30 March 2012

The Inheritance of the True Vine

Ironically, the vine-growers are correct, that, by the death of the Vineyard Owner’s Son, the inheritance is bestowed.

But it will not be taken by such violence; nor is the Vineyard ever outside of the Father’s hands.

He is patient with the vine-growers, not because He is helpless or powerless; neither did He need their help to begin with. But, no, He is patient and long-suffering, even with them; and He sends His servants, the Prophets and preachers of His Word, and finally His own beloved Son, in order to receive the vine-growers together with the Vineyard unto Himself in faith.

In truth, it is by the death of His beloved Son, Christ Jesus, that God the Father has given life to His Vineyard, and growth and produce. It was already in view and in virtue of the Son’s Cross and Resurrection that the Vineyard was planted and cared for in the beginning.

So, too, the Prophets before (and the Apostles after), have not only preached the Cross and Passion of the Christ, but have suffered it themselves; precisely because it is by the Cross that God brings forth fruit in the Resurrection of His Son. Not because He is hungry or needy or greedy, but for the benefit of His people.

Thus, the Stone which the builders rejected has become the Head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous.

But what shall become of the builders who reject that Chief Cornerstone? And what of those vine-growers who refuse to receive this beloved Son?

The Father will give the Vineyard to others, most surely, and the inheritance of His House. This, indeed, is always His desire, His purpose and intention, to give His good gifts — in and with and for the sake of His Son.

So by the Cross of Christ He has planted His Vineyard,
and in His Resurrection it is fruitful and productive.

With His Church He has enclosed His Vineyard with a wall, as a mighty fortress, but He has also built a tower within for the proclamation of the Gospel to all.

You have entered the Vineyard at the gracious invitation of that Gospel preaching, and have been grafted into the true Vine by your Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection. You, then, are also a beloved son, and the Father’s inheritance is yours.

See, here, from His wine press, the Blood of the Vine is poured out for you — the Blood of the Covenant He has made with you — for the forgiveness of your sins and the life everlasting.

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

24 March 2012

Team Jesus

Team Edward, or Team Jacob. Team Peeta, or Team Gale.

Peyton Manning or Tim Tebow.

Mit Romney, Rick Santorum, or President Obama.

American Idol, X Factor, or The Voice.

St. Louis or Fort Wayne. The Beatles or the Rolling Stones.

Whether in politics, sports, music, or books and movies; whether with so-called “reality” shows, or “celebrities” whose only claim to fame is fame itself — there are the heros and their rivals. These are the “rulers” and the “great men” of the “gentiles” in our day and age.

And everyone’s a fan-boy (or a fan-girl), seeking fame and glory by association with the team.

So there is the merchandising that goes along with every team, establishing a culture and a genre of this or that. Name brand identity, catch-phrase slogans, and logo recognition. All of it feeding an overarching culture of competition, in which you also get caught up, lording it over others, vaunting yourself, exercising prerogative and using power to serve yourself, to promote yourself.

And then there is “Team Jesus.”

That’s where James and John are ready to cast their lot (even if they don't know what they're asking); and it is good and right so to do.

But what will that mean? What’s the game plan? The strategy? The tactic?

What is the culture, the genre, the glory of “Team Jesus”? Where’s the merchandise?

If you’re going to be “Team Jesus,” how are you going to play? What is victory going to look like? What does it comprise? What does it take, and what does it mean, to be #1 in His League?

In particular, what will your relationships be like: With your teammates? With other “teams”?

Competition and criticism?

Or cooperation? Compassion and Charity?

You know the answers to these questions, as you know the Lord Himself — you know His greatness and His glory, His genre and His culture — by His forgiveness of all your sins.

You know Him personally and intimately, truly and fully — the Lord Jesus, and His God and Father — you know Him through His Gospel: His Word and Sacrament, His Baptism and His Cup.

That’s far more than “merchandise,” and it isn’t for sale at any price. It’s the heart and soul of “Team Jesus,” because it is the heart, mind and Spirit of the one true God: for you, and for all.

