31 January 2009

Be Quiet

Here is the special authority of Christ Jesus, who does not simply teach the Holy Scriptures, but fulfills them in Himself. Here, for example, we find Him keeping the Sabbath (in more ways than one), and using the Name of God rightly.

There is the special authority of the Law, which exposes and exacerbates the unclean spirit in you, the perverse flesh of your old Adam in your thoughts, words and deeds. For you strive to live by the Law, but you cannot keep it. So you become angry and afraid. You flaunt it, or despise it, or despair of it. You are quick to criticize and condemn others, because you are convinced that God is out to get you.

After all, listen to His Law, to what it commands, forbids and threatens you. And consider that He is the Holy One, who requires that you must be holy and perfect. Trying hard is never enough. Anything less than perfect is sinful and unclean. So what does that mean for you? Why has He come with this authority of His? Is He here, and does He speak, to destroy you?

These are the questions, not of those who go ignorantly about their lives in the world, but of those in the synagogue, who are gathered together before God and confronted by His Word.

He is here on this Sabbath, and His presence throws you into convulsions, because His Word brings to light the war that is waged in your members, that is, within your sinful flesh.

There is this sense in which He must destroy you; He must condemn and crush and crucify you. For if you are not thus brought to contrition and repentance, then you are lost altogether.

But it is not finally for that purpose that He has come. Nor is that His special authority as the Son of Man, the incarnate God, the crucified and risen Lord Christ.

He removes the unclean spirit from you, and He restores a new and right spirit within you, not by violence, threats or punishments against you, but with forgiveness of all your sins. That is why He has come: He is here to forgive you, in order to give you life.

It is true that His preaching of repentance puts you to death, but it does so in order to bring you into life with Him.

That is what He has done for you in your Baptism. There you were crucified, dead and buried with Him; and thereby are you raised with Him to newness of life. There He poured out His Holy Spirit generously upon you, and into you; and so does He drive out the unclean spirit of your sin, your unbelief, your guilt and shame, your wicked perversion, your death and despair.

Do not be afraid.

Do not hide yourself away from Him.

Do not shut your ears to His Word, nor drown out His voice with your own chatter, your endless discussions and debates, your angry arguments and accusations.

Listen to Him.

Be quiet and at peace. Be still, and know that He is God, your Savior.

He has willingly, lovingly, gone to the Cross and died for your transgressions. You didn't have to talk Him into it; He chose to go and do it for you, because He loves you. And He has been raised for you, also, for your justification, your reconciliation with God (and with one another).

His preaching and authority, which are so threatening and scary to you, return you to the death and resurrection of your Baptism. Which is to say that He unites you to Himself in His dying and rising, so that you are not destroyed forever, but you are forgiven and saved.

That is why His Church is the true synagogue, and His Gospel is the true Sabbath. For by the authority of His Cross and Resurrection, in His Name, you are forgiven. Even your death cannot destroy you, and the devil cannot accuse you, because God does not count your sins against you.

You are forgiven. You are innocent. You are holy and righteous. You are alive. You are free.

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

24 January 2009

The Kingdom of God Is at Hand

The point and purpose of creation — which is life with God, in love — is fulfilled in the Incarnation, the Cross and Resurrection of God the Son.

The Kingdom of God is at hand, therefore, in the resurrected Body of Christ Jesus, which is declared and delivered to you in the preaching of repentance in His Name.

There is both threat and promise in that announcement, in the coming of that Kingdom; because it means the end of the world as you know it, and the judgment of all that you fear, love and trust.

Repent, therefore, and believe the Gospel.

But what does that mean?

Die to the world, and live unto God in Christ.

But again, what does that mean?

It is rooted in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Himself. That is your justification and repentance.

It is accomplished for you and established for you in Baptism, which is the means of your justification and the form of your repentance, for the forgiveness of all your sins.

But what does that mean for you? What does it look like in your life?

Hold on loosely, but don’t let go. Live in the world, but not of it. Make use of God’s good creation and His good gifts, but not as though your life depended on anything other than Him alone.

Be faithful to your spouse and children, your family and friends, your station in life, and your neighbors in the world. But do it for God’s sake, in Jesus’ name, and not for idolatrous affection.

Love your wife or husband, your sons and daughters, your father and mother, your neighbor, because God has commanded it. And, thus, not more than you love Him, nor ever at odds with His Word.

