 are an even more significant rock 'n' roll band than Bon Jovi, here are my twenty-five favorite U2 songs (in proximate order):


1. When Love Comes to Town (with B.B. King)

2. Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

3. With or Without You

4. Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of

5. Beautiful Day

6. Pride (In the Name of Love)

7. All Because of You

8. Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own

9. Sunday, Bloody Sunday

10. Get On Your Boots

11. Vertigo

12. One

13. I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

14. All I Want Is You

15. New Year's Day

16. Where the Streets Have No Name

17. A Man and a Woman

18. Two Hearts Beat as One

19. Running to Stand Still

20. Mysterious Ways

21. Miracle Drug

22. Van Dieman's Land

23. Angel of Harlem

24. Desire

25. Bullet the Blue Sky


And my top five favorite U2 albums would be:

Rattle and Hum

The Joshua Tree

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

All that You Can't Leave Behind

War

08 October 2010

Bon Jovi: My Top 50 Favorite Songs

One month from now, on my birthday as it so happens, Bon Jovi will release a new Greatest Hits "Ultimate Collection" of their best or most popular songs. That collection will include four brand new songs, which makes it an even sweeter deal, but of course I don't know those new songs yet, so they don't count here. Anyway, having identified my favorite songs by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, it struck me that Bon Jovi has probably been the most significant rock and roll band since the end of that era. You may correct me if I'm wrong, though I might not agree with you.

Whatever the case may be, I set about determining my favorite Bon Jovi songs. I found that narrowing it down to only ten or even twenty-five was too hard and not as much fun, so I settled on my top fifty favorite songs. And here they be:


1. Livin' On a Prayer

2. You Give Love A Bad Name

3. Wanted Dead Or Alive

4. Whole Lot of Leaving

5. Last Man Standing

6. Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore (with Leann Rimes)

7. Seat Next to You

8. Any Other Day

9. Have A Nice Day

10. I'll Be There For You


11. Never Say Goodbye

12. Everybody’s Broken

13. Complicated

14. One Step Closer

15. Lost Highway

16. Who Says You Can't Go Home (with Jennifer Nettles)

17. Bad Medicine

18. Runaway

19. Bang a Drum

20. Superman Tonight


21. We Got It Going On (with Big & Rich)

22. Thorn in My Side

23. Welcome to Wherever You Are

24. Blaze Of Glory

25. (You Want To) Make A Memory

26. We Weren't Born To Follow

27. Wild Is the Wind

28. Walk Like a Man

29. Summertime

30. Wildflower


31. Santa Fe

32. Lay Your Hands On Me

33. Keep The Faith

34. It's My Life

35. Live Before You Die

36. Open All Night

37. Story of My Life

38. Stick to Your Guns

39. Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen from Mars

40. Say It Isn’t So


41. Everyday

42. Miracle

43. Fast Cars

44. Bed of Roses

45. Next 100 Years

46. Love’s the Only Rule

47. Born To Be My Baby

48. You Had Me from Hello

49. In And Out Of Love

50. Misunderstood


And my top favorite Bon Jovi albums, in approximate order of favoritude (which could easily be rearranged on any given day):

Lost Highway

Have a Nice Day

New Jersey

Slippery When Wet

The Circle

Blaze of Glory

Crush

05 October 2010

The Fatherhood of God

(I finally managed to gather up my notes from the CCA this past summer, and to put them in some semblance of order. With apologies for any lack of clarity or coherence, here they are.)


The Fatherhood of God is not simply an attribute of God, nor only a metaphor, nor even first of all an action or attitude of God, but His Fatherhood belongs to the essential identity of who and what God is; so also the Sonship of God. For the one true God is the Father from all eternity, as one and the same true God is the Son from all eternity. The relation of the Father and the Son within the Godhead, in the love of the Holy Spirit, comprises both the distinction and the unity and harmony of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

The Father is the Father of the Son, and the Son is the Son of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, and this intra-Trinitarian relationship is the essential and eternal being of God. It is the “necessity” of His divine being, of who and what He is, and so also the fountain and source of His perfect freedom. God does not become a father because He creates and gives life, but He creates and gives life because He is the Father.

