Herrenhuter readings for Saturday, the 3rd January 2015

nativity of IX in ruinsIncline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. (Psalm 119,36)

And Jesus Christ said unto his disciples: “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Lukas 12,15)

The satirist Wilhelm Busch ventured: “A fulfilled desire immediately bears a new one!” It’s like a neverending story. You just can’t get enough. Yet you recall the bonmont: “You can’t have everything, because where would you put it?” Our Lord Jesus Christ states the fact, that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possess. It does not even determine the value of his life. That’s why we learn all our lives to be content, with what we have and even consciously strive to downscale and to realize that less could be more. It is one of the necessary requirements of growing older and ready to face our saviour and final judge. For we’ll take nothing with us in our graves and if we would, it would be in vain and for nothing and serve no purpose at all. Yet this is easier said than done, because we grow attached to things of this world. We not only use them as good creations and gifts of our God, but we grow dependant on them, trusting and even loving them too. Worse than this is that we often covet those things, which we don’t have and which belong to others. We imagine that we would be better off with those and if we’d have but that, then this or that would work out better. Something like Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”. He sincerely believes that he’s born for something higher and that if only he had the means of the scrupulous pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna. He assures himself, that with the new means, he could compensate the crime, committing virtues deeds to offset the obvious misdeed. The positive goal of doing good with the money supposedly justifies the crime. This obviously is nowhere near the truth as Raskolnikov realizes in hindsight as he under the positive influence of Sonia attempts to find redemption in confession and penal servitude to which he is condemned in exile to far-off Siberia.

Living in a time of extreme disparities and where the gap between rich and poor is constantly widening, our Lord’s admonition concerning property, wealth and earthly riches remains relevant and challenging. He does not teach complacency and laissez faire, but wants us to deal responsibly with our gifts and talents – not attaching our hearts to them, not desiring what belongs to our neighbour, not letting our heart be inclined to ccovetousness Rather we should strive to do good, using the things of this world to promote good and to help those, who need it most and can’t help themselves. Our Lord wants us to be wise and prudent stewards of his good creation and to opt wisely and faithfully with the many possibilities and options he has set before us. That is never boring, but rather a challenging lifestyle for we are never perfect and always up for improvement. Thankfully we, who are not saved by many things are not saved by works or merits either. We should not believe, that doing what others are called to do, we could save or redeem ourselves. Rather we should realize, that God has made us unique and called us to a very unique and special life too. In that we are to commit ourselves entirely to his saving grace and mercy, thanking and praising him for all he has given us and for his preservation and guidance in our daily lives, bringing us finally to his goal and our ultimate destination to abide with him in joy, happiness and eternal peace.

Instead of coveting, what is not ours, we should strive to remain faithful in our Lord’s testimonies. Listening, learning and abiding faithfully in his Holy Word, which is the source, means and way of all wisdom, good living and faithful trust and hopeful confidence. Living like Adam and Eve in the paradisical garden, enjoying God’s good gifts and means to a joyful and fulfilled life, but staying away from those things, which he has forbidden and kept out of our possession – for our own good, safekeeping and peace. Yet as we have with Adam and Eve fallen into serious and manifold temptations, committed this and that crime against God’s most holy will, we are to live repentant lives too – confessing our sins and seeking God’s forgiveness consistently through the working of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, grateful for the gracious and effective working of the Holy Spirit, who draws and inclines our hearts, minds and lives to cling to Jesus  Christ alone, opening us up for his promises and confirming our trust in him alone. The Holy Spirit inclines, bends and focusses us towards, to and on Jesus Christ as the world around the sun. He alone is our life, our joy and our salvation now and forever. Amen.

“We Sing, Immanuel, Thy Praise” by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676

1. We sing, Immanuel, Thy praise,
Thou Prince of Life and Fount of grace,
Thou Flower of heaven and Star of morn,
Thou Lord of lords, Thou Virgin-born.

2. For Thee, since first the world was made,
So many haearts have watched and prayed;
The patriarchs’ and prophets’ throng
For Thee have hoped and waited long.

3. Now art Thou here, Thou Ever-blest!
In lowly manger dost Thou rest.
Thou, making all things great, art small;
So poor art Thou, yet clothest all.

4. From Thee above all gladness flows,
Yet Thou must bear such bitter woes;
The Gentiles’ Light and Hope Thou art,
Yet findest none to soothe Thine heart.

5. But I, Thy servant, Lord, today
Confess my love and freely say,
I love Thee truly, but I would
That I might love Thee as I should.

6. I have the will, the poser is weak;
Yet, Lord, my humble offering take
And graciously the love receive
Which my poor heart to Thee can give.

7. Had I no load of sin to bear,
Thy grace, O Lord, I could not share;
In vain hadst Thou been born for me
If from God’s wrath I had been free.

8. Thus will I sing Thy praises here
With joyful spirit year by year;
And when we reckon years no more,
May I in heaven Thy name adore!

The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn #108  Text: Matt. 1:23
Author: Paul Gerhardt, 1653 Titled: Wir singen dir, Immanuel Composer: Nikolaus Herman, 1560 Tune: Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag… 

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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