Be concerned chiefly with the things of the Lord. Be ready, then, to leave your home and family, your father and his fishing nets, your nearest and dearest kin, and whatever else it is to which you cling, in order to follow Christ Jesus at His Word.

Normally, His Word directs you to love and serve those very people.

Do it.

Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.

Find your life and love in Him, above all else. Not in this world, nor in its kings and kingdoms, big or small, but in the Kingdom of God, which is at hand; which is here.

It has been accomplished and fulfilled, and established here on earth, in the flesh of Christ; in His Cross and Resurrection; in His holy Body and precious Blood.

It is yours in the waters of your Baptism, in your death and resurrection with Christ Jesus. That is where you find your life: In His Gospel, by faith; in repentance and the forgiveness of all your sins.

That is the net in which you have been caught, for life and salvation with God.

That is the net which is "mended," in so far as you are concerned, by the daily preaching and catechesis of the Word of Christ; by confession and absolution.

That is where and how you live, by His grace, in the eating of His Body and the drinking of His Blood, in which all of creation is fulfilled for you. Indeed, the promise is for you and for your children.

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

The Sign of Jonah and His Sons

When a man is called and sent to preach repentance in the Name of the Lord, he must first be called and brought to repentance, himself. He must be drowned and die in the waters, then rise and emerge to the newness of life in Christ. For it is really the Cross and Resurrection of Christ that are preached in the preaching of repentance. The Cross and Resurrection of Christ are justification and repentance, forgiveness and life.

So the preacher of repentance must be swallowed up and spit out, before he can preach the death and life which are in Christ Jesus, our Lord. The preacher must be humbled and exalted by the Word that he is called and sent to preach. For his preaching and baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins point to the flesh and blood of the Crucified One, who bears the sins of the world in His own Body from the waters of the Jordan to the Cross. It is when the preacher suffers the Cross and dies that the Kingdom of God is at hand in the preaching of Christ Jesus.

When the preacher is thus humbled and exalted, killed and made alive, buried and raised by the One who sent him, by the One who humbled Himself and died and rose again, then he knows the mercies of God which are the point and purpose of his preaching of repentance. He shall not prevent the Cross, but bear it and preach it as the power of God unto salvation. He does not flee from his hard office, nor regret the reconciliation of sinners unto God in Christ, but rather delights in the patient loving-kindness and long-suffering compassion of the Lord.

From Joppa to Nineveh, from Caesarea to Rome, and even to the ends of the earth, what God has cleansed by the blood of the Christ and by His Word of forgiveness shall not be called unclean, but shall be clean indeed. For the Lord our God is merciful to all who call upon Him. To that end, He calls and sends His Prophets and Apostles, and the sons of the Prophets in the footsteps of the Apostles, to bear the Sign of Jonah in their bodies and preaching, at the font and from the altar, in their lives and from their mouths. That man should not die forever, but live, to the glory of God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

21 January 2009

Sweet Child of Mine

Today my Beanie Belle is twenty-two, and I had the special privilege of taking her out for lunch at the Granite City in Fort Wayne. Especially since she first went away to college, it has been one of my favorite treats to take my daughter out for a meal. I enjoyed the opportunities to do so while she was going to school in Bloomington, and now, somehow, it seems all the more profound a joy. Her wonderful husband, Sam, is treating her to a night on the town this evening, but for me there was the pleasure of escorting her to lunch. Not only do I always treasure the time I get to spend with her, but such occasions are a comforting reassurance of the place I still have in her life as her Daddy. Call me an old softy, but there is nothing in this life on earth more precious to me than that.

I am constantly amazed at the uniqueness of the father-daughter relationship. As many country songs as there are about it, the peculiar bond and affection of a daddy for his little girl can never be fully or adequately captured or expressed. I marvel at the way DoRena just glows and radiates life and happiness, and that not only because she's seven months pregnant with my first grandchild. She's simply beautiful, as she has been since the day she was born.

My Beanie Belle is all grown up, graduated from college, married and having a baby of her own, but she still is my "little girl," not only in my fond memories of her childhood, but in my heart and in my eyes. I can hardly imagine a greater gladness than I feel when I see the twinkle in her eyes and that pretty smile of hers that permeates her whole face. To see her happy makes me happy. Today I was reminded, again, how very proud I am of her, how pleased I am for her and Sam and their life together, and how privileged I am to be her father.

