Herrenhuter readings for Saturday, the 20th December 2014

Jesus calms the storm with apostlesYou rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them. (Psalm 89,10) But Jesus arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (Matthew 8,26)

That’s just what we need before and during the Christmastide – a God that rules the raging seas and stills them at will, granting great calm. Thank God the almighty and merciful Lord of all, that he’s revealed himself as the one, who can and will do this.

From the beginning the seas are the unruly chaos forces too big for our control. Throughout the ages men have made use of the mighty currents, forceful winds and wide open spaces of the global oceans to move good, travel to and fro and flee here and there. Fishing the seven seas is as lucrative as ever and searching for your Moby Dick has lured adventurous entrepreneurs to a new Eldorado hidden beneath those waves again and again as they chase those blowing tell-tale plumes of white deeper and deeper into the depths. Today many talk of unheard of treasures under  the polar caps both north and south. Putin is licking his lips, but there are countless others, who would rather have it for themselves.  There are even plans to harness some of the unceasing motions of the deep sea currents and transfer them into our energy grids utilising the abundant strength ready for the picking. This does however all comes at a price and the seas strike a hard bargain – just ask Noah, Ahab’s wife or even St. Peter:  We’ve fished the entire night and caught nothing! 

Well, Jesus Christ – our Lord and God – proves himself as the one, who controls the waters of the depths, the oceans and seas as his own. He walks on it as on firm ground. He feeds his people from its abundance with great numbers of fish caught out of the blue. He even changes it into the best wine – signs of divine surplus and overflowing goodness, signs of the celestial feast to come and which we can expect as soon as he’s ready and opens up the doors to his heavenly realms for all his people to see and enjoy in eternal bliss. Even the most wonderful and delightful Christmas tree, gifts and lights will dim in comparison to the godly tree of life, the heavenly manger and God’s very own presence in absolute glory, beauty and fulfilment.

This Jesus stills the most violent storms and battles. Not just those on the Sea of Genesareth for that apostolic band, not just the Red Sea for the fleeing people of Israel, not just the Mediterranean Sea for the captive St. Paul and his military entourage, but also the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic and Pacific too. Keeping and preserving his people safe and sound even through the most terrible upheavals. No tornado, hurricane or tsunami can tear his people from his hand and loving care. He bears us close to his heart and doesn’t let us fall away by the wayside. Rather he calms the wind, lets the thunder die down and prevents the lightning bolts from harming his people. Together with the Church we sing: “His body and His blood I’ve taken In His blest Supper, feast divine; Now I shall never be forsaken, For I am His, and He is mine.My God, for Jesus’ sake I pray Thy peace may bless my dying day.” (LH 598,9)

It’s a deep truth that was confessed there by the orchestra on the sinking Titanic with those heart wrenching melody: “Nearer my God to thee…” or the hymn sung at the funeral of old Johannes, who was struck by lightning decades ago: “For me to live is Jesus, To die is gain for me…” or at the funeral of missionary Thomas Seidel, who drowned just meters from the shoreline in full sight of his family: “In the midst of earthly life…” or when Angelika’s little brother Martin was buried, who had drowned in the little family fish pond days before Christmas: “Who knows when death may overtake me…“. For little children can die, while old people must. That raging storm is still ahead and blessed are those, who don’t face that storm alone, but are covered, protected and strengthened by the Lord himself: “My God, my God for Jesus sake’ I pray: Thy peace may bless my dying day + ” (TLH 598)

We believe and confess that they, who have been baptised into the violent and stormy death of Christ – drowned in the raging floods of this chaos flood – that they will be raised again to eternal life with him by the divine power of his resurrection and creative word: I live and you shall live also! and Where I am my people shall be also! His merciful absolution and divine favour grant peace beyond all we know and have experienced so far – a great calm, salvation from all evil and eternal bliss in his gracious presence – even like the arc of old – a safe haven from the destructive deluge and chaotic floods, when all else will drown and perish, God’s people will be carried to safety and the eternal calm.

So we pray in anticipation of all storms and even the most dreadful one of death coming up front:”Then may death come today, tomorrow, I know in Christ I perish not; He grants the peace that stills all sorrow, Gives me a robe without a spot. My God, for Jesus’ sake I pray Thy peace may bless my dying day.” (TLH 598) Amen.

Let us now sing in glad adoration and faithful confidence the hymn “All Men Living Are But Mortal”  by Johann G. Albinus, 1624-1679 and translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1829-1878 in TLH 601.

1. All men Iiving are but mortal,
Yea, all flesh must fade as grass;
Only through death’s gloomy portal
To eternal Iife we pass.
This frail body here must perish
Ere the heavenly joys it cherish,
Ere it gain the free reward
For the ransomed of the Lord.

2. Therefore, when my God doth choose it,
Willingly I’ll yield my Iife
Nor will grieve that I should lose it,
For with sorrows it was rife.
In my dear Redeemer’s merit
Peace hath found my troubled spirit,
And in death my comfort this:
Jesus’ death my source of bliss.

3. Jesus for my sake desended
My salvation to obtain:
Death and hell for me are ended,
Peace and hope are now my gain;
Yea’ with joy I leave earth’s sadness
For the home of heavenly gladness,
Where I shall forever see
God, the Holy Trinity.

4. There is joy beyond our telling,
Where so many saints have gone;
Thousands, thousands, there are dwelling,
Worshiping before the throne,
There the Seraphim are shining,
Evermore in chorus joining:
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord!
Triune God, for aye adored!”

5. Patriarchs of sacred story
And the prophets there are found;
The apostles, too, in glory
On twelve seats are there enthroned
All the saints that have ascended
Age on age, through time extended,
There in blissful concert sing
Hallelujahs to their King.

6. O Jerusalem, how glorious
Dost thou shine, thou city fair!
Lo, I hear the tones victorious
Ever sweetly sounding there.
Oh, the bliss that there surprises!
Lo, the sun of morn now rises,
And the breaking day I see
That shall never end for me.

7. Yea, I see what here was told me,
See that wondrous glory shine,
Feel the spotless robes enfold me,
Know a golden crown is mine.
Thus before the throne so glorious
Now I stand a soul victorious,
Gazing on that joy for aye
That shall never pass away.

Hymn #601 The Lutheran Hymnal on Text: Is. 40:6
Author: Johann G. Albinus, 1652
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1863, alt.
Titled: “Alle Menschen muessen sterben

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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