Psalm 131

Our Psalm for this Sunday is short and sweet – only three verses long.

1 My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.

2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

You can see that this expresses a humble attitude towards God and a child-like faith.  Part of what it means to speak about God faithfully is to refrain from speaking about or for God outside of how God has revealed Himself. This doesn’t mean that we are mindless, close-minded, or fearful of thought and debate, but it does mean that we understand our place as the created children of an all-knowing and loving God.  Our God created all things, understands all things, and holds the universe together.  He knows what is best for us, provides for us, and takes care of us though all our lifetime. As God’s beloved children, we have the peace of a quieted soul, the peace which is beyond all understanding.

My God has all things in His keeping;
He is the ever faithful friend.

He gives me laughter after weeping,

And all His ways in blessings end.

His love endures eternally:

What pleases God, that pleases me.

Lutheran Service Book #719, stanza 4.

both now and forevermore.

Advertisements

The Remedy for Greed

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday comes from Luke 14 and it is one of the more familiar Gospel passages, especially verse 11, “11Foreveryone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”   Jesus tells us not to lift ourselves up but to humble ourselves before God. This is well and good, but leaves the question, “how do I put this into practice in my life?” Fortunately for us, the Gospel reading for this Sunday also includes the next three verses:

12He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

We are to live our lives in humble service to others; never seeking reward for ourselves but, instead, caring for those who have no way of paying us back.

Our hymn of the day for this Sunday expresses these truths in a fitting and powerful way. Son of God, Eternal Savior was written in 1893 by Somerset Thomas Corry Lowry (you know it’s going to be good if the author has four names), a Cambridge educated Anglican priest.  Lowry has given us a hymn that is full of biblical truth and insight. Here’s stanza 1:

Son of God, eternal Savior,

Source of life and truth and grace,

Word made flesh, whose birth among us

Hallows all our human race,

You our Head, who, throned in glory,

For Your own will ever plead:

Fill us with Your love and pity,

Heal our wrongs, and help our need.

There is so much beautiful Christology in this first stanza that it’s hard to know where to begin.  If you wish, you may get our your bible and follow along with the references. Jesus, the Son of God, truly is our source of life and truth and grace (John 14:6).  He is the Word made flesh (John 1) and He has made us into His holy people (1 Peter 2).  Now that Christ has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, he sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us (Romans 8:34).  We end the stanza with a fervent prayer and Jesus would fill us with His love and pity, with the compassion that he showed to those in need during His earthly ministry.  We also ask that He would right what we have wronged and help us in all our needs. Now for stanza 2:

As You, Lord, have lived for others,

So may we for others live.

Freely have Your gifts been granted;

Freely may Your servants give.

Yours the gold and Yours the silver,

Yours the wealth of land and sea;

We but steward of Your bounty

Held in solemn trust will be.

We pray in this second stanza that our lives may reflect the love that Jesus shows to us.  He has given all things to us freely, without any merit or worthiness in us.  That’s the kind of love we are to share with those around us.  If we refuse to help those in need because we feel that they somehow don’t deserve it, then we aren’t really reflecting the kind of compassionate love that Christ has shown to us.  God has given us earthly possessions, money, and income as a tool to be used to show that compassionate love to the world.

Stanza 3:

Come, O Christ, and reign among us,

King of love and Prince of Peace;

Hush the storm of strife and passion,

Bid its cruel discords cease.

By Your patient years of toiling,

By Your silent hours of pain,

Quench our fevered thirst of pleasure,

Stem our selfish greed of gain.

Here, in stanza 3, Lowry takes us to the cross.  He presents the cross as the one thing that silences the storm of our greed-filled sinful world.  We pray that the cross may silence the selfish greed in our hearts.

Stanza 4:

Son of God, eternal Savior,

Source of life and truth and grace,

Word made flesh, whose birth among us

Hallows all our human race:

By Your praying, by Your willing

That Your people should be one,

Grant, O grant our hope’s fruition:

Here on earth Your will be done.

