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).


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)


“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)

15 April 2020

Set Your Heart and Mind on the Risen Christ

Christ has died, and Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

As a Christian you have also died with Him by your Baptism into His death; and so it is that you are also raised up with Him to a new and different life.  Indeed, He is your Life and your Salvation, and in Him you already live with God in heaven, even while you live and work here on earth.

Set your heart and mind on Christ, therefore, by hearing and heeding His Word.

To clarify, it is no sin to live in your body here on earth where the Lord your God has called you and positioned you.  There is no sin in going to work and doing your job, nor in going fishing for the fun of it, or whatever your own hobbies and pastimes may be.  Do not repent for work or play.  But do examine where your heart and mind are set as you go about doing whatever it is you do.

All your labors will accomplish nothing apart from the Word of Christ Jesus.  But at His Word great good things happen in abundance.  And by faith in His Word, although you may be stretched and strained, you are neither broken nor torn.  For His Word is fruitful, and His Word sustains you.

But what should you do if you have fallen into the trap of working to make a life for yourself apart from faith in Christ’s Word?  What if you have lost sight of Him and no longer know the Man?  And what about your doubts and denials, your uncertainty and fears, and your cynical skepticism?

Whether you have already fallen a great distance or have only begun to wander away from Christ Jesus, return now to the Lord who gently beckons you to Himself and makes Himself known to you again and again.  Or, if you have never yet been able to walk in His way of life, be raised up by His Word of the Gospel.  For He has fixed His gaze upon you, and He calls you to Himself in love.

Come, return to the cleansing significance of your Baptism, to the washing of the water with His Word.  Not to be re-baptized, for there is nothing lacking in the Word and work of the Lord.  But in contrition and repentance, and by the confession of your sins, be drowned and die with all your sinful lusts and desires, and be raised to life through the forgiveness of your sins in Jesus’ name.

Do not dress yourself with your own works, which, like the emperor’s new clothes, leave you naked in your sins.  Rather be clothed by Christ with His Righteousness and Holiness through His forgiveness of your sins, and so live by His grace alone.  Not in guilt and shame, nor in fear, but in His Peace.  Rest yourself in Him by faith, whether you are working hard or having a good time.

Set your heart and mind on the priority of His Word and the preaching of it, on His means of grace and all the things of Christ Jesus.  Do not allow your job or your pastimes to take precedence over Him, but rather live in the world in the way that God intends by making His House into your home.

If you have drifted away in the past, or even if you never have before, either way, do not abandon the Boat of the Church, the Holy Ark of Christendom.  Instead, draw near to the Lord Jesus Christ aboard that great vessel, even though she appears to be a little boat and of no great consequence.

By His death at the ninth hour of the day, and by your Baptism into His death — a beautiful gate indeed! — you have entered upon that Boat, the Temple of His Church, which is His own Body.  So does He keep you safe and sustain you in Himself, and so does He preserve your life in God.

And what is more, in His Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father, your prayer now ascends like incense before the throne of God at every hour, at all times, and in all places.  And His tender mercy descends upon you, that is, not perishable silver and gold, but the holy, precious blood of the spotless Lamb, and His sacred flesh, which is your meat indeed.

Here at His Table is the Meal He has prepared for you with His own hand, by His own hard labor and the sweat of His brow.  Here is the Supper to break your fast, since you have had nothing with which to feed yourself, despite your best efforts and your long hard toils by night as by day.

Come, therefore, dear child of God.  Eat and drink this Food that Christ provides for you according to His grace and love, and learn to know your crucified and risen Lord in His gracious hospitality.

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

14 April 2020

The Scriptures Are Fulfilled in Christ Jesus

As intended from before the foundation of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ has perfectly fulfilled the Holy Scriptures by His becoming flesh, by His bodily death upon the Cross, and by His bodily Resurrection from the dead.  This work of the Lord is really what the whole Bible is all about.

So, too, by the preaching and teaching of the Scriptures, Christ Jesus Himself is actively present and powerful to save all those who hear and receive Him in the Ministry of His Gospel.

Because He has defeated sin, death, the devil, and hell by His voluntary suffering and death, He now also brings forgiveness, life, and salvation to His Church in His Resurrection from the dead.

Here, in the gathering of His disciples, He comes to you as the crucified and risen One, and He grants to you His perfect Peace and Sabbath Rest through His forgiveness of all your sins.  Indeed, this peace and rest that He bestows upon you is the good and gracious will of God, the very point and purpose for which He has spoken His Word, so that you should have abundant life in Him.

Tragically, your sins and your sinfulness include not only all the bad things that you do and all the good things that you neglect, but also your false belief, your doubt and despair, and your failure and refusal to understand the Scriptures, to trust the Gospel, or to receive the Lord Jesus in peace.

But you are not able to believe in Jesus Christ, your Lord, neither can you come to Him, nor even recognize or receive Him when He comes to you, except by His Word and the work of His Spirit.

So, if you had been there in that upper room on that first Easter Sunday evening, do not suppose that you would have done any differently or any better than those disciples in this Holy Gospel.

Actually, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus is very much here with you, in your midst, speaking His Word of the Gospel to you, opening His holy wounds to you, giving you His Body and Blood, and granting you His blessings of grace, mercy, and peace.  And yet, in your sinfulness, you greet all of this with superstitious doubts and fear.  At best it all seems too good to be true, and at worst you regard the dear Lord Jesus Christ as a “ghost,” a specter, an immaterial, inconsequential fable.

As a consequence of your unbelief, you reject and despise the Peace that your dear Lord Jesus brings, because it surpasses all of your human understanding; and you refuse to accept the Sabbath Rest from all your hard labors and heavy burdens of sin and death, which only He can give you.

That is why it is so necessary to your salvation — no less so than the Cross and Resurrection — that repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached to you in Jesus’ Name.  For it is only by such preaching of His Word that you are called from your doubts to live by faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, because the Lord your God loves you and does not want you to die forever in the darkness of your despair and unbelief, He sends His servants to proclaim the Lord Jesus to you.

