After a couple months off from this blog to allow me to adjust to a new job and move to a new part of the great state of Texas, I think I finally have time to write on our wonderful hymnody again! The hymn of the day for this next Sunday, the sixth Sunday after Pentecost, is the great contemporary hymn Your Kingdom, O God, Is My Glorious Treasure by David Rogner, professor of English at Concordia University – Chicago. It is set to a very sing-able and accessible tune by Joe Herl, music professor at Concordia University – Nebraska. This hymn simply takes the biblical text and gives it to us in hymn form. It feels as though you are singing right out of your Bible. I picked this hymn for this Sunday because it ties together the parables from Matthew 13 on the kingdom of God that we have heard in the Divine Service over the past several weeks.
Here’s stanza 1:
Your kingdom, O God, is my glorious treasure,
My pearl of incomp’rable worth.
Its value exceeds ev’ry standard of measure,
Surpassing the wealth of the earth.
Lord, give me Your grace and the pow’r of the Spirit
To value this treasure aright
That, never allured by the world, I inherit
Your kingdom of glory and light.
This stanza is based on two of Jesus’ shortest parables – from Matthew 13:44-46
44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
We can clearly see in these two parables that the kingdom of heaven is worth more than anything else that we could ever possess. You will want to notice that in the first parable the man goes out “with joy” and sells everything he has to buy the field. The kingdom is so valuable that, even if we should lose every earthly possession, we still have joy. We pray in this first stanza that we would see the value of the kingdom and not fall into the trap of valuing the world’s possessions and pleasures.
But, you may be asking, what exactly is the kingdom of heaven? These parables do shed some light on the kingdom. For a clear definition, we’ll go to Luther’s Large Catechism, where he is explaining the petition “Thy kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer.
“But what is God’s kingdom?”
Answer, “Nothing other than what we learned in the Creed: God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the devils’ power (1 John 3:8). He sent Him to bring us to Himself and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience. For this reason He has also given His Holy Spirit, who is to bring these things home to us by His holy Word and to illumine and strengthen us in the faith by His power.”
I know it’s not the shortest answer, but it is I think the most clear and precise definition of God’s kingdom that you will find.
Your kingdom, O God is alive with the power
Your Word and Your Spirit bestow.
Like yeast, they affect the whole measure of flower, ___
Enabling Your kingdom to grow.
Empower me, Lord, as I live Your commission,
Though humble my service may be,
And bring e’vry planting to perfect fruition,
A mustard seed grown to a tree.
The first half of this stanza is based on a parable that I think is rarely heard, from Matthew 13:33
33He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
In only a few words, Jesus explains how the kingdom grows and spreads throughout the entire world. Jesus sent out His disciples, who were few in number, and God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, allowed that small amount of “yeast” to bring God’s kingdom to fruition all over the world. We pray in this stanza that God would empower us to live out His commission to make disciples, to live in the Word and Sacraments, and to obey all the He has taught us. We end the stanza with a reference to another related parable, from Matthew 13:31-32
31He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
The Gospel is spread throughout the world, and this is not our doing, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit, who creates and sustains faith.
Your kingdom, O God, is a field for the growing
Of seeds that Your mercy has sown;
But still in our midst is the enemy sowing
The weeds that imperil Your own.
Sustain me, O Lord, till Your day of returning
And harvest me homeward at last,
To shine in the homeland that quiets all yearning,
Where sorrow and danger are past.
This last stanza uses the parable that was the Gospel reading for this past Sunday, from Matthew 13:24-30:
24He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
In the first stanza, we heard that the Gospel is worth more than any earthly treasure. In the second stanza, we heard how God, through Word and Spirit, sends out that Gospel into all the world. In the third stanza, we heard how the devil fights against the kingdom of God, sowing weeds among the wheat. We pray in this stanza that God would sustain us and keep us in the one true faith and that, on the last day, He would harvest us as His wheat and take us to heaven, our homeland, to be with Him. Amen.