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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, You created Adam in Your image and gave him Eve as his helpmate, and after their fall into sin, You promised them a Savior who would crush the devil’s might. By Your mercy, number us among those who have come out of the great tribulation with the seal of the living God on our foreheads and whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Adam was the first man, made in the image of God and given dominion over all the earth (Genesis 1:26). Eve was the first woman, formed from one of Adam’s ribs to be his companion and helper (Genesis 2:18-24). God placed them in the Garden of Eden to take care of creation as His representatives. But they forsook God’s Word and plunged the world into sin (Genesis 3:1-7). For this disobedience, God drove them from the garden. Eve would suffer pain in childbirth and would chafe at her subjection to Adam; Adam would toil amid thorns and thistles and return to the dust of the ground. Yet God promised that the woman’s Seed would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:8-24). Sin had entered God’s perfect creation and changed it until God would restore it again through Christ. Eve is the mother of the human race, while Adam is representative of all humanity and the fall, as the apostle Paul writes, “For in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). (From the LCMS website)

Reflection, by Valerius Herberger (21 April 1562 – 18 May 1627):  

In the midst of paradise stands the tree of life. From this, Adam [and Eve were] driven away so that [they] would not eat of it but instead would die according to God’s judgment on account of the sin [they] committed. But the cross of Christ is the noble tree of life on which hangs the noble fruits that bring us eternal life. “No forest produces such foliage, blossoms, sprouts.” Whoever consoles himself with the precious merit of Jesus Christ shall live, even though he die. “And whoever lives and believes in Him shall never die” (John 11:26). Because of their sins, Adam [and Eve and their] children were locked out of paradise, but through the key of the holy cross, it will be opened once again to all repentant Christians. Crux Christi clavis Paradisi, that is, “The cross of Christ is the key of paradise,” says John of Damascus. To this, the fathers of the Church relate the key of the house of David, which can open so that no one can shut [Isaiah 22:22]. Let all evil spirits be defied, who would like to lock heaven to us, which the Lord Jesus opened by His cross and death.

—Valerius Herberger

Tomorrow’s Great O Antiphon is about the Key of David:

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open: Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

Adam and Eve were stopped by the Lord from eating of the tree of eternal life.  They were locked out by the Lord.  Why?  The Lord’s mercy that they would not have to live eternally in sin.  Sin locks us out of the Lord’s paradise, being with Him. He alone can open the door and He has…through the door He opened in the conception of His only begotten Son in the womb of the virgin Mary.  His forgiveness opens the door as He is the door to eternal life, freed by grace through faith.  Jesus is the Adam from heaven to rescue those in the sin of the man of the earth, the first Adam.   “The cross of Christ is the key of paradise.”

Hymnody

Glory be to Him who loved us,

Washed us from each spot and stain; Glory be to Him who bought us,

Made us kings with Him to reign! Glory, glory

To the Lamb that once was slain! —Glory Be to God the Father (LSB 506:2)

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Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church’s worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr’s death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God’s redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone. (from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod website, see Blogroll on sidebar)

Reflection:  In the bio above and in the quote below the word “fix” is employed.  In the Prayer of the Day for the 5th Sunday after Easter, the Church prays,

“Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where trues are found, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord…”

Our hearts, that is,  our wills are fixed, that is, guided, repented, repaired in the fruit of the joys of His crucifixion and resurrection by our hearts fixed on Him,  His forgiveness for us, in us, with us, His life in our lives. His gift of life is His blood.  We can not repair our hearts, our wills on our own.  No one did heart surgery on himself, one needs a physician. We are fixed by fixing our hearts and eyes on Jesus Christ and that “fix” is prayer, the prayer of faith in the Lord, in Whom we are made one in Christian love and Pastor Clement made this clear:

From Pastor and Bishop Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians:

This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation, Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings, the protector and helper of our weakness (cf. Heb. 2: 17, 3:1, 4: 15)

Through him we fix our eyes on the heights of heaven, Through him we see mirrored the flawless and sublime countenance of God (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18), Through him the eyes of our heart have been opened, Through him our foolish and darkened understanding springs up to the light,Through him the Master has willed that we should taste immortal knowledge;

For “since he is the express image of his greatness, he is as much superior to angels as his title is superior” to theirs (cf. Heb. 1:3-4)

Let us then, men and brethren, engage in our service with complete earnestness under his faultless order. Let us consider those who serve under our military commanders, with what good discipline, subordination, and obedience they carry out orders.  Not all are prefects or tribunes or centurions or captains of fifty and so on, but “each in his own rank”(I Cor. 15:23)carries out orders under the emperor and the commanding officers. The great cannot exist without the small; neither can the small exist without the great: there is a certain mutuality in the whole, and this is beneficial to it. 

