Worship as Wounding

By worship, if not by worship exclusively, the Church keeps open the wound which the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit have inflicted on the self-righteousness of the world, and in this way too the process of salvation is continued.

Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice, 116

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EASTER HYMN by Martin Luther

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands,
And brings us life from Heaven.
Wherefore let us joyful be,
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of Alleluia!

No son of man could conquer Death,
Such mischief sin had wrought us,
For innocence dwelt not on earth,
And therefore Death had brought us
Into thralldom from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
And kept us in his bondage. Alleluia!

But Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,
To our low state descended,
The cause of Death He has undone,
His power forever ended,
Ruined all his right and claim
And left him nothing but the name,
His sting is lost forever.

It was a strange and dreadful strife
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life;
The reign of death was ended.
Stripped of power, no more it reigns,
An empty form alone remains
Death’s sting is lost forever!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong His love!—to save us.
See, His blood doth mark our door;
Faith points to it, Death passes over,
And Satan cannot harm us. Alleluia!

So let us keep the festival
Where to the Lord invites us;
Christ is Himself the joy of all,
The Sun that warms and lights us.
By His grace He doth impart
Eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of sin is ended!

Then let us feast this Easter day
On the true Bread of Heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away
The old and wicked leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our Meat and Drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other!

–Martin Luther (1524); trans. Richard Massie (1800-87)

(can be sung to the tune Mit Freuden Zart [“Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above”])

Amazing Grace 3

In evil long I took delight
Unawed by shame or fear;
Till a new object struck my sight
And stopped my wild career.

I saw one hanging on atree
In agony and blood;
Who fixed his languid eyes on me
As near his cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to change me with his death
Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins his blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there.

Alas, I knew not what I did
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.

A second look He gave which said
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid
I died that that thou mayest live.”

Thus while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue;
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon, too.

With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled;
That I should such a life destroy
yet live by Him I killed.

–John Newton, 1779 (author of the text of “Amazing Grace”)

(See the wonderful musical setting by Bob Kauflin)

Amazing Grace

Epitaph of John Newton (author of the text of “Amazing Grace”):

“John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine,
a seller of slaves in Africa,
was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,
preserved, restored, pardoned,
and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”

Easter Hymn

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands,
And brings us life from Heaven.
Wherefore let us joyful be,
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of Alleluia! Alleluia!

No son of man could conquer Death,
Such mischief sin had wrought us,
For innocence dwelt not on earth,
And therefore Death had brought us
Into thralldom from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
And kept us in his bondage. Alleluia!

But Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,
To our low state descended,
The cause of Death He has undone,
His power forever ended,
Ruined all his right and claim
And left him nothing but the name,
His sting is lost forever. Alleluia!

It was a strange and dreadful strife
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life;
The reign of death was ended.
Stripped of power, no more it reigns,
An empty form alone remains
Death’s sting is lost forever! Alleluia!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong His love!—to save us.
See, His blood doth mark our door;
Faith points to it, Death passes over,
And Satan cannot harm us. Alleluia!

So let us keep the festival
Where to the Lord invites us;
Christ is Himself the joy of all,
The Sun that warms and lights us.
By His grace He doth impart
Eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of sin is ended! Alleluia!

Then let us feast this Easter day
On the true Bread of Heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away
The old and wicked leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our Meat and Drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other! Alleluia!

–Martin Luther (1524)


CHRISTMAS 1944 in Berlin

Ilse Shaffer, a former missionary now with the Lord, grew up in Berlin during World War II and wrote about Christmas 1944 in that city. How prone we are to look back at all the people in Nazi Germany as “the enemy” and never consider the plight of Christians there.  (Note: The “Christmas Trees” she mentions was the ironic label given by Germans to the incendiary markers dropped by Allied planes to target an area for the bombers.)

Would there really be Christmas again? Was this the time to celebrate? Where did all the people live that one saw in the streets, the overcrowded streetcars and buses? (So many buildings were destroyed.) Our army in the east was defeated. The Russians were in East Prussia and the Allies were getting close to the western border. We could no longer trust our news, but we knew the end was not too far away.

And now Christmas was approaching, the celebration of the coming of the Prince of Peace; my heart was bitter toward God. What did it mean this Christmas message: “Peace on earth?” There was no peace. This was the sixth Christmas since the war began, and still no peace. Where was God in all the destruction, the dying, the bombing? We saw the first refugees from the east, pulling a little cart with their few possessions, walking in this cold winter, walking, walking, walking, telling us horror stories of murder and rapes by Russian soldiers. “Peace on Earth”??? What would the next months bring? The bombing had not stopped; it got worse, day and night, day and night.

There were no lights in the streets, not many goods on the shelves, only at night the sky was lit up by the “Christmas Tree” bright lights that came down from heaven. The U.S. bombers were coming. If those lights shone over us or near us, we knew we were the targets of their bombs. We better get ready for it. We had not seen any Christmas trees for sale; we had better forget about Christmas. Then, the last day before the holidays my father had found a big branch of a tree about three feet tall. We rejoiced. What shall we do with it? Cut it up, put it in a vase? I found a big flower pot, filled it with sand, cut off the lower branches which I fastened to the trunk to make it look like a tree. The main branch was not quite straight. So I took a walking stick from my father, stuck it in the sand in the flower pot and gave the branch more support. It looked more and more like a Christmas tree. The clear old ornaments were fastened to the branches. There was our Christmas tree!

I cannot remember any presents. My mother raised rabbits, at least one gave its life so we could enjoy meat, but the real Christmas to us was when we all walked to church and heard the Christmas story. How different it sounded this year. Mary and Joseph, tired and hungry, could not find a place to live—so many people’s homes were bombed, they could not find a place to live—God understood. The baby Jesus had no bed, slept in a manger—our soldiers had to sleep on the floor, on straw or hay. God understood. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus had to leave in a hurry, fleeing Herod—whole families: we saw grandparents, mothers and children, fleeing from home—God understood. How close God was—He was rejected, poor, in danger. His suffering had begun with His birth. He was one of us. Peace, the peace of God, filled our hearts. Christmas took on new meaning—He understood.