29 October 2017

On Christ All the Law and the Prophets Depend

By the washing of the water with His Word, Christ the Lord has cleansed you and sanctified you in Holy Baptism.  He has clothed you in His own righteousness and holiness.  He has anointed you with His Holy Spirit, and He has named you with His Holy Name.  You are therefore to be holy, as the Lord your God is holy.  But, whereas the Holy Triune God is holy in Himself, by His nature as God, you are sanctified by His Word and Holy Spirit to be holy in Christ Jesus, by His grace.

In calling you to be holy, the Lord God calls you to share His divine Life, to rest yourself in His divine Love.  He calls you to live your life in Him, in harmony and peace — to be loved by Him — and so to love the Lord your God above all things, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, is to entrust and submit all your thoughts and feelings, yourself, and your entire life to Him, so that all your words and actions are governed by His Word, and your every breath glorifies His Name.

And to love your neighbor as yourself is to love and serve your neighbor, and to give life to your neighbor, by and with and for the Love of God.  In short, you love your neighbor as the Lord your God loves you.  Receiving and sharing His love, you manifest His holiness in your love for others.

See, when you fear, love, and trust in the one true God above all things, then you are not afraid of anything else in heaven or on earth, and so you are not afraid to give yourself in loving service to your neighbor.  Rather, you delight to be like God in your love for others.  You desire to know and to follow His good and acceptable Will in all things.  And His holy Will is summed up in love.

Again, what is natural for God, is for you by His grace alone.  You dare not rely upon your own wisdom, reason, or strength to know what love is, or to know the way of love.  But you hear and heed the Word of God, and you rely on His Word.  Consider the example of Christ Jesus.  As true Man, He relied upon and so confessed the Holy Scriptures in resisting every temptation, and in answering all questions.  For all things in heaven and on earth are sanctified by the Word and Spirit of God, who creates all things, gives life to all the living, and establishes what is good and right.

The holiness of God, and so also the holiness of His people, abides in the certainty of God; and it is manifested in the charity of God.  What I mean is this: The Lord your God — the Holy Trinity — He alone is fully alive, fully complete, fully realized, and fully sufficient in Himself.  He alone is Love; which is to say, not only that He is loving in His attitude and actions, but that He is Love in Himself, in His very Being and Identity, in the Love of the Father for the Son in the Holy Spirit.

You have such divine certainty and charity, and such holiness of God, not from within yourself, but from outside of yourself: from the Holy Triune God, who reveals and gives Himself to you for the sake of His divine and holy Love, that is, for His own sake, because of who and what He is.

Because it is by and with His Word that God reveals and gives Himself to you — by the preaching of His Prophets and Apostles, and above all by the Person of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus — and because it is by and with His Word that He names you with His Name, and sanctifies His Name in you by the generous outpouring of His Holy Spirit through your Savior, Jesus Christ — so it is that your holiness as a child of God depends entirely upon His Word.  That is your certainty, your confidence and hope in Christ, which is expressed and exercised in a godly life of holy charity.

Within your own calling, in your own place, it is for you as it was for the Apostles, who trusted the Word of the Lord and preached that Word faithfully, even unto death.  They did not lord it over those to whom they were sent, but they loved them and took care of them with tenderness, like that of a nursing mother for her newborn infant, and with the strong and steady kindness of a father for his own dear children.  Not only did they deliver the Gospel–Word and Sacraments in the Name and stead of Christ, but they gave their bodies and poured out their lives in love for His Church.

So are you also called to sacrifice your body and life in love for your neighbor, in the charity and certainty of the Holy Triune God who has called you by His own Name in Holy Baptism.  That is a serious commitment for the entirety of your Christian life on earth, unto the life everlasting.  Even for a newborn infant like Guinevere, Baptism stations you on the front lines of a fierce battle, armed and armored with nothing else — and nothing less — than the Word and Spirit of God.

Thus have you confessed, as Guinevere has confessed this morning, that your entire life and your salvation are found in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, in the Church and Ministry of His Gospel, in His Word and Sacraments.  And so have you and Guinevere categorically renounced and rejected the devil, the world, and all the sinful lusts and desires of your fallen flesh.  You have died to all of that, and you live unto God alone.

What, then, does that look like, practically speaking?  What are you supposed to do and say, and how are you supposed to live?  The Lord has not left you without clear guidance and instruction in this regard.  His Law for you is summed up in Love for Him and for your neighbor, as Christ has stated forthrightly this morning.  And that Love for God and man, on which all the Law and the Prophets depend, is spelled out for you as the Ten Commandments are brought to bear upon your own particular place in life, in much the way the Lord has done for His people in Leviticus.

It is to that same end that Dr. Luther wrote his Catechisms, so that pastors and parents, fathers and mothers would be assisted by the Word of God in fulfilling the duties of their callings, in training up their children to fear, love, and trust in God and to love their neighbors in the peace of Christ.

Bear that in mind, Nicholai & Hannah, Kelvin & Melissa, Nathaniel & Sarah, and all of you other fathers and mothers, no matter how old you and your babies may be — that love for God and for your children requires, above all else, that you give attention to the Word of the Lord and teach it to those entrusted to your care; that you be faithful in going to church and bringing them with you.  As surely as a nursing mother feeds her infant, and as surely as a father clothes and shelters and protects his family, all the more so must you bring up your children in the fear and faith of God.

Thus are you and your children catechized by God to pray and confess, to call upon His Name, to praise and give thanks to Him.  He calls you to hear and heed His Word, and to hold it sacred in all that you say and do.  He teaches you to remember your Baptism, as we will teach Guinevere to remember her Baptism; which is to examine yourself with the Word of God, to confess your sins, to avail yourself of Holy Absolution, and to hunger and thirst for the Body and Blood of Christ.

So are you and your children also taught that love, which is the fulfilling of the Law, does no harm to the neighbor.  But love does not simply refrain from doing harm; it actively strives to help and serve, to protect and defend, to support and strengthen the neighbor in his body and life, in his family, his property, his name and reputation.  And not only do you honor and obey your parents and other authorities, but you love and cherish them; you reverence your father and mother, and you submit to them in the Lord.  And when you are married, you fully invest yourself, your time and energy, your heart, mind, and body, in self-sacrificing love for your own wife or husband.

This is what your holiness as a child of God looks like in practice.  This is how you are to live in faith and love, according to the Word of the Lord, to the glory of His Name which you now bear.

But do you?  Do you live a holy life, as the Lord your God has commanded?  Or how often do you expect Him to stand in line and wait behind your legion of idols — your work and your play, your hobbies and other interests, your money, your music and sports and other entertainments?  And how often do you neglect your neighbor in favor of yourself, even when the neighbor in question is your own spouse or child, your own dear father or mother, your own dear brother or sister, or your fellow Christian?  How often do you trust your own wisdom over and above God’s Word?

