Hymn Parade – O Come All ye Faithful

Hymn Parade – O Come all ye Faithful (Adeste Fidelis) by John Francis Wade (1743)

How does this hymn emphasize the importance of this historic event in Bethlehem?

Video: https://vimeo.com/2506973

Luke 2:15-16:  15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem! Come, and behold Him, born the King of angels!

Refrain: O come, let us adore Him; O come, let us adore Him; O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord!

Sing, choirs of angels; sing in exultation; sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above! Glory to God, all glory in the highest!

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning; Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n! Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!

The context of this story begins 400 years before with the prophesy in Micah 5:2 that Jesus or Immanuel would be born in Bethlehem.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

For 400 years, God was silent or a 21st century person might think that ‘God was dead.’ But by living and dying in real time on earth, Jesus saved us from our sins. Fact Check: It is documented real news!

We are familiar with the story, but these words in Micah 5:2 give some context about how God prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem and told to us through His prophet Isaiah that His Son would be named Jesus, sometimes called Immanuel, “because by coming to dwell with us, living and dying among us, He would be able to save us from our sin.” That’s the Christmas story. Jesus came to live among us, not as royalty, but in poverty, “with no place for the Son of Man to lay His head.” 

 Adoration of the Shepheds-1622

The Adoration of the Shepherds (1622), by Gerard van Honthorst

The hymn was composed in Latin and is also named, Adeste Fideles. It was sung regularly at the Portugese Embassy in France during their Christmas services and this is how it came to England about 100 years later. In England Frederick Oakeley translated the hymn from Latin to English. It was published in the hymnal in the Anglican Church in 1852 (during the time of Queen Victoria) in the form we are familiar with today.

The words of the hymn place the singer among the shepherds and in the continuing procession of Christians from the historic event over 2,000 years before. The second stanza, which is not included in all hymnals, reflects the words of the Nicene Creed.

God of God, light of light, Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;

Very God, begotten, not created:

Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on Matthew 2, “The revelation is itself divided into parts of its own, the first of which is the star; the second, the confession of the Wise Men; the third, the witness of the priests; and the fourth, godless Herod’s admitted fear. By all these things the birth of Christ is preached and revealed – that is, by a mute creature, the star; by foreigners, the Wise Men; by His own people; and by His enemy and persecutor – so that there may be no excuse for anyone not to know that Christ has been born.

 His personal identity is this: from the tribe of Judah, the city of Bethlehem, the true Son of David and true man from the Father in eternity; the true Son of God, true God, as is more fully evident in Micah 5:2. His office is this: the prince of the people of God, but a prince in a different way, not like David and other mortals and their successors. He is unique and He is immortal – without successor – because He is an eternal person, as Micah 5:2 says, ‘His coming forth is from the beginning before the days of the world.’”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hymn Parade – Joy to the World!

 Joy to the World by Isaac Watts (1719)

How is this a song about our future?

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHS7StIz1S8 (National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.)

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLLtnTXxErM (Chris Tomlin)

Psalm 98:4-9    Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness   and the peoples with equity.

This favorite Christmas hymn was not written for Christmas, is not based on the birth of Jesus as written in Luke 2, and the familiar tune is pieced together from various sources! The original poem was written in the present tense, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” However, it is not uncommon to hear it sung in the past tense, Joy to the world, the Lord has come.

The tune, Antioch, was pieced together from Handel’s Messiah by Lowell Mason, a Boston music teacher, in 1836.

joy to the world

The story of Joy to the World is emphatically written in St. Paul’s letter to the people in the large urban center of Ephesus in Ephesians 2:4-9

God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved); and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God!”

Martin Luther wrote in The Freedom of a Christian Man about the everlasting joy that is our greatest gift! Yes, God’s personal love for each of us should be understood as a gift that is equal to or greater than saving Noah’s family from the flood, the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt to the Promised Land, and the return to Israel from captivity under the Persians in Babylon. God’s gift came to us in the birth of Jesus Christ!

