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I Will Sing My Maker’s Praises

  1. I will sing my Maker’s praisesgerhardt

And in Him most joyful be,

For in all things I see traces

Of His tender love to me.

Nothing but His love could move Him

With such sweet and tender care

Evermore to raise and bear

All who try to love and serve Him.

All things have their little day,

God’s great love abides for aye.

3.  Yea, so dear did He esteem me

That His Son He loved so well

He hath given to redeem me

From the quenchless flames of hell.

O Thou Spring of boundless blessing,

How could e’er my feeble mind

Of Thy depth the bottom find

Though my efforts were unceasing?

All things have their little day,

God’s great love abides for aye.

5.  All that for my soul is needful

He doth carefully provide,

Nor of that is He unheedful

Which my body needs beside.

When my strength cannot avail me,

When my powers can do no more,

Doth my God His strength outpour,

In my need He doth not fail me.

All things have their little day,

God’s great love abides for aye.

6.  All the hosts of earth and heaven

Wheresoe’er I turn mine eye,

For my benefit are given

That they may my need supply.

All that’s living, all that’s growing,

On the heights or in the woods,

In the vales or in the floods,

God is for my good bestowing.

All things have their little day,

God’s great love abides for aye.

7.  When I sleep, He still is near me,

O’er me rests His guardian eye;

And new gifts and blessings cheer me

When the morning streaks the sky.

Were it not for God’s protection,

Had his countenance not been

Here my guide, I had not seen

Any end of my affliction.

All things have their little day,

God’s great love abides for aye.

9.  As a father never turneth

Wholly from a wayward child,

For the prodigal still yearneth,

Longing to be reconciled:

So my many sins and errors

Find a tender, pardoning God,

Chast’ning frailty with His rod,

Not, in vengeance, with His terrors.

All things have their little day,

God’s great love abides for aye.

10. All His strokes and scourges truly

For the moment grievous prove

And yet, when I weigh them duly,

Are but tokens of His love,

Proofs that He is watching o’er me

And by crosses to His fold,

From the world that fain would hold

Soul and body, would restore me.

All things have their little day,

God’s great love abides for aye.

11.  On this thought I dwell with pleasure;

For it granteth joy and peace.

Christ’s cross hath its time and measure

And at last will wholly cease.

When the winter disappeareth,

Lovely summer comes again;

Joy is giv’n for woe and pain

Who his cross in patience beareth.

All things have their little day,

God’s great love abides for aye.

12.  Since, then, neither change nor coldness

In my Father’ love can be,

Lo, I lift my hands with boldness,

As Thy child I come to Thee.

Grant me grace, O God, I pray Thee,

That I may with all my might,

All my lifetime, day and night,

Love and trust Thee and obey Thee;

And when this brief life is o’er,

Praise and love Thee evermore.

–Paul Gerhardt, 1659

Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book, Concordia, 1927.

Place Yourself Beside the Publicans. Luther

Luther-Predigt-LC-WBThe Gospel is spoken to those only who acknowledge their sins, and their sins they acknowledge when they repent of them. But this Gospel is of no use to the Pharisees, for they do not acknowledge their sins. To those, however, who do acknowledge them, and are about to despair, the Gospel must be brought…

Therefore, when you feel your sins gnawing at you, and feel your heart trembling and agitated, place yourself beside the publicans where they are standing. These are the very ones who shall receive the Gospel. Do so joyously, and say: “Oh God! It is thy word that says there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons, who need no repentance, and that all the righteous and angels are to interpose and cover up sins. Now, Oh, God! I have come to this that I feel my sins. I am already judged. I need but the one Shepherd who seeketh me; and I will therefore freely venture on thy Gospel.”

It is thus that you come to God. You are already the sheep placed upon his shoulders. You have found the Shepherd. You are the piece of silver in the hand. You are the one over whom is joy in heaven in the presence of all the angels. We are not to worry, if we do not experience or feel this at once. Sin will daily decrease, and its sting will drive you to seek God. You must struggle against this feeling by faith, and say: “Oh God! I know thou hast said this, and I lean upon thy Word. I am the sheep and the piece of silver; thou the shepherd and the woman.”

You might say: Yes, this I will gladly do; but I cannot atone for my sins. I can render no satisfaction for them. Consider then the publicans and sinners. What good have they done? None. They came to God, heard his Word and believed it. Do the same.

Luther, Sermon for the Third Sunday after Trinity, Lenker, vol.2, p.65-66.Luther-Predigt-LC-WB

The Good News for Parents

May 20, 2015 1 comment

The Gospel for parents who fail.

http://www.mbird.com/2015/05/absolved-parenthood/

Better to Struggle With the Fear of God’s Wrath–Luther

MartinLutherIt is exceedingly difficult for the human heart to expect with certainty everything good of God and to appreciate all grace and mercy. Indeed, it is altogether impossible except through Christ the mediator. Coarse and impious hearts may be very strong and haughty at this point, bearing themselves hard in much conceit, and thinking that what they do is all very precious in the sight of God. Yes, they may do this until they come upon the peril and terror of death, brought about through the clear revelation of the Law; then there are upon all the earth no people more dejected and despairing. When their hour has come, they go down suddenly and no one can raise them up again.