When you examine yourself rightly, honestly and truthfully, according to the Word of God, you are silenced by His Law — no less than the Scribes and Pharisees, the Sadduccees and Lawyers, who were not able to answer Jesus anything, and who did not dare ask Him any more questions.

The Law of God leaves you with nothing to say but to confess your sins.  Indeed, it exposes not only your ignorance and weakness, and not only your sins and failings — what you have done wrong, and what you have failed to do right — but also your inability to do any better on your own.  Not only your failure, but your impotence to fear, love, and trust in God.  You cannot do it.

But there is another Word of God — the Gospel of Christ Jesus — which gives to you a voice, a confession and a prayer.  From the waters of your Baptism and throughout the Holy Christian Church, this Word of the Gospel forgives your sins, rescues you from death and drives out the devil, sanctifies you with the Spirit of Christ Jesus, and gives to you eternal life and salvation.

That is so, because great King David’s Lord has indeed become King David’s Son, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and the same Son has been anointed in His human flesh and blood by the Holy Spirit to be the Christ, your Savior and your King.  What He has given Himself to do by submitting Himself to St. John’s Baptism of repentance in the waters of the Jordan River, He has fully accomplished in faith and love, for you and for all, by His Sacrifice upon the Cross.

So has He loved His God and Father with all His heart, with all His soul, and with all His mind; with all His strength, with His whole body and life, with His holy and precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death.  He has given Himself fully and without any reservation, in the fear, love, and trust of His Father above all things, and with divine and holy love for you and for all people, for Guinevere Glenda Marie, and for all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

His relationship to the Law is much like His relationship to David.  He is both Lord and Son.  He is both the Author and the Fulfiller of the Law.  On Him do all the Law and the Prophets depend.  In Him the great Commands are realized.  In Christ, you are loved by God and Man; and as you learn to love Christ Jesus in return, you are taught to love both God and your neighbor in Him.

He has fulfilled and perfected all the Law and the Prophets, not only in your stead and on your behalf, but for you, and for your benefit, in order to save you, and to sanctify you, and to give you life with God forever in Himself.  He does you no harm, but He helps and supports you in every way, in both body and soul, in this life on earth, and for the life everlasting in heaven.  He takes nothing from you but your sin and death, and in exchange He gives you Himself, His holiness and righteousness, His innocence and blessedness, His Name, His Holy Spirit, His own dear Father to be your God and Father in Him, and all the wealth and riches of His eternal Kingdom.  He does not divorce you; He forgives your unfaithfulness, woos you to Himself in tender peace, cleanses you of every blemish, spot, and wrinkle, and cherishes you as His own beloved Bride.  He does not testify against you, but with His Gospel He defends you, speaks well of you, and justifies you.

And as the great God and Father of this same Lord Jesus Christ has highly exalted Him, and has raised Him from the dead, and has given Him the Name above every name, and has seated Him at His Right Hand forevermore — in the same human flesh and blood that He received from His Mother Mary and shares with you — so has God the Father raised you also from death to life, and given you the Name of Christ Jesus in your Holy Baptism, as He has here done for Guinevere.  He has seated you with Christ in the heavenly places.  Your life is safely hidden with Christ in God, even as you go about your life under the Cross, living by His grace through faith in His Gospel.

This is a faithful saying, and it is most certainly true.  For the surety and certainty of your faith and life are not found in yourself, nor in your frail mortal flesh, but they are fixed for you, and secure, in the crucified, risen, and ascended Body of Christ Jesus.  He is not far away from you, but He is here for you in His Church on earth, in His Ministry of the Gospel, in the preaching of His Word, in the Holy Absolution of all your sins, and in the Holy Communion of His Body and His Blood.

So, then, with King David and Queen Guinevere, in the Spirit you also call Jesus “Lord.”  For He has entered in to save you, to ransom and redeem you, to set you free from the bondage of Satan, sin, and death, and to bring you into His glorious Kingdom.  He is not ashamed to call you His brother, His sister, His friend, but all that belongs to Him He freely shares with you forever.  Recline here at His Table, and receive from His right hand the pledge of His undying love, the gift of His indestructible life, while He puts all your enemies, your sin and death, beneath His feet.

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

22 October 2017

Rendering the Image of God unto the Lord

The political strife and rancor of these past few years has made it all the more important that we hear and take to heart the Word of our Lord from this morning’s Holy Gospel, that we should “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Regrettably, this well-known saying of Jesus has not always been well-understood.  In fact, it is oftentimes abused — for example, by those who take the separation of Church and State to absurd extremes, so as to say that God has His “place” over here, and the state has its “place” over there, and never the two shall meet.  Yet, that is certainly not what Jesus says; nor can such a view find any support in the Holy Scriptures.  For the whole earth is the Lord’s and all the fulness thereof.

What Scripture does say, both here and elsewhere, is that “Caesars” have been given a temporary place within the Lord’s governance of His creation.  And so it is that, as Christians, we obey the governing authorities for the Lord’s sake, because of their lawful place under Him.

The Word of Christ at hand is therefore not a two-part equation.  Whoever the “Caesar” might be in any given time or place, he is there by the tolerance of God; and he is there, as St. Paul writes, to serve as a minister of justice and peace.  In rendering unto Caesar, you already begin to render obedience and honor to the Lord your God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth.

But the Pharisees were not so concerned about a proper understanding of political authority.  Their real intentions were malice and hypocrisy.  They hoped and assumed that Jesus would be trapped by their question: If He said that taxes should be paid to Caesar, then pious Jews would see Him as a Roman sympathizer, especially since He was known to hang out with tax collectors, anyway.  But if He said that taxes should not be paid, then the Pharisees and Herodians could accuse Him of insurrection and rebellion.  That was the plan.  But Jesus saw the bigger picture and knew the treachery of their hearts, and He not only shut their mouths but revealed the higher order of God.

The bottom line is cut and dried:  The Holy Triune God is the Maker and Preserver, the Ruler and Provider of all things.  As the Author and Giver of life, He is the Lord of His entire creation.  He is the One who stretched out the heavens above us, piled up mountains around us, filled up the oceans with water, and brought forth in His careful design — by the power of His Word — every living thing that lives and moves upon the face of the whole earth.  From the tiniest grain of sand to the mightiest solar system, there is nothing in all the vast universe that exists apart from His grace and power and permission, including all political power and authority.

There is no authority on earth except what God Himself ordains and permits.  And that is so, whether the leaders of this world acknowledge it or not.  The Lord alone is in control of human history from beginning to end, as you have heard, by way of example, from Isaiah this morning.