He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, and it is from and with and in that Fatherhood of God that He freely and graciously chooses to become our Father in Christ. For no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. No one comes to the Father but by Him.

He who is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, has also become true Man, our brother in the flesh, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that we might be “conceived” and “born again” by His Word and thereby receive the adoption of sons by His grace. What Christ is by nature, from all eternity, we become by such gracious adoption, unto the life everlasting.

We receive the adoption of sons, so that God becomes our Father, and so that Christ the beloved Son become the firstborn of many brethren. Our adoption is therefore rooted in Christ, both in His eternal Sonship and in His Incarnation by the Blessed Virgin Mary. His Sonship becomes ours by His grace through the Gospel, through the catechesis of His Word, by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of our sins in His Name, and by our Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection. Such is our new birth of water, Word and Spirit.

So do we pray, as Christ has taught us and invited us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven,” and so do we cry out to Him in faith, “Abba! Father!”

These gracious good gifts of God are the fulfillment of His creation of man in His own Image and Likeness, even as we are recreated and made brand new, conformed to the Image of His Son by the way of the Lord’s Incarnation, Cross and Resurrection for us.

Earthly fatherhood is likewise rooted in that divine work of creation by our Father in heaven, as being a husband is rooted in the divine work of redemption by our heavenly Bridegroom, Christ Jesus. The fact that man is made in the Image of God, both male and female, the woman for the man, and the wife given to her husband to be united to him as one flesh, reflects the loving unity of the three Persons within the one Godhead. It is the Father’s love for the Son, and the Son’s love for the Father, which moves God in His perfect freedom to create man and call Him to Himself, to be His holy Bride, the Church.

As husbands and wives are fruitful and multiply by the gracious Word and work of God, so do Christ and His Church give birth to the children of God by His Word and Holy Spirit. It is for these reasons that a man leaves his father and mother to be joined to his wife and cleave to her in love, and for these reasons that fathers give their daughters in marriage. Accordingly, the first and foremost thing that fathers are given to do for their children, is to love and serve and care for their wives.

So marriage and family are rooted in the gracious freedom and love of husbands and fathers, who receive their calling from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This grace of God, in turn, is the inheritance that husbands share with their wives and fathers bestow upon their children.

Thus does Christ, the eternal Son, become the “everlasting Father,” not in His divine personhood in relation to God the Father, but in His redemption and reconciliation of the Church to God. As the Image of the Father, He is also like His Father in begetting children by His Bride, the Church. He cares for them and provides for them, serves them and protects them, teaches them and feeds them, gives them His name and bestows all His gifts and benefits upon them. For He is the new and greater Adam, the Head of a new humanity, and He is the One in whom all the promises of God to Father Abraham are realized, as a blessing to all nations, to all who are the children of Abraham by faith.

In Christ, therefore, is found the freedom and responsibility of fatherhood — in contrast to the different character and quality of motherhood. Mothers become such by receiving what is given to them, but fathers are such by the choice of love; not the "choice" of conception of new life, which remains the prerogative and work of God, but the willing choice and commitment to love and care for those children who are thus conceived. In that respect, every father chooses to “adopt” his children, whether they are his biologically or not, as St. Joseph chose to adopt the Son of Mary, who is the very Son of God.

In fact, there are many different kinds and types of earthly “fatherhood,” both large and small, which are granted in various ways by the vocation of God through His Word, and which are governed by His Word.

“Call no man father,” Jesus says, “for One is your Father, even God.” But He does not thereby prohibit a man from being called a father, for it is by God the Father that every fatherhood on earth is called and named.

Thus do Christian men adopt and care for widows and orphans in their distress, and in this way they exemplify, express and extend the Fatherhood of God on earth as it is in heaven, especially in and through and with His Church. Men receive this calling from God, and they take it up in faith and love, by His Word and Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus.

