24 May 2020

Welcome Home to Your Father in Christ Jesus

Where do you live?  Where do you find your life?  Where is your home?  They say that “home is where the heart is.”  So, where is your heart?  What is it that you love, and where do you reside?

As a Christian, your heart and your home are with Christ Jesus, already here and now within His Church on earth, because He is here for you with His Word and Holy Spirit.  It is in and with Him that you live, by His grace, by faith in His Gospel, the free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

Of course, that was true for Judas, too.  He was a disciple of Jesus, baptized with the Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of his sins, and communed by the hand of his Lord.  He had a place in the Lord’s House, a place at the Lord’s own Table.

But Judas turned aside and went to his own place.  He gave up the place that he had been given with Jesus, and he took back his own place in a field of blood, a place to which he returned by the path of his wickedness, because his heart loved money more than Jesus.  He saw to that himself.

Whatever excuses he made for himself, whatever rationalizations Judas used to justify his choices and decisions, they resulted in despair and death.  It would have been better for that man, our Lord Himself says, if he had never been born.  That is a sobering word and a serious call to repentance.

You also have been baptized and given a place at the Lord’s Table.  But where is your heart?  Where is it that you live?  And where are you headed?

What is it that you cling to and chase after?  What is it in your life that you love more than Jesus?

Maybe it’s money, as it was for Judas.  Maybe you’re desperate to keep what you have.  Or maybe you’re convinced that, if only you had more, then you could be happy, then you could really live.

But maybe it isn’t money at all.  Your idols and temptations may be altogether different.  Maybe for you it is leisure time, or being able to travel and take nice vacations.  Or maybe it’s popularity, perhaps that is the false god for which you would be willing to sacrifice your place with Jesus.  Maybe it’s your family, your house of brick and wood, or your hobbies and entertainment.  As if any of these things mattered or made any difference at all apart from Christ Jesus.

The tragic fact is that your sinful heart is characterized by a wanderlust that is so easily bored with Jesus and desperate for something new and exciting.  Something better.  Something you can take and keep for yourself.  So you are tempted by your own covetous lust and desire, tempted to turn away from the Lord your God, to go to “your own place,” instead of living and abiding in the place that Christ Jesus has graciously gotten for you and given to you by the Ministry of His Gospel.

Thankfully, though, in spite of all that, the heart of God is turned toward you, and His great heart of love is still wide open to you in Christ Jesus.  He desires nothing so much as your salvation and your eternal Life with Him.  He does not covet riches.  Indeed, your Lord Jesus did not count His equality with God a thing to be grasped; though He was rich, for your sake He made Himself poor, that you might inherit the riches of God in Him, and live with Him in His Kingdom.

For the sake of His divine and holy love, the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, has come down from heaven.  He has left His own place in order to descend into the depths of your place of sin and death.  He has made His bed in your field of blood, and He has slept in it, so that, in His bodily Resurrection, you also are raised up from death and the grave in and with Him.  And in His Ascension you are carried to the Right Hand of the God who is now your Father in Christ Jesus.

The Son of God has come down, in order to take you up.  He has left His home, in order to fetch you back to the Home that He has prepared for you with His Father in heaven.

You get a glimpse of how He has accomplished this great salvation if you consider St. Peter’s preaching and catechesis to those one-hundred-twenty disciples in Jerusalem.  In choosing a new Apostle to take the place of Judas Iscariot, the potential candidates needed to be eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life from His Baptism in the Jordan River to His being taken up.  For it is especially from His Baptism that Jesus began His great good work of bringing you and all the people back to God.

There in His Baptism, as He descends into the water, He is already lowering Himself down into the depths of your sin and death.  And as He comes back up, He raises you up with Himself.

Already in His death upon the Cross He is lifted up, in order to draw all men to Himself.  For it is by His Sacrifice that He atones for the sins of the world and reconciles the world to His Father.

And so it is that He is lifted up in His Resurrection, and He is lifted up in His Ascension to the Right Hand of God, where He ever lives to intercede for you in His Body and with His Blood.  And where He is, there you are and ever shall be, also, both body and soul, in and with Him.

He has blazed the trail for you.  He has come down to where you are, so that, in His lifting up, you are lifted up to be with Him where He is.  By and from His Baptism, He has entered into your house of death and doom; and by His lifting up on the Cross He has turned everything around for you, and He has brought you with Himself back to His own God and Father in heaven.

All of this that He has accomplished is given to you in Holy Baptism.  It is given to you by the Apostolic Ministry of the Gospel — that Ministry which began with Christ Jesus Himself, and then continued with His holy Apostles, with Peter, James, and John, and then also with Matthias.  By the grace and mercy of God, that Ministry of the Holy Gospel goes out to all the nations, to the ends of the earth, even to the close of the age, to make disciples by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the Name of Jesus, by the catechesis of His Word, and by Holy Baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, just as He has spoken.

You share the Name and Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the beloved Son, because you are baptized in His Name and with His Word and Holy Spirit.  You are a Christian, because Christ has anointed you with the Spirit of God, and He has named you with His own Name — the Name that is His from God the Father from all eternity, which He has also received as true Man in His own Flesh.

He has been given that divine and holy Name in His Flesh, in order to bestow that Name of God on you.  Thus do you bear the Name of Christ in your flesh, in your body and soul, both here and hereafter, and thus are you a Christian, a disciple of Christ Jesus, a child of His God and Father.

By your Baptism you also share His Cross, and sharing His Cross you share His Resurrection and Ascension, His Father, and His Spirit.  Everything that belongs to Him, He now shares with you.

Sharing His Cross, you share His Life and His Glory, His Home and Family.  When you suffer for the sake of Jesus, when you bear the Cross in your callings and stations, when you are persecuted for the very name of Christian that you have been given to bear — in all of this you are glorified with the Glory of Christ Jesus.  You share His Glory, the Glory of the Father manifested in Him, which is the Glory of His Cross and the sure and certain hope and promise of His Resurrection.

The Cross and suffering are certainly not enjoyable or fun.  That is not what the Glory of God is all about.  The Cross and suffering are painful and difficult, and it is only by the grace of God that you endure to the end and are saved.  But as you share the Cross and suffering of Jesus, He teaches you and trains you not to become too friendly or familiar with this perishing world of sin and death.  His Cross and suffering teach you not to fear, love, and trust in that which does not last.

If your heart abides in the world, then your heart makes it bed in the dust of the earth.  But when your heart abides in Christ Jesus by faith in His Word and promises, then your heart is already in heaven — and that is where your body and your soul shall be also in the Resurrection at the last.

It is in Christ Jesus that you live, no matter where on earth you may be.  Your true home is not here in this world.  Yet, even here and now, the Lord Jesus Christ — who has overcome this world with all its trials and tribulations — He is with you always.  He is with you in your suffering, especially in that which you suffer for His Name’s sake, as you bear the Cross for the sake of His Gospel.

It is in Christ Jesus that you are already at home with your Father in heaven.  You already live and abide there with God in Christ Jesus, even while you are still on your pilgrimage here on earth.  Here you are a stranger in a strange land.  You are still on your homeward journey through the wilderness.  But in Christ you have already reached your goal.  There is no doubt as to the ending.

Because He has become and is your Good Shepherd, so are you a sheep of His pasture.  So does He feed and nurture you in peace and safety.  He leads you beside the quiet waters.  He keeps you in your Baptism.  He pastures you with His Word.  He feeds you with Himself at His own Table.

Believe that it is so, and do not let your heart be troubled.  Be at peace, for you are in Christ Jesus.

In all of your going out and coming in — with all that you say and do — confidently bear the Name that Christ has given you to bear.  It is your Father’s Name.  It is your Patronymic.

Wherever He has sent you to serve His household and family here on earth, confidently bear that Name with which He has so graciously named you.  In your vocations you are firmly established within His household.  You are not far away from Him, because He is ever near and close to you.

And as often as you wander away from Him — as often as you get yourself lost because your eye latches onto something in this world and leads you astray — as often as you return to your own place, instead of remaining in the place that Christ has gotten for you and given to you — turn back, and come home.  Repent.  Be lifted up with Christ Jesus, your Savior, by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead.  For He has built His House, and He has established a place in it for you — a place that He keeps on giving to you by the preaching of His Gospel of forgiveness.

Do not let your heart be troubled.  Do not be afraid.  Do not despair when you consider your sin and shame.  Though you may be lost, Christ is still near.  You shall not die homeless and alone.  For here you are already home in Christ.  Here you already live with Him and with the Father.

You live here in His Church, because your sins are all forgiven by His Word.  Your feet are firmly planted in Christ Jesus, and your heart is safely hidden with Christ in God.  “Welcome home.”

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

21 May 2020

Living the Heavenly Life with God in Christ Jesus

Whether your life is hellish or heavenly depends, not upon your location or your circumstances, but entirely upon the faith in your heart and the god on which you depend.  If your heart clings to Jesus Christ and abides in Him, then your life is heavenly and divine, already now in your body here on earth.  But if your heart fears, loves, and trusts in gods other than Christ, then your life is a hellish and damnable “living death,” which can only go from bad to worse.

It’s not that your body of flesh and blood is problematic or a prison; neither is it the material world of God’s good creation that imprisons you.  Rather, it is your sin and death, idolatry, and unbelief that drive you into fear and dread and sheer despair.  Thus do you perceive even your God-given vocations and your holy stations in life to be burdensome, tedious, and irksome, painful and unfair.  And as such, it seems to you that God the Lord is not the Sun that warms and lights you, but a cruel and demanding taskmaster, your judge, jury, and executioner.  So, too, you do not love and serve your neighbor, but you hate him, despise and resent him, hurt and take advantage of him.

How, then, shall you ever be able to escape from such a hellish prison?  How shall you learn to worship the Lord your God in reverent fear, love, and trust, instead of trying (vainly) to run away from Him in dreadful terror?  How shall you break out of that maddening downward spiral, in which you’re always fleeing but never able to evade the threat of death and eternal punishment?