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, Your servant Clement of Rome called the Church in Corinth to repentance and faith to unite them in Christian love. Grant that Your Church may be anchored in Your truth by the presence of the Holy Spirit and kept blameless in Your service until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

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Does someone fall into sin? Does his despair even urge him to suicide? Let him but invoke this life-giving name (Jesus)and his will to live will be at once renewed. The hardness of heart that is our common experience, the apathy bred of indolence, bitterness of mind, repugnance for the things of the spirit—have they ever failed to yield in presence of that saving name? The tears he barrier of our pride—how have they not burst sweeter abundance at the thought of Jesus’ name?

And where is the man, who, terrified and trembling before impend­ing peril, has not been suddenly filled with courage and rid of fear by calling on the strength of that name? Where is the man who, tossed on the rolling seas of doubt, did not quickly find certitude by recourse to the clarity of Jesus’ name? Was ever a man so dis­couraged, so beaten down by afflictions, to whom the sound of this name did not bring new resolve? In short, for all the ills and dis­orders to which flesh is heir, this name is medicine. For proof we have no less than his own promise: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”(Psalm 49: 15)  Nothing so curbs the onset of anger, so allays the upsurge of pride. It cures the wound of envy, controls unbridled extravagance and quenches the flame of lust; it cools the thirst of covetousness and banishes the itch of unclean desire. For when I name Jesus I set before me a man who is meek and humble of heart,(Matthew 11: 29)  kind, prudent, chaste, merciful, (Titus 1: 8) flawlessly upright and holy in the eyes of all; and this same man is the all-powerful God whose way of life heals me, whose support is my strength. All these re-echo for me at the hearing of Jesus’ name. Because he is man I strive to imitate him; because of his divine power I lean upon him. The examples of his human life I gather like medicinal herbs; with the aid of his power I blend them, and the result is a compound like no pharmacist can produce.

(From Sermon 15 on the Song of Songs, Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1113)

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Elizabeth  of Hungary, born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given in an arranged political marriage, she became wife of Louis of Thuringia (Germany) at age 14.

Her spirit of Christian generosity and charity pervaded the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. Their abode was known for hospitality and family love.

Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy, even giving up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at age 20, she arranged for her children’s well-being and entered into life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

As I write this pious people are saying that we should welcome Syrian refugees and show them hospitality, after all, Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary were refugees refused hospitality the night before Jesus’ birth.  This understanding Luke 2 is currently in the blogosphere. This sentiment demonstrates a lack of understanding of both the Biblical text and hospitality. 
The  word translated as “inn”, in Luke 2,  in N.T. Greek is actually a house. It is not the same Greek word as in the prodigal of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan puts up the man in “inn”, an actual hostel for overnight lodging. The word in Luke 2 is a house, a home. Since Joseph was of the “house and lineage of David”, he probably had kin in Bethlehem. If you had family, it would have been shameful to stay at a hostel. And the house may have been quite full, yet Joseph’s kin put them up, but the Luke 2 does not tell us they stayed in the stable. Just when Mary gave birth. she laid Jesus in the “manger”, lit. a feeding trough, because there was no room in the inn. A family with a new born, and an exhausted Mary,needed a quiet place. The hospitality was given by Joseph’s kin to Mary and him and now their firstborn. Given that this keeps to the text a whole lot more, the other good impulse in the Christmas narrative is it is about family, and a Holy Family, but a family and God’s blessings come through families from Abraham and Sarah to Joseph and Mary.
In our world, we would expect the Roman government to have a federal program to put up families in new towns to fulfill the new IRS requirements. Let someone else be hospitable to family and the sojourner. It is easy to talk about how hospitable and caring we are when are not actually the ones doing the hands on hospitality! We feel real good when we tweet how caring we are. It is a different matter to care for our neighbor or family member with all their “stuff” in their needs, sorrows, peculiarities etc. “Love your neighbor as yourself”, sounds easy, after all I want to be loved when I’m cranky, poor, sick, etc, okay, Love your neighbor as your self”. Sure let government do that. Do we as Christians and as Americans even know how to be hospitable to even our own, let alone the sojourner, in our homes? I know this does not provide a solution to the Syrian refugee crisis, but it would be different to think about Christian congregations (as after the Vietnam War, congregations welcomed the Hmong people), synagogues and even mosques. As a pastor I would want the Syrians checked out thoroughly. Are their Syrian organizations who would be willing to help? Ex-pat Syrians who have already set up residency to help? Conservative and liberal we now think only government and talk about the need to “think outside the box”!