17 January 2009

Well, Wha'd'ya Know? Axl Rose Can Still Rock 'n' Roll

I've long since stopped expecting anything from Axl Rose. How many years has Chinese Democracy been in the works? The guy has a great voice, but he was making more headlines with his moody antics and temper-tantrums than with his singing for what seemed like years on end. He's actually made it pretty easy not to like him. By contrast, I was thrilled for his former bandmates when they put Velvet Revolver together; they've already put out two solid records, which rock. And Slash has that cool cameo on Daughtry: What's not to like?

So I'm eating my hat a bit, having snagged Chinese Democracy and started listening to it today. I've been seeing it mentioned here and there recently, and my curiosity was piqued by its many positive reviews on Amazon.com. Could it actually be worth a go? I ordered a used copy from some vendor out west, and it arrived in the mail this afternoon. I'm only about two-thirds of the way through it, since that's the extent of the time that I've spent in my car since popping the CD in my player. But, hey, even if it goes downhill from this point on, I'll still be impressed and pleased to own it.

It hardly seems right to think of it as a Guns 'n' Roses record, since Axl is the only member left; notwithstanding that it was his band to begin with. Velvet Revolver has three or four of the original members, but I don't think of them as Guns 'n' Roses, either. The fact is, Axl sounds like Guns 'n' Roses, with or without the rest of the guys. He's apparently still got the chops, 'cause that boy can wail. Wow! Granted, it's more like Use Your Illusion than Appetite for Destruction, but there's a range of material on Chinese Democracy, which showcases Axl's versatility. I haven't read the liner notes to know who his players are, but he's put together a good band for this effort. I'm guessing it must be "Buckethead" on guitar, at least on some of the tracks; whoever it is, he knows what he's doing. There's even something vaguely reminiscent of Slash about it.

No, Chinese Democracy doesn't rock like Appetite for Destruction. But, to be fair, nothing has rocked like Appetite for Destruction since, well, since Appetite for Destruction. I still remember coming across that incredible record for the first time, in Lincoln, Nebraska, with my friend Joel. It was a bit naughty, even a little raunchy in spots, but what a seminal rock 'n' roll piece of work that thing was! I really wish that kind of creativity and raw energy didn't so often go hand-in-hand with debauchery. Even so, Appetite for Destruction was one of those rare, one-of-a-kind events, which basically redefined rock music for the coming decade or more.

That's not the case with Chinese Democracy. Nevertheless, it's a decent piece of work in its own right, and I'll give Axl his due. The wait for this puppy was more than a little extreme, but, now that I have it in hand, I'm glad it finally made it to the finish line. I'm enjoying it, and that's what popular music is for (entertainment). I suspect that my Zach might like it, too, and maybe even his rockin' little sister-in-law. Perhaps I'll snag a used copy for him, for old time's sake. He was born a year or so after Appetite for Destruction was released, and I'm sure he must have spent a fair portion of his infancy and toddlerhood listening to it with me. It didn't rot his brains or stunt his growth, so I guess all's well that ends well.

You Will See the Heavens Opened

The Lord sees you and knows you — and He loves you — before you have ever heard of Him.

He desires and purposes to seek you out and find you, by His grace, because He loves you. He comes to you, in and with His Word, and He calls you to Himself — to live and abide with Him.

He opens heaven to you — by His Baptism, His Cross and Resurrection — and He reveals God the Father to you in Himself, in His own flesh and blood, by the speaking of His Word.

He is the fulfillment of the Law and of all that God has spoken in the past by Moses and the Prophets. But now He reveals greater things than even these, by His Word of the Gospel, by the Ministry of His sent ones, to and for His disciples; to those whom He has called to Himself, to follow Him by faith in His Word.

As He is speaking to you, listen.

As He is calling you to Himself, come and follow.

As He reveals the Father and opens heaven to you, behold and believe.

That’s the hard part, though, isn’t it? To see it and feel it and trust it?

Your experience contradicts the Word of the Lord, and so your expectations are very different than His promises.

The desires and demands of your flesh are more immediate and tangible. They press upon you hard and exercise a powerful influence, the more so as you pursue it.

Then there are the frailties and failings of your flesh, and that not only in your body, but in your heart and mind; in your thoughts, words & deeds.

Instead of running to Christ in faith, hope and love, you are sorely tempted to run away from Him and hide in terrible fear. Instead of following Him as a disciple, walking in the way of grace and truth, you are prone to walk after the desires of your mortal flesh. You chase the hunger of your stomach and the lust of your heart, though none of that will last for long; nor can it save you.