By His Word and Spirit, by His Law and Gospel, they catechize you in the one true faith, calling you daily to repentance and turning you away from your sins to the forgiveness of His Cross.  In this way they open the Scriptures to you, and the Holy Spirit opens your heart and your mind to understand those Holy Scriptures, so that you thereby receive and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So does the same Lord open His wounds to you by the Ministry of His Gospel.  And He opens your hand and your mouth to receive His Body and His Blood — not apart from faith, lest you be judged and condemned in unbelief — but in the one true faith, in His Peace, and with great thanksgiving.

This is how He works to save you.  By the proclamation of the Gospel in His Name and stead, your sins are all freely and fully forgiven.  And by that Word of Holy Absolution you are rescued from the fear of death, from uncertainty and superstition, and brought into the sure confidence of faith.  You are taught by His grace to believe and trust in Him, and to receive all good things from Him.

And it is by this Spirit-wrought faith in the Word of Christ Jesus that you are given true Peace and Sabbath Rest in Him, unto the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting of body and soul.

It is likewise by and with the Word of Christ — in fulfillment of the Scriptures of the Prophets and Apostles — that He who was crucified for your transgressions and raised for your justification is still eating with sinners; and He invites even you to recline here at His Table to eat with Him.

Not only that, but one and the same Lord Jesus Christ is Himself the Feast that you eat and the Host who serves you.  For He gives to you His holy Body, and He pours out for you His precious Blood, for the forgiveness of all your sins and the nourishment of your faith unto life and salvation.

Here, then, is the promise, the down payment, and the guarantee that your own body and blood, and your own flesh and bones, no less than His, shall at the last be raised from death and the grave, glorified like unto His own glorious Body, immortal and imperishable.  Indeed, you shall see Him in the flesh with your own two eyes, and you shall be like Him, by the grace of God your Savior.

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

13 April 2020

Now You See Him Where You Don't

The path that you are set upon may be a lonely one.  All the more so if it is a way that you have chosen for yourself.  But you are not alone.  The Lord has not lost sight of you, even if you are not able to see Him.  For one thing, you have companions on the journey to share the story of Jesus with you.  And by and with this very Word, Christ Jesus Himself draws near and goes with you.

He is the One who, by His Word and Spirit, opens the Scriptures to you; who opens your mind to comprehend and your heart to believe His Gospel; who opens Himself to you in His Supper, and opens you to Himself, to recognize and receive Him to yourself in the Breaking of the Bread.

He brings you into His Glory by the way and means of His Cross and Passion.  Not only by the facts of the matter, but by the catechesis of the Cross itself, which crucifies and buries you with Christ Jesus, in order to raise you up with Him in His own Resurrection from the dead.

This catechesis of the Cross continues all the way, even for those who already “know it all,” who already confess the things concerning Jesus of Nazareth.  It is an ongoing journey with this same Jesus who was crucified.  And it puts you to death each day, not for destruction, but for repentance and faith in His forgiveness of sins, and for newness of life in Him who is not dead but living.

So does it lead you and bring you to the Place that Christ has prepared and made ready for you.

Well, that sure sounds good, doesn’t it?  But be forewarned, and bear in mind that on this Way of Life your eyes are prevented from recognizing Him.  For even in the Resurrection, His Glory is that of the Crucified One.  He is the One whom God has raised from the dead and made both Lord and Christ.  Indeed, He has entered into this divine Glory through His suffering of all these things.

But you do not perceive or recognize Him in your difficult and needy neighbor, for example.  Nor do you see Him in your own suffering, hurt, and pain, because you are not able to see the Glory of His Cross even as it is now revealed in the preaching of His Resurrection.  Instead, you suffer disappointments and sadness, the crushing of your hopes and expectations.  In this way the Cross of Christ brings to light your foolish ignorance, and it exposes your stubborn slowness of heart.

So it is that your perceptions, interpretations, and conclusions are all challenged, contradicted, crucified, put to death, and buried.

After all, the Lord Jesus acts as though He were going farther.  He plays a bit of cat-and-mouse, or so it seems at least.  His presence and His providence are elusive, especially as the Cross is constantly calling a halt to your progress and to all of your grand plans.  Just when it seems that the answer is finally within reach, your goals in sight, the prize at hand, it all slips away from you.

He’s actually not teasing you, not really.  He’s teaching you to live by faith, and teaching you to pray, to call upon His Name.  He’s also training you to exercise love for your neighbor, rather than focusing on your own hurts and needs and sorrows; that you should love and serve Christ Jesus, precisely under the Cross, with Glory not earthly but divine, by loving and serving and caring for the widows and orphans and strangers set upon your path, and for the Lazarus laid at your gate; that you should do so in the confidence of the Resurrection of the Body and the Life everlasting.

In the meantime, though, He vanishes from your sight.  For it is not yet with your eyes that you are given to see and know Him.  It is rather in the darkness that you “see” Him by faith, by the Light of His Word, hidden in the Breaking of the Bread, in the distribution of His Body and His Blood.

Now you see Him where you don’t, that is, in the Gospel of His Cross, in the Fruits of His Passion.  At the Font and at the Altar, at His Table in His House, in the Holy Communion of His Church on earth.  Not by the simple knowledge of the facts, but by faith and trust in the Word and promises of this Lord Jesus Christ.  Not simply news and information, but the Body of Jesus, crucified and risen, given and poured out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  For Life.

He is with you in these ways and means of His Gospel, not simply as a companion on your journey, but as your Redeemer, who brings you with Himself into the Resurrection of the Body and the Life everlasting.  He brings you to the portal that leads to bliss untold, that is, to the portal of His Cross.

Take heart, therefore.  At this very Hour, in the Breaking of the Bread, you have communion with Him who loves you, and so also with each other in Him.  Here and now you belong to His Body, the Church, even as He gives to you His own Body to eat.  Here resides your fellowship in Christ, whereby you live both to and from His Altar into all times and places, wherever you may roam.

Thus and thereby do you rise with Him and enter into the Glory of His true Jerusalem, already in His Church on earth, as surely as it is established for you in the heavenly places.  Not in spite of the Cross, but in, with, and under the Cross, by the Word of the Cross, in the Fruits of the Cross.