How shall you cling to Christ Jesus in faith, hope, and love, and so rest yourself in Him?  How shall you rise with Him, and live in Him, and abide with Him in the bosom of His God and Father?

As impossible as all of this appears to be, rejoice, give thanks, and sing!  For all of this has been accomplished for you, and it is freely given to you here and now, by your Savior, Jesus Christ.

He is not far away or far above you, but He has brought you to God in Himself, even as He draws near to you with God.  He has done so by His Incarnation, by His Holy Cross and Passion, by His bodily Resurrection from the dead, and by His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father in His own human flesh.  And He continues to do so by way of His Church and Ministry of the Gospel.

He has entered into the Holy of Holies made without hands, eternal in the heavens, as your great and merciful High Priest, as your Anchor behind the Veil.  There He lives and abides in the presence of God in flesh and blood like your own, even as He feeds your body and soul with His Body and Blood here at His Altar in His Church.  So it is that, where and what and who He is, you are also, by His divine grace, through faith in His Gospel.  God and man, heaven and earth are no longer far apart and separated from one another, divided by sin and death, but they are perfectly reconciled and united in the Body of Christ Jesus.  You find your heavenly life in Him, therefore.

True, there is a right and wrong way to lay hold of Him on earth, as demonstrated in the contrast between Mary Magdalene and Thomas in the stories of the Resurrection.  Ironically, it was faithful Mary Magdalene who attempted to lay hold of Him in an earthly way at first, from which she was dissuaded when He pointed out that He was ascending to His God and Father; whereas doubting Thomas was given to lay hold of Christ Jesus in the sacred wounds of His Cross and Passion, that is to say, within His means of grace — the Word and Flesh and Blood of His Gospel — which Thomas and the other Apostles were then sent to preach and administer in His Name and stead.

Here, then, first of all, even in the midst of your doubts and fears, in spite of your sins and failings, the Lord Jesus lays hold of you in His mercy, with the grace and peace of His forgiveness, by the preaching of His Gospel, and by the administration of the Fruits of His Sacrifice upon the Cross.

That is how and why it is that, already here and now in your mortal body of flesh and blood, you live a heavenly life in the presence of God.  In and through Christ Jesus, your High Priest, you worship God in His Temple, in the midst of His Jerusalem, His Church on earth as it is in heaven.

Christ Jesus Himself is the Incense and the Prayer of His Body and Bride, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.  So is He also your Incense, your Prayer, and your Worship, whereby your body, soul, and spirit are received by your true God and Father in perfect peace and love and joy.

Likewise are you given to receive the same Lord Jesus Christ into your body of flesh and blood, and to live and abide in Him by faith in His Word as you go about your callings here on earth.

The truth remains that He is not far from you.  Lo, He is with you always, even to the close of the age, and even to the ends of the earth.  As you go about your life, therefore, be not far from Him.

Do not attempt to live your life on earth apart from the Gifts Christ freely gives to you here in the midst of His Jerusalem — the Gifts of His Gospel in Word and Sacrament — whereby He bestows the Gift of the Holy Spirit whom He promised from the Father, which He has first of all received for you in His own crucified and risen Body (in your stead and on your behalf).

As He does indeed pour out His Spirit generously upon you here and now, know that He Himself abides with you and lives in you, in order that you should live and abide with Him, both now and forever, in the glorious presence of the Holy Triune God.

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

17 May 2020

To Live and Love in God’s Love for You in Christ

The Lord your God has created you for life, and He has created you for love.  That is how you are made.  It is what you are here for and who you are to be.  Your existence and your being are from God, and so there is a presence and a movement about you that belong with Him.  You live best when you live toward Him and move in harmony with Him.

When you are apart from Him, away from Him, or at odds with Him, you are and will be restless, out of sorts, and afraid.  Your heart will be searching and longing for Him, whether you know it or not, and it will never be satisfied, at peace, or at home, until you are found in Him and are living in Him.  Otherwise, your heart will grow cold, bitter, and hard, and you will be angry all the time, or despairing; arrogant and proud, or eaten alive with envy and jealousy.

Driving everyone else away and retreating into yourself doesn’t work, and it won’t help.  Nor does using and controlling other people.  Neither lonely isolation nor lording it over your neighbor will gain you the peace and satisfaction that you crave.  These are ways in which you try to be like God, and you make a god out of yourself, but they are not the divine life at all, nor anything like it.

The one true God never has and never does exist in lonely isolation, but is a perpetual communion of three divine Persons in perfect unity, an eternal relationship of mutual Love.  And it is for the sake of that divine eternal Love — the Father for His Son, the Son for His Father in the Holy Spirit — that He created all things in peace.  Not out of necessity or need, but solely out of Love.  Not to be served, but to serve, to give good gifts by grace, to love His creatures with fatherly affection.

You have been created — you exist, and you are here — to live with God, and to be loved by God.

He does indeed love you.  He has done so all along, from before you even were.  He has created you in love, and He loves you still.  The Father loves you in His Son and with His Holy Spirit.  Therefore, in His love you are like God, and you live God’s life, because God the Son has bestowed God the Spirit upon you, and He brings you to God the Father in and with Himself.

This true divine Love in Christ Jesus is the character and content of the true divine Life for which you have been created, and to which you are called.  Therefore, in the same way that your heart and mind and body and life are restless until they rest in God, so do you also long for love from your innermost self.  You long to be loved — and you are created by God to love others, as well.

As the Father loves you in His Son, so are you called to love the Father in Christ Jesus.  And as the Holy Spirit lives in you — who is Himself the very God who is Love — so are you called to love the Father and the Son, and to love your neighbor as you are loved by the Holy Triune God.  To love in this way — to love both God and man — is fundamental to the life you are given to live.

But the problem is that, while you have been created for love, and so you have a built-in inner hunger and deep desire for love, your heart and mind and soul and spirit have been bent, turned backwards, curved inward upon yourself.  Which is to say that you are consumed with self-love, which is not really love at all but selfishness and self-idolatry.  That is your most basic sinfulness.  You do not really trust any love but your own, and you are not really concerned about love for anyone but yourself.  And so the whole beautiful capacity for love for which you are created, has become instead this crushing insatiable appetite of lust and greed and jealousy and spite.

Oh, to be sure, you may love those who love you — with a certain kind of love — but there’s always a condition, a contingency, a contract, so to speak.  What’s in it for you?  And how can you best protect your own interests and yourself?  How can you be safe and secure and certain that you won’t be hurt or taken advantage of?

Knowing your own selfishness, even if you would hardly admit it, you don’t trust others to love you any better than you love them.  On the one hand, you must work for their love and earn it; and on the other hand, you must guard yourself against betrayal and treachery.  Selfish love is never free, and it is never certain.  But selfish love is all that you have ever known apart from Christ.

It is the sort of love that you expect from Christ Himself, as well, and from His God and Father.  For as you make a god out of yourself, so do you also assume that God must be like you, and that His love must be like yours.  That is the way of the world and its thinking, yes.  But the world does not see God or know Him.  Consequently, you strive to win His love, to bargain and barter for it, to work for it, to earn it, and then to horde it for yourself, as though others could rob you of it.

It is such a sad dilemma, because your heart cannot be happy or have any lasting peace apart from the love of God, but you are so mistaken and confused about the nature of His love.  You long for it, but you do not trust it, and you do not know where to find it or how to get it.  In fact, a love that you would have to work for and earn would be no real love at all.  That sort of love will never satisfy, but will only stoke the burning fire of your selfish desire and leave you desperate for more.

Longing for God’s love, therefore, but neither knowing nor trusting that He loves you, your heart is embittered toward Him, angry and resentful, but also hurt and afraid.  You perceive (wrongly) that He demands so much, and that He gives so little in return; and so you are scared, and you grow tired, and you don’t know what to do.

You can’t win this game, but there’s nothing you can do about it.  You’re playing by all the wrong rules, but you are not able to sort it out for yourself.  You’ll have no peace or rest or satisfaction until you live with God and abide in His love, but His life and love are foreign to your fallen nature and your sinful flesh, as elusive and beyond your grasp as they are to the world.  They sound like impossible demands, which accuse and condemn you and drive you to despair and death.

So you fill your life with countless idols, and you erect your monuments of every kind to hedge your bets.  You’re as religious as you know how to be, captivated by whatever comes down the pike having any hint of spirituality, and still always craving something new, the next big thing.

You’re always searching for “the unknown God,” the One who will love you and give you life, who will save you and keep you safe.

But now, in spite of all that, you do know Him, don’t you?  You know the God of love, who is your life and your salvation.  Not because you have figured Him out and found Him on your own, but because He has found you and reveals Himself to you.  You know His Voice in His Word of the Gospel.  And though you do not see Him with your eyes, you love Him because He first loves you.

In His divine and perfect love, He has not forced Himself upon you, nor does He force or constrain you to love Him.  In gentleness He has come to woo you to Himself in peace.  In mercy He reveals Himself to you by His grace, and He makes Himself known to you through His forgiveness of your sins.  He gives you life by giving His own life for you, and by raising you up in and with Himself.  He does not accuse you or condemn you, but He comforts you and heals you.  He teaches you to know and trust His love, simply by loving you.  He gives you Himself and His Spirit freely.

His commandments, therefore, are not burdensome and deadly, but life-giving.  He does not set before you the righteousness of the Law and of works as a means of getting life for yourself, as though He were calling you to raise yourself up by some new and better effort on your part.  Nor does He offer you a “tit-for-tat,” “you-scratch-My-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours” kind of bargain.  The Lord does not learn how to love from you, nor is the love of God contingent or conditional upon your love for Him.  Rather, what does He command?  “Love one another, as I have loved you.”  It is first of all the case that He loves you, even in this world of tribulation, even to the end.  He has come to you in love, and He will not leave you.  He gets down on His knees to serve you, to cleanse and forgive you, to feed you, and to quench your thirst, in order to give you Life.