What it means, therefore, to be a man, is to be a husband and a father after God’s own heart — whether in relation to one’s own earthly wife and biological children, or by way of adoption, or by caring for widows and orphans in their distress, or by caring for the Lord’s Church, the Bride of Christ and the Mother of God’s children, by the spiritual fatherhood of the pastoral office. What it means to be a man is found in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who is the perfect Image of the Father. What it means to be a man is defined and determined by His Word.

Fathers, name your children, then, as God the Father names you in Christ with His own name.

Love your wives, and love the Bride of Christ, and love the children entrusted to your care with the love that Christ has for you and for His Church. In such love, give and nurture life, guard and protect it. Feed and teach your children. Prepare them for marriage, or help them to discern the divine gift and calling of celibacy in service to the household and family of God. Teach your sons how to become men after God’s own heart, to become husbands and fathers like Christ. And likewise teach your daughters, by word and example, what a good and faithful man is like, and show them how a man is to care for a woman with gentle integrity and the strength of mercy and peace.

Catechize your children; pray and confess the Word of Christ with them. Lead them and guide them, again, by your words and by your own godly example. Discipline them in love, that they might learn the life of love. Do so with mercy, compassion, forgiveness and self-sacrifice, that they might learn to live by faith in the Gospel. Demonstrate the humility of repentance and the confidence of faith.

In all of this, the grace and strength of human fatherhood is the Fatherhood of God in Christ Jesus. He calls you and names you, sustains you and upholds you, by His own Fatherhood, which is steadfast and eternal in the relationship of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.

03 October 2010

Led Zeppelin: My Top 25 Favorite Songs

In his comments on a recent post, my son Zachary suggested that I should post my top 10 favorite songs by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, respectively. I've gone a little beyond that in identifying my top 25 songs in each case, but even that was a challenge. Rolling Stone recently published a special edition featuring its list of the 100 greatest songs by the Beatles. At least I narrowed things down more than that! So here's my top 25 favorite Led Zeppelin songs. A previous post featured my top 25 favorite songs by the Beatles. As always, comments and friendly debates are welcome.

1. Over the Hills and Far Away

2. Stairway to Heaven

3. Immigrant Song

4. Dazed and Confused

5. Tangerine

6. D'yer Ma'ker

7. The Battle of Evermore

8. Ramble On

9. Whole Lotta Love

10. Houses of the Holy

11. Fool in the Rain

12. Rock and Roll

13. Good Times, Bad Times

14. Communication Breakdown

15. Black Dog

16. Heartbreaker

17. All My Love

18. Gallows Pole

19. In the Evening

20. The Rain Song

21. Thank You

22. Livin' Lovin' Maid (She's Just a Woman)

23. Dancing Days

24. Kashmir

25. Hot Dog

The Beatles: My Top 25 Favorite Songs

In his comments on a recent post, my son Zachary suggested that I should post my top 10 favorite songs by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, respectively. I've gone a little beyond that in identifying my top 25 songs in each case, but even that was a challenge. Rolling Stone recently published a special edition featuring its list of the 100 greatest songs by the Beatles. At least I narrowed things down more than that! So here's my top 25 favorite songs by the Beatles. A subsequent post will feature my top 25 favorite Led Zeppelin songs. As always, comments and friendly debates are welcome.

1. Eleanor Rigby

2. Let It Be

3. Yesterday

4. A Day in the Life

5. All My Loving

6. Eight Days a Week

7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

8. Hey Jude

9. The Long and Winding Road

10. Revolution

11. Helter Skelter

12. Getting Better

13. In My Life

14. The Fool on the Hill

15. Back in the USSR

16. Paperback Writer

17. I'll Follow the Sun

18. Penny Lane

19. We Can Work It Out

20. Here Comes the Sun

21. Get Back

22. Good Day Sunshine

23. Ticket to Ride

24. Lady Madonna

25. Nowhere Man

02 October 2010

The Duty of Discipleship

The life of discipleship is to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the Crucified One, even unto death upon His Cross, and thereby with Him in His Resurrection. And the life of His Body, the Church, is a fellowship of forgiven sinners, gathered together by His grace through faith in His Gospel, in love for Him and for each other.