All of this is what you see and feel: your sin, and death, whether you revel in it or shudder in revulsion of it.

Where is the heaven that Jesus has opened for you? Where is the life that He has gotten for you? Where is the promise of His coming?

It is all right here. Come and see. Listen, O servant, your Lord is speaking.

Do not become cynical or callous. Do not harden your heart to His Word. Do not despair, nor become bitter. But hear and believe, and live.

What do you want? A fortune teller? A mind reader?

Here there are better things than these. Here is the One who knows your heart and mind; who knows your sins; who knows you better than you know yourself — who loves you; who gives you a future and a hope, because He forgives you all of your sins (of thought, word and deed).

You are forgiven. You shall not die, but live.

In love, He does provide for the cares and concerns of your body. He gives you food and clothing, shelter and protection. (You, then, do the same for your neighbor.) But He does all of this for your body, because He does far greater things than these.

With food and clothing be content, but your body and life are more than these. Your body is for the Lord, because the Lord is for your body. He cleanses and heals your body with water and His Word, and He clothes your body with His righteousness, and He feeds your body with Himself, with His own Body.

True, you cannot see it with your eyes (yet), but hear what His Word says to you: This Body of Christ is given for you. This Blood of Christ is poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.

As He was baptized in this Body for you, so has He been crucified in this flesh and blood, and so has He been raised bodily from the dead.

He was buried in the dust of the earth, but He has opened the grave in His Resurrection, because His Cross and Passion have opened heaven to you — to both your body and soul.

This Body of Christ is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and for all of your sins.

This Body of Christ is the First-born of the Resurrection, the First-fruits of the New Creation.

Therefore, this same Body of Christ — conceived and born of Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, risen from the dead and ascended to the Father — this Body of Christ is for you the very gate of heaven.

Here is the Temple of God, open for you, on earth as it is in heaven.

Here is where the angels of God take their starting point, and to here they return, ascending and descending upon this Body of Christ, given for you.

He is your true King, who serves you with this flesh and blood. He is the Son of God, who forgives all your sins, heals all your diseases, and gives you divine, eternal life. He is the Lord, who speaks to you in love.

Open your ears, and be taught. Open your mouth, and be fed. Taste and see that the Lord is good, and His mercy toward you is forever.

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

16 January 2009

Favorite Scribblers

The First-Girls-Ever-To-Be-So-Clever have named me a "superior scribbler," which is very humbling, surely, but basically made my day. Thanks, y'all.

Among the rubrics for accepting the honor is the task of linking to the ur-scribble that started this playground chase. Dutifully done. You can read all of the rubrics on Pastor Weedon's blog, so I'll not repeat them verbatim here (good stewardship, don't you know).

Naming five other "superior scribblers" is difficult; in part, because there are many times that many blogs that I routinely enjoy reading; and, in part, because a number of my favorites have already been awarded this title; and, in part, because several of my favoritest scribblers of all are young friends with private blogs (they know who they are), so I can't link to them here. Oh, bother. The Concordia Sisters of Perpetual Parturition would be on the top of my list, but I'm guessing there are no tag-backs in this game. It would probably be tacky to tag the Four-and-Twenty+ Blackbirds, since I'm part of that flock of feathered friends, but each and all of those colleagues are "superior scribblers" in my book.

All of that having been caveated, here are five of my favorite "superior scribblers" who haven't already been tagged (so far as I know), even if they don't all blog as often as I wish they would:

Monkey Laughs

Karin's Chickens

The Adiaphoron

Incarnatus Est

Exercise in Humility

I'd also like to add Pastor Cwirla, Pastor Eckardt, and Pastor Petersen, but those guys are already pretty famous, and I was only allowed to list five.

14 January 2009


Those who are weakest in their faith, who are most in need of the Gospel, are the least likely to seek it out or to avail themselves of the means of grace; while those who are strongest in their faith are the least likely to let any opportunity for the Gospel get away from them. For those who are strongest in their faith rely most surely upon the Word of God, by which they know both their own sin and the grace of God in Christ; so they come freely and gladly, in repentance, to confess their sins and be absolved, to hear the preaching of the Gospel, and to receive the body and blood of Christ unto life and salvation.