The Lord establishes this New Covenant in His own Body on the Cross; and now He writes it, signs and seals it, with His own flesh and blood — upon your heart: in your mind, body, and soul — by the preaching and catechesis of His Word; in Holy Baptism, and in the Holy Communion.

This Gospel of love and forgiveness, this Testament of life and salvation, is freely given to you by God, by His grace, and it is freely received by faith alone, apart from any works of the Law.

But the very faith which so lives by this gracious Gospel, also proceeds on the Way according to “the Law of Christ,” which is “the Law of love.” Which means that you gladly forgive and give life to your neighbor in the Name of Christ. That, too, is the significance of His Baptism, with which you are baptized; the significance of His Cup, which He pours out for you to drink.

For these gifts of God that you receive,
have implications for the way you live.

The New Covenant of Christ, having been established for you and for all in His own Body and Blood, is now being written for your neighbor with your flesh and blood, with the stylus of the Cross, in the particular place to which you are appointed by your God and Father in Christ.

That place, where God has put you, is the arena where you live and work, and love and serve, and “play the game,” as a member of “Team Jesus.”

It's not kill or be killed, nor live and let live, but to lay down your life in love for your neighbor; for your friends and foes alike; for your teammates and, beloved, you have no rivals.

Look, then, to your great Captain, the Author and Perfecter of faith:

Christ Jesus did not glorify Himself by choosing for Himself and taking it upon Himself to become your great and merciful High Priest, but His God and Father called and appointed Him to be such a Priest — for you and for all, forever. And so He has become in perfect faith and love.

It is by His Cross and Passion that He has entered upon that eternal Priesthood and established it forever and always: by His holy and precious blood, by His innocent suffering and death.

In the days of His flesh, He offered up prayers and supplications with loud crying to the One who was able to save Him out of death — to the One who could take the Cup from Him, if it were His Will, but who would yet be able to raise Him up from death when He had fully drained that Cup.

He prayed to His Father, and He was heard because of His piety and reverence. So it is that your prayers, too, are heard and answered for His sake, because of His piety and reverence. For God the Father, who handed over His Son Jesus to be crucified for the sins of the world, has also raised Him from the dead for the reconciliation of the world, and for the justification of the unrighteous.

Although He was already a beloved Son, He learned obedience — experientially — from the things He suffered in your place, in order to become your compassionate and faithful High Priest.

And so, having been made perfect on behalf of all people by His Cross and in His Resurrection, He has become the fountain and source of eternal salvation to all those who believe and are baptized into Him.

He does not simply “lead His Team to victory,” but He Himself has achieved it by His Cross.

It’s not about strength in numbers. It’s not about how many fans or how many friends He’s got.

It is the greatness of His faith in God and the glory of His self-sacrificing love. So has He given Himself as a Ransom for you (and for all), and so does He now serve you with His forgiveness.

His greatness and His glory — His faith and love — His Cross, and His Resurrection from death to the life everlasting — all of these things of Christ Jesus truly become yours; not so much by His good example and your emulation, but by His means of grace, as gifts freely given to you.

On the road going up to Jerusalem, Jesus goes ahead of you. He is the Trailblazer, who leads and opens the way. And, yes, He does set the example for you, that you should follow in His steps. Following after the Teacher is what a disciple does.

So He sets you the example of sacrifice and service.

But He does so by actually sacrificing Himself for you, and by continuing to serve you with His Gospel: As He has washed you with water and His Word in Holy Baptism (deriving its power from His own Baptism, even unto His death upon the Cross), so does He cleanse you daily with His Absolution — getting down upon His hands and knees to wash your dirty feet.

And as He has received the Cup of His Passion from the hand of His Father, and drained it to the dregs for you and your salvation, so does He pour out the Cup, which is the New Covenant in His Blood, for the forgiveness of all your sins. And so are you seated here with Him, at His Table, in the glory of His righteousness and holiness, His innocence and blessedness, now and forever.

