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HYMN FOR EASTER 3 LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVE EXCELLING

HYMN FOR EASTER 3 LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVE EXCELLING

Text; Charles Wesley (1709-1788)        Tune: Hyfrydol Rowland Huw Prichard (1811-1887) Beecher : John Zundel (1815-1882) Blauenwern : William Penfro Rowlands (1860-1937) 1 Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heav'n to earth come down, fix in us Thy humble dwelling; all Thy faithful mercies crown! Jesus, Thou art all compassion ,pure, unbounded love Thou art; visit us with Thy salvation; enter every trembling heart . 2 Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit into every troubled breast! Let us all in Thee inherit, let us find the promised rest. Take away our love of sinning; Alpha and Omega be; end of faith, as its beginning, set our hearts at liberty. 3 Come, Almighty to deliver; let us all Thy life receive; suddenly return and never, nevermore Thy temples leave. Thee we would be always blessing, serve Thee as Thy hosts above; pray, and praise Thee without ceasing, glory in Thy perfect love. 4 Finish then, Thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be; let us see Thy great salvation perfectly restored in Thee. Changed from glory into glory, till in heav'n we take our place, till we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise. REFLECTIONS (NB: I have started sending these out early in the week so readers can contemplate the hymn and text for the next Sunday and even pray that the service, its hymns, prayers, sacraments and sermon, will be edifying to all who come--an old practice.) This is a remarkable hymn for a remarkable event in Jesus’ and our lives. Jesus, having vanished from the couple at Emmaus, appears in the upper room, where they now are. He assures the disciples that he is indeed risen and in the flesh, which he proves by eating broiled fish and honeycomb! A church supper! Then he teaches them more about himself, what his death and resurrection mean, and tells them they should preach repentance and forgiveness of sins. As Wesley has it, he is “visit[ing] them with his salvation!” This is indeed Love Divine, All Love excelling! I have been stewing about the church since COVID. What is clear now is the epidemic of loneliness and anomie that has come upon our people especially the young. When the "experts" talk about the need for friendship and being part of a community, they seem to have not ever heard about the church. And maybe they haven’t. I spoke with a younger person a couple of weeks ago who talked about wanting to find ways to get people of his generation to come and be around a congregation just to find out what the church is about. They have no idea, he said. And gave testimony to the importance it had for him as he was searching for help in a time of trouble. His generation desperately needs to be included and loved the way a congregation can. That is, in fact, what the whole Christian enterprise is about. Lately I have been thinking that every congregation needs, besides a pastor, a chef and a nurse. People will come to eat together. And it isn’t for the food they receive. In being together they find solace and relationships. It has always struck me how significant the family meal is. In many ways the act of making a meal for the family, getting the kids to set the table and wash the dishes, brings the family together. And lest sheer common sense doesn’t teach us that, we do have the experts whose research says that those who grew up in families where the evening meal, at least, was sacrosanct, have done the best in their adult lives. Jesus eats with his disciples a lot and here he proves he was human by eating with them. Those of us who are single especially need church time together over some kind of repast. It is vital. We are flesh, miracles of God's creation. How our bodies respond to the daily rhythms of sleep and waking, to the light and darkness, to the food we eat and with whom, are all intricately related. Our modern lives in some ways could be described as a flight from nature in search of conveniences. In our outreach we can speak to the lonely who are longing for what they really don’t even know about, that we have what will heal them and make them thrive, both in body and spirit. Not only can we feed their bodies with good things, we feed their souls with heavenly food. Note. I am not talking about merely giving money to food banks and salving our consciences that way. While that is important--Jesus did feed thousands with his miracles, Scripture is filled with his eating together with small groups.This is our model for church dinners and coffees. Jesus shows us what can happen when small groups eat together, helping an actual person one or two at a time. That is why small groups make even the largest congregations flourish. The church is not about making people feel cared for in the abstract, but about actual human contact. Seeing all the need out there may make us try to feed the thousands which we do through hunger drives, but on a personal level, it is not what gives succor. We are called to do what we can for the neighbor we can see and touch--especially those in our family and group of acquaintances. (One thinks of Mrs. Jellyby in Dickens whose children went without food and care while she devoted herself to writing letters to Parliament on the needs elsewhere.) Home is where we start. This is love divine, where the loving spirit of Jesus is breathed into everyone in our midst, person to person, mouthful to mouthful. As people of the incarnation, we know the Spirit hovers in, with under and through all we do in Jesus’ name. HYMN INFO First published in Wesley’s Hymns for those that seek, and those that have Redemption in the Blood of Christ  (1747), this has gone on to become one of Wesley’s most beloved hymns—out of the over 7000 he wrote. Charles Wesley and his brother John Wesley, founders of Methodism, changed England and much of the English speaking world with their preaching and hymns. For those who want to know more on them, follow this link. The tunes popular for this text are at least these three below. https://www.hymnfortheday.com/post/hymn-116-love-divine-all-loves-excelling LINKS Blauenwern /Welsh/ William and Kate’s Wedding in Westminster Abbey https://youtu.be/VFckP0F93JM   Welsh hymn sing! https://youtu.be/Y6UZF8_BQLg   Beecher by John Zundel https://youtu.be/dRIFam3lDcQ   Hyfrydol /St. Olaf Christmas Concert https://youtu.be/01nXQmrYPWQ   Mormon Tabernacle Choir https://youtu.be/yRF4KKx7czU