It is because He loves you — because He loves you so faithfully and so well — that you love Him, and that you love one another in His Name and for His sake.  His New Commandment is, in one respect, the same Law of Love that you have heard from the beginning, as He also commanded from Mt. Sinai.  But it is made brand new by His own fulfillment of that Law in His perfect love for you.  In Him it is not an order, a demand, or a threat, but an assertion of the Life that is given you to live — the divine Life, which Christ has lived for you in the flesh, that you may live in Him.

It is still true that you cannot raise yourself up to live and to love in that way by any wisdom, reason, or strength of your own.  But then again, it was never the intention that you should.

You have not been created to live independently or self-sufficiently, but to live in and with God, by His grace, through faith in His Word.  And you have been rescued and redeemed from your sin and death, from your selfishness and lonely isolation, not to live unto yourself, but unto Christ.  That is why the character and content of your life in Christ is Love.  Not that you achieve or gain that divine life by your loving, but that you now live that life which He has given you in His love.

To speak of this life and of this love is to speak of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, crucified and risen from the dead.  For you know God, His Life and Love, in this dearly-beloved and well-pleasing Son of the Father.  He has loved you by coming and giving Himself for you.  He has loved you by taking all your sins upon Himself and bearing them in His Body to the Cross, making atonement for them by His death, by the shedding of His holy, precious Blood.  And in His Resurrection from the dead He now loves you by raising you up with Himself and bringing you to the Father in Himself.  That right there — His Resurrection and Ascension — is the life to which He calls you, which He now also gives you by His grace by pouring out His Holy Spirit upon you and into your heart through the Gospel.  That is how He loves you, and that is how you now live.

Likewise, even now, your Baptism saves you, as day by day it raises you up from death to life in and with Christ Jesus.  It cleanses your conscience before God through the Resurrection of the same Lord Jesus Christ, through whom you are justified.  For as He has given Himself for you and died for you bearing all your sins, His Resurrection is your resurrection.  His Resurrection is your righteousness.  And His Resurrection is your reconciliation with God the Father in heaven.  More than that, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the sure and certain proof that God loves you.

In His Resurrection, and so also in your Holy Baptism, you are recreated, and you are made brand new for life with God and for love.  That is the hope that is yours, and is most certainly true, which is given to you in the Gospel, in the free and full forgiveness of all your sins.  Not one of them remains.  Not one of them is counted against you.  Not one of them is seen by your Father who loves you.  And as the Father thus loves you in Christ Jesus by and with that Gospel, so do you sanctify the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart, and you strengthen your heart, by the same Gospel.

If you are afraid — if you are ashamed — if you are embarrassed — if you are guilty — if you are hurting — if you are sad — if you are angry — if you are tired — listen to the Gospel, the forgiveness of all your sins, and hear and receive the Love of God in Christ Jesus.  It is for you.

Because you are loved by the Father, by the Son, and by the Holy Spirit, you have and you live the life for which you have been created, and you are free to love without fear.  You know such love, and you know the one true God who loves you, because He comes to you here, and He gives Himself to you, and He abides with you here at His Table in His House, unto the Life everlasting.

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

10 May 2020

The Father Is Glorified in the Body of His Son

The Life of God, and life with God, doesn’t look like you’d expect, actually.  Whatever you might picture in your mind, that isn’t what unfolds in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, which is the only place where you see God as He truly is, and the only way that you see Him rightly.

Following your Good Shepherd, who lays down His Life for the sheep, leads you also to the Cross and suffering in His Name and for His Name’s sake.  So are He and God the Father glorified in you by the grace and glory of the Holy Spirit, though it hardly looks or feels anything like “glory” on the surface of it.  Consider the case of St. Stephen, the first martyr, which echoes the Passion of the Christ, on the one hand, and exemplifies the Christian life of discipleship on the other hand.

As you walk in the Way the Lord has called you to go, you will also bear the Cross and suffer in this fallen world.  Not only externally, but within your heart and mind, and in your flesh and bones, whether you are put to a violent death, suffer some accident or illness, or fade away with age.

But do not let your heart be troubled.  That is the Word of your Lord Jesus.  It is admonishment, and comfort, and encouragement in the face of every danger, hardship, and sorrow that you bear.  Believe in God, He says.  Which is also to believe in Jesus Christ Himself, the only-begotten Son, who is of one Substance, of one and the same divine Nature, as God the Father.  Hear and heed His Voice, which is the Truth and not a lie.  His Cross is not your destruction, but Life indeed for all who follow Him by faith, who love and trust in Him, not by sight, but by His Word and Spirit.

It is by His own innocent suffering and death that He prepares a Holy Place for you in the House of God.  He does not simply make for you a “space” to call your own within some sprawling castle, but He shares with you His own position of beloved sonship within the Father’s home and family. So, as God the Father willed and desired, His firstborn Son becomes the First of many brethren.

Thus united with Christ Jesus by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead, you are a dear child in the household and family of God.  So are you also a living stone, as it were, in the Temple of God, which is the Body of Christ Jesus, on earth even now as it is forever and ever in heaven.  You aren’t just “taking up space,” nor simply occupying space “out of the way” somewhere, but you are built up into this Holy Habitation of the Lord within the Holy Communion of His Church.

Such is the Place that Christ Jesus has prepared for you by His Cross and Passion.  And He is also the Way by which you come to that Place, and by which you now live and abide there with God.

It is for this, in particular, that St. Stephen was stoned to death, because He preached that Christ Jesus is the true Temple of God, who has completely fulfilled and permanently replaced the Old Testament structures in His own Body, crucified and risen from the dead.  So it is that you, also, are being put to death and daily raised to newness of life on account of His Cross and Resurrection.

By the flesh and blood of Christ, crucified and risen, and by His Word and Spirit, which are the Truth and the Life of God, you come to the Father and worship Him in the Spirit and the Truth.  Which is to say that you come to the Father in peace, and you worship Him by faith, in the Body of Christ Jesus, the Lord’s Anointed.  You fear, love, and trust in the Holy Triune God, as you fear, love, and trust in this one Lord Jesus Christ — even now in your life on earth under His Cross.

By faith in Christ, your life and death are not a tragedy but a pleasing sacrifice of thanksgiving, offered to God in your body and soul, and received by Him the way a father embraces his child.

The Truth is that you know and see the Father in the incarnate Son, as you know and see the same Son, Jesus Christ, in His Ministry of the Gospel: in the preaching of His Word; in the water, words, and promises of Holy Baptism; and in His own Body given, His Blood poured out for you, in the Holy Communion.  It is by this Way of Christ Jesus, by these means of His grace and forgiveness, that God the Father comes to you in His Son.  And so do you come to the Father in Christ Jesus.

What does this mean for you?  And how is it that you actually live that Way?  It is in the Body of Christ Jesus, in His flesh and blood as He comes to you and gives Himself to you in His Church, that you know what God is like and who He is, and that you believe and trust in Him.  Not only in your head, nor only in your heart, but with your whole self, your body, soul, and spirit, as a son or daughter of God, in a living relationship of love, as a dear child with your own dear Father.

Not only that, but it is in Christ Jesus your Savior that God the Father beholds you, and knows you, and loves you, and receives you to Himself.  For the Son of God has taken your human nature to be His very own.  He has taken your place, borne all your sins, carried all your sorrows, and made Atonement for you by His death in the flesh, by the shedding of His holy, precious blood.  And God has raised this same Lord Jesus Christ from death and the grave for your justification.

So it is that God the Father regards you and receives you to Himself in and with Christ Jesus, as a beloved and well-pleasing son in Him.  And it is in that reconciliation and relationship with God, in Christ Jesus, that your faith and righteousness are rooted and grow, live, and bear good fruits.

By faith in Christ Jesus, by faith in His Word and His works of divine love, you also do the works of Christ in the presence of God and in relation to your neighbor.  And He does greater works than these in you, because He goes to the Father by His Cross and Resurrection.  He offers Himself up as the fulfillment and perfection of all Sacrifice.  As your merciful and great High Priest He enters with His own Blood into the most Holy Place, where He remains forever with the flesh and nature that He shares with you.  He is your Anchor behind the Veil, and you now live there with Him.

The Father is thereby glorified in His Son.  Not only then and there, on Calvary in the first century, but to this very day, and even to the close of the age.  For the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is also glorified by the words and works of those who believe in Him, who confess and call upon His Name.  Who follow after Him, taking up His Cross and suffering with Him, and so living with Him in His Resurrection from the dead.  Who speak and sing and sacrifice in His Name.

It looks different for each one of you, no doubt.  Even among the Holy Apostles there were quite different personalities, abilities, backgrounds, and characters.  Yet, the Lord has created and called each and every one of you to be glorified in Him, and He in you, with a passionate personal Love as unique as each individual.  Neither Creation nor the Cross brings about a sameness of all things, but a unity and harmony of all things in Christ, and a fellowship of faith and love in His one Body.

And within that Holy Communion, as different as all of you are from one another, with different ages, different shapes and colors, different interests, different jobs to do — with different sorrows to suffer, and different joys to rejoice in — each of you bears the Image of Christ the Crucified.  Each of you echoes His Passion and exemplifies His Cross within your own particular place in life.  And far from contradicting the grace of God in Christ, it is by the Cross that He is glorified in you.

On account of Christ Jesus, as you live and love by faith in His Body of flesh and blood, you also go to the Father.  You are offered up to God as an acceptable, living, and spiritual sacrifice in both body and soul — no less so than your crucified and risen great High Priest is seated at the right hand of the Father, where He ever lives to make intercession for you before the Throne of God.

In, with, and under the Cross of Christ, and in His bodily Resurrection from the dead, your whole life is offered as a prayer of praise and a song of thanksgiving to your God and Father in heaven.