Elizabeth of Hungary, and Martin Luther in the quote below teach us in word and deed the Biblical understanding of hospitality and it is hands on, not hands off letting someone else doing it, especially government! After all, our salvation was and is “hands on”, nail-imprinted Hands.  Luther and his wife and family were quite hospitable in opening their home to all sorts of people.  One of the job descriptions of a bishop/pastor is hospitality: “Therefore a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable…” (1 Timothy 3:2)  It is not first for the next guy’s home, but our own. 

Reflection by Dr. Martin Luther:  

This is … an outstanding praise of hospitality, in order that we may be sure that God Himself is in our home, is being fed at our house, is lying down and resting as often as some pious brother in exile because of the Gospel comes to us and is received hospitably by us. This is called brotherly love or Christian charity; it is greater than that general kindness which is extended even to strangers and enemies when they are in need of our aid…. For the accounts of the friendships of the Gentiles, like those of Theseus and Hercules, of Pylades and Orestes, are nothing in comparison with the brotherhood in the church; its bond is an association with God so close that the Son of God says that whatever is done to the least of His is done to Himself. Therefore their hearts go out without hypocrisy to the needs of their neighbor, and nothing is either so costly or so difficult that a Christian does not undertake it for the sake of the brethren, … But if anyone earnestly believed that he is receiving the Lord Himself when he receives a poor brother, there would be no need for such anxious, zealous, and solicitous exhortations to do works of love. Our coffers, storeroom, and compassion would be open at once for the benefit of the brethren. There would be no ill will, and together with godly Abraham we would run to meet the wretched people, invite them into our homes, and seize upon this honor and distinction ahead of others and say: “O Lord Jesus, come to me; enjoy my bread, wine, silver, and gold. How well it has been invested by me when I invest it in You!”

For our Daily Prayers:  

for the poor

for the sick and suffering

for the unemployed

Mighty King, whose inheritance is not of this world, inspire in us the humility and benevolent charity of Elizabeth of Hungary.  She scorned her bejeweled crown with thoughts of the horned one her savior donned for her said and ours, that we too, might live a live of sacrifice, pleasing in Your sight and worthy of the Name of Your Son, Christ Jesus, who with the Holy Spirit reigns with You forever in the everlasting kingdom. Amen.

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The other evening I watched a special on the Pharaoh, Tutankhamun, the “boy king”.  His name means “living image of Amun”.  Amun was one of the Egyptian gods.  King Tut’s father, Akhetaten introduced a new religion:  the worship of a sun god, Aten. He named his son Tutankhaten:  “living image of Aten”.  King Tut’s father even changed the center of religion from it’s ancient site, Thebes(present day Luxor ) to a new city and center of religion, Amarna up the Nile, which Akhetaten built.  It lasted as long as King Tut’s father Akhetaten was alive.  The priests of the traditional idols did not like the move, so when Akhetaten died, his son King Tut moved back to Luxor and the traditional gods and King Tut changed his name to the one history knows him.  

In Jeremiah 2: 11 we read,

Has a nation changed its gods,
    even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
    for that which does not profit.