HYMN FOR EASTER II O Sons and Daughters of the King

HYMN FOR EASTER II O Sons and Daughters of the King

Latin: O fillii et filliae   Text: Jean Tessarand (d. 1494) Tune: French 15th century Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! O sons and daughters, let us sing! The King of heaven, the glorious King, Over death today rose triumphing. Alleluia! Alleluia! That Easter morn, at break of day, The faithful women went their way To seek the tomb where Jesus lay. Alleluia! Alleluia! An angel clad in white they see, Who sat, and spake unto the three, “Your Lord doth go to Galilee.” Alleluia! Alleluia! That night th’apostles met in fear; Amidst them came their Lord most dear, And said, “My peace be on all here.” Alleluia! Alleluia! When Thomas first the tidings heard, How they had seen the risen Lord, He doubted the disciples’ word. Alleluia! Alleluia!“ My piercèd side, O Thomas, see; My hands, My feet, I show to thee; Not faithless but believing be.” Alleluia! Alleluia! No longer Thomas then denied; He saw the feet, the hands, the side; “Thou art my Lord and God,” he cried. Alleluia! Alleluia! How blessed are they who have not seen, And yet whose faith has constant been; For they eternal life shall win. Alleluia! Alleluia! On this most holy day of days Our hearts and voices, Lord, we raise To Thee, in jubilee and praise. Alleluia! Alleluia!  Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!   REFLECTION (A reworking of a previous blog.) This hymn is a pretty close paraphrase of the text for the second Sunday of Easter. It tells the story of Thomas the disciple who missed the first appearance of the risen Jesus the week before. His announcement that he will not believe Jesus has risen until he has seen the wounds and put his hand in the side of Jesus is often praised to show doubting is all right for Christians. It makes this Sunday something of the doubter’s Sunday. Actually, it should be New Believers' Sunday.   Some people say this is an age of doubt. I would call it an age of sheer unbelief, hardly doubt. Doubt implies some level of faith. Thomas’ doubt is something to recognize as part of the Christian life, but too often we miss what Jesus does and says to heal Thomas’ doubt. It sometimes feels like people think doubters are smarter than believers. Doubters are praised, while true believers are dismissed as unthinking. Some years ago, I attended a confirmation service in which the pastor read faith statements by the confirmands. She read only those that doubted the faith they had just been confirmed in, and ignored one from a firm believer who was the reason I was there. Why would a pastor praise unbelief instead of the belief she was sworn to defend? I would venture that she came from a time when doubting was chic and belief conventional. Today unbelief is conventional; belief goes against the grain.   When Jesus appears in the locked room, he well knows what Thomas has said and speaks directly to him. “Put your finger here and see my hands and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve but believe.”   There is no record that Thomas does touch Jesus’ wounds. On seeing and hearing Jesus, he worships him. “My Lord and my God!” This is the first time in the four gospels that anyone has addressed Jesus as God, so rather than look on Thomas as the great doubter, we should, as the scholar Frederik Dale Bruner says, regard Thomas as the Great Believer. He.ma kes the fullest confession of faith any one of the disciples makes in the Gospels.   Most comforting to us, however, after this dramatic confession, is when Jesus speaks across the ages to us with a final beatitude: “Blessed are those who have not seen and believe!” He is blessing us today, isolated in our homes.   We should relish this blessing to us from Jesus as we read the text and sing the hymn. Let it give birth to joy in you. To be blessed is to be made holy, to be filled with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!   HYMN INFO Jean Tissarand (d. 1494) was a Franciscan monk about whom we know little except that he died in Paris. It is thought he founded an order for repentant women and wrote a service to remember the martyrdom of fellow monks that were killed in Morocco. The translator, John Mason Neale, became one of the leaders in bringing ancient Greek and Latin hymn texts into the life of the English church. Ill health prevented him from serving out his call as a priest in the Anglican Church, but he worked tirelessly as a theologian and translator of early Christian texts. Without his work we would not have had as many hymns for Advent, or less celebrated festivals of the church. Lutherans took many of his hymns into their hymnals at the end of the 19th century and they have become necessary to the hymnody of the church year, as this one has.   LINKS From Notre Dame before the fire   https://youtu.be/vRYc8OVh-jc   Budapest https://youtu.be/6RrpKKD8Rlo   Richard Proulx   https://youtu.be/N8yK9Z6Zafw

HOLY WEEK AND EASTER HYMNS Now the Green Blade Rises/Såkorn som dør i Jorden

HOLY WEEK AND EASTER HYMNS Now the Green Blade Rises/Såkorn som dør i Jorden

Text: John M. C. Crum (1872-1958). Tune: French Carol   1 Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain, Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain; Love lives again, that with the dead has been: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green. 2 In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain, Thinking that He never would awake again, Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green. 3 Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain, Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain; Quick from the dead the risen One is seen: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.   4 When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain, Jesus' touch can call us back to life again, Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green. Såkorn som dør i jorden Text: Svein Ellingsen (1929-2020) Tune: Harald Herresthal (19- For copyright reasons, I can't print the text out, but you can find it here English version from ELW https://youtu.be/brLbjDGce_4 REFLECTIONS The notion of Jesus as a seed, from John 12: 24, having to die and then rise again is one of the strongest images of his life and death.Jesus uses it to describe what he must go through in order to save us. Without that death the seed will not grow. Without life and death we could just as well be wax images in Madam Tussaud’s museum, standing in a static pose trapped in the moment like an ancient bee in amber. As the grain of wheat must be crushed to make bread, so must the grape be crushed to make wine. Suffering for the sake of others, to sustain them with life, is fundamental to our faith and life. The seeds have to be crushed to make them edible and life giving. Certainly Jesus knows this in his flesh as he speaks of his life with us in his body and blood.   Trying not to hurt the grain or grape will not bring life. Only that which is milled, sifted and changed into flour can feed us; only the grape that is crushed can make wine. More and more experts are warning us that the life we have created for ourselves of incomparable luxury and ease is simply making us sick. In order to grow, our bodies need to be worked and tested as do our spirits. Overcoming difficulties in our lives helps us grow and makes us aware of the gifts we have received.   It is a parable of life, not just Jesus' life, although he shows us every day how that is true and necessary for us to receive his life. The seed has no future if it is not set in the soil. There it rots and dies. From its death comes life. Then when it is grown and ripened, it must be ground and sifted. A parable of suffering, a mark of the Christian life. Jesus says to Peter, Satan will sift you like wheat, but I have prayed that during that time your faith will not fail. Our flight from suffering is in some ways a flight from nature. To be alive is to suffer, suffering is one of Martin Luther's marks of the church. I am not talking about taking careless and stupid risks, but about throwing oneself into life fully and freely without fearing a potential loss. It seems like the whole project of the day is to keep us from getting hurt, even on the playground. Experts are warning us that, surprisingly this raises fearful children.   .The Christian life is always a story that goes from death to life. Whether that death is physical or spiritual, Christ has come to raise us up into eternal life. Wheat that springeth green. A blessed Easter! HYMN INFO Crum’s hymn became popular in the hymnals of the 1970s. There are many settings of the text, choral groups love it. His last line, repeated in every stanza, was the title of a novel by the novelist J. F. Powers. Crum served several English churches through the last quarter of the 19th century and first half of the twentieth and ended as Canon at Canterbury Cathedral. He was also a prolific writer. This hymn written in the last part of his life has been very popular and included in most hymnals of the past fifty years. The tune is an old French Christmas carol that helped make it popular.   Svein Ellingsen’s hymn marked an important place in his development as a hymn writer. It was 1976 and Aftenposten , a major newspaper in Oslo, sponsored a contest for a hymn. Svein wanted to enter it but needed an idea. He was in Hernes in Elverum that spring and saw a painting by Kai Fjell of Jesus on the cross in a field of grain. While he was meditating on the picture, this hymn came to him and it won first prize. It was a confirmation of Svein’s increasing sense that he was called to be a writer of hymns. One of the judges in Aftenposten's hymn contest was Harald Herresthal, an important teacher of music at the Norwegian Music school in Oslo. After Svein’s hymn won the contest, Harald wrote this tune for it. His work has affected many Norwegian organists. He taught them to bring contemporary sounds to the old folk hymns, causing a revival of interest in them. Herresthal has written a significant number of hymn tunes in the latest Norwegian hymnals. LINKS Now the Green Blade riseth Songs of Praise https://youtu.be/UVduV0ustWw Ripon Cathedral Songs of Praise https://youtu.be/_bwVEIxKp-0 Steve Winwood on guitar https://youtu.be/vpU01KQIUJM   Såkorn som dør i Jorden Nordstrand Church Choir https://youtu.be/QqrgWwLK8R8 SKRUK https://youtu.be/9dDA8ZjoYYo English version from ELW https://youtu.be/brLbjDGce_4