It’s not as though the Lord were far away and distant from you, so that you should have to find and make your way to Him.  Rather, you know the Way because He who is the Way is here with you, in order that, where He is, there you may be also.  It is for this life and salvation with His God and Father, in and with the Holy Spirit, that your dear Lord Jesus comes to you and gives Himself to you, and that you receive all things in Him and from Him, as a beloved child of God in Christ.

Therefore, you are not put to shame, and you shall not be disappointed.  Although you are being crucified and put to death all day long, heaven is here open to you in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, who has prepared this most Holy Place for you, and by whom you enter and abide in Peace.

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

03 May 2020

The Pastor and Bishop of Your Body and Soul

He has come to give you His abundant Life.  He has come in the flesh to be and abide with you, so that you should abide, both body and soul, henceforth and forevermore, with the one true God and Father, and with the Holy Spirit, in and with this same Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son.

It is for this eternal purpose that He has become flesh and blood, with body and soul just like your own, in order to bear your sin and be your Savior.  It is for this sacred and salutary reason that He has handed Himself over to His voluntary suffering and death; that He has laid down His own life upon the Cross, and that He has taken it up again in His mighty Resurrection from the dead.

So, too, with the authority that God the Father has given to Him over all the works of His hands, which is to say, over all of creation, the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, the crucified and risen Lord has called and sent His Holy Apostles and the servants of His Word to preach this Holy Gospel and distribute the blessed Fruits of His Cross and Passion, in order to give you Life.

He is the Door — you have heard Him say so — the Door by which His shepherds and His sheep enter into the fold, and by which they come and go in safety, peace, and rest, from this body and life on earth into the Life everlasting of body and soul in Paradise forever.

For the incarnate Son is the Way to the Father, and He has opened the Way to you and to all by His holy and precious Blood, by His innocent suffering and death, and by His gift of the Holy Spirit.

His shepherds are first of all called to follow after Him by repentance and faith in His Cross; and they, in turn, are thus given to bear the Cross to and for His Church in all their life and ministry.  They are called and sent to care for His lambs and tend His sheep with patience, perseverance, compassion, and the free and full forgiveness of sins in His Name, with His own authority.

So are His lambs and sheep called by name, each one, through this Ministry of the Holy Gospel, to die and rise with Him in repentant faith, and thereby to follow after Him and live with Him.

So, hear and heed His Voice.  Recognize the tone and timbre of the Word of God in the preaching and teaching of His Law and His Gospel.  And by the same token, flee from strangers and strange voices which preach and teach another word, an alternative or contrary word, or any other way.

Listen to the Voice of your Good Shepherd, and follow in His footsteps.  Live and walk after His example.  Bear the Cross and suffer patiently within your own place by faith in His Resurrection.  When you are picked on, laughed at, forgotten, or left out, do not lash out or give up, but trust in Christ.  When you are reviled and hurt, do not revile in return, but pray for your persecutors, and forgive those who trespass against you, just as you are daily and richly forgiven by Christ Jesus.

The rod and staff of His Cross are a discipline, to be sure, which guard and keep you away from danger.  But they also guide and keep you on the path of life, because it is by and from His Cross that He provides you with lush green pastures, clear and clean water, and His own abundant Feast.

He Himself has borne your sins in His own Body on the Cross, so that you might die to sin and live unto righteousness in Him.  And it is by and with His Cross that you are signed and sealed in Holy Baptism, and named with His own Name, that you should be His own dear sheep, and He your great Good Shepherd, the true Pastor and Archbishop of your body and your soul forevermore.

The sacred example of His own life, death, and bodily resurrection, for you and for all people, is now embodied in the life and ministry of His Apostles and the undershepherds who follow after them, even to this day and place.  It is likewise given to you in the Fruits of His Cross and Passion, that is, in the means of His grace and forgiveness, in the ways and means of His life and salvation, in particular His Holy Baptism and Holy Absolution, the preaching of His Holy Gospel, and the Holy Communion of His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for you and for the many.

These gifts of God in Christ Jesus are the green pastures in which you safely graze as a sheep of the Good Shepherd, and they are the sheepfold in which you rest secure in His Salvation.

By your Holy Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection you enter through the open Door of Christ into the Temple of the Lord.  In His Holy Supper you feast at His Table, well spread with Meat and Drink indeed.  And in the gracious Peace of His Holy Gospel you abide in His House forever.

Here then, little flock, sing to the Lord, your great Good Shepherd and your God.  Make a joyful noise to this Rock of your Salvation.  Come into His presence with thanksgiving, and praise Him with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, rejoicing in His Spirit by faith in His Word.

Oh, come, let us worship and bow down!  Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  Let solemn awe possess us, even now, in the teaching and fellowship of His Apostles; in the Breaking of the Bread, which is the giving and receiving of His Body and His Blood; and in the prayers of His Church.

For He is your God, and you are His own sheep.  You are in His hand, and He brings you to these pastures in grace, mercy, and peace, that you may have abundant Life in Him.  There is forgiveness with Him, that you may fear, love, and trust in Him above everything else in heaven and on earth.

As you thus enter into this gracious and glorious presence of God by such faith in Christ Jesus, by His Cross and Resurrection, and by the free and full forgiveness of His Gospel, so also go out to your neighbors in love, living the divine Life of the same Lord Jesus Christ in your body on earth.

His shepherds and His sheep alike follow after Him, and so shall you also be like Him.  For by His Cross you die with Him, and in His Resurrection you rise and live with Him and share His Glory.

His Christians hold all things in common with His Holy Apostles, and therefore with Him, and with His Father and His Holy Spirit.  And as this Holy Triune God is Himself a Holy Community of Persons, so does the Church abide in Him as a lively fellowship of holy faith and active love.

Do no harm to your neighbor, therefore.  Do not steal, kill, or destroy his body and life, his good name and reputation, his marriage and family, or anything else that is your neighbor’s.  Do not enter by “some other way” into any place where you do not belong.

But by the Way of Christ the Crucified, do speak to and for your neighbor with the Voice of that Good Shepherd.  Give, sustain, and nurture life wherever you are called and given to do so.  Guard and protect, defend and serve the life of your neighbor, that he too may follow the Shepherd safely into His green pastures and live forever in His Name.

If you are a mother or father, love and care for your children as the Good Shepherd cares for His beloved sheep in mercy.  And if you are a child, honor your father and mother, and hear and heed their voice as that of the Lord, who speaks to you through them and serves you with their labors.

Wherever and however you have strayed from the path of righteousness, repent with all your heart, and return to the Pastor and Bishop of your body and your soul, that is, to the Lord Jesus Christ.

For His shepherds and His sheep alike find life and health and strength in Him, who is your Savior and your God.  He is the Door, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and He has opened Himself both to you and for you, in order that you may flee from sin and death and find in Him the Food and Drink you need, and the Life and Salvation for which you have been created.

Even in the depths of that dark valley, under the shadow of the Cross, He leads you into this Life and Salvation by His own victory over death and the grave, and by the Resurrection of His Body.

It is this Body of Christ that is given to you here at His Table.  In the face of all your enemies, He feeds you with Himself, that you may have Life, and have it abundantly.  It is for this Feast that He is here!  And, oh, what transports of delight from His pure Chalice flow for you and for the many!  For He calls you by His own Name, and you are His, and He is yours, forever and ever.

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

01 May 2020

The Place of the Son in the House of the Father

Though it looks like you’re all alone, left to wander on your own in the darkness, sometimes afraid, and often confused as to which way you should turn, where you ought to be, and how to get there; though your provisions are sparse, your clothing thin, your bread too little, and your water bitter — Do not let your heart be troubled.  Believe in God.  That is to say, believe and trust in Christ Jesus, the Crucified One, who is risen from the dead, and who lives and reigns for you forever.

There is one true God, the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ; and though it is a great Mystery, He is manifest and known in the Person of the incarnate Son, who is one and the same true God.  It is this true God and Father, in the flesh and blood of Christ, the Son, who pours out the Holy Spirit upon you, the Lord and Giver of Life, who is Himself the one true God, in order to save you.

See what great Love He has for you!  Not a passing fancy, nor a fair weather friendship, but the Love that constitutes the very Being of God, the Bond of Love between the Father and His Son.  Not simply emotion or affection, but the Gift of Himself, given and poured out for you and for all, and given into your ears, into your hands, into your mouth and body, unto the Life everlasting.

Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid, but now be comforted and brave.  For in your Father’s House are many dwelling places.  Do you hear that?  He is your Father.  You are not a stranger, nor simply a guest, but a child in His home.  His Castle is your castle.  For His own dear Son, Christ Jesus, by the way and means of His Cross, has prepared a place for you with Himself.  So, too, all the saints and the holy Apostles are your family, because you are of God’s household.

It is by His Cross and Passion that Christ Jesus has gone to prepare a place for you.  But you have also heard and received the testimony of Easter, this Queen of Seasons bright, that He has risen and returned from death and the grave.  He has come to you, in order to receive you to Himself — to gather you into the embrace of His wounded hands, to graft you into His riven side — so that you are, and ever shall be, with Him where He is.  In His own crucified and risen Body of flesh and blood like yours, He is your permanent Place in the House of the Father, both now and forever.

You know the Way to that Place, and even now, by faith, you live and abide in Him by the divine grace of the Holy Trinity.  For Christ Jesus, who is sent by the Father and laid upon your heart by the Holy Spirit, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the Path of Life, the Highway to Zion, the Road to God.  He is your Way to the God and Father in heaven.

Not just directions for you to follow and navigate.  He’s far more than a spiritual GPS.  He not only gets you where you’re going, but He is the Route, and He is your Destination.  In and with Him, you are in and with the Father.  So do you also live and abide, rest, and reside in the Holy Spirit.

