D for Dambeck near Salzwedel

On our virtual tour through Saxony-Anhalt it´s on to Dambeck. A typical village with a typical church for this part of the Altmark too – going back all the way into the high Middle Ages – sometime in the 13th century – and well preserved in original form. The monastery looks like a village on its own.

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Jesus, priceless treasure…

In the mornings I read from Dobberstein´s Anthology – just two pages most days. It´s like sitting at breakfast with my father-in-law back in old Wittenberg and discussing our wonderful work and most gracious calling. Obviously, some days are more remarkable than others. Sometimes it moves me. Sometimes I just want to share, what I´ve just read. Sometimes, that does not work out, but sometimes it does. Normally, I just post one author, however, this morning I feel, that Bryan Green supplements our venerable Doctor nicely in Dobberstein´s selections for Mondays under the rubric “The ministry: Its promise and responsibility”. So, here goes. Luther first. He writes on complete surrender:

If I were to write of the burdens that a preacher must bear and endure, as I know them and myself experienced, I would frighten everybody away from the ministry. For a devout, God-fearing preacher must be so minded that there is nothing he desires more than Christ, his Lord and Savior, and the eternal life to come, so that even though he lose this life and all else, Christ would still say to him: “Come unto me; You have been my beloved, faithful servant.”

Martin Luther quoted in Dobberstein Pg. 234

That reminds me of his 4th stanza in his hymn: “A mighty fortress…” and also his advice concerning marriage i.e. that one should encourage young people to marry by highlighting the good things about this godly institution and not dwell too much on the cross and sorrows it brings as otherwise nobody would dare get into this. But it also recalls the lovely hymn for this week by Johann Frank: “Jesus, priceless treasure…” (LSB 743) – here in a translation by Catherine Winkworth:  

Banish thoughts of sadness, 
for the Lord of gladness, 
Jesus, enters in; 
though the clouds may gather, 
those who love the Savior 
still have peace within. 
Though I bear much sorrow here, 
still in you lies purest pleasure, 
Jesus, priceless treasure! 

Johann Frank 1618-1677

Then Dobberstein adds some thoughts by Bryan Green on three certainties as an evangelist:

My experience as an evangelist has brought me three certainties. I am certain that to preach the gospel in season and out of season, and to believe that a man is able to respond to the power of the Holy Spirit is to live no easy life. There is a strain and a going out of virtue which is very real. The gospel always produces a division amongst people; there is, therefore, ever present both in individual contact and in public assembly a note of discord. There are those who are for and those who are against; he would preach the gospel cannot be insensitive to this. He must be prepared for criticism, some of it no doubt very fair and just, but much of it occasioned by a rationalization on the part of those who will not accept the gospel he preaches. Preaching the gospel is not a pastime of peaceful fishing, but rather a battle to land the fish.

Another certainty is the clear conviction of my own complete unworthiness to preach the gospel. The Spirit of God does not use a man to proclaim his gospel because of what he is, but in spite of him; and the more one sees the power of God to change people´s lives the less one feels worthy to be used to proclaim it. There is a very real sense in which one knows beyond all doubt that the work of conversion is all of God and not of man. The words of St. Paul ring an echo in the heart of every true evangelist: “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Finally, however much, on looking back, one wishes that this or that had not been done or said, there is one thing I would never have altered; it is that on a day many years ago now the compulsion of Christ came to my heart and mind, and I knew that I must share the Christ that I had discovered for myself as Saviour and Lord. In that sharing, most fearfully and self-consciously begun, I started to discover what evangelism meant, and that discovery has been the greatest I have ever made. I would not have done anything else with my life than to seek with every power that I possess to share the gospel of Christ with all who would listen.

Dobberstein 235f
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Jesus thirsts (4th Lenten service)

The 4th Lenten Service is coming up. We´re following the propers of the local lectionary. The Introit starts us off with the 4th penitential Psalm: “For the music director, a psalm of David, written when Nathan the prophet confronted him after David’s affair with Bathsheba.”

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love.
Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts.
Wash away my wrongdoing. Cleanse me of my sin.
For I am aware of my rebellious acts; I am forever conscious of my sin.
Against you—you above all—I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.
So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me.
Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.
Look, you desire integrity in the inner man; you want me to possess wisdom.
Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be pure; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven.
May the bones you crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins.
Wipe away all my guilt.
Create for me a pure heart, O God.
Renew a resolute spirit within me.
Do not reject me.
Do not take your holy Spirit away from me.
Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance.
Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey.
Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways, and sinners will turn to you.
Rescue me from the guilt of murder, O God, the God who delivers me.
Then my tongue will shout for joy because of your righteousness.
O Lord, give me the words.
Then my mouth will praise you.
Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it;
you do not desire a burnt sacrifice.
The sacrifice God desires is a humble spirit —
O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject.
Because you favor Zion, do what is good for her.
Fortify the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will accept the proper sacrifices, burnt sacrifices and whole offerings;
then bulls will be sacrificed on your altar.

