Sunday, April 19, 2009

Have You Known or Have You Heard

This text was written for the baptism of Edmund Carl Reske, infant son of Peter and Kim Reske.  Edmund was baptized today--April 19th, the Second Sunday of Easter--in St. Louis.  The opening thought of the hymn text is from Isaiah 40:28, which reminds us that the ways of our almighty God, the Creator, are unsearchable.  This seemed like a good starting point when considering God at work in infant baptism, which for many Christians is difficult to grasp.  How can Baptism save? (Baptism saves because it connects us to the death and resurrection of our ever-living Savior! )  Baptism seems so simple...too simple.  So this hymn seeks to answer that unspoken question in the hearts of many people (about God the Recreator), people who may not have  strong faith in the promises connected to Holy Baptism.  Have they known it and forgotten?  Have they heard it but rejected it?  Have they ever known or heard about the efficacy of Holy Baptism as a gracious act of God and an ongoing reality of His presence and power in our lives?  In light of this, the text seeks to instruct about some of the meanings of Baptism.  The first four stanzas go from the more simple to the more difficult biblical teachings on baptism: 1. definition/cleansing/claiming; 2. curing/cleansing/robing;  3. gift of faith/calling/keeping; 4. dying/rising/second birth.  The final stanza is a prayer to God the Holy Spirit to come and breathe His life-giving breath/bring spiritual life/anoint the child with His gracious presence to make him complete.  The text is set the tune THE CALL, which was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).  Williams was one of the most prominent English composers of the 20th century.   In writing this text, I strove to keep an open and easily singable vowel on the long melisma in the fourth musical phrase of this tune.  

God's richest blessings to Edmund Carl Reske now and always!  

1.  Have you known or have you heard?
     Here is water with the Word:
          Cleansing us from Adam's vice,
          Claiming us for Paradise!

2.  Have you known or have you heard?
     Here sin's leprous scars are cured:
          Washed by God, who makes us clean;
          Robed in Christ, we are pristine!

3.  Have you known or have you heard?
     Faith in Christ is here conferred:
          Called by God the Paraclete,
          His good work His shall complete!

4.  Have you known or have you heard?
     We with Christ are sepulchered,
          Raised to life from that pure tomb,
          Born again from fontal womb!

5.  Spirit, by Your living breath,
     Breathe Your life where there is death:
          Quicken now this precious soul,
          By Your chrism make him whole.

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