It’s not a matter of getting from Point A to Point Z, but of being adopted as a son of God in Christ.  For the Place that Christ Jesus has prepared for you is not so much a new location as it is a new relationship with God, who is your true Father in Him.  It is in His own divine Sonship that you now live and move and have your being, your identity, your future, and your hope.  Your Place.

He is and remains your Place, no matter where you may roam.  You not only have it waiting for you, but you are living in that Place of Christ, even now, wherever you are in this body and life.  So shall it be all the more so in the resurrection of your body to the Life everlasting of Paradise.

As the Lord your God is your true Father, and you are His true child, you are always before Him, always in His sight and in His presence.  For discipline, yes, but not for condemnation.  He leads and guides you by His Word, by which He also teaches you to pray at all times and in all places.  He longs to be gracious to you, because He loves you.  At the sound of your cry He will surely have compassion.  Do not doubt that He will, but, as you long for Him, so call upon His Name.

From within your own flesh-and-blood life in this world, even from out of the depths of your sin and death, you are free and able to pray to your Father in Christ Jesus, to ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.  And His answer to your every prayer, His resounding “Yes” and “Amen,” is already sure and certain in the crucified and risen Body of Christ Jesus Himself.

You pray in the Name of this Lord Jesus, as you are also baptized in His Name, because it is in and with His Name that God the Father answers your prayer and bestows the Holy Spirit upon you.

Listen.  Your Teacher does not hide Himself from you.  It is true that, for now, He does hide Himself under the Cross, but He does so in order to reveal Himself to you in the grace, mercy, and peace of His Atonement.  By the Word of His Cross He opens your ears to hear His Voice, and He opens your eyes to see Him, even in the midst of sin and death, in the hope of the Resurrection.

This is the Truth of God Himself: The Truth of His Incarnation, the Truth of His own Cross and Resurrection, and the Truth of His Word and Spirit in the preaching of His Holy Gospel to you.

In the Person of Christ Jesus, the beloved Son, in His true Body of flesh and blood, you see and know His God and Father as your very own God and Father; and you are known and loved by Him.

You know the Father in Christ Jesus, and you know and love Christ Jesus by the gracious gift and blessed work of the Holy Spirit.  It is more than enough.  It is your full sufficiency and salvation.  It is no mere “consolation prize.”  It is divine and genuine consolation, comfort, peace, and life.

You might be tempted to think or say that, if only you could actually see Jesus with your own two eyes in the way the Holy Apostles were granted to see Him in their day, then you would be more content and at ease.  As the Holy Apostles were tempted to say that, if only they could actually see the Father, that would be enough for them.  But the Father is in the Son, the Son in the Father.  And as the Father has sent Him, so does He send the ministers of His Word to preach in His Name.  Whoever hears that apostolic preaching of Christ Jesus, hears Christ Jesus; and whoever receives the means of grace in the apostolic Ministry of the Gospel, receives the same Lord Jesus Christ.

There is nothing lacking here in the Liturgy of His Gospel, in His Divine Service.  Here He shows Himself to you, and gives Himself to you, and the Father and the Holy Spirit in and with Himself.

Indeed, the Holy Apostles, St. Philip and St. James among them, despite the fact that we know so little about them, performed even greater works than Christ Himself had previously done among them; though not they, but Christ worked in them.  The works are “greater” because, by His Cross and in His Resurrection, everything is accomplished and perfected in His own Body “for us men and our salvation.”  All things are made new.  Creation is completed, and Paradise is established.

The same is therefore true, also now for you, in the preaching and ministry of your pastors, who follow in the footsteps and stand upon the foundation of St. Philip and St. James and the other Apostles.  As Christ Himself is the Cornerstone who gives shape and stability to that foundation, upon whom the entire Church is firmly built and rests secure, so it is that all the members of His Body, all who believe and are baptized into Him, are joined together into one Holy Temple of God.

Therefore, not only is it most certainly true that, in the word and works of your pastors, you hear and receive the greater works of Christ Jesus Himself; it is also the case that, in your own callings and stations in life, as a beloved child of God in Christ Jesus, by faith in Him, you also do the “greater works” of God, and the Father is glorified in you.

Though you may be less than others, and little known on earth — though you may be forgotten in the world within a mere generation or less of your passing from this vale of tears — the Truth remains that Christ the Son of God abides in you, as the Father always abides in Him.  And He is surely accomplishing His purposes in you.  You are not forgotten by God, your Father in Christ, but you live and abide in His House and Home forever as a beloved member of His dear family.

Do not measure your life and your works by what you see in this old world, but consider your calling in the newness of the New Creation in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.  For you belong to His Body, and you are on the Way that He has gone — through death and the grave into Life with God.  He has gone before you, and He has already achieved the outcome, even the salvation of your body and your soul in Himself; but He also goes with you every step of the Way.

You have heard His Word and promise: He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  And He is yours.  He is your Way to the Father.  He is both your Journey and your Destination.  And already here and now He is your Place, in whom you abide in Hope and rest in Peace, unto the Life everlasting.  He is here with you, and so are you with Him where He is, forever and forevermore.

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

26 April 2020

The Catechesis of the Cross of Christ

They are grown men, disciples of Jesus and associates of the Apostles; and they were evidently catechized, for they know the facts of His Life, His Cross and Passion, and even the report of His Resurrection from the dead.  They give a fair and accurate summary of the Gospel to this point, a decent early Creed, as it were.  And yet, they have given up hope.  They have failed to believe the Holy Scriptures and the Word concerning Jesus of Nazareth.  They do not comprehend what they already know.  Instead, they are simply foolish and sad.

So it is for you, as well.  Left to your own intelligence and ingenuity, with all the information you posses, you still don’t know where Jesus is, nor can you find Him or figure Him out on your own.  You’ve read the Book and seen the Movie, but you still seem to have lost the plot, and you’re not at all sure of the ending, whether the story is actually over, or if the sequel is just getting started.

Everyone deals with it differently.  We heard that last week, too, in the case of Thomas.  Some hide themselves away, and others go off wandering.  You’ve got your own personality; which isn’t the answer, either, no more than academic achievement, artistic ability, or athletic accomplishment.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.  You won’t “get” Jesus on your own.

Maybe you’re restless and frantic, always searching for some answers to your endless questions.  Or maybe you’re at a standstill, stuck with what you’ve got and where you’re at, and paralyzed by a sadness that you just can’t seem to shake.  Either way — whether you presume to know where you’re going, or you know yourself to be lost and confused — your sinful heart and stubborn head are thick and slow, foolish and hard, and your eyes are not able to perceive or recognize the Truth.

Even the Holy Scriptures would be and remain a closed book to you, an indecipherable mystery, if not for the preaching of the Gospel of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.  And as it is, until He opens up those sacred Scriptures to you, Him you cannot see, and His Body you can’t find.

But now, thanks be to God, your dear Lord Jesus Christ does not leave you alone or on your own.

To begin with, He provides companions for your journey, who may be just as lost and foolish, just as confused and sad as you are, but who engage you in discussion of Christ Jesus.  And do not underestimate the power of sharing those stories of Jesus — of arguing, debating, rehearsing, and reveling in those things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, even when they seem so hard and strange.  Already in speaking aloud those things — His mighty Word and deeds, His Cross and Passion, and the news of His Resurrection — even before you are able to comprehend or believe any of it — He has drawn near and joined Himself to you, and He shares the journey with you, in those words.

And though you may suppose yourself to know better, and to be headed home by some familiar well-worn path, it is the same Lord Jesus Christ who takes you and your companions and your conversation into hand, who leads you and guides you to the Place that He has prepared for you.

Then again, you might wonder, in light of this Holy Gospel, is it catechesis or “cat-and-mouse” that the Lord Jesus engages with you?  After all, He seems a bit sneaky and kind of tricky in some of His words and actions on the road to Emmaus.  And so it is that, now as then, you don’t even realize what’s going on until, in retrospect, you recognize what He’s been doing all along.

The fact of the matter is that He opens up the Scriptures to you by the Way of the Cross.

It’s not that He’s being deliberately “mysterious” or trying to be difficult, as though to make fun of you, to tease you or trick you.  But the Mystery of His Cross as the Way of divine Glory cannot be learned or understood, except by putting you to death and raising you up with Christ Jesus.

It is not by intelligence or information, but solely by His Cross and Resurrection, by repentance and faith in His forgiveness of your sins, that you enter the Kingdom of God with the Lord Jesus.

Which is to say that you also enter into His Glory through suffering.

You suffer disappointment, hurt, and loss, the shattering of your hopes and aspirations, the death of your false gods.  You are confronted with your own foolishness and failings, with the tragedy of your faithless unbelief and the deadly consequences of your sin, with the frail mortality of your fallen flesh, and with the fact that you cannot rescue or redeem yourself from death and the grave.

Then, when you have been cut to the quick, and your hard heart and thick head have been pierced by the condemnation of your sin and the conviction of death — when your self-chosen journey has been halted, and you’ve been stopped in your sad tracks — the Lord Jesus raises you up and leads you forward in His Resurrection from the dead, on His journey back to God the Father in heaven.

He brings you to the portal that leads to bliss untold.  But the Way into such grace and glory of God in Christ is still not by sight, but by faith in His Word of the Cross.

That is why He often seems to be going farther, to be moving on without you, and to be leaving you behind, so that it feels like you’re right back to being on your own again.

This, too, is the Cross, which puts your pride and your self to death and teaches you to pray, to call upon the Name of the Lord, to cling to Him by faith, and to open up your heart and home to Him.

Even such invitations are not your own work but the consequence and outcome of His work in you.

You often don’t even know what you’re really asking when you ask Him in to stay with you, because you’re simply feeling your way forward by faith in His Word, living under the Cross and loving your neighbor on the Way, as the Lord your God has taught you to do by His love for you.

It is another Mystery of the Cross, and of faith in the Cross, that your fumbling efforts, your choices and decisions in the waning light of day, in the darkness on the edge of town, and even your feeble cries for help from out of the depths, are all taken up into the mercies of Christ Jesus and turned into the working out of His own gracious purposes for you and for your neighbors.

