Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nearer, My God, to Thee

Sarah Flower Adams' (1805-1848) pastor asked her and her sister to help him prepare a hymnal, and the two responded eagerly, writing thirteen texts and sixty-two new tunes!  As the sisters were completing their work, their pastor mentioned he was planning a sermon on Jacob's dream of a ladder ascending to heaven and he needed an appropriate hymn.  Adams soon completed the five stanzas of "Nearer, My God, to Thee."  Her own life was a difficult one which included many losses, not the least of which was her own mother who died when Sarah was only five years old.  She learned, as we have learned, that our steps along life's path, even those steps which are difficult or painful or filled with loss, only draw us nearer to God as He carries us through such times, also ministering to us with His holy angels who strengthen us in our weakness.  "For are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?"  (Hebrews 1:16)

1.  Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
     E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
     Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
     Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.

2.  Though like a wanderer, the sun gone down,
     Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
     Yet in my dreams I'd be nearer, my God, to Thee,
     Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.

3.  There let the way appear steps unto heav'n;
     All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv'n;
     Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
     Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.

4.  Then, with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
     Out of my stony griefs, Bethel I'll raise;
     So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
     Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.

5.  Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
     Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly,
     Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,
     Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Tree of Life

Holy Cross Day

1. The tree of life with ev’ry good
    In Eden’s holy orchard stood,
        And of its fruit so pure and sweet
        God let the man and woman eat.
    Yet in this garden also grew
    Another tree, of which they knew;
        Its lovely limbs with fruit adorned
        Against whose eating God had warned.

2. The stillness of that sacred grove
    Was broken, as the serpent strove
        With tempting voice Eve to beguile
        And Adam too by sin defile.
    O day of sadness when the breath
    Of fear and darkness, doubt and death,
        Its awful poison first displayed
        Within the world so newly made.

3. What mercy God showed to our race,
    A plan of rescue by His grace:
        In sending One from woman’s seed,
        The One to fill our greatest need—
    For on a tree uplifted high
    His only Son for sin would die,
        Would drink the cup of scorn and dread
        To crush the ancient serpent’s head!

4. Now from that tree of Jesus’ shame
    Flows life eternal in His name;
        For all who trust and will believe,
        Salvation’s living fruit receive.
    And of this fruit so pure and sweet
    The Lord invites the world to eat,
        To find within this cross of wood
        The tree of life with ev’ry good.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My Soul, Now Praise Your Maker

Fred Precht writes in Lutheran Worship Hymnal Companion about this marvelous hymn text: "This hymn by Johann Gramann was written, according to the great Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz, one of the authors of the Formula of Concord, at the request of Albrecht the Elder, Duke of Prussia, a follower of Luther's and staunch supporter of the Reformation.  Albrecht asked for a hymn based on his favorite psalm, Psalm 103, a beautiful psalm in praise of the God of all grace."

Psalm 103 is one of my favorite psalms too.  We sang this hymn today in our Matins worship services here at St. John-Amelith.  What a gloriously strong text!  As the summer flowers fade and fall approaches, one is given an object lesson in the brevity of life contrasted to the steadfast, everlasting love of God.

1.  My soul, now praise your Maker!
         Let all within me bless His name
     Who makes you full partaker
         Of mercies more than you dare claim.
             Forget Him not whose meekness
                  Still bears with all your sin,
              Who heals your ev'ry weakness,
                  Renews your life within;
                       Whose grace and care are endless
                           And saved you through the past;
                       Who leaves no suff'rer friendless
                           But rights the wronged at last.

2.  He offers all His treasure
         Of justice, truth, and righteousness,
     His love beyond all measure,
         His yearning pity o'er distress;
              Nor treats us as we merit
                  But sets His anger by.
              The poor and contrite spirit
                  Finds His compassion nigh;
                       As high as heav'n above us,
                           As dawn from close of day,
                       So far, since He has loved us,
                           He puts our sins away.

3.  For as a tender father
         Has pity on His children here,
      God in His arms will gather
         All who are His in childlike fear.
              He knows how frail our powers,
                  Who but from dust are made.
              We flourish like the flowers,
                  And even so we fade;
                       The wind but through them passes,
                           And all their bloom is o'er
                       We wither like the grasses;
                           Our place knows us no more.

4.  His grace remains forever,
         And children's children yet shall prove
     That God forsakes them never
         Who in true fear shall seek His love.
              In heav'n is fixed His dwelling,
                  His rule is over all;
              O hosts with might excelling,
                  With praise before Him fall,
                       Praise Him forever reigning,
                           All you who hear His Word--
                       Our life and all sustaining.
                           My soul, O praise the Lord!