Psalm 51

The Old Testament lesson from the 42nd chapter of the prophet Isaiah reminds us of our Lord´s good favor to sinners, who do not deserve such gracious treatment:

A crushed reed he will not break, a dim wick he will not extinguish…

Isaiah 42,3

Even if that took Him to the garden of affliction in Gethsemane (Holy Gospel of St. Luke chapter 22,39-53, where He was betrayed and captured to be taken in perfect obedience and submission to the Father´s holy will on to suffer under Pontius Pilate and finally to be brought to Golgotha and onto that accursed cross, where He bearing the sins and afflictions of the world cries out in great anguish and pain: “I thirst!” All this He did not only as the perfect example of faithful, righteous and holy living, but also as the perfect, all-sufficient, all-effective, all-availing and all-atoning sacrifice, propitiation and divine sacrament for us and our salvation.

Herderkirche in Weimar (St. Peter & Paul): Lucas Cranach jr 1555

1 Jesus, grant that balm and healing
In Your holy wounds I find,
Ev’ry hour that I am feeling
Pains of body and of mind.
Should some evil thought within
Tempt my treach’rous heart to sin,
Show the peril, and from sinning
Keep me from its first beginning.

2 Should some lust or sharp temptation
Fascinate my sinful mind,
Draw me to Your cross and passion,
And new courage I shall find.
Or should Satan press me hard,
Let me then be on my guard,
Saying, “Christ for me was wounded,”
That the tempter flee confounded.

3 If the world my heart entices
With the broad and easy road,
With seductive, sinful vices,
Let me weigh the awful load
You were willing to endure.
Help me flee all thoughts impure
And to master each temptation,
Calm in prayer and meditation.

4 Ev’ry wound that pains or grieves me
By Your wounds, Lord, is made whole;
When I’m faint, Your Cross revives me,
Granting new life to my soul.
Yes, Your comfort renders sweet
Ev’ry bitter cup I meet;
For Your all atoning passion
Has procured my soul’s salvation.

5 O my God, my rock and tower,
Grant that in Your death I trust,
Knowing death has lost its power
Since You crushed it in the dust.
Savior, let Your agony
Ever help and comfort me;
When I die be my protection,
Light and life and resurrection.

Johann Hermann 1585-1647
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Coswig – close to Wittenberg

Coswig is a town in the district of Wittenberg of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It is situated on the right bank of the Elbe, approx. 12 km west of Wittenberg, and 15 km east of Dessau.

Most villages in the area around Coswig have a church at its center – and many of them date back to the twelfth century AD – like St. Nikolai in Coswig itself, which has some special treasures like this painting from the Cranach workshops in Wittenberg. So, many treasures to be discovered still.

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Bible study on John 12,20-24

For this coming Sunday Laetare (Rejoice), our lectionary has these short verses from the Holy Gospel of St. John for the sermon text:

Now some Greeks were among those who had gone up to worship at the feast.  So these approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”Philip went and told Andrew, and they both went and told Jesus. Jesus replied,“The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain.

John 12:20-24

In the middle of this Lenten season it lifts our eyes towards Easter even as He talks about life through death or as the old Hermansburg adage puts it: “Durchs Kreuz zur Krone” (Via cross to crown).

Our good Lord encourages His disciples in the following discourse with the prospect of the growing church – Him reaching out to draw all people to Himself. That´s powerful imagery, mission prophecy and church reality:

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”

John 12:32

Trusting God Father, Son and Holy Ghost – we sing Jesus´ praises:

1 Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

2 In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain,
Thinking that He never would awake again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

3 Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain,
Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain;
Quick from the dead the risen One is seen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

4 When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Jesus’ touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

John Macleod Campbell Crum
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Oculi: “My eyes are ever on the Lord” (Ps.25,15)

Ready for church this 3rd Sunday in Lent (Oculi): Our eyes are always on the Lord + even as we are tempted to look back (1.Kings 19,1-8; Eph.5,1-9 and Luke 9,57-62) or elsewhere. We know: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk.9,62).

So, we sing the old confirmation standard:

1 Jesus, lead Thou on till our rest is won; And although the way be cheerless,we will follow calm and fearless. Guide us by Thy hand to our fatherland.

2 If the way be drear, if the foe be near, Let not faithless fears o’ertake us; Let not faith and hope forsake us; For through many a woe to our home we go.