Thus, when you suppose that you have invited Him to be your guest, and that you will serve and care for Him — as you actually should do for one another, living as brothers and sisters in the unity of Christ Jesus and the harmony of His Love — suddenly you find that He is your Host; that you are His guest, living in His House and reclining at His Table; and that He is here serving you by His grace with the rich fruits of His own Cross and Passion.

Here, then, is where you see Him: in the Breaking of the Bread.  Here is where His Body is found, no longer dead and buried, but crucified and risen, living and life-giving.  The mysterious Stranger vanishes from sight, but He is not gone.  He is recognized and known, received with thanksgiving, and loved — as He first loves you — in the Holy Communion of His Body and His Blood.

Here, therefore, is where your sadness vanishes and the joy of the Cross is realized.

For this Jesus who was crucified, He is the Redeemer of Israel whom God the Father has raised from the dead and made both Lord and Christ.

He has redeemed you also from sin and death, and from the futile path and patterns of life that you inherited from your mortal parents; not with perishable coins or commodities, but with His own holy and precious Blood, by His innocent suffering and death upon the Cross.

It is the Body and Blood of this Lamb of God which are given and poured out for you here at His Table in His House: For you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins, and for eternal life and everlasting salvation with Him as a member of His Body.  Nothing could be more clear from this Emmaus Gospel than the central importance and definitive significance of this Holy Communion, wherein you enter into the Glory of Christ Jesus by the way and means of His Cross.

But do take note, all of you disciples of Emmaus, that recognizing and receiving the crucified and risen Lord Jesus — here at His Altar in His Church — does not result in holing up inside, circling the wagons around you, and hiding yourself away from the world within this house and home.

No, although the day is far spent and evening is at hand, it is yet this very Hour that you are raised up and returned to the doctrine and fellowship of the Holy Apostles, to the Holy Communion of all saints in Christ Jesus, to the true Jerusalem of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Which is to say that, while it is still day, even at this late hour, until that night comes when no one can work, you seek out your fellow Christians, and you serve them as you are able with your words and deeds of peace and joy, of faith, hope, and love — even as they also serve you as companions on the Way with their mutual confession and ongoing discussion of Christ Jesus.

As you have communion with one another in the one Body of Christ, in the New Testament of His Blood, so also share that fellowship in your life together.  For the Lord your God has called you to Himself, even from far away — both you and your children — to find a new life, a new home and family, with one God and Father in Christ Jesus.

You are baptized into Him, anointed and filled by His Holy Spirit.  So are you one Body in Him, and you are the Body of Christ for one another.  As you see Him and receive Him in the Breaking of the Bread, so do you see and receive Him in each other, by His grace, in mercy and in peace.

Lift up your head and rejoice, dear friends of God, beloved of the Lord!  For He is here with you, and you are with Him on the Way; not only to and from Emmaus, but unto the Resurrection of the Body and the Life everlasting in the midst of His Jerusalem: on earth even now, as it is in heaven.

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

19 April 2020

Where the Word and Wounds of Jesus Are

Maybe it was just too painful to be there with the rest of them.  He was just too sad, and it hurt too much to be reminded of the time they had all spent together with Jesus.  Perhaps he was ashamed of how they fled at the onset of the Passion, or too ashamed of himself to be seen by anyone else.  He may have been in shock at what had happened, and wanted to be left alone with his thoughts, to sort them out and get his head on straight.  We are not told the reasons why he wasn’t there.

Was he braver than the other disciples?  Or was he hiding somewhere else, just as frightened as the rest of them?  Or, was he out in the open, perhaps even hoping to get himself arrested, to follow after Jesus into death, as he had said when they returned to Judea after Lazarus had died?

Whatever his purpose, intentions, or excuses may have been, he wasn’t where he should have been.  He wasn’t where the disciples of Jesus were gathered.

It is just as foolish to look for Jesus where He is not to be found, as it is to doubt and deny Him where He does reveal and give Himself to His disciples.  It is all the more foolish not to look for Him at all, no matter whether you proceed in self-confidence and bravado or in faithless despair.

But, so that you not be left to your own devices, lost and alone, the Ministry of the Holy Gospel testifies to the Truth, and calls you by way of repentance to the place where Jesus is found — or, to say it better, to the place where He finds you — in order that you may believe and have life in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, through His forgiveness of your sins and His gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is the Word of Christ, the preaching of His Gospel, in particular, the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name, that raises you from death to life; that removes your fear and replaces it with peace; that brings you from deep sadness to great joy; that changes your doubts and terrible uncertainty into confidence and courage; that converts you from false belief to faith.

Genuine faith in the genuine Christ makes all the difference in this world, and also for the next.  But what is the content of such faith?  It is not simply that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was a real person; nor simply that He was crucified, dead, and buried; nor even simply that He rose from the dead.  It includes and requires all of those basic historical facts, to be sure.  But genuine faith in Christ believes and trusts that He is the very Son of God, sent by the Father in the flesh; that He is your Lord and your God, who was crucified for the forgiveness of your sins, and raised up by God the Father as your Righteousness and Holiness; and that He is here for you, in and with His Word of the Gospel, and with His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for your salvation.

What such faith receives and clings to is the Lord your God Himself in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, and so also the Holy Spirit, the Author and Giver of Life, in Christ’s Word of forgiveness.

This is the true faith which you need the most, upon which everything else depends, as it depends upon Christ Jesus.  By such faith you live in Him, as He Himself is risen from the dead; you have Peace with God, instead of anxiety and dread, and real joy instead of sorrow and depression.

And by such faith you confess the Name of the Lord Jesus, with which you are named in Baptism. You worship and adore Him as the Lord your God, and you gladly obey His commandments, because you have a new and living hope in Him, in His crucified and risen Body.

Where faith is first of all an active passivity, which hears, receives, and trusts in God, it is also then a busy and active thing which lives and works to the Glory of His Name.  In fact, it is the nature of faith to live, and it is only by faith that you do live, because Life itself is found only with God, by the gift of His Word and Holy Spirit, in the flesh and blood of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.

If you desire Life, it is yours by faith in Christ Jesus.  And as you have such faith, so do you live.

The most urgent and most necessary thing — honestly, the only thing that finally matters at all — is that you be found in the Body of Christ Jesus, anointed and filled by His Holy Spirit.  Nothing else matters.  Leastwise nothing else has any real meaning or lasting purpose outside of the Body of Christ.  Apart from Him, devoid of His Spirit, you have no life and no salvation, but only doubt and despair, death and damnation — even if you do manage to fool yourself for a little while.

The biggest and most compelling questions are: Where and how do you find Him and find yourself in Him?  How shall you come to faith in Him, and so live the Life which is with God in Christ?

It is by the Spirit of Christ Jesus that you have such faith and life in Him, that is, by the Holy Spirit who is actively present and at work in the preaching and ministry of those whom Christ sends in His Name and stead to serve and care for His Church on earth with His Word of the Gospel.

By this Ministry of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit is given and bestowed upon you with His forgiveness of all your sins.  You are recreated by this Spirit of God, who breathes in you through the Word of the Gospel; and you are granted newness of life in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, because your wounds of body and soul are healed by His wounds, by the Fruits of His Passion.

Hear and heed the Holy Scriptures, and long for the pure Spiritual Milk of the Lord’s Word.  Like a newborn baby, drink deeply from the fountain of Life here at the Lord’s Altar, where He opens up His wounded hands and side to you now.  Call upon His holy Name, as He has called you by His Name in your one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and again and again in Holy Absolution.

Search for the Lord and His strength, and seek His face always, in His Holy Covenant which He has established forever.  Remember what He has done and said, as He remembers you in mercy — as He speaks His Word of Peace which does and gives what He says — and as He gives to you His Body and pours out for you the Cup which is the New Covenant in His Blood.

Here is where the disciples of Jesus are, because this is where He comes and takes His stand and gives Himself to you with tender mercy and compassion, with patience for your doubts and fears and failings, and with forgiveness for your sins.  This is where He gives you His Body to eat, that you may belong to His Body and abide in Him by faith in body and soul, unto the Life everlasting.

Apart from Christ Jesus, outside of His Body, sins are retained, and you are left in the deadly sorrow and devastating loneliness of unbelief.  But here in the Divine Service you receive the eyewitness testimony of the Holy Apostles who saw the crucified and risen Lord Jesus and ate and drank with Him.  By their Word, by their proclamation of His death, and by their confession of His Resurrection from the dead — though you cannot see Him, you believe Him, and you love Him.  You live in Him by faith, and you rejoice in His salvation to the praise and glory of His Name.

So it is, by the Word of His Apostles, that the Lord grants you repentance and new birth in His own Cross and Resurrection.  Day by day you die with Him, and you are born again through the rebirth of His Resurrection unto newness of life and a new hope.  You shall not be put to shame.  Certainly not by Christ Jesus, who comes to you here to speak His Peace and Joy and Holy Spirit into your ears, and into your body and soul.  So faithful is He, that the trying and testing of your faith shall not be permitted to rob you of your hope, but shall only be allowed to purify and strengthen your faith, hope, and love in this Lord Jesus Christ, unto the resurrection of your body to eternal Life.

Reach here your hand and see.  Lay hold of the Body of Christ Jesus and believe.  Take up the Cup of Salvation and call on the Name of the Lord, for everyone who calls on Him shall be saved.

