Monday, May 11, 2020

Catch the Vision! Share the Glory!

It seems most appropriate that on the day when we commemorate Cyril and Methodius, missionaries to the Slavs, that we meditate on this fine hymn by our late hymn writer, Jaroslav Vajda (1919-2008), who was of Slavic background. Vajda writes, "The hymn emphasizes the proving of the church's confession of faith by agape and acts of charity, concern for the whole person with Christ the motivator."  The tune, VISION, is by noted LC-MS composer, Carl Schalk (b. 1929).
(Regrettably, I was unable to find a link to share a recording of this fine hymn.)

Blessed children, saints, elect of God,
Globe-encircling cloud of witnesses:
We have heard the Christmas angels,
We have seen the Easter sunrise,
Cried with joy when Christ began his reign.
     Catch the vision! Share the glory!
     Show the captives, tell them: Christ is here!
Universal Body of the Lord,
Chosen, called, made just, and glorified:
Ours the faith, and ours the triumph,
Ours the peace the world is seeking;
Who on earth as privileged as we?
     Catch the vision! Share the glory!
     Show the captives, tell them: Christ is here!
Heirs together of the grace of life,
All baptized into the death of Christ:
Born again, in love maturing,
From the altar free and cheerful,
Caring, winsome family of God.
     Catch the vision! Share the glory!
     Show the captives, tell them: Christ is here!
For this time and place have we been born,
Gifted by the Spirit, trained, and sent:
With the eyes of Jesus seeing,
With the hands of Jesus helping,
With the words of Jesus bringing life,
     Catch the vision! Share the glory!
     Show the captives, tell them: Christ is here!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Christ Be My Leader

Timothy Dudley-Smith is a great, living English hymn writer (b. 1926) who has written hundreds of hymns which are found in hymnals around the world in many languages.  His text, "Christ Be My Leader" incorporates words from today's Gospel lesson, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)   Stanza 1 is Christ as Leader who is the way; stanza 2 is Christ as Teacher who is the truth; stanza 3 is Christ as Savior is the life.  It is set to the Irish tune, SLANE.  (tune SLANE on violin)

Christ be my Leader by night as by day;
Safe through the darkness, for He is the way.
Gladly I follow, my future His care;
Darkness is daylight when Jesus is there.
Christ be my Teacher in age as in youth,
Drifting or doubting, for He is the truth.
Grant me to trust Him; though shifting as sand,
Doubt cannot daunt me; in Jesus I stand.
Christ be my Savior in calm as in strife;
Death cannot hold me, for He is the life.
Nor darkness nor doubting nor sin and its stain
Can touch my salvation; with Jesus I reign.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Why Do We Mourn Departing Friends

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! Alleluia!  The pandemic fears of this COVID-19 time have cast a dark shadow across the joy and peace of the Easter season.  Sadly, Christians living in such a society have fallen in step, towing the line that death is the absolute worst thing and to be feared above all else.  Are we not celebrating our Lord Jesus Christ's victory, who by His resurrection has conquered death and the grave?  Did not St. Paul write, "'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). I find these words of Isaac Watts (1674-1748) to be the necessary splash of cold water in my face. Let us continue to confess with conviction these closing words of the Nicene Creed: "And I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life + of the world to come.  Amen"   The following link is William Billings' (1746-1800) setting of Watts' [alt.] text, stanzas 1, 2, and 6: 

Why do we mourn departing friends,
Or shake at death's alarms?
'Tis but the voice that Jesus sends
To call [us] to His arms.
Are we not tending upward too
As fast as time can move?
Nor [should] we wish the hours more slow
To keep us from our love.
Why should we tremble to convey
Their bodies to the tomb?
There the dear flesh of Jesus lay,
And left a long perfume.
The graves of all His saints He bless'd,
And soften'd every bed;
Where should the dying members rest,
But with the dying Head?
Thence He arose, ascending high,
And show'd our feet the way;
Up to the Lord our flesh shall fly,
At the great rising day.
Then let the last loud trumpet sound,
And bid our kindred rise;
Awake, ye nations underground;
Ye saints, ascend the skies.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

As Rebels, Lord, Who Foolishly Have Wandered

This text is based upon Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and was also inspired by an Albrecht Dürer print which depicts the lost son coming to his senses while kneeling in the midst of the filthy pigpen.  Prodigal means "extremely wasteful" and describes how the younger son quickly ran through his portion of the inheritance with wild living in a distant land.  But the prodigal's loving father was always looking and hoping for his son's return. The father's response to his son's waywardness is one of the most moving portions of Holy Scripture for me.  "As Rebels, Lord, Who Foolishly Have Wandered" is published in the "Confession and Absolution" section of Lutheran Service Book (LSB 612). It is paired with the fine tune WELCOME by Jeffrey N. Blersch (b. 1967).  Dr. Blersch and Concordia Publishing House released a setting of his tune recently entitled "Welcome" which can be heard at this link:

As rebels, Lord, who foolishly have wandered
Far from Your love—unfed, unclean, unclothed—
Dare we recall Your wealth so rashly squandered,
Dare hope to glean that bounty which we loathed?
Still we return, our contrite words rehearsing,
Speech, that within Your warm embrace soon dies;
All of our guilt, our shame, our pain reversing
As tears of joy and welcome fill Your eyes.
A feast of love for us You are preparing;
We who were lost, You give an honored place!
“Come, eat; come, drink, and be no more despairing—
Here taste again the treasures of My grace.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

In Paradise, You Shared Your Best

This beautiful hymn text by Lisa M. Clark (b. 1982) was written in May of 2019 and explores Gospel restoration in terms of honor and shame and tells the salvation story in this way.  She writes, "God created us and welcomed us into His presence.  But we brought shame upon Him, and we were banished from His presence.  Jesus took upon [Himself] our shame, which brought honor back to us.  It also brought us back into God's family." The tune and setting by Jonathan Kohrs (b. 1963) is a perfect match for this lovely text.

In paradise, You shared Your best With us, Your children dear. Your bounty, presence, work, and rest: Secure from guilt or fear. But we brought shame upon the land And disobeyed Your clear command. Oh, we will never understand The darkness we brought near. 2. In exile, driven from Your face, We hid and worked in vain. We lost the children’s honored place And earned Your just disdain. But Jesus came to take our blame And took away our horrid shame And gave to us His holy name, That we may life regain. 3. In restoration, we are free And welcomed home anew. You smile on us abundantly And bless us through and through. But as we wait for that great day, When all dishonor melts away, Let us, Your own beloved, say: “Our Lord, we honor You!”