Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Death of Jesus Christ, Our Lord

Haquin Spegel (1645-1714) wrote this Communion hymn, originally ten stanzas long.  Lutheran Worship omitted the ninth stanza, which reads:

     O Jesus Christ, our Brother dear,
     Unto Thy cross we now draw near;
        Thy sacred wounds indeed make whole
        A wounded and afflicted soul.

Lutheran Service Book omitted two more stanzas, the fifth and seventh of the remaining nine stanzas, which read:

     A precious food is this indeed--
     It never fails us in our need--
        A heav'nly manna for our soul
        Until we safely reach our goal.

     The guest who comes with true intent
     To turn to God and to repent,
        To live for Christ, to die to sin,
        Will thus a holy life begin.

The fifth stanza is not remarkable; the seventh stanza, it was felt by the Hymnody Committee, focused the communicant far too much on what he/she brings to the Sacrament.  Instead, one's thoughts ought to center more on the promise of forgiveness given in the Sacrament.  Thus, a new stanza was penned by Joe Herl and myself to reflect the catechism's answer to the question concerning the worthiness of the communicant:  "That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: 'Given and shed for the forgiveness of sins.' " 

That left the Hymnody Committee with seven stanzas of the original with a new stanza.  A few word changes were made, most notably in what is now stanza seven.  The concluding stanzas were slightly reordered, to end the hymn on a more evangelical note.

1.  The death of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
     We celebrate with one accord;
       It is our comfort in distress,
       Our heart's sweet joy and happiness.

2.  He blotted out with His own blood
     The judgment that against us stood;
       For us He full atonement made,
       And our debt He fully paid.

3.  That this forever true shall be
     He gives a solemn guarantee:
       In this His holy Supper here
       We taste His love so sweet, so near.

4.  His Word proclaims and we believe
     That in this Supper we receive
       His very body, as He said,
       His very blood for sinners shed.

5.  We dare not ask how this can be,
     But simply hold the mystery
       And trust this word where life begins:
       "Given and shed for all your sins."

6.  They who this word do not believe
     This food unworthily receive,
       Salvation here will never find--
       May we this warning keep in mind!

7.  But blest is each believing guest
     Who in these promises finds rest;
       For Jesus shall in love remain
       With all who here His grace obtain.

8.  Help us sincerely to believe
     That we may worthily receive
       Your Supper and in You find rest.
       Amen!  They who believe are blest.

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