Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lord Jesus Christ, With Us Abide

The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, commemorated on June 25th, recalls an event that was very important in the history of the Christian Church.  On June 25, 1530 in the city of Augsburg, the rulers and mayors of Saxon Germany confessed their faith in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Augsburg Confession was signed by laymen who endangered their own lives by signing the document.  John the Steadfast and other courageous laymen stood before the emperor and presented 28 doctrinal statements called articles; the first 21 dealt with the Christian faith as taught by Lutherans, the other 7 articles dealt with abuses in the medieval Roman Catholic church.  The Augsburg Confession was written by Philip Melanchthon, scholar and theologian.  (Luther could not appear at Augsburg due to the imperial ban that had been placed upon him, making Luther an outlaw who could be arrested or killed.)

One thinks of the many threats the Church of the Reformation faces in our own day and age.   We seek to remain faithful to the Word of God, the only source of Christian teaching, central among which is justification by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Melanchthon and Selnecker's hymn wonderfully expresses the believer's prayer: 

1.  Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide,
     For round us falls the eventide.
         O let Your Word, that saving light,
         Shine forth undimmed into the night.

2.  In these last days of great distress
     Grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness
         That we keep pure till life is spent
         Your holy Word and Sacrament.

3.  To hope grown dim, to hearts turned cold
     Speak tongues of fire and make us bold
         To shine Your Word of saving grace
         Into each dark and loveless place.

4.  May glorious truths that we have heard,
     The bright sword of Your mighty Word,
          Spurn Satan, that Your Church be strong,
          Bold, unified in act and song.

5.  Restrain, O Lord, the human pride
     That seeks to thrust Your truth aside
         Or with some man-made thoughts or things
         Would dim the words Your Spirit sings.

6.  Stay with us, Lord, and keep us true;
     Preserve our faith our whole life through--
        Your Word alone our heart's defense,
         The Church's glorious confidence.  

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