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

23 March 2012

God's Own Child, Christ Has Said It

Whether you live or die, whether you are a slave or free, whether you remain in the house or not, depends upon whose child you are.

Who you are depends upon who your father is.

If you are a child of Abraham, an heir of God’s promises to Abraham and to his Seed forever, then do the deeds of Abraham, which are done by faith in the Word that God has spoken.

And if you would have God as your Father, instead of the devil, then love His Son, Jesus, who is the true Seed of Abraham.

That, too, is by His Word.

It is the Word that begets children of God the Father; and His children do as He does, first of all by speaking as He speaks, which is to say, by confessing Christ.

When you speak falsely, when you lie, bear false witness, gossip, or spin the truth to your own advantage, then you speak as the devil; as though he were your father, and you his child.

When you hurt or harm your neighbor with your words, then you are a murderer, like the devil, no less than if you hit with your fists.

When you listen for life, and speak of life, apart from Christ Jesus, then you would seek to kill Him — but by refusing to hear and receive His Word, it is yourself that you put to death.

Then you are a child of fornication, no matter what your genealogical pedigree. For the idolatry of unbelief begets the children of wrath, who are born into the house of bondage, slaves of sin and death.

But hear what Jesus says: He is the Word of the Father to you, in the flesh. The Father has sent Him to set you free — and He has done it. You are free indeed. He does not lie, but speaks the truth, which is the forgiveness of all your sins in His Name. He does not murder you, but He gives you life, even at the cost of His own.

As the true Seed of Abraham, He, Christ Jesus, is the beloved Son who is sacrificed in faith and love, as the Passover Lamb of God, by which you are spared from death, and set free from slavery, and born again as a child of God.

His Word declares it to be so; not only as the truth, but as the Word of God, your Father. Amen, Amen. It is so.

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

16 March 2012

The 2011 Grampies

A month later than I intended, but, as good late as ever, I suppose. The Coveted 2011 Grampies are completed and here published. There was a lot of great music to consider this past year, and, thanks to Amazon, MySpace, Spotify, and my local public library, I was able to consider a good deal of it. It's always hard to make the final decisions, as to what to include and what to omit, and as to how I should rank these things in order of preference. But I've given it my best shot.

No grandchildren born in 2011, but two went into production, expected to make their debut this spring. I already know that Jude and Cherianne will be my favorite new releases of 2012. As for music albums, I've resolved to enjoy what I already have, and that's what I'll be doing as I move on from here. Cheers!

D. Rick’s Album Top 40

1. Daughtry - Break the Spell

2. Black Stone Cherry - Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea

3. Megadeth - Th1rt3en

4. Carolina Liar - Wild Blessed Freedom

5. Hunter Hayes - Hunter Hayes

6. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead

7. Black Spiders - Sons of the North

8. Switchfoot - Vice Verses

9. Mat Kearney - Young Love

10. Voyager - The Meaning of I

11. Joe Bonamassa - Dust Bowl

12. Art of Dying - Vices and Virtues

13. Adele - 21

14. Christian Muenzner - Timewarp

15. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

16. David Nail - The Sound of a Million Dreams

17. Colbie Caillat - All of You

18. Thrice - Major/Minor

19. Amaranthe - Amaranthe

20. Michael Schenker - Temple of Rock

21. Brian Robertson - Diamonds and Dirt

22. Love.Might.Kill - Brace for Impact

23. Redlight King - Something for the Pain

24. Theocracy - As the World Bleeds

25. Andy James - Andy James

26. Vanessa Carlton - Rabbits on the Run

27. Toby Keith - Clancy’s Tavern

28. Airrace - Back to the Start

29. David T. Chastain - Civilized Warfare

30. The Belle Brigade - The Belle Brigade

31. Chickenfoot - Chickenfoot III

32. Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events

33. 3 - The Ghost You Gave to Me

34. Al Di Meola - Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody

35. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus - Am I the Enemy?