Jeremiah is amazed that Israel had forsaken the Lord while the pagan idolaters would never throw over their false gods, nor think to do so!  Why?  Looking for a proof for the one true God is tricky business but I think the verse above points to a type of verification.  Man, apart from the one true God, will persist in their falsehood because of sheer pride.  Even when one nation, Egypt did change their gods, it was only by force of Pharoah and they quickly went back to their idols.The reason Israel (and us!) leave the one true God is our original sinful tendency to spurn the one who truly loves us and then commit adulteries.  This is the Lord put the words “adultery” and “whore”, as the only description possible, into His Word through the prophets to accurately describe Israel. We only leave the One who actually loves as He set His heart upon Israel and the whole world.  Israel could only and ever leave, change their glory, because the Lord is trueand truth and loves His people.  We crave our idols.  Unredeemed man insists on his idols because finally they are made in our own image:  all of fleshly  lusts and desires and aspirations writ large. For instance, Zeus, or Jupiter was constantly having affairs with humans as humans do. The Lord does not!  My opinion  of Roman and Greek mythology that it is nothing more than a divine soap opera writ large, but once hooked…it is like looking in the mirror or the image of lusts today:  the selfie. Like Narcissus we look at our image till we fall and drown. Old Adam does not want to overthrow himself!  The Lord does and has, as He did to Israel, as foretold by Jeremiah and the prophets.  Then He  gives us forgiveness in the only perfect image of Himself:  Jesus Christ. No nation has ever changed it’s gods, until the one true God comes into the picture. I do not know if this constitutes, “proof”, yet it does point us to the right direction, that is, away from our selves. This again proves our sin and maybe even show us again, we can not imagine any god who would actually love us enough to say No so we can know His forgiveness. The closest natural man has to the one true God are true fathers and mothers. The gods, that is the idols, love only to possess and control and brutally enslave, as man can and has. The Lord loves to set the captive free as He did Israel in Egypt and now the whole enslaved world through Christ that we believe the good news of our freedom.

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9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7

There was a famous TV preacher who wrote a book about the Beatitudes  entitled, “The Be Happy Attitudes”. What a crock!  Full disclosure:  I have not read said book.  I guess that the way to be ‘Be Happy Attitudes’ is by us thinking positive, happy thoughts and doing positive happy things. In it’s place, that’s okay but in terms of the Lord’s so great a salvation, it’s all on me but the clear sense of the Beatitudes, our blessing, our salvation, does not rest on me or you but upon the One who blesses that is the Lord. The problem is not unhappiness primarily but sin crucially. The false, ‘be happy attitudes’ are aspiration, our going up to God. The Lord’s Beatitudes are inspiration.  Inspiration is literally “in spirited”, hallowed, made holy by the Holy Spirit witnessing to the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, filling the lungs of our souls with the Spirit of His grace, mercy and peace.  All the saints in Christ have known this in Christ. 

The Lord who calls the least, the last and the lost into His reign seems to enjoy creating out of nothing, as He did the heavens and the earth.  On each day of creation, after creating out of nothing, by His Word, He said, “It is good”.  The Lord likewise redeemed the saints out of the nothingness of sin, death and the power of the devil, by His blood shed for us all.  The saints are the roll call of the least, the last and the lost. His redemption is good.  His blood is for our good. His blood made us His, justified by grace through faith, as He became sin.    

During an interview with a comedian, the topic was atheism and faith.  The comedian was asked are you believer?  After all, aren’t you a Roman Catholic?” “Yeah, I believe and I’m a Roman Catholic but with what’s been happening recently,  I believe the book but not the cast.”  I guess the “cast” being the priests, bishops etc. and I took the book to be the Bible, the Word of God. Not a bad answer.   I believe the book, the Word of God and more than that:  because of His Word toward us in Jesus Christ, the lodestar of the Bible is why I believe His book, His Word.  What is His Word toward us and all humankind?  It’s not a principle, a program, a holy political platform, an ideal that the Lord presents and proclaims to us but he comes to us in a very concrete person:  Jesus Christ. 

 The comedian went amiss though with his jibe at the “cast”.  The Bible is quite a cast of characters! 

  • Abraham, a pagan idolater to be father of nations;
  • Moses, murdered an Egyptian the same Moses who didn’t talk so well is given the Law to lead a people out of slavery by speaking God’s Word;
  • a prostitute, Rahab saves Israel in the fall of Jericho;
  • a Gentile woman, a Moabite, Ruth becomes the foremother of King David and Jesus Christ, David’s Lord; David, a shepherd boy; 
  • “I’m only a youth” Jeremiah, a teenager called to proclaim God’s unvarnished truth to a very wayward Israel;
  • Peter, James and John, fishermen called to be Apostles into the world with the light of Jesus Christ;
  • Paul, persecutor and would-be murdered of Christians…and it’s a cast of millions as we heard in the first lesson. They did this all by faith alone.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

God loves the world. It is not an ideal man that He loves, but man as he is; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find abominable in man’s opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, the real man, the real world, this is for God the ground for unfathomable love, and it is with this that He unites Himself utterly. God becomes man, real man. 

God became a real man so we can be real men and women. This cast I trust because they were (and are!) so very real and loved and called by the real Lord to be his real people, really knowing they are sinners at the same time made right, justified in Christ alone and His work, as worked out in our lives by the Holy Spirit.

