Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Gifts Christ Freely Gives

Johann Walter, Kantor (1496-1570), is remembered today as the first Lutheran kantor and composer of church music. In 1524, Walter published a collection of hymns arranged according to the Church Year.  It was well received and served as a model for many subsequent hymnals.  In addition to serving thirty years as kantor (church musician) in the German cities of Torgau and Dresden, he also assisted  Martin Luther in the preparation of the Deutsche Messe, or "German Mass" (1526).  [Divine Service Setting 5 in Lutheran Service Book, 2006]  We are blessed with so many fine church musicians who fill the role of kantor in our parishes.  One kantor who has touched the lives of so many Lutheran pastors is Kantor Richard Resch, emeritus kantor of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne.  His text on the means of grace, "The Gifts Christ Freely Gives," is a great addition to Lutheran Service Book.

The gifts Christ freely gives
He gives to you and me
To be His Church, His bride,
His chosen, saved and free!
Saints blest with these rich gifts
Are children who proclaim
That they were won by Christ
And cling to His strong name.

The gifts flow from the font
Where He calls us His own;
New life He gives that makes 
Us His and His alone.
Here He forgives our sins
With water and His Word;
The triune God Himself
Gives pow'r to call Him Lord.

The gifts of grace and peace
From absolution flow;
The pastor's words are Christ's
For us to trust and know.
Forgiveness that we need
Is granted to us there;
The Lord of mercy sends 
Us forth in His blest care.

The gifts are there each day
The holy Word is read;
God's children listen, hear,
Receive, and they are fed.
Christ fills them with Himself,
Blest words that give them life,
Restoring and refreshing
Them for this world's strife.

The gifts are in the feast,
Gifts far more than we see;
Beneath the bread and wine
Is food from Calvary.
The body and the blood
Remove our ev'ry sin;
We leave His presence in
His peace, renewed again.

All glory to the One
Who lavishes such love;
The triune God in love
Assures our life above.
His means of grace for us
Are gifts He loves to give;
All thanks and praise for His
Great love by which we live!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Shine Like Stars

Jaroslav Vajda's text "Shine Like Stars" is a wonderful hymn text to consider as we mark the Epiphany of our Lord.  One thinks of these passages from Daniel and Isaiah and how Vajda ties them together: "And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." (Dan. 12:3) "Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you." (Is. 60:1) Vajda's text helps us focus upon the One who is the bright Morning Star, Christ Jesus, who asks us as His disciples to let our light shine before others and so glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16): 

See how the galaxies are always there,
Made by the One whose glories they declare,
Signs of a God with might and care to spare:
Shine like those stars!

So we are made to occupy a place
Within a firmament of time and space,
Each one enlightened with a special grace
To shine like stars.

Who were the stars God gave us in our youth?
Who led us to the Way, the Life, the Truth?
Now when we show our children that same route,
We shine like stars.

Who are those loved ones always at our side,
Who walk before us, each a trusted guide,
Who give us only what true friends provide,
Who shine like stars?

Here by our faith and hope and love we shine,
Revealing by our deeds a pow’r divine,
One almost hears God saying, “You are mine,
You shine like stars!"

Though passing clouds may for a moment hide
Our gleams of faith, God’s promises abide:
One day our orbits will be glorified—
So shine like stars! 

How many have been led to Bethlehem
To see the Morning Star arise for them?
Now glitt’ring di’monds in His diadem,
They shine like stars.

There we are set to occupy the height,
To glow the brightest in the darkest night,
That many still may know the world’s true Light,
Shine, shine like stars!  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Chosen, Precious Cornerstone

Written to the glory of God for the 50th anniversary of Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri. The tune CORNERSTONE was composed by Carl Schalk for this anniversary hymn.

1.  A chosen, precious cornerstone
     In Zion laid, as flesh and bone,
     Incarnate God Most High;
     This stone the builders would reject,
     God’s will obeyed as God’s Elect—
     For us ordained to die!

2.  This stone was set for all to see,
     As jewel of that sacred tree,
     A gem of priceless worth;
     So faith and hope could rest secure
     Upon such love, so rare and pure,
     Love bridging heav’n and earth!

3.  For Jesus is that saving Name
     The One of worth to rightly claim
     Redemption gained for all:
     Fulfilling God the Father’s plan,  
     Christ came to earth as God and man,
     Undoing Adam’s Fall.

4.  All those once lost, condemned, alone,
     God’s grace would claim and make His own:
     Washed clean, renewed, restored;
     As living stones, born from above,
     Built on that Name whose name is Love,
     On Jesus Christ our Lord.

5.  Now none who trust Christ’s holy Name
     Shall stumble or be put to shame—
     They walk in wondrous light!
     Made royal priests, a chosen race,  
     A people for the praise of grace
     That called them out of night.

6.  To God the Father, who is known
     Through God the Son, true Cornerstone,
     All laud and praise afford,
     With God the Spirit honor be,
     The Three in One, the One in Three—
     Thrice-holy, gracious LORD!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Grace is God's Love Undeserved, Yet Abounding

Written to the glory of God for the 60th anniversary of Grace Lutheran Church in Columbus, Indiana, October 4, 2015, to the tune JESUS IST KOMMEN, GRUND EWIGER FREUDE.

1.  Grace is God's love undeserved, yet abounding,
     Wealth of love lavished upon our poor race,
     Mercy toward sinners, all reason confounding,
     God deemed us worthy to save by His grace!
     Deep this rich kindness the earth still is sounding--
     God's love is grace not deserved, but abounding!

2.  Grace is God's love we are shown in Christ Jesus:
     God in the flesh took our sin and our shame.
     Death-conqu'ring life of our Lord truly frees us,
     Faced our foes for us, His triumph we claim!
     Good news now soars on God's Spirit-wrought breezes--
     God's love is grace all are shown through Christ Jesus! 

3.  Grace is God's love bringing peace beyond measure,
     Peace none can find in the Law's harsh demand,
     Guarding our hearts in Christ Jesus, our Treasure,
     Peace far surpassing what we understand;
     Peace, a sweet foretaste of heaven's pure pleasure--
     God's love is grace that brings peace none can measure!

4.  Grace is God's love here in time and forever.
     God's work begun in us He will complete!
     Nothing in life from this grace can us sever;
     Nothing in death brings God's children defeat.
     Grace, timely love for God's timeless endeavor--
     God's love is grace for all time, yes, forever!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

When Time Was Full, God Sent His Son

Written in 1999 and set to the tune VALIANT ONE by Walter Pelz. "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here." (Matthew 12:40-41)

When time was full, God sent His Son
To save those under Law;
His destined path Christ did not shun,
But faced death’s hungry maw.
As Life was swallowed up and died,
Creation shook and groaned:
Its Lord and Maker crucified,
Deposed, entombed, disowned.

This holy Jonah undecayed
Lay still within the whale;
This Lord of Life on death then preyed,
Hell’s titan to impale:
From gaping jaws came forth this King,
With death the casualty!
Colossal foe, where now your sting?
Where, grave, your victory?

God’s valiant One, once sacrificed,
Is high-exalted now,
That at the name of Jesus Christ
Each knee should surely bow;
Each tongue confess and praise the Lamb,
Our resurrected Lord,
The First and Last, the great I AM—
Acclaimed, enthroned, adored!