“Should you ask how it happens that faith alone justifies and offers us such a treasure of great benefits without works in view of the fact that so many works, ceremonies, and laws are prescribed in the Scriptures, I answer: First of all, remember what has been said, namely that faith alone, without works justifies, frees and saves; we shall make this clearer later on.  Here we must point out that the entire Scripture of God is divided into two parts: commandments and promises.  Although the commandments teach things that are good, the things taught are not done as soon as they are taught, for the commandments show us what we ought to do but do not give us the power to do it.  …That which is impossible for you to accomplish by trying to fulfill all the works of the law – many and useless as they all are – you will accomplish quickly and easily through faith.  God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.  …Thus the promises of God forgive what the commandments of God demand and fulfill what the law prescribes so that all things may be God’s alone, both the commandments and the fulfilling of the commandments.  He alone commands, He alone fulfils.

The third incomparable benefit of faith is that it unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom.  …Christ is full of grace, life and salvation.  The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation.  Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s; for if Christ is a bridegroom, He must take upon himself the things which are his bride’s and bestow upon her the things that are His.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Hymn Parade – Silent Night – 199th anniversary in 2017

Hymn Parade – Silent Night by Rev. Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber (1818)

How does this song inspire your faith in the real news that Jesus Christ lived with us here on earth?

Video: https://vimeo.com/151626980

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbm8IQ_G_-c (Guitar version from St. Nicholas’ Church in Obendorf)

Silent night! holy night! All is calm, all is bright, ‘Round yon virgin mother and Child! Holy Infant, so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace. 

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht! Alles schläft, einsam wacht nur das traute hochheilige Paar, Holder Knabe mit lockigem Haar, schlaf im himmlischer Ruh. 

This is the 199th anniversary year of the hymn Silent Night, which UNESCO declared as a global cultural icon in 2011. It is the world’s most popular Christmas song and proclaims the historic birth of Jesus Christ. The hymn was first sung in St. Nicholas’ Roman Catholic Church in Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg, Austria in 1818. A group of actors presented a play about the Christmas story in a small home because the organ in the church was not functional.

Silent night, holy night! All are asleep; alone awake only the faithful and most holy pair, Gentle boy with curly hair, sleep in heavenly peace.  (The original poem)

The young priest, Josef Mohr asked Franz Gruber, the organist at St. Nicholas to write a melody and to include the song as part of the Christmas Eve worship. Since the church organ was broken, the song was sung with a guitar. Austria and Europe were rebuilding three years after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815.

It was sometime in January when the organ was repaired by Karl Mauracher that Franz Gruber played the simple melody to test the repairs on the organ. Karl Mauracher took a copy of the music with him and shared it with another family singing group, the Strasser sisters. The hymn did not go viral until 1840 when it was performed for King William IV of Prussia in Berlin. In 1839, the hymn was sung (in German) outside Trinity Church in New York City at the gravesite of Alexander Hamilton. In 1863, the same year that President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday following the battle of Gettysburg, Silent Night was translated to English. Today it has been translated into over 300 languages!

rainer     Silent Night at the gravesite of Alexander Hamilton at Trinity Church, NYC

From the Introduction in the sermon Martin Luther preached on the afternoon of December 25, 1530:

“You have heard today the story from the Gospel of St. Luke of how it came to pass that our Lord Christ was born and then also the message of the angel, who announced who the boy was who was born. Now we shall go on and take up the message of the angel. So for today you have heard only that the child was born that he is the Lord and Savior. Thus we spoke of the story, how it unfolded, and who the persons in it were. This article is so high that even today it is believed by only a few. Nevertheless, God has preserved it even through those who have not believed it. For at all times in the monasteries and lectures which dealt with the fact that Christ the Lord, born of Mary, is true man and God. But it went no further than saying and hearing it. But this belief is held by the devil too and Turks and all the godless among the Christians, and is the kind of belief which everybody believes that it is true but would not die for it, as Eck and many others show today. If they had as much from Christ and the teaching of the gospel as from the devil, they would also think as much of Christ. The Turk too admits that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, that Mary was an immaculate virgin, and that Christ was more than a man; but the Word of God, as it is given in the gospel, he denies, and yet I fear that the Turk believes more of this article than does the pope. Therefore it is a high article to believe that this infant, born of Mary, is true God; for nobody’s reason can ever accept the fact that he who created heaven and earth and is adored by the angels was born of a virgin. That is the article. Nobody believes it except he who also knows this faith, namely, that this child is the Lord and Savior.