HYMN FOR PALM SUNDAY All Glory, Laud and Honor

HYMN FOR PALM SUNDAY All Glory, Laud and Honor

Text: St. Theodulf (d. 821) Tune: Melchior Teschner (1584-1635) 1. All glory, laud, and honour To Thee, Redeemer, King! To Whom the lips of children Made sweet Hosannas ring, Thou art the King of Israel Thou David's Royal Son, Who in the LORD'S name comest, The King and Blessèd One. All glory, &c. 2. The company of Angels Is praising Thee on high, And mortal men, and all things Created make reply. All glory, &c. The people of the Hebrews With palms before Thee went Our praise and prayers and anthems Before Thee we present. All glory, &c. 3. To Thee before Thy Passion They sang their hymns of praise; To Thee now high exalted Our melody we raise. All glory, &c. Thou didst accept their praises; Accept the praise we bring, Who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious King. All glory, &c. Tr. John Mason Neale 1854 REFLECTION (A repeat) Jerusalem at Passover time when Jesus arrived on the donkey must have been beyond chaotic. Thousands of people lived in or near the city, and thousands would make the pilgrimage from around the country for the celebration. There were lambs for the Passover meal, moneychangers in the temple. The courtyards around the temple teemed with people—some estimate in the hundreds of thousands. Keeping order was first on the minds of the authorities. Pilate, the governor, knew that any spark could cause the crowds to riot out of control. Roman soldiers were discretely posted around the hotspots. They knew many Jewish people were looking for a way to cast off the Roman powers. Jesus looked to some of them like one to lead an insurrection. That Jesus rode into town on a donkey was a sign to the Jews that he was a king. (Solomon rode to his coronation on a mule.) The notion of Jesus’ kingship, however, did not disturb them the way it threatened the Romans, most of all Pilate. The religious leaders knew that accusing Jesus of being a king might convince the Romans to execute Jesus. The high priests opposed Jesus because of what they saw as his blasphemies—that he was the Son of God. Pilate, even if he thought Jesus innocent, responded to the notion that Jesus was king with evident concern. To him it was the most serious charge. He could not countenance a rival. Thus he reluctantly allowed his execution. All this glory ending in such ignominy. Our Palm Sunday parades with palm branches and glorious singing are always mixed. We know that in a few days, the same crowds hailing Jesus as the Son of David will cry, Crucify him! Waving a palm branch always makes me wonder what I would have done on Good Friday? Jesus knows our issues as he passes by and hears our hosannas. Despite our failures and betrayals, he still goes forward to the cross to be crucified as a king for us. He looks powerless on the cross. How is he king? His death and resurrection defeat death, sin and the devil. Jesus rules over a realm that nothing can destroy. Not the brutal soldiers nor Pilate, nor the religious authorities, nor our fickle praises, not anything. He died to give us citizenship in a kingdom that will have no end. A truth that gives us joy and confidence on this day no matter our situations. He is King over all. Sing Hosanna! HYMN INFO The hymn is one of the oldest in our hymnal. It is said to have been written in 820 by St. Theodolf of Orléans (ca. 750-821), a bishop in Charlemagne’s realm. The next king, Louis the Pious, viewed Theodulf as a traitor and put him in prison where he languished. Some time during his imprisonment, he wrote this hymn. One Palm Sunday as the king was processing by the prison he is said to have heard this hymn coming from the jail. He was so moved by it, he decreed it should always be sung on Palm Sunday. We still follow King Louis’ decree twelve hundred years later. The tune comes from a later time and is used for several other texts, but this is the one we sing on Palm Sunday. Enjoy these grand videos of the song being sung in cathedrals! Teschner, from Fraustadt now in Poland, is the composer. He was an early and significant Lutheran composer. This is among the favorite Lutheran tunes of all time. for ore on St. Theodulf click here: https://www.hymnfortheday.com/post/hymn-for-palm-sunday-all-glory-laud-and-honor LINKS King’s College https://youtu.be/0TTV6-yuCTg Choir and congregation https://youtu.be/L-6eHCtqwDE Choir and congregation with children’s choir waving palms/fun https://youtu.be/z9X4-lIRFOE

HYMN FOR LENT 5 O Love Divine, what hast thou done?

HYMN FOR LENT 5 O Love Divine, what hast thou done?