His crucified and risen Body and His holy, precious Blood are the Firstfruits of the Resurrection and of the New Creation, your spiritual Food for the journey, and the Meat and Drink indeed of the Feast which has no end.  The promise is for you and for your children, and for all whom the Lord Jesus will call to Himself, even from the farthest ends of the earth, unto the close of the age.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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

12 April 2020

Lay Hold of His Feet and Worship Him

It is for the worship of the Holy Triune God in the Person of the Incarnate Son, Christ Jesus, that you have been created.  Indeed, it is the joy and the purpose of the whole Creation to find its life in Him, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name.  If you want to know the meaning of life and why you’re here, it is simply this, that you worship God in Christ with all that you are and have.

That is the goal of the women, too, of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, when they head to the tomb after the Sabbath, at the dawning of the New Day.  They go to worship God in Christ, though they are at something of a loss and do not know how to go about it.  We know from St. Mark that they were planning to anoint the dead body of Jesus, but St. Matthew writes that they were going “to look at the grave.”  It’s not unlike “staring off into the middle distance,” as some of my favorite authors like to describe.  Not much point to that, but they don’t know where or how to focus.

They’re looking for Jesus, really, because they love Him, and they miss Him, and they just don’t know what else to do at this point.  But they’re looking in the wrong place and in the wrong way.

You do the same thing, in your own fashion, when you set out “to look at the grave.”  By that I do not mean visiting the cemetery where your loved ones are buried, though that might be an example.  What I do mean are all the ways that you go looking for life and love and meaning and purpose in the monuments and treasures of this dead and dying world, when what you need is the crucified and risen Jesus, who is not dead but living.  He is not in the tomb, and you will not find Him there.

Not only that, but, ironically, those who try to guard and keep the tomb — to protect it from any disturbance or violation, as though it were the goal and the prize — they end up like corpses!  Which is the end result and consequence for all who set their hearts and minds on things below.

Those Marys do not find Him dead and buried, either, but by the grace of God they are not left in their ignorance and perplexity.  Instead of tending the tomb or looking at the grave, they are sent by the Word of the Lord to the place where Jesus has already said that He would be: in Galilee.  That is where and how He will be found — wherever His Word is spoken and directs.  As soon as the women leave the tomb and proceed as He has spoken, the Lord Jesus meets them on the Way.

It is always the case that the worship of God in Christ begins with His speaking and His coming to you.  Only then are you able to come to Him, to lay hold of Him, and to worship Him rightly.

You need not go to Galilee to find Him; but if you ever are in that part of the world, then seek out His Church in that place, in order to hear Him in the preaching of His Word, and to find Him in His holy Sacrament.  But that is the same as it is for you here in this place, too.  You are called and gathered to Him by the preaching and the catechesis of His Word, as spoken by His messengers.

Let your eyes and feet be directed by His Word and promises in your ears.  Then you are on the right path, and the crucified and risen Lord Jesus meets you on the Way, as He met and greeted the women.  By giving attention to His Gospel and the preaching of it, you set your heart and mind on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of His God and Father.  And then the mixed feelings of fear and joy give way to the pure and utter gladness of faith and the worship of Jesus.

There is a rather profound irony in all of this, that you find your life hidden with Christ in God, in the heavenly places, by laying hold of His feet and worshiping Him here in His Church on earth.  For heaven has come down to you in the flesh and blood of Christ and in His Word of the Gospel.  As the angels who spoke to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds directed them to the Body of the incarnate Son of God, and as the preaching and Baptism of St. John the Baptist were the means of grace by which the Father poured out His Spirit upon the Body of His Son, so does God continue to proclaim His Word from heaven on earth, to lead you to and give to you the Word-made-Flesh.

Those dear ladies had it right when they took hold of Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him.  They sought the Lord where He is found, and they worshiped God in the flesh of His Son.  And this story has been written for your learning, that you might also believe in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, and that, by faith, you should likewise come to Him, lay hold of His feet, and worship Him.

Do not attempt to scale the heights of heaven.  That is what the dead things of this earth presume and aspire to do, though all the while they are trodden down into the dust.  But the Lord Jesus Christ — who has risen from the dust of the earth, and who has in fact ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven — He meets His people and takes His stand upon the earth.  He speaks forgiveness into their ears, He pours out His Spirit upon them by the washing of the water with His Word, and He gives them to eat and drink with Him, even to feast upon His Body and His Blood.

So you also find your life in Him, hidden below in the flesh of Christ, in earthly means of grace, yet dwelling with Him above, even now, in the heavenly places, at the right hand of the Father.

You are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified for your transgressions.  And you are in the right place this morning.  For He is risen from the dead, and He is here for you.  This is your Galilee, to which His angels have directed you.  Here your Redeemer stands upon the earth.  Here His beautiful feet have come, that you may hear and believe His Gospel, and lay hold of Him in love, and worship Him in faith.  It is for this very life that you are created, redeemed, and sanctified.

Therefore, do not be afraid.  For this life that is given to you here on earth is safe and secure in the Body of Christ Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead.  It is hidden, yes, so much so that you cannot see it even in yourself.  But it is true, and it is real, as surely as the Lord Jesus Christ has spoken to you.  As all of Creation is made brand new in Him, in the Resurrection of His Body from the dead, there is nothing in heaven or on earth that can rob you of the Life that is yours in Him.

It is true and real for you here, where His Word has called and gathered you to Him.

It is true and real, also, in those places and stations in life to which He has called you to live in faith and love.  There, too, it is a hidden life, which the world does not recognize for what it is.  And you also may be discouraged and frustrated.  There are days when you are sorely tempted to go “look at the grave,” to stare off into the “middle distance,” to spin your wheels doing nothing at all, because it all seems lost and hopeless.  You’re looking for Jesus, but you don’t find Him.