But for whom was he born and whose Lord and Savior is he? The angels declare that he was born Lord and Savior. The Turks, the pope, and the scholars say the same thing, but only to the extent that it brings in money and honor. But that anyone could say “to you is born,” as the angel says, this is the faith which we must preach about. But we cannot preach about it as we would like to do.

Indeed, who could ever grasp (the full meaning of) these words of the evangelist: “a Savior, who is the Lord,” and, “to you”! I know well enough how to talk about it and what to believe about it, just as others do. So there are many who have this belief and do not doubt this first belief that Christ is the Lord, the Savior, and the virgin’s Son. This I too have never doubted. But if these words are planted no higher than in my thoughts, then they have no firm roots. We are certain that this was proclaimed by the angel, but the firm faith does not follow. For the reason does not understand both sides of this faith, first that Christ is a man, but also the Savior and Lord or King. This needs to be revealed from heaven. One who really has the first faith also has the other.

Who, then, are those to whom this joyful news is to be proclaimed? Those who are faint-hearted and feel the burden of their sins, like the shepherds, to whom the angels proclaim the message, letting the great lords in Jerusalem, who do not accept it go on sleeping. Beyond the first faith there must be the second faith, that Christ is not only the virgin’s Son, but also the Lord of angels and the Savior of men. The words anyone can understand, anti-sacramentarians, fanatics, sectarians, and Turks; but they do not proceed from the heart, they come only from hearing and go no farther than hearing. This is not faith, however, but only a memory of what has been heard, that one knows that he has heard it. Nobody ventures it, so as to stake goods, life, and honor upon it. And yet we must preach it for the sake of those who are in the multitude to whom the angel preached.

This is our theology, which we preach in order that we may understand what the angel wants. Mary bore the child, took it to her breast and nursed it, and the Father in heaven has his Son, lying in the manger and the mother’s lap. Why did God do all this? Why does Mary guard the child as a mother should? And reason answers: in order that we may make an idol of her, that honor may be paid to the mother. Mary becomes all this without her knowledge and consent, and all the songs and glory and honor are addressed to the mother. And yet the text does not sound forth the honor of the mother, for the angel says, “I bring to you good news of great joy; for to you is born this day the Savior” (Luke 2:10,11). I am to accept the child and his birth and forget the mother, as far as this is possible, although her part cannot be forgotten, for where there is a birth there must also be a mother. Nevertheless, we dare not put our faith in the mother but only in the fact that the child was born. And the angel desired that we should see nothing but the child which is born, just as the angels themselves, as though they were blind, which is born, just as the angels themselves, as though they were blind, saw nothing but the child born of the virgin, and desired that all created things should be as nothing compared with this child, that we should see nothing, be it harps, gold, goods, honor, power, and the like, which we would prefer before their message.

For if I receive even the costliest and best in the world, it still does not have the name of Savior. And if the Turk were ten times stronger than he is, he could not for one moment save me from my infirmity, to say nothing of the peril of death, and even less from the smallest sin or from death itself. In my sin, my death, I must take leave of all created things. No, sun, moon, stars, all creatures, physicians, emperors, kings, wise men and potentates cannot help me. When I die I shall see nothing but black darkness, and yet that light, “To you is born this day the Savior” (Luke 2:11), remains in my eyes and fills all heaven and earth. The Savior will help me when all have forsaken me. And when the heavens and the stars and all creatures stare at me with horrible mien, I see nothing in heaven and earth but this child. So great should that light which declares that He is my Savior become in my eyes….”