Text: Charles Wesley. (1707-1788) Tune: Joseph Barnby (1838-1896) 1 O Love divine, what hast thou done? Th' immortal God hath dy'd for me, The Father's co-eternal Son Bore all my sins upon the Tree: Th' immortal God for me hath dy'd, My Lord, my Love, is crucify'd. 2 Behold Him all ye that pass by, The bleeding Prince of Life and Peace; Come, see, ye Worms, your Maker die, And say was ever Love like his; Come feel with me his Blood apply'd, My Lord my Love, is crucify'd. 3 Is crucify'd for me and you, To bring us Rebels back to God; Believe, believe the Record true, We are all bought with Jesu's Blood; Pardon and Life flew from his side, My Lord, my Love is crucify'd. 4 Then let us sit beneath his Cross, And gladly catch the healing stream; All Things for him account but Loss, And give up all our Hearts to him: Of nothing speak, or think beside, But Jesus and him crucify'd. REFLECTIONS In the Gospel lesson for the fifth Sunday in Lent, there are many things to consider. Jesus has just entered Jerusalem on a donkey. Then some ask to see Jesus in a memorable phrase, "Sir, we would see Jesus." God speaks from heaven, something like during the Transfiguration. Then Jesus talks the judgment of the world coming and says, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” This tells those who are listening carefully that he is going to be crucified. His listeners wonder who he is? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus answers with an illustration about the grain of wheat having to die before it can bear fruit. Jesus ends by talking about himself as the light. There are enough themes here for thousands of sermons. It is like all of the topics for a sermon on Jesus' last days simply collide in this text.   The hymn might focus our attention on a theme--on the one lifted up, the crucified. Although it is not well known in my circles, it is among Wesley’s most successful, but lesser known hymns. The tone of the poem is arresting. The question at the beginning of the text is from the voice of a naïve observer. One almost hears the voice of a mother looking at a mess her child has created and asks in sorrow, What have you done? And then the second stanza, which is now left out because of the Worm image, I am sure. People today resist the idea that they are wretches or sinners, or worms. It is called Worm theology, usually with a scornful laugh. But maybe the worm theology is the point. God dies for wretches and worms!   The wonder of what God has done takes over the hymn. It says more about God, maybe, than us. That God, "the bleeding Prince of Life and Peace" would die for one of us, no better than a worm, simply overwhelms the singer. Is there somewhere lurking in the rejection of this image the notion that Jesus would die for some but not others, those who are a little better than “worms.” I hope not.   While we watch today with sorrow what is happening on the way to the cross, does it ever strike us that Jesus is dying for sinners? Not just for sort of nice people who would not crucify him?   The painting by Bosch tells it about as well as anything I can say. The people following along with Jesus who is carrying his cross look pretty wretched to me. Except, maybe, for Veronica on the lower left side. She looks bemused, like she doesn't get it either. They are not just the people who are crucifying Christ. They are the ones he is dying for! We may think ourselves superior to that lot, but we are not. On the outside, we might look more respectable than they do, but he sees our hearts. I imagine that is not a pretty sight. We should think only of how we need his sacrifice. If we don't think we are sinners, why even follow along? He is dying for us, sinners all.   Thus we can sing with Wesley after acknowledging that he is doing this to bring us “rebels back to God.” And then we can "sit under the cross And gladly catch the healing stream; All Things for him account but Loss,/And give up all our Hearts to him:/Of nothing speak, or think beside,/But Jesus and him crucify'd."   HYMN INFO The hymn, published in 1742, was one of three hymns by Wesley on the theme, “Desiring to Love.” It became popular when it was used in other collections like Toplady’s book Psalms and Hymns 1776 and then the Wesleyan Hymn Book of 1780. Wesley wrote over six thousand hymns that brought many to faith in Jesus. Although he never left the Anglican church, he worked closely with his brother John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, to bring the Gospel to people around the world. It has had several tunes. The tune most often associated with the hymn is by Joseph Barney, the great Victorian musician, who composed many tunes people loved to sing. LINKS Baylor’s Mens Chorus https://youtu.be/mZ4HfERnK68?si=BKZzmub6mN1_8M30   Waite Park Church/This has the text https://youtu.be/D2_NOjEYIR4?si=Bi7eGux18vi9l_ZW   Cape Town Ensemble https://youtu.be/hVwlOFn6foY?si=-Z42yVS5-XTfz61B   Peter Duckworth/Piano version https://youtu.be/uiMx4HXZF_A?si=n1QCrxA7R64DXz20  Jos     ___________________________  NB: Here is the link to my latest book. It would help me a lot if more than 50 were pre-sold by March 15 at a lower price. Thank you! www.finishinglinepress.com

HYMN FOR LENT 4 To God be the Glory

HYMN FOR LENT 4 To God be the Glory

Text: Fanny Crosby   (1820-1915)  Tune: William H. Doane (1832-1915) Andra é  Crouch (1942-2015) 1 To God be the glory - great things He hath done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, Who yielded His life an atonement for sin, And opened the life-gate that all may go in. Refrain: Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear His voice! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice! O come to the Father, through Jesus, the Son, and give Him the glory - great things He hath done. 2 O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood! To ev'ry believer the promise of God; The vilest offender who truly believes, That moment from Jesus a pardon receives. [Refrain] 3 Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done, And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son; But purer and higher and greater will be Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see. [Refrain]     REFLECTION The lesson for the fourth Sunday in Lent Series B is the sermon Jesus preaches to Nicodemus after their conversation. It includes the Gospel in a verse, John 3:16, the heart of the gospel. The richness of it makes it impossible to mine completely. It keeps going deeper and deepr into our minds as we contemplate what kind of love this is. It is the first use of the word love in the Gospel of John, and it describes a love that is unfathomable. Some scholars hear in this verse an echo from the Abraham and Isaac story, where Abraham’s love for his Son and God is tested. The entire Old Testament opposes the sacrifice of children to please God and only shows, for example, the death of Jeptha to show how awful it is for parents to sacrifice children. But in this echo, we also hear that God the Father, in ending such sacrifices, actually will sacrifice his own Son to end the practice once and for all. This upsets many who think God could have found other ways to save us. We might think so, but God’s ways are not our ways. God is holy and just. After the fall, and the breaking of the relationship between humanity and God, something must make it right. We cannot. Only God can make things right and he does. It is something like an economic transaction—a debt needs to be paid. And we cannot pay it. A theologian I know says that most of us think saying economic means that it is not fundamental, but she argues that is to completely misunderstand the fundamental nature of trade and economics to our lives. To owe someone means an almost unendurable shame until the debt is paid in full. This is what Jesus tells Nicodemus that God is doing for him. As Crosby writes, “perfect redemption.” We sometimes theologize that word so much we forget it is fundamentally economic. God redeems us from sin, that means he pays for our ransom to free us from our slavery to a power that does not love us. “The purchase of blood!”  To God be the Glory!   HYMN INFO Fanny Crosby, blind from birth, learned much of the Bible by heart when she was a child. Those who raised her did not coddle her and expected her to do well at whatever she attempted. She began writing verse, but then the story goes she heard Jenny Lind singing to the students in the school for the blind where taught and realized the power of hymns and began writing them. She wrote thousands of hymns. We have no idea how many since she used many pseudonyms not all of which we know. Gospel composers begged her for texts. She often had two or three assistants writing down hymns that she dictated to them, keeping the various texts going as she created them in her mind. She was famous, and was said to have met every President of the US from Abraham Lincoln to William Howard Taft. Crosby wrote this text in 1872, and it was set a few years later by William H. Doane. (See Hymn 81) The song was included in songbooks but did not achieve great popularity until 1954 when the Billy Graham Association was urged to use it for the London Crusade. They did and it became a hit. One can hear it being sung by congregations all over the world in its original form. Andra é Crouch knew the Crosby hymn well, but he used it to make a new song, keeping the words and some of the original melody. It became a phenomenal hit, something of his standard signature song that people expected him to sing at every concert. LINKS Royal Albert Hall and Orchestra/the original Crosby and Doane version. Are they ever having fun! https://youtu.be/-15v9iworAU   Andra é Crouch version https://youtu.be/_E4_MUUaioc   Sissel, the Oslo gospel Choir and Andra é Crouch’s version https://youtu.be/xtenFJ6x75k   Another Sissel https://youtu.be/LswSDn7q3xQ  ___________________________  NB: Here is the link to my latest book. It would help me a lot if more than 50 were pre-sold by March 15 at a lower price. Thank you! www.finishinglinepress.com

