Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Awake, My Heart, with Gladness

The below words were written for inclusion in our monthly newsletter and so is perhaps liturgically a bit premature. I look forward to remarking on the mandatum of love and service given to our Lord's disciples and so also to us; of course this mandate flows the the very sacrifice Christ was to make just hours after that final earthly supper. Thanks be to God we are fed with that same heavenly food that we too, may fulfill the law of love.

Music speaks. It speaks to us all. I do not think that anyone can or would deny the wondrous response of music on the human mind, heart and soul; (both for the good and the bad). A tune that recalls fond memories brings a smile to our faces. A song associated with sadness can sour the best mood. The song you heard on the radio after being sure you were in love the first time brings to mind much different emotions and reactions that those sung at your grandma’s funeral. Songs and singing are a whole language in itself. The Church on earth (of which you are a living member) is a singing Church. And nowhere is this song more vibrantly displayed that in the hymns of Easter. What she sings is the heart of praise to God in Jesus Christ.

I want to share with you a few verses of my favorite hymn that celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord. Hymn 467 in the Lutheran Service Book, “Awake, My Heart, with Gladness”. This hymn was written by Paul Gerhardt (1607 – 1676.) Hymns provide a wealth of devotional material; words to pray over and meditate upon regarding the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, or the work of the Holy Spirit. Here are a few thoughts concerning a hymn that raises me in joy and hopefulness.

1. Awake, my heart, with gladness,
See what today is done;

Now, after gloom and sadness,
Comes forth the glorious Sun.
My Savior there was laid
Where our bed must be made

When to the realms of light
Our spirit wings its flight.

The heights of the highest mountain peak cannot reach the height of the soul that recognizes its salvation in Jesus Christ. The very first verse takes us of from Christ’s death, that ought be ours alone, to His and so also to our resurrection. Easter is the dawning of the eternal new day brought to be by Jesus Christ. The slumbering heart, dull and dozing is jolted to attention at the mighty and glorious act of God!

2. The foe in triumph shouted
When Christ lay in the tomb;
But, lo, he now is routed,
His boast is turned to gloom.

For Christ again is free;
In glorious victory

He Who is strong to save
Has triumphed o’er the grave.

The devil and the world were mistaken. The death of Jesus was not defeat but victory. The One born of woman took a hit to the heel but in doing so dealt a death blow to the head of the old evil foe. (Genesis 3:15)

3. This is a sight that gladdens;
What peace it doth impart!
Now nothing ever saddens
The joy within my heart.
No gloom shall ever shake,

No foe shall ever take,
The hope which God’s own Son
In love for me hath won.

What sight brings true gladness? It is the sight of the empty tomb. Gerhardt exclaims the peace that is held in the heart and life of those believing on Jesus Christ. Christian joy is the hope that cannot be overcome by gloom, taken by enemy or emptied of its power. Saint Paul acknowledged it first when he wrote,

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)

The joy of the resurrection is yours today. It sets free your conscience. It unbinds your heart. It comforts and grants Life to your soul. It is the source of the love you live and share. As the Resurrected Lord Jesus blessed His disciples on that first night after His resurrection so He blesses you, “Peace be with you.” (Saint John 20) I encourage you, read the hymns of the Church, pray them, study them, learn them by heart for in doing so you are being firmly grounded in the Word of Christ. Beloved, His Word gives Life. A blessed Feast of the Resurrection to you, Pr. Leary

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