(From the Conclusion) “What we have said, then, has been about that second faith, which is not only to believe in Mary’s Son, but rather that he who lies in the virgin’s lap is our Savior, that you accept this and give thanks to God, who so loved you that he gave you a Savior who is yours. And for a sign he sent the angel from heaven to proclaim him, in order that nothing else should be preached except that this child is the Savior and far better than heaven and earth. Him, therefore, we should acknowledge and accept confess him as our Savior in every need, call upon him, and never doubt that he will save us from all misfortune. Amen.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hymn Parade – Jesus Loves Me

Jesus Loves Me – Anna Bartlett Warner 1862

Why is this short and simple hymn timeless and popular with every culture?

Jesus loves me—this I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to him belong,—They are weak, but he is strong.

Jesus loves me—loves me still, Though I’m very weak and ill; From his shining throne on high, Comes to watch me where I lie.

Jesus loves me—he will stay, Close beside me all the way. Then his little child will take, Up to heaven for his dear sake.

Hymn by William Batchelder Bradbury

Jesus loves me—this I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong—They are weak, but He is strong.

Refrain: Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me—He who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in. Jesus loves me—loves me still, Though I’m very weak and ill;

From His shining throne on high, Comes to watch me where I lie. Jesus loves me—He will stay, Close beside me all the way, Then His little child will take, Up to Heaven for His dear sake.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jABcYKhDrI

Psalm 19: 7, 8     The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

The song Jesus Loves Me is timeless. Parents sing this hymn to their children at nap and bedtime, and it has probably been sung in every country since it was published in 1862. The history of the song is about 25 miles from where I live but its history touches all of us.

800px-Warner_House,_Constitution_Island_31_July_2010

The Warner House

Anna and Susan Warner lived on Constitution Island in the Hudson River and many cadets from West Point Military Academy came by rowboat to their cottage to attend their Sunday School classes. (Sunday Schools date back to Brooklyn in 1816 and Rally Day parades began in 1829.)As a result of the economic crisis in 1857, the sisters began to write novels to supplement the family’s income. Anna wrote the verses to Jesus Loves Me as part of the novel about a young boy who was dying with no chance for recovery. In 1862, when a William Bradbury read their novel, Say and Seal, he added the refrain and composed the melody. Bradbury’s company also provided the pianos for the White House, beginning in 1857.

Say and Seal

 

The novel and short hymn became popular in both the north and south during the American Civil War. It was preached in pulpits and sung at funerals. The simplicity of the poem made it easy to memorize. Although the novel, Say and seal was a national best seller in 1860, few have heard of it today. However, the simplistic poem, Jesus Loves Me, is known by almost everyone and two million copies were sold in 1862.

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Psalm 19 reveals to us the love of God! Martin Luther said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me. It has feet, it runs after me. It has hands, it lays hold of me.”

The central question in religion is how do we know that God is real or how and where has he revealed Himself to us? The hymn, Jesus Loves Me, answers this essential question emphatically!

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Constitution Island

Constitution Island in the Hudson River looking towards West Point Military Academy. During the American Revolution, a chain was laid across the river in 1778 to prevent the British ships from advancing north from New York City.

Hymn Parade – 10,000 Reasons

10,000 Reasons – by Matt Redman, England (2011)

 How does this song motivate us to worship?

Bless the Lord, O my soul O my soul / Worship His holy name / Sing like never before, O my soul / I’ll worship Your holy name.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtL_xeRoyVU

Psalm 103:   Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

10000 Reasons

Martin Luther once had a dream in which he saw a book that contained a record of all his sins. The devil came and looked through the book and said: “Martin, here is one of your sins. Look at it. And here is another and another.” Luther replied to the devil: “Take a pen and write these words over them: “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

Martin Luther wrote about Psalm 103:11-12 that, “It is the grace of God, which is as high above us as the heaven is above the earth, or as far removed as the east is from the west.” He said it is a wonderful thing to be a child of God. We are children only because Jesus Christ came to earth, was born of a woman, and was sentenced to death under the laws of the Romans.

All the works of God are amazing because they fill us with joy and courage giving us the ability to confront every challenge!

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hymn Parade – What a Friend we Have in Jesus

How does the Bible describe the image of God in Jesus Christ?