LENT 3 You strode into the Temple, Lord

LENT 3 You strode into the Temple, Lord

Herman Stuempfle, Jr. (1923-2007). Tune: Kingsfold   (For copyright reasons I cannot print the text, but find it here) https://youtu.be/LGxk2LIOaoY?si=QcljGNoJSME9QXtv   REFLECTIONS Jesus has just been at the Wedding in Cana and now he has gone up to Jerusalem for the Passover. When he gets there he storms into the temple, enraged by the desecration he sees there. So he makes a whip out of some cords he finds and drives out the merchants and their livestock. Artists love to show his anger and the scattering of the animals and the surprise of the people. It is fairly impressive. What he starts is a theme of the rest of his life—that he is the temple now. The disciples would remember that after his death and resurrection, John says. Jesus as the temple and then we as temples is a huge theme in Scripture, but in some ways hidden from us because we don’t read the whole Bible often enough. When I was writing Jesus the Harmony , (Fortress, 2021) it frequently struck me how  much one learns about Jesus from knowing the Old Testament. It is crucial to understanding who he is.   There are strong hints in the story of Eden that the garden is the temple--God dwells there--and when the couple sins, they are cast our of the temple and only have the promise in Genesis 3:15 to go on in faith. All the talk about the tabernacle in the story of the Exodus is temple talk—the place where God dwells--the cloud shows us that. Then the ark of the covenant, holding what the holy of holies in the temple will one day hold. The destruction of the temple during the Babylonian captivity is a deep psychic wound for the people of Israel. Herod’s rebuilding of the temple to please his subjects took forty six years, they tell Jesus when he makes what is to them an absurd claims that in three days he will build up the temple that is being destroyed. It was one of the largest buildings in antiquity so the idea of rebuilding it in three days rightly struck the people as outrageous. But Christ is the temple because God dwells in him. And where God is, there is the temple. And the temple will be raised up when he is raised up, after three days in the tomb. And likewise, we are temples because Christ dwells in us.   Jesus’ living in us means what Paul Gerhard says in his great hymn If God himself be for me, That when “Christ is with me, my heaven is begun.”   This is maybe a hard thing to explain or believe, but one of the reasons believers can have courage against evil is that they know already they are living in true reality, where another rules and that ruler is for them. In fact, has given his life for them. And been raised from the dead.   The disciples know something is different about Jesus from the first. Later they will understand it and remember what he said. So it is with us, we go through something we don’t quite understand, and then upon reflection, we realize Christ was with us and our heaven had begun. Take that for all it is worth! HYMN INFO The Rev. Dr. Stuempfle, Jr, served the Lutheran church all his life. He lived in Gettysburg Pennsylvania for fifty years and taught at The Lutheran Theological Seminary there. He graduated from Susquehanna University and Gettysburg Seminary. He studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and received a doctorate from Clermont in California. A pastor in the United Lutheran Church of America, he served as President of Gettysburg Seminary. After his retirement he continued writing and lecturing on preaching, theology and history. His hymns are many, over 550, and usually on specific texts like this one. Scholars say as a preacher and teacher of preaching he always asked in his hymn texts, so what does this mean for today? He has earned a place in the pantheon of respected hymn writers in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Kingsfold is thought to be a Medieval English folk tune that Ralph Vaughan Williams discovered in Kingsfold, England. It is a popular tune for several hymn texts. LINKS The hymn is sung and the text printed on the video https://youtu.be/LGxk2LIOaoY?si=QcljGNoJSME9QXtv Hal Leonard Band playing Kingsfold https://youtu.be/fQKSf9A3tXM?si=AA_G4pIBPDG1OuOb  ___________________________  NB: Here is the link to my latest book. It would help me a lot if more than 50 were pre-sold by March 15 at a lower price. Thank you! www.finishinglinepress.com