And yet, do not be afraid.  That is not only my word to you, but His.  The truth is, not only is He risen from the dead, alive and reigning to all eternity, but He is now and ever with you where His Word has directed you to go and be.  He is here with you at His Altar, yes, where you worship the Holy Triune God in Christ by hearing His Word, by receiving His forgiveness, by remembering your Baptism, and by eating and drinking His Body and His Blood in faith and with thanksgiving for His great Salvation.  He is here as you confess what He has spoken to you, as you call upon His Name in prayer, and as you sing the new Song of the Lamb in the midst of His great congregation.

So is He also with you as you go to His brothers and sisters, to love and serve them within your own proper callings and stations in life, according to His Word.  There, too, you worship Him, and you glorify the God and Father of the same Lord Jesus Christ, by and through His Holy Spirit, as you carry out the duties of your office, and as you care for those entrusted to your stewardship.  Do not doubt that it is true, and do not be afraid.  His Word and His promise are sure and certain.

His feet not only come to you and take their stand upon the earth, they also go with you wherever you go.  He meets you on the Way, and He accompanies your journey, even unto Life everlasting.

Your life in Christ is a hidden life.  It is still hidden under the Cross, even in suffering and death, while this dead and dying world vaunts itself to great heights, attempting to make a name for itself.  But the Truth remains, which is Christ Himself in flesh and blood like yours, crucified and risen from the dead.  And that Day will soon come, which has already begun in His own Resurrection, when you shall see Him as He is, and you shall know as you are known, and you shall be like Him.  Already you are clothed in His righteousness, for your sins are all forgiven by His holy, precious Blood, and by His Word of Holy Absolution.  Therefore, sin and death have nothing more to say or do concerning you.  It only remains to be revealed what is already true for you in Jesus Christ.

He is risen, He is risen indeed, Alleluia! And so surely are you raised up and made alive in Him.

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

09 April 2020

One for All, and All for Love

Everything that Jesus does, He does in love for you, in order to give you Life with God the Father in Himself.  So, too, the love that He commands you to have for one another is this same Love that He has and exercises for each and all of you.

He has come from the Father into the Flesh, and He tabernacles with His Church in the Flesh, in order to reveal the Father to you and to all in His own Body of flesh and blood.  And as He has come from the Father, so does He also return to the Father — in His Flesh, through His Blood, by His Cross and Passion — in order to bring you to the bosom of the Father in and with Himself.

He is your merciful and great High Priest, and so it is that by His sacrificial death He enters into the Most Holy Place on your behalf.  That is to say, He enters the presence of His God and Father, in order to establish a permanent place for you there.  This He has done!  In His crucified and risen flesh, He is your steadfast Anchor behind the veil.  And where He is, there you shall be also.

This is the New Covenant that He has established between God and man, which is the bond and union — the Holy Communion — between God and man.  In Christ man is in harmony with God forevermore, because He has reconciled the world to God the Father in Himself, in His own flesh and blood, crucified for your transgressions and raised from the dead for your justification.  In this New Covenant of Christ, you are bound to God in peace, as He has bound Himself to you in love.

Now the same Lord Jesus Christ calls you to receive and enter into that New Covenant of His, not by any works of your own, but by the promise of His Gospel.  He calls you by the Gospel, and you both receive the promise and enter into His Covenant by the way and the means of the Gospel.

That is what He is doing, and what happens, in the preaching of His Holy Gospel.  That is what He has done for you and given to you in Holy Baptism.  And that is what He continues to do and give in Holy Absolution.  By the bath of your Baptism, you are already clean.  And daily, by the Gospel of forgiveness, the Lord Jesus washes your feet, that you may have your place with Him.

In each and all of these ways, the Holy Gospel bestows the very thing that it promises, although it is hidden in the Mystery of the Cross, which seems to have taken Christ Jesus away from you.  What the Gospel promises, and what it gives — not in spite of the Cross, but from the Cross — is the forgiveness of all your sins, and rescue from all of your enemies, and redemption from death.

The Blood of the Lamb has atoned for your sins and reconciled you to God.  Therefore, the devil has no rightful claim on you; he has no right to accuse you, nor is he permitted to tyrannize you.  And death is not permitted to have you anymore, either, or to hold you forever.  For where there is forgiveness of sins, as there is for you in the Gospel, there is resurrection, life, and salvation.

Thus, by the Gospel of the Cross of Christ, the Lord has executed judgment against all the gods of Egypt, against all the principalities and powers of this present age, and against the devil, the world, and the fallen flesh of old Adam, which seek to thwart His will and to destroy His people.

He has executed judgment against all of those false gods and mortal enemies of man.  So it is that He spares you from their demise, He delivers and redeems you from their grasp, and He brings you out of Egypt by His mighty arms and outstretched hands.

Therefore, do not turn to those false gods and enemies for life and help, for comfort or blessing.  They attempt to deceive you with false and alluring promises, but they cannot help or save you.  They cannot give you life.  They cannot do anything but enslave you again with sin and bring you back into death and the grave.   Therefore, do not forsake the Lord your God, nor forget His Holy Covenant, but daily repent of your sins, return to the sure promise of the Gospel, and cling to it.

It is for this reason, and to this end, that the Lord also disciplines you in love, so that you are not condemned with the idolatrous and unbelieving Egyptians, but rescued and redeemed for life.

He disciplines you with His Word of the Law, and with the sufferings of your mortal flesh in this fallen world.  But He calls you to repentant faith, He raises you up and restores you to Himself, by the preaching of His promise.  It never is by your own reason and strength, but by the preaching of the promise itself, that you receive and believe the promise of His Gospel.  It is His preaching that opens your ears to hear, His giving that opens your hand and your mouth to receive, and His kneeling to wash your feet that cleanses you of all unrighteousness and so enables you to stand.

Do not boast and brag of yourself, as Simon Peter did — and then he fell down hard and fast, as you will, too, on that path of self-reliance.  But hear and heed the Word of Christ who saves you.  By His Word and promises, by His actions and His gifts, He sanctifies you in body and soul, inside and out, with His forgiveness of all your sins.  It is by His Gospel that you are completely clean.