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

16 April 2020

The Little Things That Give You Away

So, my friend Alan tagged me on a Facebook Music Challenge, and he surely knew what kind of monster he would be creating in doing so. The challenge was to come up with the answers to a series of thirty questions by shuffling up my entire music library (as if!) and then simply filling in the first thirty songs in the queue in response to the questions. I did that, more or less, although it's actually not possible to shuffle my entire music collection at once, so I started with a playlist of some 5,000+ songs and shuffled that. I also fudged a bit on the rules, because a few of the songs that showed up randomly in the queue would have seemed somewhat risque being taken out of context and applied in answer to the questions they would otherwise have "answered." Aside from those caveats, I played along as requested, and the results were interesting. I was rather surprised at how many of the songs actually made a certain kind of sense in response to the questions. In other cases, not so much! And it became very clear, all things considered, that this random process was not answering very accurately.

Not content with the random answers of veritable strangers, I determined to consult some of my closest friends and constant companions — that is to say, a collection of my favorite artists, whose music is basically the soundtrack of my life, anyway — to see what they might have to say in response to the thirty questions. Not trusting this random shuffling business, I looked at each question and did my best to answer it with a song title from each of the artists I consulted. This certainly resulted in a far more accurate body of data.

Now, given that dozens of artists were consulted, and especially because not all of the songs were equally apropos as answers to the questions at hand, I went back through all of the answers and chose the top twelve responses to each question, organizing them according to some kind of coherent order. The final results of this rather extended experiment in responding to the original Facebook challenge are actually somewhat interesting, and if nothing else, the particular artists and songs will be of some interest to some of my friends and fellow music aficionados, anyway.

Okay, then, here are the thirty questions, followed in each case by the original "random" answer in first position, and then by the twelve answers obtained from a conglomerate of my favorite artists. I expect that those who know me well will recognize me in the answers; and it will probably not be hard for people to discern that I was working my way through all of this in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and quarantine lockdown of life as we usually know it. C'est la vie! It's "the little things that give you away" (see the final question).


(1.) IF SOMEONE SAYS, “IS THIS OKAY?” YOU SAY:

“Play the Game Tonight” (Kansas)

“I Don’t Know” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Some Of It” (Eric Church)
“No Guarantees” (Cody Jinks)
“Feels Good at First” (Train)
“Only Time Will Tell” (Asia)
“We Can Work It Out” (The Beatles)
“I Dare You” (Shinedown)
“Get on Your Boots” (U2)
“Go Your Own Way” (Fleetwood Mac)
“Just ‘Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Should’ve Said No” (Taylor Swift)
“Make It Right” (Alter Bridge)


(2.) WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?

“I Am a Rock” (Simon & Garfunkel)

“Complicated” (Bon Jovi)
“Sad But True” (Metallica)
“I Go to Extremes” (Billy Joel)
“Dislocated Boy” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Stranger Inside” (Shinedown)
“Mixed Drinks About Feelings” (Eric Church)
“Diary of a Madman” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“The Battle of Evermore” (Led Zeppelin)
“The Spirit of Radio” (Rush)
“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (Keith Urban)
“Humble and Kind” (Tim McGraw)
“Metalingus” (Alter Bridge)


(3.) WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A GIRL?

“Metal Meltdown” (Judas Priest)

“Honesty” (Billy Joel)
“Words of Love” (The Beatles)
“Lasagna” (Weird Al Yankovic)
“Eye of the Beholder” (Metallica)
“Something to Love” (Jason Isbell)
“Something to Believe In” (Bon Jovi)
“Same Kind of Crazy as Me” (Cody Jinks)
“Different Shades of Blue” (Joe Bonamassa)
“It’s Nice to Have a Friend” (Taylor Swift)
“The Conversation” (Mat Kearney)
“Somebody to Love” (Queen)
“Ordinary Love” (U2)


(4.) HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?

“Surfing with the Alien” (Joe Satriani)

“White & Nerdy” (Weird Al Yankovic)
“Dazed and Confused” (Led Zeppelin)
“Running on Empty” (Jackson Browne)
“Turtles All the Way Down” (Sturgill Simpson)
“Down in a Hole” (Jason Isbell)
“I’m Going Slightly Mad” (Queen)
“I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” (U2)
“Ready for the Times to Get Better” (Cody Jinks)
“I’m Alive” (Shinedown)
“Holdin’ My Own” (Eric Church)
“Stronger Now in Broken Places” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Life Must Go On” (Alter Bridge)


(5.) WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE?

“Hard Work” (Ella Henderson)

“Carpe Diem Baby” (Metallica)
“Tour of Duty” (Jason Isbell)
“Keeping the Faith” (Billy Joel)
“Chasing the Light” (Mat Kearney)
“Driving Towards the Daylight” (Joe Bonamassa)
“I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” (The Beatles)
“Words Are Medicine” (Tim McGraw)
“Speak Now” (Taylor Swift)
“Learn My Lesson” (Daughtry)
“Love Alone Is Worth the Fight” (Switchfoot)
“Coming Home” (Alter Bridge)
“Family Table” (Zac Brown Band)


(6.) WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?

“Love Me If You Can” (Toby Keith)

“Hold on Loosely” (.38 Special)
“Get Out of Your Own Way” (U2)
“Shake It Off” (Taylor Swift)
“Don’t Stop Believin’” (Journey)
“Every Dog Has Its Day” (Toby Keith)
“Stick to Your Guns” (Bon Jovi)
“Give All You Can” (Cody Jinks)
“Live Like You Were Dying” (Tim McGraw)
“Keep It Between the Lines” (Sturgill Simpson)
“How Did You Love” (Shinedown)
“Peace Is Free” (Black Stone Cherry)
“All Ends Well” (Alter Bridge)


(7.) WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?

“Simple Man” (Shinedown)

“Heavenly Soul” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Livin’ on a Prayer” (Bon Jovi)
“Holy Diver” (Dio)
“Reverend Wrinkle” (Black Stone Cherry)
“Pretty Fly for a Rabbi” (Weird Al Yankovic)
“Last of My Kind” (Jason Isbell)
“Mysterious Ways” (U2)
“Hardwired” (Metallica)
“The Sentinel” (Judas Priest)
“Ordinary Man” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Can’t Tell Me Nothin’” (Tim McGraw)
“Broke Record” (Eric Church)


(8.) WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?

“Things” (Barenaked Ladies)

“If You Only Knew” (Shinedown)
“My Life” (Billy Joel)
“Yesterday” (The Beatles)
“What I Almost Was” (Eric Church)
“The Gift of Music” (Theocracy)
“The Prophet’s Song” (Queen)
“The Writing on the Wall” (Alter Bridge)
“Things My Father Said” (Black Stone Cherry)
“What I Meant to Say” (Daughtry)
“Word Crimes” (Weird Al Yankovic)
“My Little Man” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“My Little Girl” (Tim McGraw)


(9.) WHAT IS 2 + 2?

“‘Til Summer Comes Around” (Keith Urban)

“No Surprise” (Daughtry)
“It All Adds Up” (Shinedown)
“22” (Taylor Swift) (Obviously!)
“What I’ve Known for a Very Long Time” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Everything You Know Is Wrong” (Weird Al Yankovic)
“Misunderstood” (Bon Jovi)
“That’s Damn Rock & Roll” (Eric Church)
“Currency in a Bankrupt World” (Theocracy)
“Two Hearts” (Mat Kearney)
“Four Sticks” (Led Zeppelin)
“To Be Loved” (Train)
“United” (Judas Priest)


(10.) WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?

“Something to Believe In” (Poison)

“Respect” (Train)
“Homeboy” (Eric Church)
“We Get By” (Cody Jinks)
“A Matter of Trust” (Billy Joel)
“Thick as Thieves” (Shinedown)
“Hero of the Day” (Metallica)
“Iron Man” (Black Sabbath)
“Fearless” (Taylor Swift)
“Way Cool Jr.” (Ratt)
“New World Man” (Rush)
“Happier Times” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Thank You” (Led Zeppelin)


(11.) WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?

“Little Bit of Everything” (Keith Urban)

“Oh Beautiful” (Joe Bonamassa)
“She’s Always a Woman” (Billy Joel)
“My Champion” (Alter Bridge)
“Believer” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Solid” (Eric Church)
“Style” (Taylor Swift)
“My World” (Metallica)
“All American Girl” (Train)
“We’re Gonna Groove” (Led Zeppelin)
“You Had Me from Hello” (Bon Jovi)
“Never Gonna Let Go” (Shinedown)
“Lifers” (Cody Jinks)


(12.) WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?

“All the Way from New York” (Wilson Phillips)

“Loud and Heavy” (Cody Jinks)
“Something More Than Free” (Jason Isbell)
“The Long and Winding Road” (The Beatles)
“It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” (AC/DC)
“First World Problems” (Weird Al Yankovic)
“Mr. Misunderstood” (Eric Church)
“Crazy Train” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“There and Back Again” (Daughtry)
“Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin)
“Running to Stand Still” (U2)
“I’m Still Standing” (Elton John)
“The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades” (Timbuk 3)


(13.) WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?

“I Use What I Got” (Jason Aldean)

“Home” (Alter Bridge)
“Hangin’ Around” (Eric Church)
“Someone to You” (Cody Jinks)
“Better Version” (Shinedown)
“An Innocent Man” (Billy Joel)
“Killer of Giants” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Master of Puppets” (Metallica)
“Pinball Wizard” (Elton John / The Who)
“Last Man Standing” (Bon Jovi)
“Paperback Writer” (The Beatles)
“Man of Many Words” (Joe Bonamassa)
“The Master Storyteller” (Theocracy)


(14.) WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?

“Hide in the Fairytale” (Theocracy)

“Hey, Soul Sister” (Train)
“Good Day Sunshine” (The Beatles)
“You Take My Breath Away” (Queen)
“You Make It Look So Easy” (Eric Church)
“Lay Your World on Me” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Thank You for Loving Me” (Bon Jovi)
“You’re the Best Thing About Me” (U2)
“You’re My Better Half” (Keith Urban)
“I Can’t Quit You Baby” (Led Zeppelin)
“It’s Your World” (Tim McGraw)
“I’ll Follow You” (Shinedown)
“You’re My Home” (Billy Joel)


(15.) WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?