The pagan ruler, Cyrus, was chosen by the Lord to be an instrument of His deliverance.  Cyrus, like others before him, might have thought that he was in control, making his own decisions and making a name for himself.  But that was not the case.  Yahweh had chosen him; He had taken Cyrus by the hand and summoned him by name to free the Israelites from Babylonian Captivity.

The same reality is at work behind the scenes in the case of every other “Caesar” in this world.  Which is not to say that any ruler is perfect, nor that any ruler follows the Will of God in all things. We sadly know better than that!  But even among pagans, that which is “Caesar’s” is given to him by the Lord of lords and the King of kings, to whom all things in heaven and on earth must submit.

The same thing is true for you, as well.  Though you may not be a “Caesar” with a nation to govern and protect, your office and station in life are no less a trust from the Holy Triune God.

What do you have from the Lord?  Every breath and every moment of your life; the food that you eat, the clothes that you wear, the sunshine and rain.  Your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of the heavens and the earth.  He keeps you from all harm; He watches over your life; He guards your coming in and going out, now and forever.  Your life and hope and strength are found in Him alone, who provides all that you need for both body and soul, for here and for hereafter.

One of the ways by which you acknowledge your dependance on the Lord is by recognizing His authority and His institution in those He places over you in this life: your parents and teachers, pastors and leaders, whoever they are.  You serve, honor, love, and obey those authorities on earth out of “fear, love, and trust” in God, until such time when you must obey God rather than men.

In a way, that is the question of the Pharisees in this Holy Gospel — notwithstanding their wicked purposes in asking.  In the case of a pagan emperor, such as the Roman Caesar who views himself as a god, does obedience to God require that the faithful should refuse to pay their taxes?

In His response to this question, Jesus begins with the coin that was used for paying taxes.  That might seem strange, if this story were not already so familiar, but it actually made perfect sense.  In their day-to-day commerce, the Jews were permitted to use special coins that were minted without the image of Caesar.  But for the Roman tax, they were required to use the standard coin of the realm, the silver denarius.  For a devout Jew, a coin of this sort — engraved with Caesar’s image and likeness — would have been useless for anything other than paying the national tax.

Beyond this point, there are several other factors operating just below the surface.  For one thing, St. Matthew has already written of denarii in two other places — in parables that you have heard over the past month or so.  In one case, the denarii signified the debt of forgiveness that you owe to your fellow servants; and in the other case, a denarius signified the reward of our Lord for all of His servants, for each and all alike.  The denarius, therefore, is a gift from God with which you are to serve your neighbor.  It comes to you from the Lord for the benefit of those around you.  So, for example, in paying your taxes you are serving and supporting your fellow citizens.

The second underlying point is found in the question Jesus asks concerning the denarius: “Whose image or picture is this?  Whose icon, and whose epigraph?”  The first word, “icon” or “image,” is right out of the story of creation in Genesis, when “God created man in His own Image; in the Image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

So, if the coin with Caesar’s image should be rendered unto Caesar, then men and women, who are created in the Image of God, must render — not just their money — but themselves unto Him.

The truth is, though, that you have fallen far short of God’s Image.  You have not lived to the glory of His Name, but like your father Adam you have lived in sin, even unto death.  And yet, St. Paul writes that Christ Himself is the Image of God; and He has not fallen short at all.  Christ has fulfilled every intention of His God and Father for you and your salvation; and He has also paid, on your behalf, the debt of all your failure.  As the Image of His Father, the incarnate Son of God has rendered Himself entirely unto God — in His flesh and with His blood — for you and for all.

He did so on the Cross.  And, lo and behold, that is where the other word shows up, that is, the “epigraph” or “inscription” of the coin.  In fact, that is the only other time the word is used in the Gospels — when Pilate nailed the epigraph on the Cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

Ironic, isn’t it?  Crying out for the crucifixion of their Savior and their God, the Jews told Pilate, “We have no king but Caesar!”  Whereas the pagan Pontius Pilate, though he knew not what he said, rightly confessed that Jesus is the King of the Jews.  He is all of that and so much more, hanging there on the Cross.  He is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords, who holds Caesar and Pilate and Herod, the U.S. of A. and the whole world in His almighty, outstretched hands.  Money and taxes and politics seem far less important when viewed from the Cross of Christ.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Truth of God, who speaks the Truth of God in all things, without regard for human achievements or the standards of this world.  This Lord is neither impressed nor persuaded by popularity or power, by appearance, personality, or wealth.  All people are alike in His eyes:  All are sinners, in need of His forgiveness by grace alone.  All are His creatures, for whom His Blood is shed upon the Cross — for Caesars and peasants, Presidents and street people.

Now, by His grace and Holy Spirit, you do the same.  That is to say, you look at people through the eyes of Christ; and so you pay your taxes to Caesar, and you love your neighbors, for the sake of the Lord.  You serve and support the governing authorities as servants of God; and you serve the people around you — even the least, the last, and the lost — as an opportunity to show your thanks and love toward Christ Jesus Himself.  Whatsoever you do for them, you do it for Him.

The fact is, that God doesn’t need your money.  It’s all His in the first place, along with every other blessing in your life.  Your neighbors may need your money from time to time, as the law of love demands.  And the ministry and mission of the Church need your money and support, as does your country.  But the Holy Triune God can get along just fine without your help, thank you very much.

What He does require of you, though, is not your money but your life.  For you were created in His Image and Likeness; His Epigraph is written on your forehead and your heart — the Sign of the Cross, marking you as His.  And His Word to you is clear: “Render unto God what is God’s.”

The beauty of it is, that in rendering everything you are and have to God, you find that all the while He is showering you with grace and every blessing: free and full forgiveness of your sins, eternal life, and salvation in Christ Jesus.  That is what faith is all about.  You trust Him completely with your entire being and life, and you receive all things from His hand with thanksgiving.

St. Paul thus writes about the Christian life as a stewardship of “faith,” “hope,” and “love.”

“By faith,” which is created and sustained in you through the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Gospel, “in the hope” which you have in Christ Jesus, who has suffered all the punishment of your sins, who has perfectly satisfied the demands of the Law on your behalf, and who, by the means of His Word and Sacrament, bestows on you His forgiveness, life, and salvation, and restores in you the Image of God, “you love” your neighbor, even your enemy, as Christ loves you.

That is what Christian stewardship really entails.  It is not a little corner of your life that you set aside for the church or for charity.  It is rather a commitment and a trusting of your entire life — everything that you are and all that you have — into the hands of your heavenly Father.  When you entrust a portion of that total commitment to the Ministry of Christ and the Mission of His Church, you do so for the sake of the Gospel, as a confession of your faith and hope in the Holy Trinity.