3 When we seek relief from a long-felt grief, When temptations come alluring, Make us patient and enduring. Show us that bright shore where we weep no more.

4 Jesus, lead Thou on till our rest is won. Heav’nly leader, still direct us, Still support, console, protect us, Till we safely stand in our fatherland.

Nikolaus Graf von Zinzendorf (1700-1760)
Posted in Gottesdienst, Lent, Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Predigten in der ALS, You comfort me + | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pay attention: Who is the greatest? Lenten service 3

The 3rd Lenten Service is coming up. We´re following the propers of the local lectionary. The Introit starts us off with the 3rd penitential Psalm:

O Lord, do not continue to rebuke me in your anger.
Do not continue to punish me in your raging fury.
For your arrows pierce me, and your hand presses me down.
My whole body is sick because of your judgment;
I am deprived of health because of my sin.
For my sins overwhelm me; like a heavy load, they are too much for me to bear.
My wounds are infected and starting to smell, because of my foolish sins.
I am dazed and completely humiliated; all day long I walk around mourning.
For I am overcome with shame, and my whole body is sick.
I am numb with pain and severely battered; I groan loudly because of the anxiety I feel.
O Lord, you understand my heart’s desire; my groaning is not hidden from you.
My heart beats quickly; my strength leaves me.
I can hardly see.
Because of my condition, even my friends and acquaintances keep their distance;
my neighbors stand far away.
Those who seek my life try to entrap me;
those who want to harm me speak destructive words.
All day long they say deceitful things.
But I am like a deaf man—I hear nothing;
I am like a mute who cannot speak.
 I am like a man who cannot hear
and is incapable of arguing his defense.
Yet I wait for you, O Lord!
You will respond, O Lord, my God!
I have prayed for deliverance, because otherwise they will gloat over me;
when my foot slips they will arrogantly taunt me.
For I am about to stumble, and I am in constant pain.
Yes, I confess my wrongdoing, and I am concerned about my sins.
But those who are my enemies for no reason are numerous;
those who hate me without cause outnumber me.
They repay me evil for the good I have done;
though I have tried to do good to them, they hurl accusations at me.
Do not abandon me, O Lord.
My God, do not remain far away from me.
Hurry and help me, O Lord, my deliverer.

Psalm 38

The Old Testament lesson on those lofty plans to build the tower of babel very much sketches the sinful inclination to make a lasting name for oneself, but ending up much worse than before: Genesis 11:1-9.

This depiction of “The Last Supper” in St. Peter & Paul reveals the foolishness of the dispute: Who is greatest?

The Gospel lesson from St. Luke takes us back to the upper room, where our good Lord dined with his disciples on the night, when he was betrayed. Even there those closest friends of his disputed among themselves, who of them, was the greatest. Simon Peter obviously favored his chances to be the first (primus inter pares), but is put into place as our good Lord points special prayers for him and tasks him with future service and duties to strengthen his brothers:

A dispute also started among them over which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. So Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ Not so with you; instead the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is seated at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.“You are the ones who have remained with me in my trials. Thus I grant to you a kingdom, just as my Father granted to me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat,  but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!”  Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.”

Then Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out with no money bag, or traveler’s bag, or sandals, you didn’t lack anything, did you?” They replied,“Nothing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag too. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.  For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me is being fulfilled.” So they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” Then he told them, “It is enough.”

Gospel of St. Luke 22,24-38

In contrast with this sinful striving to be first and foremost, our good Lord serves his people to the very end – faithfully and lovingly. Not only does he wash his disciples feet, but he also suffers all for us and our salvation. On the cross – counted amongst the outcasts – he still looks out for his mother the holy virgin St. Mary and his disciple St. John, whom he loved. He truly did not hold on to his divine privileges, but emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! The short verses from St. John´s gospel serve as sermon text for this lenten service:

So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!” He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!” From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.

Gospel of St. John 19:26f

Together with the Christian Church we laud and magnify His glorious name – evermore praising Him and saying with these lovely words:

1 O perfect life of love! All, all, is finished now, 
All that He left His throne above To do for us below. 

2 No work is left undone  Of all the Father willed; 
His toil, His sorrows, one by one,  The Scriptures have fulfilled. 

3 No pain that we can share  But He has felt its smart; 
All forms of human grief and care Have pierced that tender heart. 

4 And on His thorn-crowned head And on His sinless soul 
Our sins in all their guilt were laid  That he might make us whole. 