That is what the Divine Service of His Word and Sacrament is all about.  Indeed, that is what the Divine Service actually is: The Lord Jesus coming and doing, speaking and giving, all by grace.  By the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins He returns you to the cleansing waters of your Baptism.  And then He brings you to His Table to feed you with His Body and His Blood, so that, in Him, in His flesh, you live and abide in the Holy Communion of the Holy Triune God.

It certainly doesn’t look that way for now.  You do not discern the Lord’s Body by your eyesight or your intellect.  Indeed, you cannot.  All your wisdom, reason, and senses will utterly fail you in that regard.  But you discern the Lord’s Body here and now, hidden under the Cross in humble bread and wine, by the Word that He speaks, and by the proclamation and catechesis of His Word.

It is His Word that not only reveals His Body and His Blood, but actually makes the bread to be His Body, the wine to be His Blood.  He uses that strong and simple word, “is,” at the heart of the Consecration, and He invites you to eat and to drink because of that identification: He speaks, and it is so.  “This Is My Body.”  Therefore, “Eat.”  Likewise, also, “This Is My Blood,” and, with that, “This Chalice is the New Covenant in My Blood.”  Therefore, “Drink of it, all of you.”

There simply is no Lord’s Supper without the Lord’s Word, which makes the Supper what it is, and which gives the Supper to you, His Christian, to eat and to drink in faith and with thanksgiving.

But this Word of the Lord, by which He consecrates His Sacrament of the Altar, is not spoken or heard in a vacuum.  As often as the Church is gathered to eat this Bread and drink this Cup, this Holy Supper of Christ Jesus is given and received along with the preaching and teaching of His death — until He shall come in glory as the risen and exalted One, and all His angels with Him.

It is by the proclamation of Christ Jesus, crucified and risen, that you discern the Lord’s Body in the Holy Communion, and that you receive and believe the promise of His Gospel.  That is to say, you believe, not only that the bread and wine are His Body and Blood at His Word, but also that this Most Holy Food and Drink are given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.

He gives you His sacred Body to eat, and He pours out His holy and precious Blood for you to drink, for the forgiveness of all your fears and failings, for your betrayals and denials, for your arrogance and envy, for your faithless despair, and for all of your other shameful sins and vices.

Thus, by His Word and promise of the Gospel, which is to say, by His free and full forgiveness of your sins, you remember Him in this Holy Sacrament.  Not only in your heart and mind, with your intellect and emotions, but also with your ears, and with your hand and mouth, and in your body as well as your soul.  For His Body and His Blood are surely given for both your body and soul.

You remember Him by His Word of the Gospel, as He remembers you in love by giving you His Body to eat and pouring out His Blood for you to drink.  For He is not a passive or distant observer of this Holy Supper, but He truly is the Host, the Waiter, and the Meal, as surely as He is the Sacrifice Itself, the Meat and the Drink of which are here received and shared in the fellowship of the Church with her dear Lord Jesus Christ, and with God the Father and the Holy Spirit in Him.

You remember Him, as He remembers you in Love, not only in the Sacrament, but also in loving one another as He has loved you.  It is the New Covenant of Christ that undergirds and informs the New Commandment.  Not that “Love” is something altogether new, for the entire Law of God is summarized in that one word.  But Christ has fulfilled the Law, and He has made all things new. So then, “Love” itself is redefined — or, better, it is realized for what it is — in the Cross of Christ, in the Sacrifice of His flesh and blood for the atonement of the world, and in His Holy Sacrament.

As a Christian, a disciple of Christ Jesus, you are given to love your neighbors without prejudice or partiality, as the Lord Jesus loves and serves all people and lays down His life for the salvation of the world.  But all the more so are you given to love one another, as you are bathed and washed and cleansed by one Lord Jesus Christ in one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and you are fed by the same Lord Jesus Christ, with His Body and His Blood, as fellow members of one Body in Him.  It is His Love for you in these means of grace which fills you with His Love for each other.

His Love for you is not relegated to the past, but it is constant and continuous.  Consider that He loves you and serves you unto the “end” with His forgiveness and life and salvation.  That is how you remember Him and follow Him to and from His Holy Altar, even unto the Life everlasting.

For what He receives from and has with His Father, He also hands over to you by the Ministry of the Gospel.  This is the Holy Tradition of which St. Paul the Apostle writes.  That is, what he has received, he also hands over to the Church.  And that holy “handing over” of Christ Jesus really begins, not with Judas the betrayer, but with God the Father handing over His beloved Son in the flesh, unto His death upon the Cross.  The incarnate Son goes just as it is written of Him.

And the Tradition continues with the Son handing Himself over to “His own” beloved disciples, even as He hands Himself over to the Father by His willing Self-sacrifice as the Lamb of God.

“Do this,” Jesus says, “in remembrance of Me.”  Which is not only to love one another, as He has loved you, but what He has done for His disciples, they are to do for His Church: To take bread and wine, to bless and give thanks to His God and Father, to consecrate with His Word, and in His Name and stead to distribute His Body and His Blood to His baptized and catechized disciples.

By this Holy Ministry, the “handing over” of the Son by the Father reaches now to you, to your ears, to your hands, and to your mouth and body.  So it is that everything Christ Jesus has received from His Father, He now gives to you in turn.  And as the Father remembers Him, and raises Him from the dead, and receives Him back to Himself in peace, so does the Father remember you in Christ Jesus, His Son.  That is what He does for you and gives to you in this Holy Sacrament.

Such is the meaning and purpose of this New Covenant, which Christ has established in Himself.  In His own flesh and blood you have Life with God in both your body and soul — already here and now, by grace, in the Holy Communion (on earth as it is in heaven) — and in the resurrection of your body, at the last, to the Life everlasting in Paradise.  That is the promise and pledge which is bequeathed to you in the Lord’s Supper, even the eternal inheritance of the Father for His Son.

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

08 April 2020

The Lord Jesus Loves You to the End

Beloved, you also are among those whom Jesus has chosen, as your Holy Baptism testifies and His Word of Holy Absolution reaffirms and upholds, whereby He washes your feet and cleanses you.