You do the same thing by faithfully doing your job, whatever it might be; by faithfully taking care of your family and your responsibilities at home; and by looking out for the welfare of your neighbors and the needs of your community — as for example in paying your taxes to “Caesar.”

In all of these ways, you render the Image of God unto the Lord by receiving His many gifts with thanksgiving, and by using them to the glory of His Name for the benefit of those around you.

As you find that you still fail miserably on a daily basis to live in this way, as the Lord commands, in accordance with His holy Image and divine Likeness, repent, and believe the Gospel of Christ.

Were it not for Christ Jesus, you would find yourself hopeless and undone.  Thankfully, the Image of God does not depend on you; not on your faith and sincerity, nor on your best efforts and stewardship.  It depends entirely on Christ, and it is always upheld by Him.  He has reflected that perfect Image, and He has rendered it unto God the Father, by going to the Cross in your stead; by sacrificing everything for you and your salvation; and even now, by forgiving your sins, and by feeding your body, soul, and spirit with His very own Body and Blood, unto the life everlasting.

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

18 October 2017

Healing the Nations by the Word of the Physician

If “sola Scriptura” means anything at all, it certainly means that the Word of the Lord which is heard in the weekly Divine Service establishes and governs everything else that happens in that Service: the preaching, the hymns, and the prayers, the celebration of the Sacrament, and the faith in which the people of God receive the Holy Communion.  For the Word that is proclaimed from the lectern and the pulpit is the Word that leads you to the Word-made-Flesh at the Altar.

Thus do we owe a debt of gratitude to St. Luke the Evangelist, and to the Lord for giving St. Luke to His Church on earth.  For the words of this man are prominent among those Words of Christ with which the Lord has fed His dear children with the heavenly Bread of Life.  Between his record of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, he has written over a fourth of the New Testament.  And by the grace and Spirit of God, this Beloved Physician, St. Luke, has led you also from the Holy Gospel to the Font of Forgiveness, and to life and healing in the Body and Blood of Christ.

It is one of the many ways in which the Holy Triune God works through means: communicating, revealing, and giving Himself through created things and earthly “stuff,” and so also through men like St. Luke.  The Lord Jesus did not leave us any written record from His own hand, but in His divine wisdom, according to His good and gracious Will, He chose men like St. Luke to write down His words of life as the Holy Scriptures.  So did He choose the Holy Apostles to be His witnesses to all the nations of the earth.  So has He chosen pastors like myself to speak His Word and to work His works in His Name among the congregations of His people all over the world.  And so does He call you to be His own, to be His living presence among those who are still lost.

As an Evangelist, St. Luke has contributed beautifully and richly to the life of the Lord’s Church.  It is from his Gospel that we have learned to sing those familiar canticles, the Benedictus, the Magnificat, and the Nunc Dimittis.  So also has St. Luke recorded a number of those dearly loved stories of our Lord which are found nowhere else, such as the Annunciation of Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Visitation of St. Mary to St. Elizabeth, and the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple.  Also the story of the Twelve-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem; the Parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son; the healing of the ten lepers; and the appearance of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus at Emmaus, made known, both then and now, in the Breaking of the Bread.

All of these events and activities — as well as the many others that St. Luke shares in common with the other three Evangelists — are more than just stories.  They are more than just a record of the past, more than nostalgic memoirs.  They are grace and life and healing from your heavenly Physician, Christ Jesus: the Annunciation of His flesh and blood, given and poured out for you; His coming to visit you with forgiveness and life and salvation; His Presentation in the Temple of His Church, that you might receive Him to yourself and behold in Him the Light of Revelation.

The Gospel According to St. Luke is the gracious and astounding Word of God in Christ, who was ever and always about His Father’s business; who was and is your Good Samaritan, binding up your wounds and healing the leprosy of your sin; who welcomes you — cleansed and forgiven — back into His Father’s House; who opens the Scriptures to you on the way, to and from Emmaus; who reveals and gives Himself to you in the Breaking of the Bread and the Pouring of His Cup.

This grace of God in Christ is given to you here within His Church, because St. Luke and the other Evangelists have recorded the Apostolic preaching of repentance and forgiveness in His Name.

As the Apostles were eyewitnesses of His Life and Ministry, of His Cross and Resurrection, they were sent to speak His Word and to work His mighty deeds to the ends of the earth — to go before the face of the Lord to every city and every place where He Himself would thereby also go.  And among the many others who were sent to follow after the Apostles in this Ministry of Christ Jesus, St. Luke not only preached in his own day but carefully committed the Word of Christ to writing, so that you and countless others would learn to know and trust those things that Christ has done and said; so that you would know and trust in Christ Jesus Himself.  To this end, the Holy Spirit is at work in this Holy Gospel to open your heart and mind, that you would comprehend the Holy Scriptures of the Prophets, Apostles, and Evangelists, as the revelation of the risen Christ Jesus.

Although he was a Gentile, St. Luke portrays the Lord Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Jewish Old Testament for Jews and Gentiles alike.  From beginning to end, he writes of those promises and Prophecies of Yahweh which have been accomplished and perfectly realized in Christ Jesus, the Son of St. Mary.  For it was necessary, as the Lord Himself has said, that all things had to be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms concerning Him.

Indeed, everything has been fulfilled and accomplished by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.  And this fulfillment of the Scriptures continues in the preaching and Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name; in Confession and Absolution; and in the Body and Blood of Christ, the Sacrifice of Atonement, now given and poured out for you in the Holy Communion.

St. Luke, in particular, portrays Christ Jesus as the Sacrifice to end all sacrifices for sin.  And it is for this reason that the symbol for St. Luke is the flying bull — one of the four winged creatures of the Prophet Ezkiel’s vision, traditionally used as symbols for the four Holy Evangelists.

Not all the blood of sacrificial bulls could ever take away your sins, but the Sacrifice of Christ has done so for you and for all.  For He is the merciful and great High Priest who has entered with His own Blood into the Most Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption once for all.  So does the same Blood of the same Lord Jesus Christ, who offered Himself through the Holy Spirit to His God and Father in heaven, now cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.  Indeed, He is the Mediator of the New Testament — by means of His sacrifice upon the Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead — so that you may receive the promised eternal inheritance in His Body given for you, and in His Blood poured out for you and for the many at His Altar.

As the sacrificial Lamb of God, Christ Jesus took upon Himself — into His own flesh and blood — all your sins and iniquities, all your suffering and pain, all your sickness and death — and He crucified it all in His own Body on the Cross; He buried it forever in His tomb.  And having thus offered His Body and Life as the perfect Sacrifice of Atonement for the sins of the whole world, He has risen from the dead as the First-fruits of the New Creation.  He lives and reigns to all eternity, never to die again.  And He comes to His Church of all times and in all places — as He now comes to you — with His Word of forgiveness, and with His life-giving Body and Blood.