There are those who, in the weakness of their faith, suppose themselves to be strong and secure, who stubbornly stay away from the preaching and administration of the Gospel because they do not recognize their need for it. Then again, there are those who, in their weakness, cower and shy away from the Gospel because they are consumed by their sin and shame and so cannot believe that the good gifts of Christ are given for them or able to help them.

Those who are strong in the faith perceive that hearing the Gospel preached and receiving the Sacraments in the name of Christ are the ways by which the Lord God grants peace and rest to His people; that these are His works, and His gracious gifts, rather than obligations or burdens. As such, the strong in faith are disappointed when their vocations and stations in life prevent them from being in church, but they do not fear that God will be angry or displeased with them, as though they were letting Him down. They will simply rejoice in their next opportunity to hear His good Word and receive His good gifts; and meanwhile, they go about their works of love in faith and with prayer.

Those who are weak in the faith suppose that going to church is a chore and a hardship, and that being in church is a favor they owe to God or the pastor, or else something to be done to keep up appearances. Hence, peace and rest elude them, and their heart is hardened with resentment.

But in noting these distinctions between the strong and the weak, I'm not differentiating between "these people over here" and "those people over there." In fact, I am describing the differences I have discovered in my own heart and life, and have discerned in the lives of others.

Ironically, and sadly, it is just at those times when I am most desperately in need of the Word of God, the catechesis and pastoral care of His Law and His Gospel, the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of my sins, that I am least inclined to hold these things sacred, to seek them out, and to avail myself of them. Then I am in danger of sinking into despair and unbelief, or else at risk of becoming prideful and callous. I may even be aware that I should give attention to God's Word and the preaching of it, but I am reluctant and sluggish to do so. I resent what strikes me as an obligation, a burden, a chore; or I may be afraid that it will help, that it will rob me of my self pity.

When I am strongest in the faith — which is to say, when I am living in the means of grace, breathing freely and fully the forgiveness of sins, regularly feasting on Christ in His Word and Sacrament — then I rejoice in the Gospel and gladly run to it; I can't get enough of it, not because I am starving, but precisely because I am well-nurtured by it, and healthy and alive. Then I can see how silly and suicidal it would be to absent myself from the means of grace, but it seems no burden at all to receive those gifts Christ freely gives as a most delightful treasure.

What I have realized and learned from my own experience of this irony, is how fundamentally important it is for a Christian to be faithful in going to church and hearing the Word of God; and how particularly helpful is the regular practice of confession and absolution. The strength of the Gospel begets the daily strengthening of faith, unto life in Christ, through the forgiveness of sins. Then Satan, sin and death have no chance of sneaking in to wreck havoc and destroy the heart of faith.

When a Christian allows the hearing of the Gospel and the fellowship of the Church in the means of grace to slip away from him, his faith becomes weaker and weaker with hardly any awareness of what is happening. Then, when it is all but too late, the heart is unwilling to seek the very help that is missing and most needed. The Epistle to the Hebrews repeatedly warns against this danger in the most fervent terms.

It is not simply the individual Christian who is responsible for guarding himself against this danger and disaster, but the congregation is collectively responsible for its members, and we are all mutually obliged to one another in love. When a member is slipping away, his brothers and sisters in Christ ought to be calling him back, both admonishing and encouraging him. And when a person is most reluctant to seek out the Word of God, that is when his fellow members should pursue him with the Word of God, both the Law and the Gospel, pointing him to his Baptism and to the Cross of Christ, speaking words of reconciliation and forgiveness in a spirit of gentleness.

Let us also pray for one another, that the Lord would take not His Holy Spirit from any one of us, but would daily bring us to repentance and restore in us the joy of His salvation.

I Should Blog on This Too

This coming Monday, as folks are gathering in Fort Wayne for the annual symposia, there will be a free free conference at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne. Pastor Petersen has pulled together this opportunity for discussion, debate, the Word of God and prayer, and the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren. I'm really looking forward to it, and I hope to see many other friends and colleagues and brothers in arms and sisters in Christ there. I encourage those who are anywhere near Fort Wayne on Monday (the 19th) to come check it out.

Pastor Petersen has asked Pastor Eckardt and me to kickstart the discussion with a brief diagnosis of those places where Lutheranism is currently missing the mark or in danger of slipping away from the catholic center of the Christian faith and life. I've been mulling that over now for the past month or so, and hopefully I'll be coherent in my attempt to articulate my thoughts. I'll be grateful to have Pastor Eckardt speak first; because then, if nothing else, I can simply play devil's advocate and disagree with everything he says (but probably not). The real challenge will be limiting my remarks to the 5-10 minutes that Pastor Petersen has allotted, but I'm trusting him to stop me when my time is up.