36. Voodoo Circle - Broken Heart Syndrome

37. Jonas Tamas - Timeless Hour

38. Saxon - Call to Arms

39. Thompson Square - Thompson Square

40. Fabrizio Leo - Mr. Malusardi


1. Hunter Hayes - Hunter Hayes

2. David Nail - The Sound of a Million Dreams

3. Toby Keith - Clancy’s Tavern

4. Thompson Square - Thompson Square

5. Ronnie Dunn - Ronnie Dunn

6. Eric Church - Chief

7. Eli Young Band - Life at Best

8. Sonia Leigh - 1978 December

9. Trace Adkins - Proud to Be Here

10. Pistol Annies - Hell on Heels

11. Steel Magnolia - Steel Magnolia

12. The Dirt Drifters - This Is My Blood

13. Amos Lee - Mission Bell

14. Reckless Kelly - Good Luck & True Love

15. Lady Antebellum - Own the Night

16. Sarah Jarosz - Follow Me Down

17. Steve Holy - Love Don’t Run

18. George Strait - Here for a Good Time

19. Kevin Fowler - Chippin’ Away

20. The JaneDear Girls - The JaneDear Girls

21. Lauren Alaina - Wildflower

22. Chris Young - Neon

23. Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest

24. Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane


1. Carolina Liar - Wild Blessed Freedom

2. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead

3. Mat Kearney - Young Love

4. Adele - 21

5. Colbie Caillat - All of You

6. Vanessa Carlton - Rabbits on the Run

7. The Belle Brigade - The Belle Brigade

8. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Revelator

9. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

10. Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa - Don’t Explain

11. Gabe Dixon - One Spark

12. Chris Isaak - Beyond the Sun

13. Paul Simon - So Beautiful Or So What

14. Matt Nathanson - Modern Love

15. Gavin DeGraw - Sweeter

16. Weird Al Yankovic - Alpocalypse

17. Owl City - All Things Bright and Beautiful

18. Roxette - Charm School

19. The Bangles - Sweetheart of the Sun

20. Parachute - The Way It Was

21. Augustana - Augustana

22. Dawes - Nothing Is Wrong

23. The Jayhawks - Mockingbird Time

24. Lindsey Buckingham - Seeds We Sow


1. Daughtry - Break the Spell

2. Black Stone Cherry - Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea

3. Art of Dying - Vices and Virtues

4. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

5. Brian Robertson - Diamonds and Dirt

6. Airrace - Back to the Start

7. Chickenfoot - Chickenfoot III

8. Voodoo Circle - Broken Heart Syndrome

9. Black Country Communion - 2

10. Mr. Big - What If . . .

11. The Union - Siren’s Song

12. Coldspell - Out from the Cold

13. The Poodles - Performocracy

14. James Durbin - Memories of a Beautiful Disaster

15. Firebird - Double Diamond

16. Magnificent - The Magnificent

17. Rival Sons - Pressure & Time

18. Trust Company - Dreaming in Black and White

19. 3 Doors Down - Time of My Life

20. Rob Moratti - Victory

21. Uriah Heep - Into the Wild

22. Fergie Frederiksen - Happiness Is the Road

23. House of Lords - Big Money

24. Burn Halo - Up From the Ashes


1. Megadeth - Th1rt3en

2. Black Spiders - Sons of the North

3. Amaranthe - Amaranthe

4. Love.Might.Kill - Brace for Impact

5. Theocracy - As the World Bleeds

6. Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events

7. Saxon - Call to Arms

8. Jag Panzer - The Scourge of Light

9. Eden’s Curse - Trinity

10. Trivium - In Waves

11. Borealis - Fall from Grace

12. Symfonia - In Paradisum

13. Riot - Immortal Soul

14. Hammerfall - Infected

15. Havok - Time Is Up

16. Sympony X - Iconoclast

17. Redemption - This Mortal Coil

18. Scar Symmetry - The Unseen Empire

19. Arch/Matheos - Sympathetic Resonance

20. Times of Grace - Hymn of a Broken Man

21. Obscura - Omnivium

22. FireWölfe - FireWölfe

23. Mastodon - The Hunter

24. Tokyo Blade - Thousand Men Strong


1. Switchfoot - Vice Verses

2. Voyager - The Meaning of I

3. Thrice - Major/Minor

4. Redlight King - Something for the Pain

5. 3 - The Ghost You Gave to Me

6. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus - Am I the Enemy?

