Incarnation and Trinity

The revelation of the incarnation and the Trinity, though hinted at for long ages, was not, in every sense, a gradual unveiling. No sooner is the lock of the incarnation undone, than the lock on the treasure chest of the Trinity springs open. Granted, it took several centuries for all that treasure to be unpacked, to be taken into inventory, so to speak, but the doctrine of the Trinity was not dreamed in a vision, not framed as an utter novelty in the ecumenical creeds.  Indeed, the truth about the triune God is implicit in the knowing confession that Jesus is Lord (as we think about his relation to us and the world) and in our careful contemplation concerning his self-revealed and proper identity as Son to the Father, with the Holy Spirit.

—Edith M. Humphrey, “The Gift of the Father: Looking at Salvation History Upside Down,” in Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, Worship, 91-92

Made like Us

What poor Adam could not see was that he already was as like God as ever a creature could be. And though in his vain search to rise above his God-appointed station he succeeded only in bringing down the human race into sin, he could not destroy God’s purposes. In incarnation and in atonement his folly has been undone, and God has taken human form in order to lead man back to himself. Adam’s folly lay in believing he could ever rise higher than his human station. There is no higher station open to any creature.

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 110-11

Advent

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas 

Sing to Teach

Paul is not afflicted by our contemporary assumptions that music is decorative, while preaching is formative. As if to remind the Colossian believers that one of the ways to allow the word of Christ to dwell in them richly is to sing the Christ hymn together. Paul lists songs as one of the ways to teach and admonish each other. “Teach and warn each other BY singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16b).

—Glenn Packiam, “Singing Our Way to Virtue: The Christ Hymn and Moral Formation in Colossians” (Biblical Worship section, Evangelical Theological Society, November 2020)

Luther on Worship and the Word

As God at first gives faith through the Word, so He thereafter also exercises, increases, confirms, and perfects it through the Word. Therefore the worship of God at its best and the finest keeping of the Sabbath consist in exercising oneself in piety and in dealing with the Word and hearing it. On the other hand, nothing is more dangerous than a dislike of the Word.

Luther’s Testimony in Song

(can be sung to the tune of MIT FREUDEN ZART, “Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above”):

1 Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And with united heart and voice
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God has done,
How His right arm the vict’ry won,
What price our ransom cost Him!

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.

5 God said to His beloved Son:
“It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright jewel of My crown,
And bring to all salvation.
From sin and sorrow set them free;
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with You forever.”

6 The Son obeyed His Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother;
And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my brother.
His royal pow’r disguised He bore;
A servant’s form, like mine, He wore
To lead the devil captive.

7 To me He said: “Stay close to Me,
I am your rock and castle.
Your ransom I Myself will be;
For you I strive and wrestle.
For I am yours, and you are Mine,
And where I am you may remain;
The foe shall not divide us.

8 “Though he will shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving,
All this I suffer for your good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life will from death the vict’ry win;
My innocence shall bear your sin,
And you are blest forever.

9 “Now to My Father I depart,
From earth to heav’n ascending,
And, heav’nly wisdom to impart,
The Holy Spirit sending;
In trouble He will comfort you
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you.

10 “What I on earth have done and taught
Guide all your life and teaching;
So shall the kingdom’s work be wrought
And honored in your preaching.
But watch lest foes with base alloy
The heav’nly treasure should destroy;
This final word I leave you.”

Luther on Music (4)

I am not satisfied with him who despises music, as all fanatics do; for music is an endowment and a gift of God, not a gift of men. It also drives away the devil and makes people cheerful; one forgets all anger, unchasteness, pride, and other vices. I place music next to theology and give it the highest praise. And we see how David and all saints put their pious thoughts into verse, rhyme, and songs, because music reigns in times of peace.

Luther on Music (and the Arts) (2)

Music is an outstanding gift of God and next to theology. I would not give up my slight knowledge of music for a great consideration. And youth should be taught this art; for it makes fine skillful people. . . . Nor am I at all of the opinion that all the arts are to be overthrown and cast aside by the gospel, as some superspiritual people protest; but I would gladly see all the arts, especially music, in the service of Him who has given and created them.

Luther on Music

Thus it was not without reason that the fathers and prophets wanted nothing else to be associated as closely with the Word of God as music. Therefore, we have so many hymns and Psalms where message and music [Sermo et vox] join to move the listener’s soul….After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both words and music, namely, by proclaiming [the Word of God] through music and by providing sweet melodies with words.

—”Preface to Georg Rhau’s Symphoniae iucundae,” Luther’s Works 53.323.24

Luther on the Immanence of God

When Martin Luther translated the Bible into German for the first time, he made a profound theological point along these lines, simply by his choice of pronouns.  The German language has two different pronouns for the second-person singular (“you” in English): an informal/familiar one (Du) and a formal/polite one (Sie).  The polite form is used in addressing everyone but one’s own family members and closest friends.  Yet Luther used the familiar form in his translation when God was being addressed!!  There is a world of New Testament theology embedded in that single grammatical decision.  (Even the “Thee’s” and “Thou’s” of the King James Version, while some find them a little stilted and stuffy today, were actually the familiar second-person pronouns in the English of its day.)

Luther’s Testimony in Song

(can be sung to the tune of MIT FREUDEN ZART, “Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above”):

1 Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And with united heart and voice
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God has done,
How His right arm the vict’ry won,
What price our ransom cost Him!

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.

5 God said to His beloved Son:
“It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright jewel of My crown,
And bring to all salvation.
From sin and sorrow set them free;
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with You forever.”

6 The Son obeyed His Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother;
And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my brother.
His royal pow’r disguised He bore;
A servant’s form, like mine, He wore
To lead the devil captive.

7 To me He said: “Stay close to Me,
I am your rock and castle.
Your ransom I Myself will be;
For you I strive and wrestle.
For I am yours, and you are Mine,
And where I am you may remain;
The foe shall not divide us.

8 “Though he will shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving,
All this I suffer for your good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life will from death the vict’ry win;
My innocence shall bear your sin,
And you are blest forever.

9 “Now to My Father I depart,
From earth to heav’n ascending,
And, heav’nly wisdom to impart,
The Holy Spirit sending;
In trouble He will comfort you
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you.

10 “What I on earth have done and taught
Guide all your life and teaching;
So shall the kingdom’s work be wrought
And honored in your preaching.
But watch lest foes with base alloy
The heav’nly treasure should destroy;
This final word I leave you.”

The Power of Music

I fluctuate between the danger of pleasure and the experience of  the beneficent effect, and I am more led to put forward the opinion (not as an irrevocable view) that the custom of singing in Church is to be approved, so that through the delights of the ear the weaker mind may rise up towards the devotion of worship. Yet when it happens to me that the music moves me more than the subject of the song, I confess myself to commit a sin  deserving  punishment, and then I would prefer not to have heard the singer.

—Augustine, Confessions, X, xxxiii