10 January 2009

Which Is Worse?

As I've been mulling over the past year, I've been debating with myself (always safer than debating with others), trying to decide which is worse:

When someone who knows me (and ought to know better) makes assumptions and jumps to conclusions about me; not giving me the benefit of the doubt, nor making any effort to verify the facts or clarify appearances, nor speaking with me at all to address his (or her) concerns, but simply passes judgment upon me (and passes that judgment on to others in turn); or,

When someone who doesn't know me from Adam does the same thing.

I've basically concluded that it's worse, and certainly more hurtful, when someone who knows me acts this way. I'm less worried, ultimately, about the attitudes and actions of people who neither know me nor make any effort to understand me.

Worst of all, though, for me at least, is when people I have cared for as a pastor, and care about, write me off and stop speaking to me and suddenly disappear altogether without a word of explanation, so that I am left either guessing or relying on scuttlebutt. That remains one of the hardest things for me to comprehend or deal with.

I know that our Lord and His Apostles and Prophets were abandoned by many of those they served with the Word of God, and I do take comfort in that (though I am obviously not the preacher or teacher that any of them were). It still hurts, however. When I preach and speak the Gospel to people, I pour myself out for them and bind myself to them, because I speak in the Name and stead of the One who has done so for us all. In my own small way, then, I suffer the rejection that He has also suffered, when my words, my office and even my person are despised. My Lord has told me to rejoice and be glad in such a case, and I suppose that I do to some extent, even in my weakness, by grace through faith in His Word. But letting go of the hurt is hard for me. Kyrie Eleison!

What does this mean for me? What can I learn from the hurt I suffer?

It is a reminder, first of all, that I must guard my words and actions, so as not to intrude any offense beyond the scandal of the Cross of Christ and the judgment of the Word of God.

Second, in reacting and responding to the words and actions of others, I should deal with my neighbor in the way that I would prefer to be dealt with; that is, by speaking with him rather than about him, verifying the facts, clarifying appearances, and addressing my concerns with loving patience and ready forgiveness. God grant me, in this new Year of our Lord 2009, the heart and mind and ears and mouth of Christ to do so.

The Baptism of Our Lord

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a return to the beginning of creation: a renewal, a restoration, and a fulfillment of creation.

The Baptism of our Lord bespeaks and begins a New Creation through the forgiveness of sins.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth: for the sake of His divine love, that of the Father for the Son in the Holy Spirit. His gracious work of creation was, and is, the giving of His own Life and Light. He does it by the way and means of His Word and Spirit, and not by coincidence or accident does He begin with water. It culminates in His creation of man, male and female, in His own Image and Likeness: already an icon of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

Then there is the Fall into sin and all its deadly consequences. Man's rejection and disobedience of God's Word drives the Holy Spirit out of man's heart and life, breaks and shatters the Image of God in man, and causes destruction, death and dark despair throughout God's good creation, making a desert wilderness out of the formerly lush garden.

Yet, the one true God remains, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with His Life, His Light, and His Love.

Thus, He does not destroy His good creation, not even to the extent that He did with the Flood (which aimed at salvation and signified the saving waters of Holy Baptism). He does not exterminate man and start over. Instead, He becomes Man (in the Person of the Son). He enters and becomes a part of His own creation. And in His own Body of flesh and blood, He makes all things new. He brings light out of darkness. He brings life out of death. He restores the Image and Likeness of God in Man. He brings about a New Creation in Himself.

Once again He begins with water, and the Word and Spirit of God.

The Baptism of our Lord Jesus is straightforward, short and simple, but no less significant, fundamental, profound and permanent. For He takes the place of all the people in His Baptism; so that all who believe and are baptized, all who come confessing their sins, are forgiven and saved.

He submits Himself to St. John's preaching and Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Not for His own benefit, nor for any sins of His own, but for you and for all people, for your salvation, for the sake of His divine and holy love.

Here is the great exchange: His holiness, righteousness, innocence and blessedness, for your sin and death and damnation. His life and light and salvation, for you, at His expense. His Sonship, His Spirit, His home in heaven with His Father: all for you, by His death, in His Resurrection.

His Baptism anticipates and already participates in His Cross and Passion and His Resurrection from the dead. He is crucified, dead and buried in the water. He emerges and arises in righteousness and purity. All of this in your place, for your benefit.