Faith and love, as always, that is the sum and substance of the Christian life in Christ. Faith and love govern your stewardship of stuff, as the Lord Jesus has catechized you the past couple of weeks. So likewise do faith and love govern the life of His Church.

In your life together as Christians — within your families; in relation to your classmates, comrades or co-workers; and especially in your fellowship with one another as brothers and sisters of one Lord Jesus Christ, as sons and daughters of one God and Father, sharing one Holy Baptism, one Holy Gospel, one Holy Communion, and the anointing of one Holy Spirit — faith and love find their center in daily repentance and forgiveness.

Repentance and forgiveness, that is your heartbeat and your respiration as a Christian. These pulsate and breathe with the catechesis and confession of Christ, who was crucified for your transgressions and raised for your justification. That is how you live before God in the righteousness and purity, innocence and blessedness of the same Lord Jesus Christ, and so also how you live with your neighbor in the world.

Let's face it, though, that's hard. Because you're a sinner, and your neighbor is a sinner, too. It is inevitable that you and your neighbor are going to stumble and fall in your relationship with each other, sometimes stumbling into each other and crashing, and other times falling away and apart. That's not okay, but it's going to happen anyway.

Thank God we have the recourse of the Fifth Petition, that is, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us," with which our Lord Jesus and our dear Father in heaven draw a line through the entire ledger and absolve all of our debts and trespasses and sins. God knows you need that provision and daily recourse, and He daily and richly provides it through the Gospel.

Seven times a day, or seventy times seven, as the case may be, as often as you fall short and fail, He calls you to repentance and forgiveness of sins. Such long-suffering patience, compassion and mercy flow in and with His great love for you, and this shall not fail, for it rests securely and forever in the Resurrection of Christ.

So that is how you are to love your neighbor, too, especially your brother or sister in Christ. Seven times a day, or seventy times seven, as often as he or she trespasses against you, rebuke in love, readily forgive, and gladly do good. So take up the Cross for your neighbor, as Christ has done for you and for all. That is to be and to live as His disciple. That is to be and to live as a Christian.

By the same token, wherever you have sinned against your neighbor; wherever you have hurt instead of helped; wherever you have caused a brother or sister to stumble; and wherever you have harbored anger and refused to forgive — repent. Be and do otherwise. Drown yourself in the deep blue sea of your Baptism into Christ. Be crucified and buried with Him, by your Baptism into His death. Die to your sin, and put your old Adam to death by contrition and repentance.

Confess your fault, make amends where you are able, and in humility be reconciled to your neighbor. Heal the hurt that you have caused, and help wherever you can. Speak the truth in love, let go of your anger in the peace of Christ, and forgive those who have hurt you.

Not as though sin were "no big deal," and not as though you could save yourself. Sin is deadly and damnable, and you cannot save yourself. But Christ has died, and the same Lord Christ has risen from the dead. He has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. He forgives you all your sins and saves you from death and hell for eternal life with Himself.

Therefore, resist the devil and he will flee from you; he must, he has no choice. Trust Christ, and live, for He is most certainly true.

Do not grow weary of doing good. But patiently, by faith, love your neighbor and forgive his sins against you. Not for the sake of any thanks or praise or benefit, but for Christ's sake, because it is meet and right so to do.

Do good, because it is your duty. Such love is the fulfillment of the Law, which does no harm to the neighbor, but covers his sins in mercy, carries his burdens with charity and compassion, and bears with him in peace. That is your Lord's command and your neighbor's need.

So live and love like that, and do not despair or lose heart.

It is hard, to be sure. Honestly, it is impossible for your sinful mortal flesh, except Christ raise you up and recreate you in His own Image and Likeness.

Take a cue from the example of the Lord's Apostles, then, and pray: "Lord, increase our faith!"

"We believe, but help, Thou, our unbelief!"

How else shall you be patient and forgive and do good, when you are tempted, tried and tested by a world of sinners, and you yourself are also sinful and unclean?

Is it not a pain? Is it not tedious and wearisome to put up with your neighbor, with all his faults and failings? Be sure that it goes both ways, little one. And yet, the dear Lord Jesus loves both you and your neighbor, and bears with you, and forgives you, and helps you — again and again and again.