Whereas He has taken upon Himself all your sins and all of their consequences, He returns to you — by way of a blessed exchange — His own divine life, His righteousness, holiness, purity, and perfect health in body and soul, for now and forever.  All that you were as a fallen child of fallen Adam, subject to death and the grave, He became and suffered in your place; so that, by His grace, through faith in His Gospel, you might become all that He is, a beloved child of God the Father.

This healing of the nations, this healing and salvation of all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, comes only from that blessed Tree of Life, the Holy Cross of Christ, the saving fruits of which are now distributed and bestowed in the Breaking of the Bread at the Lord’s Table in His House.

As a physician (perhaps a very fine physician), St. Luke was no doubt humbled at times that, for all of his medical knowledge and skill, there was still no way for him to create or preserve life.  Those good works remain the divine prerogative of God alone.  But, as an Evangelist, recording the Word and works of Christ Jesus, our heavenly Physician, St. Luke was given the blessed privilege to offer healing and life and eternal salvation in the Cross and Resurrection of his Lord.

And, oh, what a delight it must have been to record those precious Words of Jesus: “This is My Body.  This Cup is the New Testament in My Blood.”  For here is the Medicine of Immortality, which the crucified and risen Lord Jesus shares in table fellowship with sinners.  He gives to you His Body to eat, He pours out His Blood for you to drink, that you should live forever with Him.

These words from the Gospel According to St. Luke, and the preaching of those words to this day, are the living and active Word of Christ Himself, the Beloved Physician of body and soul, according to His promise:  He who hears you, hears Me; and He who receives you, receives Me.

This divine Doctor of the Gospel has already gone so far as to lay down His life for you, taking your place on the Cross and making His bed in your tomb, in order to remove all of your sickness and death.  And now He comes to visit you with His Word, with His own Body and Blood, in order to heal you with His mercy and forgiveness, and to feed you with Himself unto the Life immortal.

Especially in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke points to the continuation of this healing work of Jesus in the Ministry of His Gospel–Word and Sacraments within His Church on earth.  All that He began to do and teach and accomplish — by His Nativity in the flesh, by His Life, His Cross, and His Resurrection — He now continues to do and teach through the ministers of His Word.

And this must be the case.  As Jesus says to His disciples following His Resurrection, it is divinely necessary that repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached in His Name to all the nations.  The Gospel must be delivered to the world: As it was by the Apostles, and as it is to this day in the Gospel of St. Luke, so shall it be to the close of the age through the Office of the Holy Ministry.

And wherever this Ministry of Christ in His Word and Holy Sacrament is found, there is the new Temple of His Christian Church, which is the new Jerusalem on earth, in which you are gathered in peace and with great joy to receive the gifts of Christ Himself: To hear His Holy Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation; to remember and return to the significance of your Holy Baptism; and to be nourished in the Holy Communion with His holy Body and precious Blood.

In receiving these gifts of His grace with thanksgiving, you worship the Lord in His Temple, week after week throughout your life.  United with Christ Jesus, anointed by His Holy Spirit, a dearly beloved daughter or son of God the Father, you praise and bless the Holy Triune God for all His many gifts and benefits — and, not least of all, for His servant, St. Luke.

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

15 October 2017

Like a Bride Made Ready for Her Husband

Everything is done for the sake of the beloved Son.  Everything is done for Him.  It is in the Name of Jesus, and for His sake, that the Father loves the Bride, and for the sake of Jesus that He rejoices over her with lavish generosity and gracious hospitality.  The Father loves the Bride because she is the Bride of His beloved Son.  He loves her as He loves Him — with divine, eternal Love.

It is the Bridegroom who speaks this Parable and reveals the Kingdom of Heaven within it.  And He is at the heart and center of it all, not only as the Author of the story, but the Author and Giver of Life by His Word of the Gospel, by the gift of His Holy Spirit through His forgiveness of sins.

The whole story is about this Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  The Feast is held in His honor.  And yet, He is the One who has been sacrificed in order to become the Feast.  He is the One who has been slaughtered, so that you might eat and drink, cleansed and forgiven.  He feeds His guests from His own hand, as the Waiter, for He is among you as the One who serves.  And what He sets before you is nothing else and nothing less than Himself, His own holy Body and His precious Blood.

Indeed, the invitation and the call that you have received to this Wedding Feast are actually a marriage proposal.  You are called, that is, not simply to be a guest of the Bride and Groom, but to be a member of the bridal party and, what is more, to be a member of the Bride herself, the holy Church.  For the call and invitation are a betrothal, that you be wed to Christ, the beloved Son.

Take to heart, therefore, the seriousness, the importance and significance of this call and invitation.  The King would have you be united to His Son, joined to Him, as one flesh and blood with Him, both now and forever, so that even death is never able to part you from Him.  The Father would have you married to His Son, and He would love you in Him as a dear and delightful daughter.

So it is that, from heaven Christ came and sought you out — to call you to Himself, to make of you His Bride by the washing of the water with His Word.  In your Holy Baptism, He has cleansed you, and He has clothed you in His own righteousness.  He has made you ready for Himself, as a Bride for her Husband.  He has dressed you for the Wedding and for the Wedding Feast.  You are gloriously adorned, and there is no spot in you; there is no wrinkle; there is no blemish; there is no flaw.  There is nothing to be seen but the beauty with which Christ has made you beautiful.

And now, made ready, you are called to partake of the Feast.  To rejoice and celebrate with Christ, your Groom, your Husband and your Head.  To eat and to drink the Meal that He sets before you, the Meat and Drink indeed, which He has prepared by His sacrificial death upon the Cross.

“It is finished,” He has spoken from that Cross.  There’s nothing more to be done that He has not done.  His Feast is ready.  Everything is ready.  So, come and eat.  Already here and now, His great Feast is set before you in the Holy Communion.  You are called to celebrate and rejoice by eating and drinking this Food and this Drink, and thus to abide in Christ, and He in you, in the Kingdom of His God and Father — already manifested here under the Cross within His Church on earth.

The Feast in question is not simply a metaphor.  It is not simply a picture of something yet to come.  It is already here and now in the Lord’s Supper.  The Sacrament really is that central and important to the Christian faith and life.  This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  More than that, this is the Kingdom of Heaven, which is here with you on earth in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.

The Lord’s Supper is not simply a means to some other end.  It’s not play-acting in remembrance of what happened a long time ago.  Nor is it some dreamlike anticipation of some sweet by-and-by yet to come.  But here you actually taste the Feast that goes on forever in the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, do not despise His Feast.  Do not reject His gracious invitation.