Everything that was yours has become His in His Baptism; so that everything of His has become yours in your Baptism. You rise with Him and live with Him, a beloved and well-pleasing son of God by grace, anointed by His Holy Spirit.

Here heaven has been opened to you — and the Father's heart is opened to you; His arms and His home are opened to you — never to be closed again. Because Christ has died and risen from the dead, once-for-all.

For you!

Now you are a New Creation in Christ, by His water, Word and Spirit. You bear the Name of God, and with His Name, His Image and Likeness. You are free: to live, as God lives; to love, as God loves; to reflect and radiate His Light, as He enlightens you.

What, then? What shall you do with yourself and your life? How shall you live? How shall you exercise your freedom?

Will you live to sin? To serve yourself? To go your own way? To abandon the God who loves you and saves you and gives you life, in order to become, again, a god unto yourself, though not a ruler but a slave of sin and death?

No! You have been crucified with Christ, in order to live in and with Him. You have died to sin — let it remain dead to you. All that so appeals to the world (and to your old Adam), all that appears to be a source of life and freedom, is really the false allure of slavery and death. It is the idolatry that does not give, but takes.

But, no, your life is in Christ, in His Cross (paradoxically) and in His Resurrection (though hidden for now in weakness). Your life is found in repentance, unto faith in His forgiveness; none of which is your own work or achievement, but His, by His Word and Spirit.

Come, then, confessing your sins, and submit to His preaching of repentance, for the forgiveness of all your sins. Return daily to the significance of your Baptism; not by being re-baptized, or baptized again, but by contrition and repentance, by confession and absolution, by dying to sin, rising to righteousness.

Rely upon the Word and Spirit of Christ. Avail yourself of His means of grace (which are His works, His gifts). Live in the freedom and the sure and certain hope of His Resurrection.

As you have died and risen with Him (in your Baptism) — never to die again, but to live forever — do not be afraid to love and serve, to forgive, to sacrifice yourself and even to die for your neighbor.

Give generously, serve faithfully, love freely, live gladly, and, at last, die in peace. Even though you die, yet shall you live. For Christ has died, and Christ is risen, and you are His.

You are baptized, as He is baptized, and all that belongs to Him is yours most surely. Your sins are all forgiven. God is your Father, and you are His beloved and well-pleasing child.

In Jesus' Name, and for His sake. Amen.

06 January 2009

30 Since the Summer of 2007

In July 2007, with reference to popular music records, I offered 10 recommendations and another 10 runners-up for the consideration of my son and anyone else who might be so inclined to care. Well, since then, there's been a lot of great new music out, and I've been pondering the possibilities of another list for Zach et al. He's more into alternative rock than country, but we still enjoy swapping comments on our current favorites, and we can appreciate each other's tastes. Besides, his bride is a country girl, which gives him some additional incentive to pay attention. So, again for anyone who wants to eavesdrop on the conversation, here's my 30 favorite records since the summer of 2007 (more or less in order of personal preference):

Darius Rucker, Learn to Live

Halfway to Hazard, Halfway to Hazard

Billy Currington, Little Bit of Everything

Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew It All

Taylor Swift, Fearless

Gary Allan, Living Hard

Brooks & Dunn, Cowboy Town

Bucky Covington, Bucky Covington

Keith Anderson, C'mon!

Van Zant, My Kind of Country

Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride

Jack Ingram, This Is It

Kenny Chesney, Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates

Zac Brown Band, The Foundation

Trent Willmon, Broken In

Crystal Shawanda, Dawn of a New Day

Chris Cagle, My Life's Been a Country Song

The Lost Trailers, Holler Back

Trace Adkins, American Man: Greatest Hits, Volume II

Jeff Bates, Jeff Bates

Eli Young Band, Jet Black & Jealous

Steve Azar, Indianola

Chuck Wicks, Starting Now

Josh Gracin, We Weren't Crazy

Jimmy Wayne, Do You Believe Me Now

Barenaked Ladies, Snack Time

Bo Bice, See the Light

Rissi Palmer, Rissi Palmer

Simple Plan, Simple Plan

Cole Deggs & The Lonesome, Cole Deggs & The Lonesome

01 January 2009

Three-and-One Lectionary

Pastor Cwirla's recent post on the Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds blog prompted a discussion, in which the possibility was suggested of using the Historic (one-year) Lectionary for the festival half of the Church Year (Advent through Holy Trinity) and the Three-Year Lectionary for the Sundays after Pentecost. Partly out of curiosity, and partly because I think the idea has some merit, I've been exploring that possibility. I was pleasantly suprised, and basically encouraged, to discover that the overlap of Readings between the two halves of the year is pretty minimal. For those who are interested in pursuing such an approach, it would not require a lot of effort or modification to make it work rather well.