You are a disciple of the Lord Jesus, and He loves and serves you faithfully, even unto death.

Indeed, He welcomes you to recline at His Table with Him, to lean on Him and rest yourself in Him.  Here He feeds you, from His own hand, that bread which is His own Body; and He gives you to drink from that Cup of Salvation which is the New Testament in His holy and precious Blood.

Now also consider and take to heart that He did the same thing for Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter, and that you are no greater, no better, and no stronger than either of those two men, who were both among the chosen twelve disciples and Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do not suppose that, by any power, strength, intelligence, or savvy of your own, you will be able to guard and keep yourself from harm and danger, from the assaults and accusations of the devil, or from the temptations and deceptions of Satan, who hates you and seeks to destroy you.  For that old evil foe would easily sift you like wheat, and with craft and spite he would lead you astray — away from Jesus Christ into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.

By yourself, you are prone to both pride and despair, and because of your fallen, mortal flesh you are a sitting duck and easy prey for the enemy.  Left to yourself, you could not stand or survive.

Therefore, do not presume to take your life or any other matters into your own hands.  Do not betray your Lord and sell Him out, neither for cash nor any other advantage.  And do not boast or presume that you are man enough (or woman enough) to do what Christ Jesus alone is able to do.

Do not attempt to save yourself, to go it alone, or to be your own savior.  Do not neglect or decline the means of grace and salvation whereby Christ Jesus serves you and sustains you in His mercy.

Rather, repent of your presumptuous pride and sinful self-righteousness.

Repent.  But do not despair of Christ and His Love — for despair is simply the flipside of pride, and it is every bit as sinful and self-righteous in its refusal to believe and trust in the Lord Jesus.

Repent of your betrayals and denials.  And so also repent of your cynical despair.

Repent.  And be lifted up by Christ Jesus in His free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

It is true that you cannot follow Him at the first, to go where He goes or do what He does.  It is His prerogative alone — it is His divine glory — to go and do these things for you and your salvation.

But you shall follow Him hereafter — by way of His Cross and Resurrection — by grace through faith in Him, as a disciple whom He loves — by the Word of His Gospel, and by His Holy Spirit.

So does He call you to love your neighbor, as He has loved you, and as He continues to love you and serve you.  But you love, only and ever because He first loves you: faithfully, freely, and fully.

He loves you with divine Love — with which He washes the feet and feeds both the body and soul of those who betray Him and deny Him, and who run away from Him in fear in the time of trial.

It is for the purpose of this washing and cleansing that He has called and sent His slaves and the servants of His Word to speak and act as He does, on His behalf, in His Name and stead.  All of these slaves and servants and sent ones are sinful, mortal men, no better and no stronger than yourself — and of themselves no better and no stronger than Judas or Peter.  But it is Christ Jesus who sends them to you, and so He is the One you hear and receive in the Ministry of His Gospel.

He knows you, He knows your weaknesses and sins.  Likewise, your betrayals and denials have not caught Him by surprise, nor have they trapped Him in circumstances beyond His control.

He goes to the Cross as the Father has sent Him, and He lays down His life willingly for you and for all people.  He loves you to the end — and so it is that He loves you precisely in this way.

And not only that, but in His great love for you, even now He welcomes you to recline upon His bosom here at His Table on earth.  Here He feeds you with His Body and His Blood — yes, even you! — for the forgiveness of all your sins, for Life and Salvation, for now and forever.

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

07 April 2020

The Glory of Christ the Crucified

The Lord Jesus Christ is Life and Light in Himself, the very Son of God from all eternity.  He has no need of anything, for all things are made by Him, and apart from Him there is nothing at all.

But in love He has come in the flesh in order to give His Life and His Light to you, that you might not die in the darkness but live and walk in the Light of God as a son or daughter of the Light.

In order that you may be with Him where He is — with the Father forever — He has come to be with you here, where you are, even in the deep dark valley of death and the grave.  So He humbles Himself and takes up the Cross in order to lay down His life in love.  He thus appears to be utterly defeated, as though He were not the Christ at all, nor the King of Israel, but only a loser and a fool.

Yet, the Cross of Christ is in fact the Hour of His Glory as the Son of Man, your Savior.  It is the pinnacle of His faith and love as true and perfect Man and as your merciful and great High Priest.

By His death He glorifies the Father, doing exactly what the Father has sent Him to do.  And in being lifted up from the earth to His God and Father by the Cross, He bears much fruit.  That is to say, He draws all people to Himself, that He might bear them up to God in His Body by atoning for all their sins, redeeming them from death and the grave, and reconciling them to His Father.

So it is that He draw you to Himself, and He bears good fruits of faith and love in you, as well, by the preaching of His Cross and by the working of the Holy Spirit through His Word of the Cross.

Now the Cross of Christ puts you to death, because it puts you at odds with yourself and with the world.  Both the ruler of this world and your own former way of life in this world are cast out by the Cross.  And as you follow after Christ Jesus, as you serve and honor Him — as you begin to speak and act in faith and love, as He does — you lose the approval of men and your place among them, because they walk in darkness and don’t know what they are doing or where they are going.

Indeed, do not underestimate the furious hatred of the world against the Word of Christ Jesus and all those who follow after Him in the Way of faith and love.  It is ironic and strange that faith and love should incite such rage, but that is surely how it goes.  Those who dwell in darkness fear the Light and resist it with all their might.  And those who pursue death by their sins do not recognize the Life of God but feel threatened by it.  That is why they take out their anger on you, supposing that by shutting you up they will protect themselves and preserve their place in the world.

But even so, take heart, and do not be discouraged.  For as you die by the Cross of Christ, bearing His reproach among men, so do you also rise and live with Him in His Resurrection from the dead, being lifted up to God and gaining His approval in the crucified and risen Body of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He Himself has become your Redemption, your Righteousness, and your Sanctification.