No matter how difficult your life may be; no matter how challenging your duties; no matter how heavy your burdens; no matter how long and hard you work; no matter how much you sweat and bleed, and no matter how much you accomplish by your efforts, you won't ever do more than what you ought to do. You never will have too much faith or love.

Your Lord does not ask too much of you, but you shall never exceed what He has commanded you. You are an unworthy servant; at best, you have only done what is your duty — but you know that you have not done all that you should, and that you have done what you should not.

Yet, the Lord Jesus is not only fair in His commands, but He Himself completes and fulfills, satisfies and supersedes His whole Law for you. How's that for a gracious Master? Not only is He reasonable in what He assigns, but He also does the entire job on your behalf! That which you should do, He does for you. And that which you ought to suffer, He suffers in your place.

As He commands you to love and serve and forgive and care for your neighbor, so much the more does He love and serve and forgive and care for you.

Does He not lay down His life for you in love?

Does He not gird Himself to serve you, to wash your dirty feet, to wait on you, to feed you with His Body and His Blood?

Does He not speak His Word of Holy Absolution, with no strings attached, and by it fully and freely forgive you all your sins?

And does He not daily and richly provide you with all that you need for both body and soul, for this life on earth and for eternal life in heaven?

Surely He does all of this, and more.

He reveals Himself and gives Himself to you, with all His fruits and benefits, with all His grace, mercy and peace, by His Ministry of the Gospel. For He has not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a Ransom for many — for you!

It is true that, as your Lord and Master, He rightfully commands you to work in love for your neighbor, to feed and clothe him or her with patient charity, even as you wait upon the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. In doing so unto even the least of these little ones who believe in Him, you do so unto your Lord Jesus. But He Himself does no less than all of this for you, by His grace alone.

Who, then, is the greatest: He who reclines at the table and eats, or he who stands and serves? Is it not the one who reclines and eats? Yet, the Lord Jesus is here with you as the One who girds Himself to serve you. He invites you to recline at His Table, to eat and drink from His own hand, to feast upon His Body and His Blood, and so to be served by Him. For His greatness is His mercy. His almighty power and strength are in His gracious providence and loving service.

His glory is His Cross and His salvation of sinners.

Therefore, be patient as you bear His Cross, and as you love and serve your neighbor within your various stations in life, as a Christian disciple of Jesus. Be sure that what you suffer in faith and love is neither pointless nor in vain. Though you are surrounded and oppressed by the wicked, the Lord shall vindicate you at the proper time. Though justice is perverted, your righteousness is sure and certain — not in yourself, but in Christ Jesus, crucified and risen. He is your justification, and you live by faith in Him, by the grace of His Gospel.

Even when He rebukes your sin and calls you to repent, He does so in love, in mercy and compassion for you, in order to recall you to Himself, to faith in His forgiveness.

For He is faithful, and as He has called you to the holy calling of discipleship, as He has named you with His Name and bound you to Himself, and bound Himself to you, He shall not deny you. He shall never leave you nor forsake you. As He drowns you in the waters of your Baptism, and puts you to death every day with all your sins and evil desires, so does He raise you up each day to newness of faith and life and love and peace.

Your faith is His good work and His free gift. Return thanks for that grace of God, which He has granted you by the Gospel and delivered to you by the loving service of your parents and pastors and others. Give thanks to God for those people through whom He serves you, and rejoice in the privilege that you also are given to serve others in the same way: your children and grandchildren, as the Lord so provides, or whomever else the Lord may entrust to your care.

Even when your faith is weak and weary, a dimly burning wick, so small and struggling to survive, it is sustained by the Gospel of the Lord's forgiveness, and in Him it receives and lays hold of His Cross and Resurrection. That is the power of repentance and the authority of His forgiveness. That is to say, all that Christ Jesus is, and everything that He has done for you and accomplished, is now pressed into your hand and laid upon you by His grace through the Gospel. Thus, He is yours for keeps, and you are His, and He is with you always. He is for you forever, and by His righteousness you live.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.