Beatitudes are the blessing of Jesus Christ toward real men and real women.  If the Lord wanted to bless ideal men and women, he would have said, Blessed are the rich in spirit, Blessed are those who are positive Blessed are the warriors, Blessed are the powerful…If the Lord had wanted only ideal men to come to Him, He would still be sitting on that mount waiting to open His mouth till this day.  But open His mouth He did:  Blessed are the poor in spirit, mourning, etc…not exactly a recruiting poster for denominational Christianity purpose driven, positive thinking, your best life now as the purveyors of the national religion with their feet planted firmly in their time teach it. but real men and real women, the least the last the lost. “The Few, the Proud, the Marines” is a good recruiting ad but in the One who calls us its, the many, the lowly, poor in spirit, mourning at the way the world is to be His saints.  But there is a similarity between the marines and the saints in one way:  both are in formation.  The saints are not being conformed to the pattern of this present world but being transformed by Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s tools are in arsenal of His Word:  faith, peace, prayer, salvation.  The saints are a work in progress, to be saints, but His work always.   Unlike the other Marine slogan, “Never given, always earned”, here it is Always given, never earned.  And also:  Always given, ever learned. 

This cast both then and now have a script, the Scripture, our lines, His inerrant Word to learn, pray, speak and live. The problem is when we are always adlibbing our own lines, thinking we know what the playwright really wanted to say and it’s look at me I’m pretty good.  “Oh, I want my part to really be moving” and we act out of character.  We should know our lines, and the Lord’s lines are good.  Man does not like the Playwright’s Script and rewrites it, but once that is done, it is no longer the real play and the Script-ure  is nothing to play around with.  When man starts rewriting the Bible, like Joseph Smith, Mohammed and liberal/progressive Christianity,  the result will always be a water downed version with lines that might be tough but will always be showing how holy we are. It’s called being a Pharisee, a hypocrite.  The Lord, blessed be His Name has given us His real lines for real people that eventually by faith through His grace we cherish in our hearts and souls and minds to live them in real living. When an actor auditions and does well he will receive a call back.  Now we receive callbacks from time to time, not when we have done well, but  we are called back when we have done not done well at all: flubbed our lines, tried to hog the stage, talked about others in the cast.  The Lord calls us back in true repentance, by His Law, the script that is totally demanding, to confess our bad acting and be forgiven by His grace alone.

This past Friday, Pr. David Ongwaye messaged me on Facebook about how I was doing and I told him I was making Scripture cards to go along with the candy we passed out on Halloween at the Mission. He wrote, Trick or treating?  I don’t know what you’re talking about!  I explained Trick or Treating to our Kenyan brother.  He wrote back:

“It must be enjoyable and such (a) show of kindness should always be the fruit of our spirit as Christians. That is why we are unique people!” I responded:  “That’s a good thought! I never thought of trick or treating that way!” Pr. Ongwaye:  “What else can we say! How can we be known to be Christ’s disciples if we can’t show our love to our neighbours!”.

His Church is cast of millions upon millions, that John could not count from every tribe, nation, tongue.  The saints love in word and deed.  Saints believe and saints live the faith always in Christ in the communion of saints. We remember those who have exited the stage who’s part in our lives sustained us and other saints granted by the Lord for major roles who of course weren’t acting at all.  They knew who they were because they knew Who’s they were: Jesus’ own. Jesus has promised there will be a cast reunion in the resurrection into the Kingdom come. This cast, His Church, His communion of saints, is not perfect, by any stretch and yet it is not an excuse to do bad but to love as we have been so loved. This communion of saints is not an ideal or utopian community but a real one, a real cast of characters.  In a stage rehearsals, the manager is there with the script feeding lines to the actors as they learn the script, so is the Holy Spirit.  The saints are not us vs. them but in Christ Jesus for us all.  A cast that does not lift high themselves, but lifts high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore His sacred Name.  We bear on our brows the sign of Him who died and rose for us all.  Lift high His Cross so others may know the Way, the Truth and the life, Jesus Christ.

 

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This painting is by the English artist and poet, William Blake. It depicts the Lord’s Parable of the 5 wise and the 5 foolish virgins. This parable is the basis of Philip Nicolai’s hymn, Wake, Awake for Night is Flying.