There are some adjustments that would need to be made, presumably, in order to avoid the repetition of the same Reading, or a closely parallel Gospel, from the first half to the second half of the same Church Year. And in cases where the Holy Gospel needs to be adjusted or replaced, in order to avoid such repetition, it is sometimes also necessary to substitute a different Old Testament Reading (which is chosen in connection with the Holy Gospel). It is also possible that, where an Old Testament Reading is changed, the appointed Psalm should also be changed (since the Psalm is chosen as a response to the Old Testament); and where the Holy Gospel is changed, the Introit and/or the Collect may need to be altered accordingly. I've not made any attempt, however, to address the Psalmody or Collects in my considerations thus far.

By my reckoning, one could follow the Historic Lectionary from the last two or three Sundays before Advent through the Feast of the Holy Trinity, with only one caveat; and then follow the LSB Three-Year Lectionary after Holy Trinity until the Sunday following All Saints' Day, with modifications or alternatives only about 10% of the time. That probably results in an "A" by almost any grading scale.

Here's what I reckon would be need to be done:

Lent 4 (Historic)

omit the option of Exodus 16:2-21; use Isaiah 49:8-13

omit the option of Acts 2:41-47; use Galatians 4:21-31

Proper 3

Series A

use Acts 2:14a, 36-47 (in place of Isaiah 49:8-16a)

Proper 5

Series B

use St. Mark 3:7-15 (in place of St. Mark 3:20-35)

Proper 7

Series A

add the option of Romans 6:1-11
(as an alternative to Romans 6:12-23)

Series B

add the option of Isaiah 38:9-20
(as an alternative to Job 38:1-11)

use 2 Corinthians 6:11—7:4 (in place of 2 Cor. 6:1-13)

use St. Mark 5:1-20 (in place of St. Mark 4:35-41)

Proper 9

Series A

use Isaiah 64:4—65:1 (in place of Zechariah 9:9-12)

Series B

use 2 Corinthians 9:6-15,
or 2 Corinthians 10:1-11 (in place of 2 Cor. 12:1-10)

Proper 10

Series A

use Isaiah 6:8-13 (in place of Isaiah 55:10-13)

use St. Matthew 13:10-17 (in place of St. Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23)

Proper 11

Series A

add the option of St. Matthew 13:31-35
(as an alternative to St. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

Proper 12

Series C

add the option of 1 Kings 17:1-16
(as an alternative to Genesis 18:(17-19) 20-33)

Proper 15

Series A

use Exodus 20:1-17 (in place of Isaiah 56:1, 6-8)

use St. Matthew 15:1-9 (10-20) (in place of St. Matt. 15:21-28)

Proper 16

Series A

use Romans 12:1-8,
or Romans 11:17-27 (in place of Romans 11:33—12:8)

Series B

use Ephesians 6:1-9 (in place of Ephesians 5:22-33)

Proper 18

Series B

use St. Mark 7:31-37 (omit the option of vv. 24-30)

Proper 20

Series A

use St. Matthew 19:16-26 (in place of St. Matt. 20:1-16)

Proper 23

Series A

add the option of Isaiah 61:10—62:5
(as an alternative to Isaiah 25:6-9)

Proper 24

Series C

use 2 Samuel 14:4-17 (in place of Genesis 32:22-30)

Proper 25

Series B

use Jeremiah 16:5-17 (in place of Jeremiah 31:7-9)

use St. Mark 10:(32-34) 35-45 (in place of St. Mark 10:46-52)

Proper 26

Series A

add the option of 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
(as an alternative to 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12)

Series B

use Hebrews 9:11-22 (include the option of vv. 15-22)

Proper 27

Series A

use lections and propers for Historic Trinity 25

Series C

add the option of Deuteronomy 25:5-10
(as an alternative to Exodus 3:1-15)

Proper 28 (ABC)

use lections and propers for Historic Trinity 26

Proper 29 (ABC)

use lections and propers for Historic Last Sunday