On the one hand, you despise His Feast when you are unwilling to come, when you engage in other activities while turning your back on that which Christ the Lord has set before you; when you treat the things of this world as a higher priority than the things of Christ Jesus, the things of heaven.

On the other hand, you also despise His Feast when you presume to come dressed in your own attire; when you refuse the hospitality of your Host by refusing to wear the garment He provides.

So do not come trusting in yourself, nor in any human might or merit.  But fix your eyes upon the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, by fixing your ears upon His Word of the Gospel.  Rely upon Him, and come to the Feast.  Wear the clothing with which He has clothed you in your Baptism, that is, the righteousness, innocence, and blessedness of Christ Himself, which now cover you in His peace.

To wear those garments of salvation is to live by faith in Christ and His forgiveness, clinging to His Word and trusting His Gospel.  It is to come, knowing that you are not worthy of yourself to eat and drink this Meal, but that Christ has made you worthy, that He has called you to Himself, and that He has wed you to Himself.  Come to the Feast believing that.  Here there are only the free gifts of God, and for your part there is only thanksgiving.  There is nothing else you can give to Him who gives you everything by grace, except to return thanks through Jesus Christ your Lord.

It is for this reason that one of the primary names which the Church has given to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is “Eucharist,” the Greek word for thanksgiving.  What else do you have to bring?  But clinging to the Cross, you simply give thanks for the free gifts of God in Christ Jesus.

That is what characterizes the Kingdom of Heaven: Thanksgiving and rejoicing, praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has done everything for you, who gives everything to you, and who withholds no good thing from you.  You, then, give thanks to Him.  That is what faith does, as surely as it hears and believes what God says and gladly receives what He freely bestows in the Gospel.  Rejoice, give thanks, and sing to the praise and glory of His Holy Name.

Rejoice in what is good and right and true.  Be gentle of heart.  Be honorable in all of your actions.  Be pure and chaste in all of your thoughts, in your words, and in your deeds.  And do whatever you are given to do with excellence, as the Lord so enables and provides; not as though you were competing, but to the glory of your God and Father and to the praise of your heavenly Bridegroom.

Trust His grace and favor.  And living by His grace through faith in His Gospel, be at peace as you go about your days in this world.  So far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone.  If you are hurt, bear it in Christ, in patience, forgiveness, and love.  Be content and confident in what the Lord has done and said and given to you; do not be anxious or worried about anything.

Remember that Christ has clothed you with His righteousness.  He has dressed you in the robes of salvation.  He’s got you decked out in better than your Sunday best.  That’s true day and night, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whatever you happen to be wearing.  You are clothed by and with and in Christ.  How then shall you live in relation to your neighbors in the world?

Glorify the Holy Name of Christ by confessing His Name, not only in what you say, but also in how you act, in how you live your life within the world.

Do not clothe yourself again in death.  That is the garment that was spread over all the nations by the fall into sin, the pall of death that covers the entire world apart from Christ.  Do not clothe yourself in that legacy of fallen Adam, but be clothed by Christ Jesus with His Life and Salvation.  Be clothed by Him in wedding garments fit for the Feast of a King.

Okay, but what does that mean?

This Parable is troubling in its conclusion.  Just when you think that you’re finally sitting down to eat, the King comes in, and He scans His guests, and there He sees a man not wearing wedding garments.  He says to him, “How did you get in here, friend, not wearing wedding garments?”  And the man is speechless.  He has nothing to say for himself.  So, what does this mean for you?

How shall you know that, coming to the Feast, you will not be spotted for the sinner that you are, and thrown into the outer darkness of death and damnation, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth?  With what worthiness do you dare to come and recline at the Table of the Lord?

The conclusion of this Parable is frightening, if it is heard apart from faith in the Gospel.  But that is precisely the point and the problem at hand in the case of this man without a wedding garment.  He has approached the Feast apart from faith in the Gospel.  He has presumed to dress himself, instead of receiving and relying on the hospitality of the King in the righteousness of Christ.

Do not attempt to feed and clothe yourself.  Do not stay away from the Feast in fear that you are not worthy.  And do not try to work and strive and primp in order to dress and adorn yourself, as though you could ever be made worthy by such efforts to sit at this Table and to eat this Feast.

Simply come in this confidence, that you are called to feast upon the One who has given Himself for you in love, and you are dressed in His righteousness from the waters of your Holy Baptism.  That is where you have received the wedding garment.  It has already been given to you.  It is already yours.  You have already been dressed by the hands of the One who loves you.

And here your heavenly Bridegroom cares for you as His Bride, His beloved Church.  He clothes you, and He feeds you in His love for you, in His faithfulness and mercy, in His steadfast loving-kindness and tender affection for you, whom He has sought and called to be His own.  Humble yourself to receive His good work and His gracious gifts, since He is your Savior and your Head.

His care for you, that is your wedding garment.  Not what you do for yourself, and no amount of preparation on your part, but His gracious, loving care for you — that is your wedding garment.  Wear it well, that is, by faith and love.

Don’t go rolling around in the mud, in the muck and the mire, when your Lord has dressed you in such wedding finery.  But where you have stained the wedding garment with which the Lord has dressed you, don’t take it off; and don’t try to cover yourself with fig leaves or high fashion.  Only return to the waters of your Baptism; not to be baptized again, but to be cleansed by the Blood of Christ, again and again, as often as you fall, through His Absolution, His forgiveness of sins.

And being clothed and fed by Christ — though He and you are despised by the world — clothe and feed your neighbors with the love of God in Christ, even as you daily return to His love in the Gospel.  Pass the serving tray, as it were, with which the Lord Jesus Christ continues to serve you.

In living by faith and with such love for others, you glorify your Bridegroom who has dressed you so beautifully and well, and who cares for you with a passion that never wanes or ceases.

Be content, be confident, and be at peace in Him.  Receive the gifts Christ freely gives, and know that you belong here at His Feast, not simply as a guest, but as His own dearly beloved Bride.  From heaven He came and sought you, and He has called you to Himself; He loves you, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Come, then, to the Feast, and rejoice in His great salvation.

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

08 October 2017

The Vineyard of the Lord of Hosts

The Vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the Church of God, the Kingdom of God on earth.  It is the whole congregation and communion of His people, who are called to be His own, to be holy and perfect like Himself.  He has planted them and provided for them to be a priestly people, offering sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise to the glory of His Name, and serving one another in love.

The wall that He has built around the Vineyard is the Word of His Law, which is the revelation of His good and acceptable will.  Its boundaries and parameters are defined by faith and love.

And the wine press that He dug in the midst of His Vineyard is the holy priesthood, by which He proclaimed and promised the coming of the Christ and administered the means of grace, the sacrifices offered according to His Word, the forgiveness of sins through the shedding of blood.