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to bear! / What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! / O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear / All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwi_qKVI8lQ

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

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Joseph Scriven Monument in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada

 Joseph Scriven was born on Sept. 10, 1819, in Ireland. He graduated from Trinity College in Dublin with a bachelor’s degree. While traveling with his bride on the day before their wedding, his bride fell from her horse while crossing a bridge over the River Bann and drowned in the water below.

In an effort to overcome his sorrow, Joseph travel to Ontario and settled in Port Hope, Canada (about 70 miles east of Toronto) where he joined the Plymouth Brethren. He was engaged to Elisa Roche but she died of pneumonia before they were married. He tutored children, organized a private school, and did some preaching (although not ordained), visited the sick and assisted the poor.

When he was ill, a friend discovered the words to the poem and asked if he could share it with his ailing mother in Ireland. Charles Converse wrote the musical setting. Joseph Scriven body was pulled from Rice Lake near Bewdly, Ontario (about 10 miles north of Port Hope) on August 10, 1886.

joseph scriven home

Home of Joseph Scriven in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada

Martin Luther said you must know God as an enemy before you can know Him as a friend. It seems to me we must be known by God as servants before He would call us friends.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Hymn Parade – Awesome God

Awesome God – Rich Mullins and Michael W. Smith (1988)

How great is our God?

 Nehemiah 1:5-7: Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.”

Awesome God

When He rolls up His sleeves/He ain’t just putting on the ritz There’s thunder in His footsteps/And lightning in His fists The Lord wasn’t joking/When He kicked ’em out of Eden It wasn’t for no reason/That He shed His blood His return is very close/And so you better be believing that Our God is an awesome God/Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above/With wisdom, power, and love Our God is an awesome God/And when the sky was starless In the void of the night/(God is an awesome God) He spoke into the darkness/And created the light/(God is an awesome God) Judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom/Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross

I hope that we have not/Too quickly forgotten that Our God is an awesome God

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38V8jnN1Kpw

Awesome God

Martin Luther said: “Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.” Nehemiah (445 B.C.E.) prayed both day and night for the sinful actions and complacency of the people of Israel. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king and his main job was to taste the king’s wine first to make sure it was not poisoned. It was a dangerous job! It also gave him intimate access to royalty, political standing and a place to live in the palace. Based on the reports Nehemiah heard in the palace he was concerned about what was happening to his countrymen in Jerusalem.

The report was that the survivors were in great trouble and disgrace, that the wall of Jerusalem was in shambles and that its gates had been burned with fire.  They were living in ruins and they accepted it. Nehemiah understood that before you can ask God to rebuild, you must first become concerned about the problem. First, he admits admit his sin and then the sins of his people. Nehemiah boldly and persistently asks God to hear his prayer and confession of sin. He cries, fasts, and persists in prayer. Nehemiah knows that the captivity was due to the disobedience of the people but that God had promised He would bring them back to Jerusalem. Nehemiah is willing and ready to get involved! He asked God to use him at risk to his well-being and life.

Our God is an Awesome God because He loves us when we are in ruins, lost, anxious, helpless. Everyone experiences difficult times and unhappiness but the power of this praise hymn is that God is all-powerful, all-loving, and always ready to help us. As Nehemiah prayed to rebuild Jerusalem, we pray to rebuild our lives or the life of someone in need of help. Just turn to Jesus in prayer, pray boldly and pray consistently! ‘He gave us grace on the cross!”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Hymn Parade – How Great Thou Art

How Great Thou Art – Carl Gustav Boberg (1885, Sweden)

Did Carl Boberg write the words to this hymn during a time when he felt blessed or during a time of trial and anxiety?

 O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder / Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made / I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder / Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2T1csHUgF4

1 Chronicles 29:10-13 (David’s Prayer)   10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

elvis-how-great-thou-art

Carl Boberg was a sailor and left his job to become a lay-minister in the Lutheran Church of Sweden. In 1885, after hearing the sound of church bells ringing during either a thunderstorm or funeral service, he wrote the words to “O Great God”.

