LENT IV Series B
Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: Amanda Husberg
1. As Moses lifted up the brazen sign
So did we lift this rose of Jesse’s line.
Whose glory in the darkness brightly shines.
R/For God so loved the word he gave,
He gave his Son, his only Son.
2. The world could see his light and hated it.
Preferring darkness, we could not outwit
His plan to give us all his benefits
3. Though we had lifted him upon the cross,
He proved his love, we could kill or crush
His love, for still he looked with love on us.
4. It was for us, for all the world, he died
And overcame the evil one that night,
And rose again. He is the world’s true light.
Text: Copyright 2008 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.
Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: Iteke Prins
1. As Moses in the wilderness
Raised up a serpent made of brass,
And those who looked on it were healed
By looking on the thing that killed,
We take the mercy cure he gives,
A draught that kills so we may live.
2. To look at Jesus on the cross
And see what he has done for us
Is like a death for those who see
Their fault before them on the tree.
It breaks their hearts with grief and pain
To see their sinful selves made plain.
3. He takes us to himself in love,
And as our hearts are strangely moved,
He draws the lethal venom out
To treat our self-regard and doubt.
He kills the death in us with life
And overcomes our deadly strife.
Text copyright 2012 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.
Once again the cross is central to the texts for next Sunday as is appropriate for Lent. This time from Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, the chapter which contains the entire gospel in a verse, John 3: 16. The central word is Love. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
How can one exhaust this topic? The scholars, preachers, poets, composers, dramatists, painters, have produced one after another of works on it and still come away aware that they have barely touched what it means. While it can be contemplated and wondered at, it is not until we add the phrase “for me” that the true profundity of it comes clear. As Augustine hearing Ambrose’ eloquence marveled for a bit at his command of rhetoric, the true impact of what he was preaching did not get to Augustine until he began weeping for his sins. This cosmic event was about him in ways that he needed a good preacher to impress on him so that his heart broke with remorse for his sins. When we know our hearts are breaking, we look for help. As Jesus says elsewhere, he came to help those who needed a physician, not those who did not.
My estimable mother would say, when hearing criticisms of the church, that only those who had lost a parent or had teenagers should be allowed on Church boards. In other words, on the whole, those who had not faced sorrow or a broken heart had not yet understood what the work of the church was. Having not experienced grief or pain, they thought the church was simply an organization that needed good business practices—which it did, but it needed them to be able to fulfill its mission. She would observe that the work my father did with the broken and needy was unseen by most of the congregation, but it was there that his work was most vital, most fulfilling and rewarding. Bringing the gospel to those who needed it showed its power.
I remember many a meal where the phone would ring and after a bit we would hear of some tragedy or trial. Then my father would leave for the hospital or home where people were waiting for him. In the meantime, we would pray and then go about our work. The parsonage is one of the last places where life’s sorrows, death and tragedies along with unutterable joys are still daily fare.
The best was when we heard good news. My father would come home, his eyes shining with joy. You won’t believe what happened, he would say. Then he would tell us how someone, on hearing the good news, had taken it in and it had changed their lives for good. It was not his call to change people; it was his call to bring the medicine of the Gospel to people and then see how it worked in them. He just had to be faithful in bringing the good news wherever he went.
The ends of these stories were not always good; but often they were and they were always surprising. Looking at Christ on the cross, facing him, had the power to heal, big time. Christ came in order that the world might be saved. To live close to that truth is to live close to the heart of God.
The theme of John 3:17 and the brass serpent has always fascinated me with its use of what kills, like all good medicine, in order to bring life. Luther said that when Christ is on the cross he becomes the death of death, the devil to the devil, and sin to sin, defeating them all. That notion is central to both of these texts. I had previously used the first two lines, but rewrote the entire hymn to a slightly different meter. I have written elsewhere about both Amanda and Iteke. These tunes are both fine settings of texts that can seem pretty tough. Lenten hymns, especially those from the orthodox Lutheran collection, as we have seen, can get pretty graphic.
Fantasia for Organ by Item Prins, played by Cooman
Next month, April 6, my book of sonnets, Jesus The Harmony, will be released. One can pre-order it on Amazon now.