7. You Me at Six - Sinners Never Sleep

8. Taking Back Sunday - Taking Back Sunday

9. Mayday Parade - Mayday Parade

10. Bayside - Killing Time

11. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo

12. Anubis Gate - Anubis Gate

13. Blindside - With Shivering Hearts We Wait

14. Florence & the Machine - Ceremonials

15. New Found Glory - Radiosurgery

16. Twin Atlantic - Free

17. Miles Kane - Colour of the Trap

18. Bowling for Soup - Fishin’ for Woos

19. Forever the Sickest Kids - Forever the Sickest Kids

20. Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts

21. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

22. Yellowcard - When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes

23. Wilco - The Whole Love

24. Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi


1. Joe Bonamassa - Dust Bowl

2. Christian Muenzner - Timewarp

3. Michael Schenker - Temple of Rock

4. Andy James - Andy James

5. David T. Chastain - Civilized Warfare

6. Al Di Meola - Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody

7. Jonas Tamas - Timeless Hour

8. Fabrizio Leo - Mr. Malusardi

9. Tony MacAlpine - Tony MacAlpine

10. Glen Drover - Metalusion

11. Diesel - Under the Influence

12. Leslie West - Unusual Suspects

13. Andy Timmons - Plays Sgt. Pepper

14. Kenny Wayne Shepherd - How I Go

15. Paul Wardingham - Assimilate Regenerate

16. Chris Brooks - The Axis of All Things

17. Francesco Artusato - Chaos and the Primordial

18. Oz Noy - Twisted Blues Vol. I

19. Sébastien Cloutier - Correlations

20. Warren Haynes - Man in Motion

21. Antoine Dufour - Sound Pictures

22. Stoney Curtis - Cosmic Conn3ction

23. Brian Setzer - Setzer Goes Instru-Mental

24. Steve Wariner - Guitar Laboratory

Born Again into the Light and Life of Christ

You have come to Jesus to learn from Him, to know God and enter His Kingdom.

It is already the work of the Spirit, through the Word and works of Christ Jesus, that you are here.

But it is something far more, and more radical, than information or education that you need.

You are in the dark, apart from Christ and His Spirit, not only because you are ignorant or uninformed, but because you are sinful and therefore mortal; you have inherited your father’s fallen flesh, which wears out and dies and withers and fades like the grass.

If you are to live in the Kingdom of God, you must be born again and become a new man. The old man must die, and a new man be born of God the Father, by the Word and Spirit of His Son.

Such regeneration and rebirth is made possible for you, and for all the children of men, by the Incarnation and Holy Nativity of Christ Jesus, and by His Cross and Resurrection from the dead.

It is because He who is the Word of God, by whom all things are made, has become flesh, born of flesh and blood like yours, that you may now live in and with God forever in the flesh.

It is because He has died in your place, bearing your sins in His own Body of flesh and blood, and because He has risen from the dead, bodily, in that same flesh, now glorified, that your body, though it die, shall also be raised unto life everlasting.

The key is that He has come down from heaven to earth, in order to raise you from the dust of the earth to the Father in heaven.

He is the Light who now shines in the midst of your darkness, to enlighten you with His Spirit in heart and mind, body and soul.

You could not ascend to heaven or climb your own way into the Kingdom of God, but heaven has come down to you in earthly ways and means, and the Kingdom of God is at hand, on earth as it is in heaven, in the Person of Jesus Christ: in His Word, which is spoken here, and in His own flesh and blood, given and poured out for you here.