Therefore, do not be afraid, no matter what anyone may think or say or do to you on account of Jesus Christ.  For God the Father vindicates you and honors you in His dearly-beloved Son, and He glorifies His Holy Name in your body and life.  Not only shall He raise you up from death and the grave on the last day, but already by the Word of the Cross He calls you daily from out of your darkness into His marvelous Light.  His Word and Spirit work repentance in your heart, mind, body, and soul, converting you from sinful unbelief to faith and life in the Lord Jesus Christ.

His Light shines upon you here on earth for a little while in the preaching of repentance, to begin with.  But that preaching is not just the booming thunder of the Law, which crucifies you, puts you to death, and buries you in the dust of the earth; it is also the sweet message of the Holy Gospel, which forgives you all your sins, lifts you up, and gives you divine Life in the Body of Christ.

By that Light you here perceive that His Grain of Wheat, having been crucified, dead, and buried in the ground, has now also risen from the dead as the Firstfruits of a bountiful harvest.  Indeed, that Grain, which is the Body of Christ, has become the very Bread of Life, which is given for you.

So it is that He abides with you, and you abide with Him, where He is, in the Glory of His Father.

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

06 April 2020

The Hour of the Son of Man Has Come

The Hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  For so it is that He glorifies the Father by His death, and so shall the Father glorify Him and His Cross by raising Him from the dead.

Would you see Him in this way, according to the Glory of His Cross?  And would you know Him and love Him — and understand these things that He does — in the fear and wisdom of the Lord?

If so, then come up to worship at His Feast, for His Passover is at hand.

Go out to meet Him as He comes into His Holy City, and follow Him to His Cross and Passion.  Hail Him as the Lord, your true King, your Savior and your God, and call upon His holy Name.

Do you desire to worship and serve Him?  It is quite right that you should do so.  But you cannot make a supper for Him, nor does He need your money.  The poor you have with you always; therefore, help them and feed them as you are able and have opportunity.  It is in the least of these, especially in your fellow Christians, that you exercise your love and care for the Lord Jesus.

But so also, it is in faith and love for Him, in the confidence of His Word and promises, that you recline here at His Table, where the Lord Jesus serves you and feeds you with His good gifts and benefits, and He fills up your poverty with His wealth.  Already He has raised you from the dead; for He has called you both to and from the tomb through the waters of your Holy Baptism.  He has brought you out of sin and death into His forgiveness and life, out of your darkness into His Light.

By His grace, you are His disciple.  Therefore, listen to Him and learn from Him, that you might gain a heart of wisdom, and that you should begin to understand the things of God in Christ Jesus.

Where you have wandered away and gotten yourself lost, repent, and return now to the Pastor and Bishop of your soul.  Follow in His footsteps in the Way that He goes to the Cross.  And do not be dismayed, even though the whole world seeks to kill you for the sake of Jesus’ Name.

To be sure, it is a dangerous business to be raised from the dead by the Lord Jesus, and to eat and drink with Him at His Table.  Envy and jealousy, fear and anger, pride and desperation, greed and paranoia — all rear their ugly heads against you from within and without.  Even though you live, yet shall you die (or so it seems) because of Jesus.

But so it is that you learn from Him to bear the Cross in the light of His Resurrection.  And just as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, so shall His Father raise you also from the dust of the earth, and give you life in body and soul, and glorify you forever in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Your confidence before both God and man are the same as His, because His Resurrection and His Righteousness are yours by His grace through faith in His Word of the Gospel.

Nothing at all can hurt you forever, nor can anything destroy you, so long as you abide in the Body of Christ Jesus.  Whoever believes and is baptized in His Name shall be saved.  For He receives and bears the Holy Spirit in His Body on your behalf (from His Baptism to His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead), in order to pour out the living and Life-giving Spirit of God upon you through the forgiveness of all your sins and with the Spiritual Food of His Body and His Blood.

You recline here at His Table with Him as one who has died with Him, whose life is safely and securely hidden with Christ in God.  For as surely as He raised Lazarus from the grave, so has He raised you up from the waters of your Holy Baptism to faith and life in Him; and so shall He raise you up in His Glory at the last and give you life forevermore.  For by His stripes you are healed, and by His Voice of the Gospel He calls you by name out of the tomb into the Life everlasting.

The sweet perfume of His costly Sacrifice fills this House where you are gathered with His Peace, and it rises like incense with your prayers to our Father in heaven.  For the Lord Jesus Christ ever lives to intercede for you within the Most Holy Place, even as He remembers you here in His Sanctuary with His own Body and Blood.  He has befriended you in steadfast love, and whether you live or die you are His own.  Thus do you live and believe in Him, and so shall you never die.

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

05 April 2020

Your King Is Coming to Save You Now

Fear not, daughter of Zion!  Your King is coming to save you now, to bring you out of darkness into light, from death to life; to bring you to the Father in peace, in and with Himself, in this Feast.

He comes to you here on earth, in flesh and blood like your own, in gentle humility and meekness.  He comes not to punish, not to crush and destroy, but to rescue and save you and all other sinners.  Thus does He embrace you with love, in all your hurt and sadness, in your misery and pain, in your grief and shame.  He gathers you to Himself in safety, to comfort and protect you, even as He takes your sin and all your burdens upon Himself, to bear them and carry them in His Body to the Cross.

It is to the Cross that He has come, in humble obedience to His Father, and in merciful and loving service for you, that by the shedding of His Blood and the suffering of His death He would atone for all your sins, and for the sins of the whole world, and reconcile you and all the world to God.

Now He comes to you from the Cross, and with the Cross, not to “sacrifice” you, but to bestow the fruits and blessings of His Cross and Sacrifice upon you.  It is true that He does crucify you and put you to death, in order to break the bondage of sin and death, to set you free from that slavery, and to shatter the hardness of your heart and the idols that have reigned therein.  But even then, He is already calling you and drawing you to Himself, into His victory and His righteousness.

Because He has already borne your sins and suffered their punishments, the discipline of His Cross does not destroy you, but it conforms you to His Image and connects you to Him, not only to His death, but also to His Resurrection and His Life.  As God the Father has glorified Him by the way of His Cross, and vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead, and exalted Him in His Ascension, so do all of these things of Christ Jesus become yours through His Cross.