The tower He established is the Office of the Prophets and Apostles, who preach repentance and forgiveness in the Name of Christ Jesus, the promised Seed of the Woman, the Son of Mary.

Collectively, these three — the wall, the wine press, and the tower — are the Church and Ministry of that same Lord Jesus Christ, from within which the vinegrowers are entrusted with the care of His Vineyard.  That is a sacred stewardship, and so it is required of the stewards that they be found faithful.  They are held accountable to God for the work that He has given them to do.

The vinegrowers include the scribes and the pharisees, entrusted with the teaching of God’s Word; the chief priests and elders, who oversee the administration of the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the Temple; and the Apostles and Prophets, by whom God establishes and builds His Church.

As God cares for His creation and guards and protects His Church through the ministry of the holy angels, so does He call and send these men to serve and care for His Vineyard.  They are men under authority, and they are given authority for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of the forgiveness of sins, by which the Vineyard lives and thrives in His grace, mercy, and peace.

And by His grace, you also are a vine within His Vineyard.  And you are called to bear the fruits of faith and love to the glory of His Name, as you are cultivated and cared for by the Ministry of His Word, by the Law and the Gospel, by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

At the same time, you also are entrusted with a portion of the Vineyard, be it big or small.  And there within your portion, in your own place, you are to cultivate and care for it according to His Word, in order to bring forth the fruits of the Lord, the produce of His Vineyard in due season.

That, too, is a sacred responsibility, a sacred trust or stewardship.  And so it is required, also of you, that you be found faithful within your own proper office and station in life, even unto death.

Bear in mind, therefore, that this Parable was not only spoken against the chief priests and elders of the people, against the scribes and pharisees in Jesus’ day.  It is also put to you as a question and a challenge concerning your faithfulness and fruitfulness within the Vineyard of the Lord.

Have you cared for the portion of His Vineyard that He has entrusted to your stewardship?  Have you regarded it as a sacred trust from God?  Your family.  Your job.  Your studies.  Your place in the community.  Your responsibility to those whom God has placed beside you in the world — Have you cultivated those portions of the Vineyard to the glory of God, in faith before Him and in love for your neighbors, according to the Word of the Lord, doing all that He has commanded?

Or have you rather gone about your work, and gone about your days, seeking and striving for your own glory and benefit in selfishness and self-idolatry?  Have you sought to grow fruits, not for the glory of the Lord your God, but for your own pleasure, for your own satisfaction?

As you are not only given authority and responsibility to do what God has called you to do, but have also been placed under authority, have you received the servants of God and submitted to them in His Name, in the humility of repentance and faith?  Are you willing to be instructed and corrected?  Do you repent of your sins, confess them, and seek the Absolution of the Gospel?

Or do you go your own way?  Do you turn a deaf ear, a cold shoulder, and a hard heart toward the Ministry of the Word of God in favor of your own self-righteousness, relying not on the Gospel, not on the grace of God in Christ, not on the preaching of His Word, but on your own powers and abilities, your own cleverness and ingenuity, your own savvy and hard work?

That may seem commendable to the world.  But when you despise and reject the preaching of Christ, when you neglect and abstain from His means of grace, from the Ministry of His Gospel, then you throw the Son of God out of your place in the world and put Him to death to yourself.

So, too, when you exercise your stewardship of God’s gifts and go about your place in life, not according to His Word in faith and love, but to make a name and a fortune for yourself, to satisfy yourself, to serve your own lusts and desires, to feed your own hunger and passions, you despise the Lord your God, the Owner of the Vineyard, and you assert yourself against His beloved Son.

These two paths, they run together, that is to say, the neglect of the Ministry of the Word of God and the living of life for yourself instead of for His glory and your neighbor’s benefit.  They run together, and they will run you to a wretched end.

Make no mistake about it: The Lord will have His Vineyard cared for and cultivated.  And He will bring forth the fruits thereof to the glory of His holy Name.  So just as surely as the unfruitful vines will be removed from the Vineyard, so will the faithless vinegrowers be removed and replaced.

If you do not care for the portion of the Vineyard that God has entrusted to your care, He will take care of it, because it is His own, but you will be removed from that stewardship.

Repent, therefore, and turn away from all unfaithfulness in your thinking, in your words, and in your actions.  Hear and heed the Word of Christ, and live according to His Word.

It is not a lost or hopeless cause.  It is not too late, not yet.  And it is not beyond your grasp.  For the Word of the Lord is near you, echoing even now in your ears, addressing itself to your heart, and calling you to repentance and to faith in His free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

It is not for you to replant the Vineyard or any portion of it.  It is not for you to lay the foundation of the Church or to build the Kingdom of God.  All of that is the Lord’s doing, and it is done.  It is from Him, and it is His good work, by His grace and mercy.  And it is marvelous in our eyes!

Thus are you called simply to live and to grow wherever the Lord has planted you; and to care for your neighbor, within your portion of the Lord’s Vineyard, with the means provided by the Lord.

For whatever task it is that He has given you to do, whatever He has called you to do, whatever stewardship He has entrusted to you, He has also provided the necessary means to carry it out.  So that you are able to be the husband and the father that God has called you to be.  You are able to be the wife and the mother that God has called you to be.  You are able to be the son or the daughter, the brother or sister, the friend, and the neighbor that God has called you to be.

In Christ Jesus, by grace through faith in Him, you are all that God has called you to be.

Indeed, the Lord provides for His entire Vineyard, so that it grows and thrives, it is fruitful and multiplies and fills the earth.  For the same Stone which the builders rejected — Jesus Christ, the Crucified — He has become the Chief Cornerstone on which the entire Church and the Kingdom of God are established, and upon which they rest and remain, safe and secure, now and forever.

He is likewise the sure foundation of your place within His Kingdom, and of your work and service in that place.  For He is the life and health, the vitality and vigor of His entire Vineyard.

His death on the Cross and the shedding of His blood have atoned for all the sins and failings of the Vineyard from the failure and fall of Adam & Eve in the Garden, even to the close of the age.

Whatever has been missing, whatever has been lacking, whatever has been wrong, His Blood has cleansed, and His death and Resurrection have set right.  Not only as payment for sin; not only as Atonement and Propitiation; but also, in offering Himself unto His God and Father in perfect faith and holy love, His own Body of flesh and blood has become the First Fruits of the Vineyard, which the Lord brings forth to the glory of His Name in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.

Everything that Christ has done and accomplished by His Cross is made manifest, and brought to light, and proclaimed to the whole world in His Resurrection from the dead.

So it is that His Cross is now the Wine Press in the midst of the Vineyard, by which and from which He pours out His Blood for the forgiveness of sins, and for life and salvation in Him.