HYMN FOR LENT 2 God Moves in a Mysterious Way

HYMN FOR LENT 2 God Moves in a Mysterious Way

Text: William Cowper (1731-1800) Tune: Dundee   1 God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.   2 Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill; He treasures up His bright designs, and works His sov'reign will.   3 Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.   4 Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face. 5 His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow'r. 6 Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain. REFLECTIONS (I am sending these out earlier in the week so people studying the text for the Sunday can think about it longer.) I can think of no hymn just now with the scene of Jesus wheeling around to Peter and rebuking him with the memorable line, Get thee behind me, Satan!   It is clear that except for African American spirituals and Lutheran hymns from Luther through the great period of orthodoxy, 1524-1700, most hymns tend to skirt over the darkest, or most difficult, texts and rush to the sunny side, the end of Jesus’ passion, almost as if trying to make it all right. Or the hymn is written after a terrible crisis and things have been resolved. This hymn, however, does not. William Cowper lived a life of mental terror. He suffered terrible moods of depression and despair. He had to be institutionalized several times for his mental condition. One shudders to think of the horrors of the house of Bedlam, as mental hospitals were called at the time. They were not nice places, often like prisons. Many patients would be chained to keep them from rising up and attacking their caregivers. Fortunately a kindly couple, Morley and Mary Unwin, took Cowper (Cooper) in and gave him a place to live safely. John Newton, the writer of "Amazing Grace", began working with him to produce a remarkable book of hymns known as Olney Hymns 1779.   The story of Jesus both blessing and rebuking Peter contains the highs and lows of our life with Christ. He has just told Peter, that upon the rock of his confession that Jesus is Lord, he will build his church, and then suddenly Peter becomes like Satan. Peter must have been both ashamed and puzzled. How could the one who was the Christ, be the one who would be killed? It made no sense. But Jesus has a good sense for his church.   The congregation, most theologians will agree, is a holy institution, established by God. And yet all who join it are sinners. Most of them forgiven sinners, I rush to add. But they are still sinners, and can do unimaginable harm to one another. Even fights about the color of the kitchen walls can become ultimate rather than penultimate and the fellowship can be torn apart while both sides call upon the Lord for their support. “Blind unbelief is sure to err.” Cowper knows that. Most of the time it is believers, not unbelievers, going to war. It is not pretty and the wounds it leaves can be lethal.   That Peter should be the founder of this church is maybe an emblem for that. Something to remember in our life in a congregation. While he a brilliant leader, Peter is also a fallible and sinful denier of Christ. The same man, sinner and saint. We all are.   When Jesus commands Peter to get behind him, he is really saying, Follow me. We don’t follow Peter, we follow the Lord he denied but loved to the death. When we give up all and lose our lives for the love of Christ, he tells us many many times, we gain a life rich in meaning and blessings, even if we sometimes only see the “frowning providence” as Cowper calls it. Many quibble with that notion and revise it because they don't want people to think God frowns. I don’t. Ultimately that may be true, but our experience may be that we see the dark side first. Many times it is hard to see the good one is being led toward in our daily life of faith. We walk by faith, not by sight. The bud right now may taste bitter, but we believe the flower will be sweet. What Jesus teaches us here is that when we follow him, we follow him into life, eternal life. A richness we cannot even imagine.   HYMN INFO Cowper and Newton were neighbors and friends who worked together for years. They shared their hatred of slavery and wrote against it. In 1779 the two published a collection of hymns known as the Olney Hymns . It contained some of the most beloved English hymns of all time. “Amazing Grace” was part of that collection, as was this one. Cowper named it “Light Shining out of Darkness.” He had written it after his third attempt at suicide. Out of that darkness came a great light that has shone for Christians ever since, and assured them they should not judge by “their feeble sense,” but trust in God’s grace. There are several tunes for this famous hymn. Dundee is the tune I know best; New London , the tune Britten used, sounds a lot like it. LINKS Selwyn College Choir https://youtu.be/0g34AypZAUc George Beverly Shea https://youtu.be/g-DEzGAWQb8 Benjamin Britten—go to ca. minute 46:00 to hear a thrilling version of the hymn from the Britten opera Saint Nicolas https://youtu.be/4wXSm0OpYR4  ___________________________  NB: Here is the link to my latest book. It would help me a lot if more than 50 were pre-sold by March 15 at a lower price. Thank you! www.finishinglinepress.com

HYMN FOR ASH WEDNESDAY & LENT 1 Come, Let us Go to Jerusalem/Swedish/Se vi gå upp til Jerusalem /Dear Christians One and All Rejoice/Luther

HYMN FOR ASH WEDNESDAY & LENT 1 Come, Let us Go to Jerusalem/Swedish/Se vi gå upp til Jerusalem /Dear Christians One and All Rejoice/Luther

Text: Lar Johan. Paulinus Nilsson (1866-1951). Tune: from Anders Arrebo (1587-1637) Come, let us go to Jerusalem, And take now this Lenten journey, To see how our Savior, God’s only Son Will die in the place of all sinners.   2. Come, let us go to Jerusalem— Who goes with him to the garden To do as his heavenly Father wills And drink of the cup for our pardon.   3. Come, let us go to Jerusalem— To stand at the cross of Jesus, The Lamb who was offered to save the world To die for our sins and free us.   4. Come, let us go to Jerusalem— The beautiful gate of heaven— There Jesus once told us that where he is There we will be with him forever.             Tr. Gracia Grindal   REFLECTION (This hymns works well for Ash Wednesday and the first Sunday in Lent. It sets us on the road to Jesus' passion.) The Gospel text for this Sunday is remarkably brief. We get both Jesus’ baptism and his temptation in the desert in just a few verses.   Jesus is led immediately to the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted Matthew and Luke say, but Mark says the Spirit drove him there where he is tempted. Matthew and Luke include a long account of Jesus contending with the devil. Mark simply says it happened. The desert is often where the battle lines between good and evil are clearest in Scripture. Fasting is said to clear one’s mind. One sleeps off a big meal, but someone who is hungry is intellectually keen. So Jesus after forty days is weak with hunger, but sharp enough to do significant battle with the devil. Jesus in this battle with Satan passes the test that Adam failed in the garden. The writer Ole Hallesby, whose great book Prayer should be read by every Christian, is insistent that it is in the troubles we suffer where Christ is most present. When we face our own needs and pitiful lack of power to allay the evil or even confront it, we flee to one who can, the Lord Jesus.   Martin Luther describes it well in his first hymn, “Dear Christians One and All Rejoice,” especially stanza 2-4   2. Fast bound in Satan's chains I lay; Death brooded darkly o'er me. Sin was my torment night and day; In sin my mother bore me. But daily deeper still I fell; My life became a living hell, So firmly sin possessed me. 3. My own good works all came to naught, No grace or merit gaining; Free will against God's judgment fought, Dead to all good remaining. My fears increased till sheer despair Left only death to be my share; The pangs of hell I suffered. 4. But God had seen my wretched state Before the world's foundation, And mindful of His mercies great, He planned for my salvation. He turned to me a father's heart; He did not choose the easy part But gave His dearest treasure.  (for more on this hymn, click here https://www.hymnfortheday.com/post/hymn-219-dear-christians-one-and-all-rejoice ) If Lent is an exploration of the sorrows that Jesus, God’s dearest treasure, went through for us, it should bring us to self-examination. As Jesus says to the women weeping for him outside Jerusalem, (Luke 23:8) weep for yourselves and your children, don’t weep for me.   In the hymn, we follow along an abbreviated number of the stations of the cross: Jerusalem, the garden of Gethsemane and Golgatha, but the fourth stanza takes us to the heavenly Jerusalem, the goal of our Lenten journey. To get there, we must go through the darkest places in the history of a terrible world and those in our own souls. But beyond that darkness, is the new Jerusalem shining with hope. Look up!   HYMN INFO First published in 1898 with fourteen stanzas it was shortened for publication in a collection of hymns and songs for the morning service Psalmer och Sånger till Högmässdotexter (1905). Paul Nilsson was a Swedish pastor and hymn writer who served as regiment pastor and then pastor in Häggum in Skara and Sjogerstad. He later became the court preacher. He was one of the early hymn writers to work for the renewal of hymnody in Sweden which would be led by Anders Frostenson. They wanted hymns to be less theological and more relevant to the lives of the Swedish people. The tune is an old tune from the 1697 Swedish tune book which went along with the Svedberg hymnal of 1695 which served the Swedish people for over a century until 1819. It first appeared in a collection of hymns by Anders Arrebo collection, but the writer of the tune is unknown. LINKS Swedish congregation singing https://youtu.be/8px0jv8lfd0 SKRUK https://youtu.be/WK5aZeclHS0 Sondre Bratland and Nils Petter Molvær on trumpet https://youtu.be/DedJ1PSiqYY Göteborg choir and Ola Höglund organist https://youtu.be/l2jUu4mc0_4 Motet by Sven-Erik Bäck, the Stockholm Chamber Choir, Bäck directing https://youtu.be/PaOPNkb0VLY __________________________________  NB: Here is the link to my latest book. It would help me a lot if more than 50 were pre-sold by March 15 at a lower price. Thank you! www.finishinglinepress.com