“Call Me the Breeze” (John Mayer)

“Ricky” (Weird Al Yankovic)
“Native Son” (Alter Bridge)
“Original of the Species” (U2)
“And the Cradle Will Rock” (Van Halen)
“Family Tree ” (Black Stone Cherry / Megadeth)
“Flagship” (Jason Isbell)
“Atlas, Rise!” (Metallica)
“Brilliant” (Shinedown)
“A Good Heart” (Elton John)
“Working Man” (Rush)
“Who Says You Can’t Go Home” (Bon Jovi)
“Wish You Were Here” (Cody Jinks / Pink Floyd)


(16.) WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?

“I Can’t Help Myself” (Van Zant)

“Springsteen” (Eric Church)
“The Saga Begins” (Weird Al Yankovic)
“Start of Something Good” (Daughtry)
“A Really Cool Dance Song” (Bowling for Soup)
“I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” (The Beatles)
“I’ll Be There for You” (Bon Jovi)
“Not Going Away” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Always with Me, Always with You” (Joe Satriani)
“Just Between You and Me” (April Wine)
“Wonderful Life” (Alter Bridge)
“Heartbeat” (Mat Kearney)
“Unity” (Shinedown)


(17.) WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?

“Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” (U2)

“Kyrie” (Mr. Mister)
“And So It Goes” (Billy Joel)
“Under the Graveyard” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding)” (Elton John)
“Your Time Is Gonna Come” (Led Zeppelin)
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” (Metallica)
“Dust in the Wind” (Kansas)
“Epitaph” (Judas Priest)
“Dead But Rising” (Volbeat)
“Bridge to Better Days” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Where the Streets Have No Name” (U2)
“You Will Be Remembered” (Alter Bridge)


(18.) WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?

“Killing Is My Business . . . And Business Is Good” (Megadeth)

“Redemption” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Rock and Roll” (Cody Jinks / Led Zeppelin)
“Crazy Babies” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Children of Children” (Jason Isbell)
“I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts)
“The Human Radio” (Shinedown)
“Rock & Roll Music” (The Beatles)
“Damn Country Music” (Tim McGraw)
“Watch Your Words” (Alter Bridge)
“Long Live Rock & Roll” (Daughtry)
“Live Those Songs” (Kenny Chesney)
“It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me” (Billy Joel)


(19.) WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?

“A Man and a Woman” (U2)

“Stuff of Legends” (Daughtry)
“Kings & Queens” (Mat Kearney)
“Hippies and Cowboys” (Cody Jinks)
“Beautiful People” (Tim McGraw)
“Crows on a Wire” (Alter Bridge)
“Good Company” (Queen)
“Guys Like Me” (Eric Church)
“This Is Our House” (Bon Jovi)
“I’ve Loved These Days” (Billy Joel)
“Monsters of Rock” (Judas Priest)
“Junkies for Fame” (Shinedown)
“We Are the Kings” (Black Stone Cherry)


(20.) WHAT'S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?

“I Can’t Drive 55” (Sammy Hagar)

“Dragon Attack” (Queen)
“Atlas Falls” (Shinedown)
“Judas Rising” (Judas Priest)
“Bad Blood” (Taylor Swift)
“The Mob Rules” (Black Sabbath)
“Bloodbath in Paradise” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“The Devil’s in the Temple” (Bon Jovi)
“Hell and High Water” (Black Stone Cherry)
“Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” (Cody Jinks)
“Holy Wars . . . The Punishment Due” (Megadeth)
“Die By My Own Hand” (Tim McGraw)
“All Hope Is Gone” (Alter Bridge)


(21.) HOW WILL YOU DIE?

“A Call to Arms” (Theocracy)

“Unbroken” (Tim McGraw)
“Mountain Climbing” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Takin’ Care of Business” (Bachman Turner Overdrive)
“Sword of Damocles” (Judas Priest)
“Waters Rising” (Alter Bridge)
“When the Levee Breaks” (Led Zeppelin)
“Hurricanes and Hand Grenades” (Jason Isbell)
“The Great Suburban Showdown” (Billy Joel)
“Dancing in the Street” (Van Halen)
“Zombie Stomp” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Ogre Battle” (Queen)
“Fade to Black” (Metallica)


(22.) WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU REGRET?

“I Know It Hurts” (Alter Bridge)

“Sleeping with the Television On” (Billy Joel)
“I Lost on Jeopardy” (Weird Al Yankovic)
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (AC/DC)
“Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days” (Judas Priest)
“Darkest Secret” (Black Stone Cherry)
“Dark Side” (Eric Church)
“Bad Habits” (Daughtry)
“Thorn in My Side” (Bon Jovi)
“Blues of Desperation” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Ten Years Gone” (Led Zeppelin)
“Words Darker than Their Wings” (Alter Bridge)
“I Don’t Want to Talk About It” (Rod Stewart)


(23.) WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?

“Crazy ABCs” (Barenaked Ladies)

“I’ve Got Friends that Do” (Tim McGraw)
“Must Be the Whiskey” (Cody Jinks)
“Adrenaline” (Shinedown)
“Elvis Presley & America” (U2)
“Hollywood in Kentucky” (Black Stone Cherry)
“Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” (Taylor Swift)
“Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen from Mars” (Bon Jovi)
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (The Beatles)
“Mr. Tinkertrain” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Fat Bottomed Girls” (Queen)
“Hippie Radio” (Eric Church)
“The Entertainer” (Billy Joel)


(24.) WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?

“Bent to Fly” (Slash)

“Sad Songs (Say So Much)” (Elton John)
“Never Alone Always Lonely” (Cody Jinks)
“Whole Lot of Leavin’” (Bon Jovi)
“She’s Leaving Home” (The Beatles)
“Landslide” (Fleetwood Mac)
“Missing You” (John Waite)
“Sloe Gin” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Black Dog” (Led Zeppelin)
“When I Look at the World” (U2)
“The Evil That Men Do” (Iron Maiden)
“Teardrops on My Guitar” (Taylor Swift)
“Heartbreak Dreamer” (Mat Kearney)


(25.) WILL YOU EVER GET MARRIED?

“Two Hearts Beat as One” (U2)

“Yesterday Again” (Cody Jinks)
“Before Tomorrow Comes” (Alter Bridge)
“These Are the Days of Our Lives” (Queen)
“Two Is Better Than One” (Taylor Swift)
“Gets Me Through” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Ain’t Killed Me Yet” (Eric Church)
“Won’t Back Down” (Mat Kearney)
“We Carry On” (Tim McGraw)
“The Longest Time” (Billy Joel)
“Until the End of the World” (U2)
“Wherever I May Roam” (Metallica)
“This Was My Life” (Megadeth)


(26.) WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST?

“Days Go By” (Keith Urban)

“Some Kind of Monster” (Metallica)
“Self-Inflicted Wounds” (Joe Bonamassa)
“What Is and What Should Never Be” (Led Zeppelin)
“Nothing Ever Goes as Planned” (Styx)
“Things Change” (Tim McGraw)
“Running Out of Time” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Where Even Angels Fear to Fly” (Cody Jinks)
“Losing My Mind” (Daughtry)
“Forever Falling” (Alter Bridge)
“Symphony of Destruction” (Megadeth)
“The Bitter End” (Black Stone Cherry)
“Goodbye” (Mat Kearney)


(27.) DOES ANYONE LIKE YOU?

“From the Right Angle” (Dawes)

“You Better You Bet” (The Who)
“Yahweh” (U2)
“One Heart” (Mat Kearney)
“My Best Friend” (Tim McGraw)
“Children of the Sun” (Judas Priest)
“Friends” (Led Zeppelin)
“The Crow & the Butterfly” (Shinedown)
“The Raven and the Dove” (Cody Jinks)
“Baby Girl” (Will Hoge)
“Tiny Dancer” (Elton John)
“Three Year Old” (Eric Church)
“Baby Grand” (Billy Joel)


(28.) IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

“Flash” (Queen) — I mean, sure, it could have been better; but it wasn’t that bad!

“The Thing That Should Not Be” (Metallica)
“Original Sin” (Elton John)
“Achilles Last Stand” (Led Zeppelin)
“The Ripper” (Judas Priest)
“Dust Bowl” (Joe Bonamassa)
“The Blackout” (U2)
“Traffic Light” (Daughtry)
“Christmas at Ground Zero” (Weird Al Yankovic)
“Breaking Inside” (Shinedown)
“Fifteen” (Taylor Swift)
“A Day in the Life” (The Beatles)
“12/17/12” (The Decemberists)


(29.) WHAT HURTS RIGHT NOW?

“Everywhere” (Michelle Branch)

“Pressure” (Billy Joel)
“Isolation” (Alter Bridge)
“Wounded Mind” (Cody Jinks)
“The Struggle Within” (Metallica)
“The Sound of Silence” (Disturbed)
“These Hard Times” (Matchbox Twenty)
“Everything Has Changed” (Taylor Swift)
“Everybody’s Broken” (Bon Jovi)
“The Valley Runs Low” (Joe Bonamassa)
“Communication Breakdown” (Led Zeppelin)
“Whole World’s Fallin’ Down” (Ozzy Osbourne)
“Countdown To Extinction” (Megadeth)


(30.) WHAT TITLE WILL YOU GIVE THIS POST?

“Tell ‘em What It’s Like” (Cody Jinks)

“The Little Things That Give You Away” (U2)
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (The Rolling Stones)
“It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” (R.E.M.)
“Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” (Judas Priest)
“You Need to Calm Down” (Taylor Swift)
“Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” (Queen)
“With a Little Help from My Friends” (The Beatles)
“Another Song Nobody Will Hear” (Will Hoge)
“Ghost of Days Gone By” (Alter Bridge)
“Where the Wild Things Are” (Metallica)
“Ships in the Night” (Mat Kearney)
“God Bless This Mess” (Bon Jovi)