And that same Cross is also the very Tree of Life in the midst of a new and better Garden — the Vine of Life, if you prefer — from which He feeds the whole world with the Fruits of that true Vine, which are His holy Body given for you and His holy, precious Blood poured out for you.

You have been grafted, body and soul, into that true Vine; you are grafted into His side.  Taken as a wild vine, growing and producing nothing but wild, worthless grapes, you have been grafted into the true Vine, Jesus Christ, into His crucified and risen Body.  That is among the many good things that God has done for you in your Holy Baptism.  By water and His Word, He inserted you into the riven side of Christ — He planted you in Him — so that you now live and abide in Him.

Thus do you have life in Him, newness of life in Christ.  And He is fruitful in you.  He truly is.  It is no longer you who live, but Christ lives in you, in your heart, mind, and body.  And He bears good fruits in you, after His own kind, that is to say, the fruits of His own Cross and Resurrection.

You are nourished and sustained, as a branch of this one true Vine, by the Word and Spirit of one and the same Lord Jesus Christ.  By the preaching of His Gospel for the forgiveness of all your sins.  By the Holy Communion of His Body and His Blood.

Apart from Him, you can do nothing.  But  you are not apart from Him!  For He has called you and gathered you to Himself.  He has united you to Himself, and He has bound Himself to you.  He cultivates and cares for you here within His Church, in order to preserve you, alive and well, within His Vineyard.  And He goes with you from here — with His Word in your ears, in your heart, and in your mouth, and with His Body and His Blood in your body, animating your flesh and blood.

As you go back to your job, as you go back home to your family, as you love and serve your wife, as you love and serve your husband, as you honor your father and mother, as you love and care for your children, and as you tend to the needs of your neighbors, Christ goes with you all the way.

This Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and of St. Mary, has accomplished and fulfilled everything that God intended for His Vineyard.  He has become the great and merciful High Priest of His priestly people.  He has rendered Himself as the Sacrifice of Atonement for all sins, and so also as the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving, as the Eucharist, for the communion of His Church with God.

Far from the wrecking of His plans and purposes, His Cross and Passion, His Crucifixion, and His death have been the full realization of His Glory and His Grace as the true God in the flesh.  For in this way He has saved the world and reconciled the world to His own God and Father in heaven.

In His fruitfulness of faith and love, by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead, not only are you fruitful within your own vocation, but you are actually among those good fruits that Christ Jesus bears and produces and offers to His Father.  He bears you to His God and Father, and you are received as a dearly beloved and well pleasing child of God in Him, unto the life everlasting.

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

07 October 2017

15 x 15 Favorite Acts and Artists of All Time (for now) Across Genres

One of my Facebook friends recently tagged me on a music list meme, in which I was supposed to list my top twenty favorite artists/bands of all time. That was a pleasant distraction from the cares and occupations of this old world, so full of disappointments, discouragements, violence, and strife. It was also a challenge, not only to limit my list to just twenty (!) artists, but also to compare the artists I most enjoy across a diversity of genres. Doesn't seem quite fair, really. So, it got me to thinking about my favorite artists according to the various kinds of music they make. Here follows the results of that thinking: My fifteen favorite acts and artists across fifteen different musical categories, listed roughly in order of preference within each category. I am well aware that others may quibble, not only with my tastes, but also with my categorizations. But isn't it great to live in a free country!? 😎

Modern Country

Tim McGraw
Kenny Chesney
Big & Rich
Darius Rucker
Jason Aldean
Carrie Underwood
Rodney Atkins
Billy Currington
Toby Keith
Blake Shelton
Lady Antebellum
Rascal Flatts
Eli Young Band
Dierks Bentley

More Traditional Country

Zac Brown Band
Sturgill Simpson
Eric Church
Miranda Lambert
Johnny Cash
Brandy Clark
Trace Adkins
George Strait
Brooks & Dunn
Montgomery Gentry
Allison Moorer
David Nail
Gary Allan
Casey Donahew
Alan Jackson

Folk & Americana

Parker Millsap
The Avett Brothers
Simon & Garfunkel / Paul Simon
The Decemberists
Lori McKenna
Bob Dylan
The Honeycutters
The Secret Sisters
Mumford & Sons
American Aquarium / BJ Barham
Alison Krauss
Amanda Shires
Amos Lee
James Taylor


Mat Kearney
Five For Fighting
Gavin DeGraw
Michael Jackson
Taylor Swift
Jason Mraz
John Mayer
Ingrid Michaelson
Uncle Kracker
Sheryl Crow
Colbie Caillat
Grace Potter
Dan Fogelberg

Alternative Pop

Matchbox Twenty
Ed Sheeran
Imagine Dragons
The Fray
Plain White T’s
Bowling for Soup
The Clarks
The Script
Weird Al Yankovic
Sister Hazel
Barenaked Ladies

Pop Rock

Elton John
Electric Light Orchestra
Billy Joel
Rick Springfield
Rod Stewart
Fleetwood Mac
Don Henley
REO Speedwagon
Hall & Oates
Paul McCartney
Jackson Browne
Huey Lewis
The Doobie Brothers

Heartland Rock

John Cougar Mellencamp
Will Hoge
Kid Rock
.38 Special
Green River Ordinance
Jason Isbell
Bryan Adams
Bob Seger
Sammy Hagar
Tom Petty
ZZ Top
Jimmy Barnes
Gaslight Anthem / Brian Fallon
Kenny Loggins
Bruce Springsteen

Classic Rock

Led Zeppelin
The Beatles
The Eagles
Black Country Communion
Rival Sons
Deep Purple
Lynyrd Skynyrd
The Doors
The Kinks


Black Stone Cherry
Bon Jovi
Pat Benatar
Night Ranger
Black Star Riders
Joan Jett

Modern Rock

Alter Bridge
3 Doors Down
Three Days Grace
House of Lords
Smash Into Pieces
Like a Storm
The Winery Dogs
Pretty Maids

Hard Rock

Ozzy Osbourne
Def Leppard
Van Halen
Guns ‘n’ Roses
Velvet Revolver
Harem Scarem

Heavy Metal

Judas Priest
Black Sabbath
Iron Maiden
All That Remains
Black Veil Brides
Primal Fear
Iced Earth

Progressive Rock & Metal

Dream Theater
Avenged Sevenfold
Sonata Arctica
Within Temptation

Alternative Rock

Hootie & The Blowfish
Good Charlotte
Linkin Park
Fall Out Boy
Breaking Benjamin
Counting Crows
Kings of Leon
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Goo Goo Dolls


Joe Satriani
Mark Tremonti
Paul Gilbert
Joe Bonamassa
Brad Paisley
Gus G
Zakk Wylde
Keith Urban
John 5
Marty Friedman
Eric Clapton
Yngwie Malmsteen
George Lynch
Jeff Beck