HYMN FOR TRANSFIGURATION I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light

HYMN FOR TRANSFIGURATION I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light

Text and tune: Kathleen Thomerson (1934-) 1 I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus. R/In him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus. 2 I want to see the brightness of God .I want to look at Jesus. Clear sun of righteousness, shine on my path, and show me the way to the Father. R/ 3 I'm looking for the coming of Christ. I want to be with Jesus. When we have run with patience the race, we shall know the joy of Jesus. R/ REFLECTION: The Transfiguration is fundamental to the story of Jesus and all the gospel treat it—even John who tells the story rather differently, but still gives us a moment in the life of Jesus that according to a new book by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson shows us who Jesus is and brings the whole biblical witness together. Her book Seven Ways of Looking at the Transfiguration, which will be available soon at Thornbushpress.com , will astonish readers with its thoroughgoing digging in Scripture for what the event tells us.   Look for it! The hymn for today is a popular contemporary hymn that we can sing thinking of the Transfiguration. There is a sweetness, almost naiveté in the text. It moves us as we sing of Jesus who is all light. While the hymn is spoken by someone--the hymnologists call it the anonymous I—most Christians can sing it as their own. Note how little it says about the state of the singer, except the longing to be with Jesus. Then descriptions of what kind of light Jesus is—the star, the brightness of God, the Sun of righteousness, the Lamb who is the light of heaven—lovely images from Scripture. We hear Scripture singing throughout the hymn: Genesis, the Gospel of John, 1 John, Revelation 21, Hebrews, etc.  There are no “new” images of Christ here, it is pure Bible. But the sound of the hymn is for all times. This sweet longing to be with Jesus is fetching.   When Jesus instructed the disciples to say nothing about this event, in some ways he was saying this can’t be understood until the whole story is over, and he was right. something of Wilson's argument. Peter's account in 2 Peter 1:16-21 says as much. In a sense, we don’t or won’t get it until the end. But that is the mystery of our faith. We connect with the baby Jesus and know something big has happened in the world that connects the divine with our daily lives and flesh. His suffering we understand because we have suffered. His death is also part of human life, but the resurrection starts to topple us over. And then his ascension and reign in heaven as the transfigured Christ. Indeed, he even will transfigure us when we walk in his light and he takes us up into himself. So, we can sing in an almost childlike way, with confidence, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.”   HYMN INFO Kathleen Thomerson has worked in the church as organist and composer since her youth. She wrote this hymn in the late 1960s and worked mostly around Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville where her husband was a professor but studied extensively with luminaries like Flor Peters and Jean Langlais. Her achievements as organist and composer are impressive. This hymn is rich with biblical references especially the Epistle of 1 John and the longing we have to be filled with the light of Jesus. LINKS The Concordia College Choir https://youtu.be/Ljsu7-C858s The Unionaires https://youtu.be/Lmcz2T5hCsY Hal Leonard and Shawnee Press Chorale/John Purifoy's choral arrangement https://youtu.be/5PBSab0xF_M __________________________________ NB: Here is the link to my latest book. It would help me a lot if more than 50 were pre-sold by March 15 at a lower price. Thank you! www.finishinglinepress.com

HYMN FOR EPIPHANY 5 By gentle powers lovingly Surrounded/Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen/ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

HYMN FOR EPIPHANY 5 By gentle powers lovingly Surrounded/Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen/ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Text: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945).   Tune: Siegfried Fietz (1946-)   The text and music can be found here: https://youtu.be/aN7dGz6NH5M?si=KWwFJ3CZn7N46bNm REFLECTION Jesus doesn’t waste any time after his baptism. We have already seen him liberate a man possessed with an evil spirit. Now he goes with the disciples to Peter’s home and heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Note that he touches her, something strictly forbidden. And she is made well, well enough to get up and resume her normal duties. She is not on the road to recovery; she is completely healed.   Some laugh at the thought of Jesus healing her so he can get supper. Think of it from her point of view, lying there malingering, hating that she cannot do what she would love to do: cook for the visitors and make them feel at home. This healing goes deep so she can do what she feels called to do immediately.  Our faith is not just about life after death. It is about life, plain and simple, now and after our death. It is a heaven for Peter’s mother-in-law to be able to do what she is best able to do, to fulfill her vocation. We all know that kind of bliss—being able to do what we were created to do, what all our gifts, physical, mental and spiritual, made it possible for us to do.   The writer of our text today, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, expresses this faith in the loving gentle powers of Christ against the worst evil imaginable. Bonhoeffer included this hymn in a letter to his mother on New Year’s Eve 1944. Bonhoeffer, the German theologian, returned from America to live in Germany during WWII. He understood his return meant his death. In fact, his most famous statement is the beginning of his book Discipleship :" When Christ calls us to follow him, he calls us to come and die." Bonhoeffer's following Christ did cause his death. In an effort to free Germany from the terrible regime of Adolph Hitler he supported an assassination plot against Hitler. He was found out and imprisoned. Some of the guards in the prison came to care for him and helped him communicate with his family and friends. His hymn, “By Gracious Powers,“ or “By gentle powers lovingly surrounded,” came from his last Christmas and New Year. It shows his complete and utter trust in the Lord to bring him through the terrors of his time. The hymn faces the very worst, the “cup so heavy, painful and the most that we can stand” and yet rejoices that God is with us “every night and every morning, and certainly on every future day.” Bonhoeffer did not think that being released from prison was the only way to life and freedom. He even refused to escape a couple of times for fear of retributions to his family. When it became clear to the Nazis that the Allies were closing in and Bonhoeffer might be freed, they held a trial and the next day, April 9, 1945, he was hanged. As he stepped toward the gallows, he was reported to have said, “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.” Life is what Jesus is all about, here and in the next world. Bonhoeffer’s hymn rejoices that God continues to be with him and give him strength through the terrible earthly future he faced. He knew that was not the last word. The hymn is joyful, but harrowing, in its recognition of the terrors of his day.   HYMN INFO This hymn is from a letter smuggled out of the prison and published in his posthumous book Letters and Papers from Prison. It captures the terrors of the time. The evil days were hard to bear except for God’s caring for their “frightened souls.” F. Pratt Green, one of England’s most proficient hymn writers, did the translation used in mainline hymnals, but the second one associated with the Fiezt tune, is considered the official translation. It feels better on the tongue. It has over seventy tunes, most of which work, but none has become the favored one. I think the gospel sound of the Fietz tune will take over here as it seems to have in Germany. search on YouTube for many versions.   LINKS By gentle powers lovingly Surrounded Virtual Choir with German beginning with a choir from Silicon Valley Christian Assembly   https://youtu.be/tDGx5r2L_-o By Gentle Powers lovingly Surrounded https://youtu.be/-dWCPeH6BA8 Jonathan Moses https://youtu.be/ZGs3iSP4aJw?si=YoLbUV2x305eReGv By gracious powers The Green translation Organ and text to a tune by Richard Runciman Terry https://youtu.be/w6wEO5lXd8o Richard Schulz Widmar's tune/with music and text of a choral arrangement https://youtu.be/zxfB7vfDQxQ NB: Here is the link to my latest book. It would help me a lot if more than 50 were pre-sold by March 15 at a lower price. Thank you! www.finishinglinepress.com