At first, his nine-verse poem was not very popular. In 1890, someone published his poem in the paper with a Swedish melody. During the Great Depression decade of the 1930s, Stuart Hine, an English missionary, heard the song in Russian while in Poland and brought it back with him to England. In the 1950s the hymn became very popular through the Billy Graham crusades and has continued as one of the top five most popular hymns in the world.

“Martin Luther saw prayer as crucial to human life, a life created by the relationship to God. In this relationship God starts a conversation, communicating God’s words of law and promise. Prayer is a part of the human response to God’s speaking, a response itself shaped by the words of command and promise. Luther thought that God’s promise to hear prayer defines both the nature of God and the nature of the human relationship to God, as well as the human approach to life. Luther’s comments and instructions on prayer permeated his work. Luther sought to build an evangelical prayer practice that reflected the key insights of his theology: just as God redeems the unworthy human, so God promises to hear and respond to the one praying, despite his or her unworthiness. Humans respond to God’s actions in law and promise when they pray regularly, forthrightly, honestly, and frequently. Freedom in Christ sets humans free to use prayer practices that help them to do this.” (Mary Jane Haemig)

http://religion.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-9780199340378-e-358

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hymn Parade – Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy Faithfulness by Thomas Chisholm (1923)

How many situations in life have challenged your faith in God?

Great is Thy faithfulness O God my Father / There is no shadow of turning with Thee / Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not / As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTKIqmdfHSk

Lamentations 3:22:23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

great-thy-faithfulness-christian-worship-hymn-thomas-chisholm-classic-extolling-god-s-faithful-dealings-his-people-61146998

Thomas Chisholm was born in Franklin, Kentucky in 1866. He was educated in a small country schoolhouse and at age 16 began teaching at the same school. He became a Christian at age 27, and with no college or seminary training was ordained a Methodist minister at age 36. Within a year of his ordination he became ill, left the ministry and moved to Vineland, NJ. Although he had many health issues and a limited income, his faith in God’s promises was strong throughout his life. He also lived until age 94 and died in Ocean Grove, NJ in 1960.

His friend, William Runyan wrote the tune for this popular hymn. The hymn became popular with the Billy Graham crusade and is one of the most popular hymns in England.

Martin Luther wrote the following about faith in his introduction to Romans in his translation of the New Testament in 1522: “Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this `faith,’ either.

Instead, faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Hymn Parade – Holy, Holy, Holy

Bible Verses That Influenced Hymns

Holy, Holy, Holy by Reginald Heber (1826, England)

Why did John Newton remember the words of King David when faced with death in a storm in the Atlantic Ocean?

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! / Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee / Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty / God in three persons, blessed Trinity!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SHDNs7Dt5M

Revelation 4:8   Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

Holy, Holy, Holy

Reginald Heber was a bishop in the Anglican Church of England. He wrote this hymn for Trinity Sunday but died unexpectedly at age 43 before the hymn was sung. His wife found the words and passed it on to John Dykes who wrote the melody in 1861.

Luther:  Paul, speaking of Christ in Hebrews 1:3, refers to Him as the express image of God’s substance. Again, in Colossians 1:15 he says of Christ: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” We must take these words for what they say—that all creatures, even angels and men, are ranked below Christ. This classification leaves room for God only: taking away the creature, only God remains. It is one and the same thing, then, to say that Christ is the firstborn of all creatures and that Christ is true and essential God.

To make the matter as clear as possible Paul uses the expression image of the invisible God.” If Christ be the image of God he must be a person distinct from him whose image he is, but at the same time in one divine essence with the Father. He and the Father are not one person, but two, and yet Christ could not be the express image of the Father’s person, or essence, if he were not equally divine. No creature can be an image of the divine essence, for it does not possess that essence. To repeat, Christ could not be called the express image of God if he and the Father were not distinct persons; there must be one imaged and one who is the image.

Expressed more clearly and according to Scripture, one person is the Father, who in eternity begets the other; the other is the Son, begotten in eternity, yet both are equally eternal, mighty, wise and just.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org