HYMN 296 Songs of Thankfulness and praise/To Jordan Came the Christ our Lord
Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:32-34;
Text: Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) Jakob Hintze (1622-1702)
1. Songs of thankfulness and praise, Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise; Manifested by the star To the sages from afar, Branch of royal David's stem In thy birth at Bethlehem: Anthems be to thee addressed, God in flesh made manifest. 2. Manifest at Jordan's stream, Prophet, Priest, and King supreme; And at Cana wedding guest In thy Godhead manifest; Manifest in pow'r divine, Changing water into wine; Anthems be to thee addressed, God in flesh made manifest. 3. Manifest in making whole Palsied limbs and fainting soul; Manifest in valiant fight, Quelling all the devil's might; Manifest in gracious will, Ever bringing good from ill; Anthems be to thee addressed, God in flesh made manifest. 4. Grant us grace to see thee, Lord, Present in thy holy Word; Grace to imitate thee now And be pure, as pure art thou; That we might become like thee At thy great Epiphany And may praise thee, ever blest, God in flesh made manifest.
TO JORDAN CAME THE CHRIST OUR LORD
Text and tune: Martin Luther (1483-1546) with Johann Walther (1496-1570)
See below for a meditation on Martin Luther's hymn To Jordan came the Christ our Lord
MEDITATION The baptism of Jesus is told in all four Gospels. Its importance therefore cannot be missed, but theologians and biblical scholars have had trouble explaining why the Son of God, perfect from birth and sinless, had to be baptized, especially since it was for the forgiveness of sins that John was baptizing people. What is this about?
Jesus says, when John protests baptizing Jesus, that he is doing it to “fulfill all righteousness.” What does he mean? The answers vary. Martin Luther loved this event and wrote about it often. In it he saw Jesus submitting to baptism in order to be our brother and become like us, a human being, ready to live righteously. The rite also begins Jesus' baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. A new thing being instituted. And it will be what Jesus commands the church to do at the end of his ministry: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
All three of these are present in the baptism of Jesus. As he goes under the water, we can see creation and the Spirit brooding over the waters and also the rebirth that came to the Israelites as they passed through the Red Sea. Jesus in the flesh, the voice from heaven and the dove descending bring Father, Son and Spirit together in the same moment. From there Jesus is ordained for his ministry. And remember from there he goes directly to do battle with Satan.
We who are baptized wear the cross of Christ inscribed on us in our baptism. It marks us for a journey of suffering, a mark of the Christian life. I once told a young boy during a Sunday school class that he had an invisible cross on his forehead, put there in his baptism. He shrank from me and said "I don’t want it there." I have wondered ever since if he could erase it. He could deny it, I have thought, as Peter did his Lord, but that did not stop Jesus from being Lord.
While I am from the school that is wary of the notion that the rite of baptism without instruction or repentance is enough, I also stand in awe before its mystery. Something is given that changes us. But like the seeds sown by the sower in Jesus parable, they need good soil and nourishment.
Luther, whose catechism hymn on the subject deserves review, (see below) said once, outrageously, "Don’t bank on your baptism!" He feared that at our worst we could use our baptism against Christ, instead of the devil, as he put it in his sermons on the Gospel of John (Chapter 15:10-12, Vol. 24). We can say, "I am baptized" to Christ and mean "Leave me alone!" Luther was concerned that we would not live in the fullness of the life we were baptized into and assume the Christian life was not a daily struggle of dying and rising.
Baptism separates us from the crowd, rather than inducts us into it. It is Christ we receive in baptism, not a safe-conduct through life. Baptism will bring us into and through suffering, not shield us from it, for we are now, on the one hand, safe in Jesus, but on the other, because of Jesus, one with his suffering and death. We bear the cross in our flesh. Jesus shows us as he leaves the Jordan for a life of sorrow and suffering even unto the cross, what baptism means.
The good news is that through it all, he is with us, and has ultimately won the victory for us. "Songs of thankfulness and praise!"
Christopher Wordsworth was the nephew of the great English poet William Wordsworth. He became a churchman, finally Bishop of Lincoln, and wrote volumes of theology and literature. He kept in close contact with his uncle. Part of the the Oxford Movement, like many, he also wrote hymns for the Church year. This hymn appeared in his collection of some 127 hymns, Holy Year; or, Hymns for Sundays, Holidays, and other occasions throughout the Year," published in 1862.
Hintze was a German composer who was a student in the later years of the Thirty Years War. He traveled extensively probably to escape the terrors of the war. After the war he settled in Berlin where he became Court musician to the Elector of Brandenburg. He devoted himself to editing Johann Crüger’s collection Praxis Pietatis Melodica. This tune, Salzburg, was one he included in his editions along with some sixty of his tunes.
The Bahamas Christ Cathedral choir and congregation
Catholic Hymns and Chants https://youtu.be/UEM8-kYBLAg
Here is the Hymnblog (HYMN 100) on Luther’s hymn on the baptism of our Lord with the Bach Cantata BWV 7 on the text and tune