HYMN FOR EPHIPHANY 4 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

HYMN FOR EPHIPHANY 4 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

German: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott Danish: Vor Gud han er s å fast en borg Norwegian: V å r Gud han er s å fast en borg Swedish: V å r Gud är oss en väldig borg Text: Martin Luther (1483-1546) Tune: Martin Luther (1483-1546) 1 A mighty fortress is our God, A sword and shield victorious He breaks the cruel oppressor’s rod And wins salvation glorious. The old satanic foe Has sworn to work us woe! With craft and dreadful might He arms himself to fight, On earth he has no equal! 2. No strength of ours can match his might! We would be lost, rejected. But now a champion comes to fight, Whom God himself elected. You ask who this may be? The Lord of hosts is he! Christ Jesus, mighty Lord. God’s only Son, adored. He holds the field victorious.   3. Tho’ hordes of devils fill the land All threatening to devour us, We tremble not, unmoved we stand, They cannot overpow’r us. Let this world’s tyrant rage; In battle we’ll engage! His might is doomed to fail; God’s judgment will prevail! One little word subdues him.   4. God’s Word forever shall abide, No thanks to foes who fear it; For God himself fights by our side With weapons of the Spirit. Were they to take our house, Goods, honor, child or spouse, Though life be wrenched away, They cannot win the day. The Kingdom’s ours forever!         Tr. Catherine Winkworth, alt.   REFLECTION There are not many hymns about Christ’s battle with the demons. We seem to shun that topic in our hymns. Herman Stuempfle, one time president of Gettysburg Seminary, wrote one, "Away from us, the demon cried," but it has not been widely published. There is one, however, that is among the most popular hymns in the world. Martin Luther wrote of the demons in his great battle hymn of the Reformation. “Though all the world with devils filled.”   One cannot miss in the Gospel accounts, especially in Mark, is that the demons know Jesus. Normal people around Jesus do not. The demons recognize who he is because they feel his power and know it. They cry out against him, but in doing so they meet their end. On hearing their speech, Jesus casts them out of the man who is possessed. And they are gone.   They are terrifying presences. And they are not just back there in those days. Evil seems to be present in our lives today in ways we have not seen before. This cannot be ignored; Christians must stand against evil. They must pray to discern the power of Satan and then both speak of it, and speak to it. Luther’s great hymn teaches us that we have a great weapon against the demons: the word of God. “One little word.” This word, our Lord Jesus Christ, is ours to use against the evil powers that threaten to devour us. He can destroy Satan’s power, no matter what happens to us. I am always stunned when I sing the last thrilling stanza: “ Were they to take our house, / Goods, honor, child or spouse, / Though life be wrenched away, / They cannot win the day. / The Kingdom’s ours forever!” it is a wonderful promise, but it is from another realm. Everything in life can be taken from us, and yet the Kingdom will endure.     Luther battled daily with Satan and took delight in the power of Christ to vanquish Satan. The story goes, maybe apocryphal, that one day he threw a bottle of ink at him. It was a daily battle for him as it is for us. It may seem that death and Satan win here on earth. But as Christians know, death is not the last word. Christ is our life, wherever he is there is no death. The kingdom’s ours forever!   HYMN INFO This is on the list of the top ten hymns around the world. Luther wrote this hymn, tune and text, sometime before 1529. We can find no trace of when or where except that it was done by 1529. Some think he wrote it after great despair over the loss of his little daughter. Some think that experience plunged him into such despair that he was only lifted out of it by writing this hymn. It has been called the Battle hymn of the Reformation. There are many times in history when it was sung as a way to protest.   One important time was in February 1942 when the Quislings wanted Bishop Arne Fjellbu (1890-1962) to lead the service of celebration of the new Quisling government in Nidaros Cathedral. The Quisling pastor Blessing-Dahle did celebrate it in the morning. Bishop Fjellbu held an alternative service in the afternoon. People began to gather around the building. As they gathered, someone began singing "A Mighty Fortress" and soon the entire crowd was singing it. It was a peaceful moment of resistance in the face of brutal oppression. Fjellbu was born in Decorah, Iowa, and with his family moved back to Norway in 1900 where he attended school and became a Norwegian pastor. He was very devoted to the Oxford Group led by Frank Buchman and would later say that the Oxford Group with its stress on Christian renewal gave the people courage to stand up to the Nazis.   NB: One thing that Americans do not have is an agreement on a common standard translation. This makes it impossible for Lutherans from different traditions to sing together from memory.   LINKS Oslo Domkirke Kor https://youtu.be/lAreHOrxrVM   Veritas https://youtu.be/JhU2PB7jdZ0 National Lutheran Choir   https://youtu.be/Y7gWH_T7bvE John Gardiner/Bach Cantata--the cantata is stirring https://youtu.be/7i2z7prCyDY Mogens Dahl Kammerkor https://youtu.be/K63wF6p2u2Y _________________________________   NB: This is an announcement of my latest book of poetry. Those who would like to buy a copy can read how to do it in the text next to the image. It would help me a lot if I could have over fifty sold by March 15. Thanks so much! www.finishinglinepress.com

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