That is precisely what He has done for you in Holy Baptism, whereby you have been crucified, put to death, and buried with the Lord Jesus Christ — and also raised with Him in His Resurrection, just as surely as He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead.

That dying and rising of the Cross and Resurrection, and of your Holy Baptism into Christ Jesus, is your repentance, your redemption from eternal death unto Life everlasting, your reconciliation with God, and your righteousness before Him.

It is that righteousness of faith and life in Christ to which you are here called, by and through His Cross, as He comes to you in grace, mercy, and peace, in gentle humility and tender love for you.

That very righteousness of faith and life is actually given to you by this preaching of Christ Jesus, crucified and risen, with the forgiveness of all your sins in His Name.  And so is it given to you in remembrance of Him — into your body — in the sacrificial Meal of His Body and His Blood.

The Lord’s Supper is the way that Jesus deliberately entered upon His Passion unto death, and it provided His own interpretation and explanation of His Cross and suffering before they occurred.

Now His Body is also given to you in the Sacrament, as it was given for you on the Cross; and His Blood is poured out for you in the Holy Communion, as it was shed for you in His Passion, for the forgiveness of all your sins — and for reconciliation and union with God in Him.  What the Lord has accomplished for you by His sacrifice upon the Cross, He now shares with you in His Supper.

He is indeed the true Passover Lamb of God — chosen by His God and Father on “Palm Sunday,” as the unblemished male lambs and goats were being selected for the Jewish Passover that would coincide with His Passion later in the week.  His Blood is thus shed to mark and seal the household and family of His Church, and to mark and seal your body, as well, so that death takes Him and passes over you and all the people of God.  His Body feeds you, strengthens you in body and soul, and gives you life, as He by His passage through death into life brings you out of Egypt into freedom; out from under Pharaoh’s bitter yoke into the grace and glory of the Holy Triune God.

The Blood that He shed for you upon the Cross, which He now pours out for you at this Altar, is also the Blood of the New Covenant (or Testament), which has fulfilled and superceded the Old Covenant that God established with His people through Moses at Mt. Sinai.  What all the blood of bulls and goats could never do, He has done with His own Blood once-for-all.  He has made propitiation and atoned for the sins of the world.  And that same holy and precious Blood, which He has offered to the Father on your behalf, He now also gives you to drink here at His Word, so that you are thereby sealed unto God and receive all His benefits through Jesus Christ, your Lord.

It is for the sake of giving you these good gifts — to mediate and deliver these good gifts to you by grace — that He now comes to you in His Church on earth, and He calls you here to Himself, to meet Him here in His Word and at His Altar.  He calls you to come in and with your body, but also in and with your heart and mind, and so also with all your thoughts, words, and actions.

Humble yourself before Him, not as though He were a tyrant or a harsh taskmaster, but as He has humbled Himself for you and become obedient in all things to His Father for your salvation.  Pray, praise, and give thanks in His Name; not as though you must appease Him or stroke His ego, but precisely because He is your gracious Savior, your Redeemer, and your Helper, who loves you.

So love Him — and, loving Him, love your neighbor, also.  If not with palms of homage in your hands, then with good works of love, with reverence before Him, and with courtesy toward others.

Do not be afraid to humble yourself before God and in the presence of your neighbors.  Do not be afraid to live righteously, that is, to live and walk by faith according to the Word of the Lord, and in such faith to love the people God has placed in your life, even those who hate you and hurt you.  Whether for life or death, or whatever the Lord your God has called you to receive, to bear and do and suffer, do not be afraid, but have in you the mind and the Spirit of Christ Jesus.

If you are falsely accused, the Lord your God will vindicate you.  If you are persecuted and even put to death, your dear God and Father will yet deliver you from every evil and bring you out of death into life.  If you are weary and worn out, stretched to the point of exhaustion, He will raise you up, refresh you, and give you rest.  If you are hard pressed on all sides and burdened by more than it seems possible to bear, He will help and sustain you.  He will never let the righteous fall.

If you perish, you perish; and yet, behold, even then you shall live.

You know that God the Lord will help and save you, and that He will raise you up again, even from death and the grave, because He has already done so for you in the Person of Christ Jesus, your Savior.  No less so does He raise you from death to life through the Gospel, the forgiveness of all your sins, as also through your Baptism into the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus.

And what, after all, is the mind of Christ concerning you?  He is not angry or disappointed with you.  He is not bitter, resentful, or harsh.  He is not ashamed of you, nor is He weary of you.  Rather, the mind of Christ toward you is peace and love, it is joy and gladness.  He delights in you.  His thoughts of you are positive and pleasant.  His attitude toward you is gracious and kind.

And the Spirit of this same Lord Jesus Christ — the Holy Spirit, whom He pours out upon you generously; the Spirit with whom He anoints you, and whom He breathes into your body through your ears with His Word of the Gospel — His Spirit is the living and Life-giving Spirit of Yahweh.

So, then, you shall not die but live — and shall enter with Christ Jesus into the Land of the living.

The Holy Jerusalem He enters ahead of you is not only the earthly city of His Cross and Passion, which He accomplished once-for-all; it is also the Holy City of His Church on earth, here and now; and it is the heavenly City, the New Jerusalem, where He has already prepared a place for you with Himself, and where your life is already hidden with Christ in the bosom of His God and Father.

As He comes to you here and now — as He truly visits and abides with you by grace in the Word and Ministry of His Gospel — and as He feeds you here with the Spiritual Meat and Drink of His Passover Feast, which is the very Body of God’s Lamb and His Blood of the New Covenant — so does He gather you to Himself, and gather you up into Himself, and bring you in and with Himself into the Most Holy Place, to the very throne of God in heaven.

There seated at the Right Hand of His Father, where He ever lives to make intercession for you as your Royal High Priest, He reigns over you in love.  No foreign power and no mortal foe shall be permitted to harm or disturb you in Him.  For such a gracious King you have, a better Shepherd of the sheep than even His father David!  By His own death He has gotten life for you, and in His Resurrection from the dead is the sure and certain promise of your own eternal inheritance.

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