Almighty God, the apostle Paul taught us to praise You in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. We thank You this day for those who have given to Your Church great hymns, especially Your servants Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt. May Your Church never lack hymnwriters who through their words and music give You praise. Fill us with the desire to praise and thank You for Your great goodness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Bio: 

  • Philipp Nicolai (1556–1608) was a pastor in Germany during the Great Plague, which took the lives of 1,300 of his parishioners during a sixth-month period. In addition to his heroic pastoral ministry during that time of stress and sorrow, he wrote the texts for “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying” and “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,” known, respectively, as the king and queen of the Lutheran chorales. 
  • Johann Heermann (1585–1647), also a German pastor, suffered from poor health as well as from the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). His hymn texts are noted for their tenderness and depth of feeling. 
  • Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676) was another Lutheran pastor who endured the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War. By 1668 he lost his pastoral position in Berlin (for refusing to compromise his Lutheran convictions), and endured the death of four of his five children and his wife. He nevertheless managed to write 133 hymns, all of which reflect his firm faith. Along with Martin Luther he is regarded as one of Lutheranism’s finest hymn writers.(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  These pastors and hymn writers, with their congregations and families,  suffered plague, war and sickness.  What sustained these men through such turmoil, when the ground beneath them was shaking and then write some of the greatest hymns for the Church’s song?  They may have seen plague, war and sickness as God’s judgment and the Word of God makes us stop at His judgment so that we hear His grace in Christ who suffered our plagues, wars and sickness.  We have expectations of life being easy but not so long ago, man did not have such an expectation.  Expectation, though, is not hope. Such calamities remind us we can not fix the world so we can look again, not to our selves, but to where true joy is found: The rock of salvation, Jesus Christ.

Faith can only have something or someone to seize for salvation and this is the justification of the sinner by Christ’s Atonement, the Savior, once and for all from the Cross, preached and taught into our ears and hearts, by sermons, yes!  But also by hymnody.  

In the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), the former worship book of the ELCA’s predecessor Lutheran denominations,  the forward states that they wanted the hymns to be more “devotional” and have a less of  a “didactic” content.   Nowadays, the search for the mere “devotional” devolves into a music that makes me feel a certain way. The didactic or teaching content of Lutheran hymnody is so important because it is the objective Word of God written in Scripture sung in words and music so we can learn and learn to praise aright in heartfelt devotion. Consider “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying”:  this hymn is the Parable of the Foolish and Wise Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13) set to music. It is usually sung in Advent, pointing to the time on earth when the Bridegroom arrived and the time to come when those who are eager for His appearing, He will come again.  It is didactic and  instructional.  Dispensationalist and millenialist false doctrine is shown for what it is in that magnificent hymn of Scripture by the true and correct doctrine of our Lord’s parousia, in Scripture, correctly taught. He comes not when we expect it as chiliast timetables lay out and get wrong.  He comes at the fulfilled time for those who long for His appearing (cf. 2 Timothy 4:8).

At Concordia Junior College, I took a one credit course on hymnody. Professor “Ollie” Rupprecht pointed out that J.S. Bach had some 80 volumes in his library (quite an expensive acquisition in that day) and 60 volumes were on Lutheran Doctrine. This doctrine has been derided as too “sterile”.  It is not.  Like Jack Webb in Dragnet said: “The facts, ma’am, just the facts.” The objective justification by the life, word and work of Jesus Christ is the reason to sing in the midst of the world when the “nations rage” and “kingdoms totter” (Ps. 46: 6).

We give thanks to the Lord, the Conductor of the  “choir immortal” (from “Wake, Awake”),   for all church organists (underpaid and being squeezed out by contemporary worship), church musicians, choirs and the Lord’s people who sing their praise of their Lord through hymns replete with the Scripture, that is, the Word of God and so the Holy Spirit.  Pray for your organist, choir director, choir members and church musicians in petition and  praise to the Lord and tell them all this  Sunday:  thanks!

“Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” (#516, Lutheran Service Book) by Philipp Nicolai

3. Now let all the heav’ns adore Thee,
Let men and angels sing before Thee,
With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone.
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where, dwelling with the choir immortal,
We gather round Thy radiant throne.
No vision ever brought,
No ear hath ever caught,
Such great glory;
Therefore will we Eternally
Sing hymns of praise and joy to Thee.

“O Christ, Our True and Only Light” (#839, Lutheran Service Book) by Johann Heerman

1. O Christ, our true and only Light,
Enlighten those who sit in night;
Let those afar now hear Thy voice
And in Thy fold with us rejoice.

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (#450, Lutheran Service Book) by Paul Gerhardt

8. What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee.

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