Midweek Musings for Sunday, October 26, 2014
This week’s reflection comes from John S. Macholz, Bishop
Reflecting and Dwelling in the Word
On this day we celebrate the heart of our faith: the gospel of Christ-the good news-that makes us free! Though we give thanks for the events of the sixteenth-century Reformation that brought renewal to the church of that time, we pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to unite the church today in its proclamation and witness to the world. In the waters of baptism we are made one body; we pray for the day that all Christians will also be one at the Lord’s table.
Philipp Nicolai, died 1608; Johann Heermann, died 1647; Paul Gerhardt, died 1676; hymnwriters
These great hymnwriters all worked in seventeenth-century Germany in times of war and plague. Nicolai, a pastor, lost 1,300 parishioners to plague, 170 in one week. He wrote “O Morning Star, how fair and bright” and “Wake, awake, for night is flying.” Heermann’s hymns, including “Ah, holy Jesus,” often express the emotions of faith. Gerhardt, perhaps the greatest Lutheran hymnwriter, was a pastor in Berlin.
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Gospel John 8:31-36
Jesus speaks of truth and freedom as spiritual realities known through his word. He reveals the truth that sets people free from sin.
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Ah, Holy Jesus
1 Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended
that we to judge thee have in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.
2 Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.
3 Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
for our atonement, while we nothing heeded,
4 For me, kind Jesus, was thine incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation;
thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
for my salvation.
5 Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee;
think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.
Text: Johann Heermann, 1585-1647; tr. Robert Bridges, 1844-1930, alt.
You’re thinking ‘cop out!’, he copped out from writing anything and is just giving us a hymn. That’s possible but I’m not giving you just a hymn, I’m giving you one of my favorite hymns in the world. And, I’m giving it to you because I believe it speaks to the essence of this Reformation and its message and purpose.
Reformation is not about us, it’s about God and what God has done for us and continues to do for us despite our best efforts to the contrary. I think the hymn speaks that (or is it sings that?) loudly and clearly.
For me, kind Jesus, was thine incarnation, mortal sorrow, life’s oblation, thy death of anguish, bitter passion. What for? My salvation.
I cannot buy that or pay Jesus for it, it is a gift, free and clear and I know I don’t deserve it, not at all! Yet it is a gift to me from a God who loves me, loves you, despite the fact that I reject, walk away from, sometimes don’t fully receive this gift, this grace and yet…. And yet God offers it again and again and again.
This Sunday is not about celebrating a break from a church or celebrating a sense of triumph on our part or nailing theses to a door; it’s about God and God’s utter, total and unbelievable gift of grace in Christ Jesus our Lord. That’s everything, that’s the only thing!
“Who then can fully appreciate what this royal marriage means? Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace? Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all his goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, “If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his…”
(“The Freedom of a Christian,” 287)