36. Much better and safer and more comforting, therefore, is the state of those who are constantly striving and struggling with terror and fear of God’s wrath, and who are so afraid that when they hear the name of God mentioned the world becomes too strait for them. Just for these has this comfort been uttered; yes, for their sakes God has at all times declared the promise of his grace and of the forgivness of sins, and to that end has given his Son and all the good in the whole world, overwhelming it with blessings, in order that they, by all means, may learn to know his grace and goodness which, as Psalms 52 and 36 say, endureth continually, and reacheth unto the skies. The fact that a Christian lives and that he possesses a sound member is due solely to the visible grace and help of God. For the devil, in whose kingdom the Christians are, here upon earth, is such a wicked, malicious spirit that he aims at nothing else, day and night, than to murder and destroy them.

37. But however great, both in word and deed, God’s promise of grace is toward those that fear him, yet they cannot lift up their hearts and joyfully look upon God. They are still constantly harassed with anxiety and fear lest God may be angry with them on account of their unworthiness and the weakness which is theirs. If they hear an angry word from God, or recall or learn of some fearful example of God’s wrath and punishment, then they tremble and fear lest it strike them. The other class, on the contrary, who indeed should tremble before God, stiffly and proudly despise these things in their security, and comfort themselves with the carnal notion that God cannot be angry with them. Very difficult is it for the human heart to so balance itself that it will not become secure in success and prosperity, but remain humble, and again, in times of fear and misfortune, enjoy comfort and confidence toward God.

Martin Luther, Sermon on the Gospel for Pentecost, Church Postil

Prayer in Great Weakness of Faith

November 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Prayer in Great Weakness of Faith

Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz

 

O Lord, I now experience it in truth, that not everyone has faith.  I believe, dear Lord, but help my unbelief!  You who would not break the crushed reed, nor put out the smoldering wick, O Jesus, You who sit at the right hand of God, intercede and pray for me, that my faith may not cease.  Be the beginner and the finisher of faith, wherewith I extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one.  Let me believe, even if I cannot see, and so be saved.  Amen.

(Johann Albinus, Pastor at Naumburg. d. 1679)

Infant Faith Prior To Baptism: The Lost Work of Johannes Bugenhagen

July 5, 2014 1 comment

Bugenhagen-keysA couple of months ago Logia (a Lutheran theological journal) published an article I wrote about the faith of infants prior to baptism.  Readers of this blog will be familiar with a lot of its content, but I’m grateful to Logia  and especially its editor, Rev. Aaron Moldenhauer, for publishing it and working to get it ready for print.  The article’s topic is one that I think needs wider exposure among Lutheran pastors.  First of all, it gives profound comfort for Christian parents who lose children prior to Baptism.  Secondly, it sheds light on theological controversies that have arisen among confessional Lutheran pastors in the past few years—in particular, the nature of infant faith and the question of infant communion.  Finally, it challenges us, through the example of one particular question in pastoral care, to evaluate the degree to which contemporary confessional Lutheran theological assumptions diverge from those of the first generation of the Reformation.

 

The article examines a little book by Johannes Bugenhagen, a reformer who was also Luther’s pastor at the church in Wittenberg.  The book, called On Unborn Children, seems not to have been widely known among Lutheran theologians in the last century or two.  In it Bugenhagen sets out an argument for infant faith and infant baptism against Anabaptist objections.  Then he turns to discuss the faith and salvation of infants which die before baptism.

 

Briefly, Bugenhagen argues that infants have the promise of salvation given to them by Christ when He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  On the basis of that word we are required to bring our infants to Christ in Baptism, since in Baptism Christ receives them and gives them faith and brings them into the kingdom of heaven.

 

But what happens to those who are not baptized?  Bugenhagen argues that the promise of Christ—“The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” still applies to unbaptized infants.  They are brought to Christ and offered to Him through the prayers of parents and the church.  And Bugenhagen’s contention is that such children, when they die prior to Baptism, are certainly saved and should be treated that way.  Bugenhagen’s view was apparently also the view of Luther, who appended his more famous“Comfort for Women who have had a Miscarriage” to Bugenhagen’s book.

 

Bugenhagen’s approach to the question comes as something of a surprise to some confessional Lutherans.  First of all it seems to imply that infants receive faith in Christ apart from the external Word, at least in the case of unbaptized infants.  And that view, that unbaptized infants receive faith apart from the means of grace in response to the prayers of the church, was not only the perspective of Bugenhagen but also stated explicitly by the great theologian of the age of Lutheran orthodoxy, Johann Gerhard (see his A Comprehensive Explanation of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, published by Repristination Press). 