Lowry beings this last stanza by repeated the Christology from the first. He then ends with a prayer that we will live in unity. We pray that God’s will be done. We know His will is done without our prayer, but we pray that it may be done among us also as we share the love of Christ with the world.

The King of Chorales

This Sunday, at our 8AM service, we will be singing one of the great treasures of our hymnody. Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying, by Philipp Nicolai, is a beautiful, majestic, triumphant hymn describing the joyous scene which will take place when Christ returns and takes his bride, the church, to the heavenly banquet hall for the feast of joy and victory.  This is one of those great hymns that I wish every Christian knew by heart.

This hymn has a strong personal connection for me as it was one of the hymns at our wedding. For the ceremony, we chose Scripture readings that focused on imagery of the church as the bride of Christ.  This is so fitting for the marriage because the relationship between husband and wife should reflect the relationship between Christ and His church.  I hope that I can do this hymn justice when I lead it this weekend; although I won’t measure up to the organist at my wedding, Paul Soulek, who for the introduction improvised a perfectly harmonized 3 voice canon.

The hymn text is based on the parable of the wise and foolish virgins from Matthew 25, and is often used when that text is read. However, the hymn also incorporates Revelation 19:6-9, 21:21, and 1st Corinthians 2:9, which all describe the marriage feast of the lamb.  The genius of this hymn is that Nicolai combines the texts in such a wonderful way that we end up with a hymn that is a vision of what Christ’s return will be for those who are waiting for Him.  The parable of the ten virgins really focuses on the judgment for the foolish virgins, but this hymn gives us the perspective of those who were faithful.  It’s also worth noting that Nicolai wrote this hymn for a community that was hit by the plague. That he was able to put so much joy into this hymn shows a truly remarkable faith and is a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s stanza 1:

Wake, awake, for night is flying;

The watchmen on the heights are crying:

“Awake, Jerusalem, arise!”

Midnight hears the welcome voices

And at the thrilling cry rejoices;

“Oh, where are ye, ye virgins wise?

The Bridegroom comes, awake!

Your lamps with gladness take!

Alleluia! With bridal care yourselves prepare

To meet the Bridegroom, who is near.”

For the church, the bride of Christ, the return of Christ is not a scene of fear and terrible wrath, but what another great hymn calls  “the consummation of peace forevermore”.  The church is the new Israel. We are the Jerusalem which awaits the coming king.  Can you see the joy that is springing from this first stanza?

Here’s stanza 2

Zion hears the watchmen singing,

And all her heart with joy is springing;

She wakes, she rises from her gloom;

For her Lord comes down all glorious,

The strong in grace, in truth victorious.

Her Star is risen, her Light is come.

Now come, Thou blessèd One, Lord Jesus, God’s own Son,

Hail! Hosanna! We enter all The wedding hall

To eat the Supper at Thy call.

In this stanza Christ is coming down to take us to the “wedding hall”.  I love the third line , “She wakes, she rises from her gloom;”. When Jesus returns we will be freed from all gloom, from all pain, from sorrow, from sin, and from death itself.  We will be victorious and we will enter the hall to eat the supper. I do not know if the reference here to holy communion is intentional, but we do get a foretaste of this heavenly banquet every Divine Service when we partake of the body and blood of our Lord.

And, finally, stanza 3:

Now let all the heavens adore Thee,

Let saints and angels sing before Thee,

With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone;

Of one pearl each shining portal,

Where, joining with the choir immortal

We gather round Thy radiant throne.

No eye has seen the light, No ear has heard the might of Thy glory;

Therefore will we Eternally

Sing hymns of praise and joy to Thee!

Finally, in stanza 3, we are placed into the joy of heaven itself, where we praise our Bridegroom with the angels and saints and with the greatest music of heaven. The best part is that this glorious scene never ends! It is an eternal feast of worship and communion with our Lord. What a joy to get to sing this hymn in worship this Sunday!