Thus, it is by water — with the Word of God — that you have been born again of the Spirit of God, in Christ; and it is with bread and wine, at the Word of Jesus, that your body is here fed with His body (crucified and risen), so that you shall not die, but live in the light of eternal day, both body and soul, in the presence of God.

09 March 2012

Christ Jesus Opens Your Eyes to See

Have you not heard, and have you not seen?

The Lord Jesus has laid His hands upon you. He has washed your body with pure water, and cleansed your soul of every stain, your conscience of all guilt and shame.

He has enlightened you with His Word and Holy Spirit; He has opened your eyes by His grace.

What, then, do you see?

If you perceive your life in the world only by your eyes of flesh, then you see nothing at all; or, you see only the Cross, but you cannot understand it or interpret it. Then you argue and contend with Jesus, and you worry about how you are going to make ends meet. You look for the resources of the world and its villages to feed and supply the Lord’s Church.

What, then, would you sacrifice to barter and bargain with Him?

And what would you have Him do for you and give to you, that He has not already done?

Why do you worry about your body, what you will eat and what you will wear? And how shall you suppose to buy the Lord’s favor and His providence by your work and wares? You cannot feed and clothe yourself — far less will you feed and clothe Him!

But life is not a commodity to be traded, bought or sold, and faith is not a marketplace.

You already have the sign by which you see clearly and understand,
and there is no other sign than this: the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.

For God has put Him to death, and yet, God has raised Him, and He lives, for you.

Everything is summed up in that: the poverty and want of your sin; your nakedness, hunger and fear; the frailty, weakness and failure of your fallen flesh; the impending curse of death, and the constant threat of your mortality.

Christ Jesus has borne and suffered all of that; He has died in your place, and He has risen from death and the grave for you. There is no other sacrifice for sin, but from His death there is life.

So He has given you new birth by water with His Word and Spirit, and daily He opens your eyes with forgiveness from His Cross. He has washed and cleansed and sanctified your body and soul, and clothes you in His righteousness. It is your body, also, He has saved — and He cares for it, as for you, and freely provides all that you need.

There is nothing lacking, as in His Church He feeds your flesh and blood with His own, for life. Look not to the village, but see here the food of Christ Jesus, given and poured out for you.

02 March 2012

Child of God, Cling to This

Child of God, cling to this:

The Lord Jesus has come down from heaven to save you and give you life. He has willingly gone to His death upon the Cross for you, and He has risen from the dead for you.

In His Resurrection is His answer, His “Yes” and “Amen,” to your prayer.

Cling to that answer, and pray.

The Lord Jesus has come down to you in love, and He would have you look to Him for all good things, for all that you need. That is true.

But He does not parade Himself about or put Himself on open display to the world. He hides Himself in His Church, in water, bread and wine, in order to be sought and found and known by faith alone in His Word.

Therefore, come to Him here, on the basis of the Word that you have heard concerning Him — the Word of His Gospel declaring His works of mercy and His great salvation.

The Law of sin and death would deny it,
and deny your prayer on account of your faults and failures.

Sometimes, it is God Himself who seems aloof to your need, reluctant or unwilling to help.

The Lord resists your plea, as it were, and wrestles with you over it, as He hides Himself within His house; not to spurn your need, but to strengthen your faith and clarify your confession.

Remember that He has come to you, before you have ever heard of Him. He has died for you, and risen for you, and so has said “Amen,” before you have yet prayed.

But He speaks, that you would live by faith in His Word,
and He would have you pray as He has spoken.

There is hardly any love more solicitous or persistent than that of a parent for his or her child. Which is why your heart is so moved for this poor woman and her little daughter — and some of you have known such anxiety for a child of your own.

Take it to heart, then, that you are God’s own child. He has said so, from heaven, in your Holy Baptism. He has already removed the unclean spirit from you in love.

The Law calls you a dog — and for your sin, you own that it is right.

But God calls you His Son, in Christ, and so the Father feeds you with the children’s true Bread — with spiritual food for both your body and soul — with Christ Jesus Himself. Amen.