 

Secondly, Bugenhagen’s approach seems largely unknown to confessional Lutheran pastors, who typically will point parents of unbaptized infants who die to the Word they heard while still in the womb instead of to the promise of Christ regarding little children and the efficacy of prayer.

 

Why does Bugenhagen’s book merit wider attention?  First of all because of the comfort it gives grieving parents.  Bugenhagen provides a certain comfort instead of a vague hope.  He doesn’t tell grieving parents “Your miscarried child might be in heaven because you went to church and had family devotions and they might have believed what they heard in utero.”  He says: “Your child is certainly with the Lord, because Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’  And you brought your little child to Christ in your prayers.  Besides this the church also interceded for your little one.  And the Holy Spirit prayed within you with inexpressible sighs.  And so your child was most certainly brought to Christ, who has promised that the kingdom of heaven belongs to infants who are brought to Him.”

 

Secondly, confusion about the nature of infant faith has been behind some theological controversy among Lutheran pastors in recent years.  Relatively recently some furor erupted on the internet as liturgically-minded, confessions-subscribing pastors argued about the validity of infant communion.  Neither party denied the reality of the faith of infants.  But the failure of some pastors to understand the reason the reformers did not institute infant communion has something to do with this lack of clarity on how infants receive the Word of God and faith in Christ.  According to Bugenhagen, infants receive Christ and the Gospel although they are not capable of being taught or understanding the contents of the Gospel.  They are received because Christ promises to receive them, not because they have the same capacity for a faith that is capable of self-examination as adult Christians.

 

Finally, it invites us to look at the ways in which contemporary confessional Lutheranism may be narrower than the Lutheranism of the reformers and of the period of orthodoxy.  Bugenhagen does not seem to understand the Smalcald Articles’ dictum No Spirit apart from the Word the same way many of us do.  Moreover, he ascribes a great deal more to the prayers of believers than many contemporary Lutherans seem to find comfortable.  Finally, his insistence that the purpose of theology is for the comfort of the afflicted consciences of believers challenges our tendency to simplify theology into slogans designed to easily identify heresy.

 

Bugenhagen’s book opens up a number of discussions it would be useful for confessional Lutherans to have.  But my main hope in writing the article was and is that his approach to the comfort of parents who have lost children before baptism would become more widely known among Lutheran pastors.

The Benefits of Persecution–Luther

January 30, 2014 1 comment

barnes14. Hence, people have here an example where they are to seek their comfort and help, not in the world; they are not to guard the wisdom and power of men, but Christ himself and him alone; they are to cleave to him and depend on him in every need with all faithfulness and confidence as the disciples do in our text. For had they not believed that he would help them, they would not have awakened him and called upon him. True their faith was weak and was mingled with much unbelief, so that they did not perfectly and freely surrender themselves to Christ and risk their life with him, nor did they believe he could rescue them in the midst of the sea and save them from death. Thus it is ordained that the Word of God has no master nor judge, no protector or patron can be given it besides God himself. It is his Word. Therefore, as he left it go forth without any merit or counsel of men, so will he himself without any human help and strength administer and defend it. And whoever seeks protection and comfort in these things among men, will both fall and fail, and be forsaken by both God and man.

 

15. That Jesus slept indicates the condition of their hearts, namely, that they had a weak, sleepy faith, but especially that at the time of persecution Christ withdraws and acts as though he were asleep, and gives neither strength nor power, neither peace nor rest, but lets us worry and labor in our weakness, and permits us to experience that we are nothing at all and that all depends upon his grace and power, as Paul confesses in 2 Cor 1, 9, that he had to suffer great affliction, so as to learn to trust not in himself but in God, who raised the dead. Such a sleeping on the part of God David often experienced and refers to it in many places, as when he says in Ps 44,23: ”Awake, why sleepest thou, 0 Lord? Arise, cast us not off forever.”

 

16. The summary of this Gospel is this, it gives us two comforting, defying proverbs, that when persecution for the sake of God’s Word arises, we may say: I indeed thought Christ was in the ship, therefore the sea and wind rage, and the waves dash over us and threaten to sink us; but let them rage, it is ordained that the wind and sea obey his will. The persecutions will not continue longer than is his pleasure; and although they overwhelm us, yet they must be subject to him; he is Lord over all, therefore nothing will harm us. May he only give us his help that we may not despair in unbelief. Amen.

 

17. That the people marveled and praised the Lord that the wind and sea were subject to him, signifies that the Gospel, God’s Word, spreads farther through persecution, it thus becomes stronger and faith increases; and this is also a paradoxical characteristic of the Gospel compared with all worldly things which decrease through every misfortune and opposition, and increase through prosperity and peace. Christ’s kingdom grows through tribulations and declines in times of peace, ease and luxury, as St. Paul says in 2 Cor 12, 9: ”My power is made perfect in weakness, etc.” To this end help us God! Amen.

from the Church Postil (Sermon on the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany)

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