5 In perfect love He dies;  For me He dies, for me. 
O all atoning Sacrifice,  I cling by faith to Thee. 

6 In ev’ry time of need,  Before the judgment throne, 
Thy work, O Lamb of God, I’ll plead, Thy merits, not mine own. 

7 Yet work, O Lord, in me  As Thou for me hast wrought;
And let my love the answer be To grace Thy love has brought.

Henry W. Baker (1821-1877)

Posted in Bibel und Übersetzung, Lent, Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Predigten in der ALS, psalms and spiritual songs, You comfort me + | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Burg – city of towers just north of Magdeburg

Burg is the 3rd largest city in Sachsen-Anhalt – but still hardly heard of. Yet there´s a lot to see and not just towers, churches and steeples.

Theodor Fontane , author of one of my long time favorites “Der Stechlin” was an assistant to some local chemist for some time here – around 1840 – and the military genius Carl von Clausewitz and author of the renown “Vom Kriege” (On wars) was born here and his remains were brought back here to be buried after he died at just 51 years.

„I left Berlin in autum 1840 to stay in Burg, a notable city, unknown to most – It´s lost in the shadow of Magdeburg.“

Theodor Fontane: Von Zwanzig bis Dreißig

Obviously the heyday was some time ago – and even then it was but playing second – or make that third – fiddle. Still, the old walls continue to speak loud and clear.

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Bible study before 3rd Sunday in Lent (Oculi)

The 3rd Sunday in Lent (Oculi) is coming up and we´ve got the first part of the fifth chapter of St. Paul´s letter to the Ephesians on the table. We´re using the excellent commentary of Dr. Timothy Wengert (St.Catherines) to come to grips with this baptismal instruction on Christian life in this world in the light of our God and Lord:

Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children  and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints.  Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting—all of which are out of character—but rather thanksgiving. For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not be sharers with them,  for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live like children of light— for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:1-10

Together with the Christian Church we sing the hymn composed by the German count as translated by Jane Borthwick

1 Jesus, lead Thou on Till our rest is won;
And although the way be cheerless, We will follow calm and fearless.
Guide us by Thy hand To our fatherland.

2 If the way be drear, If the foe be near,
Let not faithless fears o’ertake us; Let not faith and hope forsake us;
For through many a woe To our home we go.

3 When we seek relief From a long-felt grief,
When temptations come alluring, Make us patient and enduring.
Show us that bright shore Where we weep no more.

4 Jesus, lead Thou on Till our rest is won.
Heav’nly leader, still direct us, Still support, console, protect us,
Till we safely stand In our fatherland.

Nikolaus Ludwig Graf von Zinzendorf (1725)
Posted in Bibel und Übersetzung, Lent | 1 Comment

Reminiscere: Remember o LORD +

Tomorrow is the 2nd Sunday in Lent and is called “Reminiscere” (Remember!). This is a reference to the Introit from Psalm 25. It invites us to call upon the triune God, pleading him to remember his tender mercies and loving kindnesses, which endure forever. The above altar by Lucas Cranach jr (1548) depicts three such pointers to God´s mercies and gracious favors.

Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O Lord,
My God, I trust in you.
Please do not let me be humiliated;
do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me.
Make me understand your ways, O Lord.
Teach me your paths.
The Lord is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live.
The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your reputation, O Lord, forgive my sin, because it is great.

Psalm 25,6.1f.4.8.10f

This divine compassion and loving kindness is exemplified in the Gospel of St. John with our Lord´s story of the elevation of the bronze serpent (see the right panel of the reformation altar above), whereby he points us to his own elevation on the cross:

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed.  But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.

The holy Gospel according to St. John 3:14-21

The truly amazing part of this story is that God´s showed us his gracious favor and loving kindness – when we were still sinners! That´s the message of the epistle lesson:

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.

St. Paul´s letter to the Romans 5:1-11

It´s on this backdrop, that the true monstrosity of sinful abomination and rejection of God´s loving graces becomes clear. He, who does all and everything for us and our salvation, comes to realize time and again that his loving pursuit is in vain and attains horrible opposition. God´s prophet Isaiah puts this into dramatic words in his song of God´s vineyard – and that´s the assigned sermon text for this Sunday: Isaiah 5:1-7.

So we will join the Christian church in singing pastor Paul Eber´s hymn, which is translated by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878):

1 When in the hour of deepest need
We know not where to look for aid;
When days and nights of anxious thought
No help or counsel yet have brought.

2 Then is our comfort this alone
That we may meet before Your throne;
To You, O faithful God, we cry
For rescue from our misery.

3 For You have promised, Lord, to heed
Your children’s cries in time of need
Through Him whose name alone is great,
Our Savior and our advocate.

4 And so we come, O God, today
And all our woes before You lay;
For sorely tried, cast down, we stand,
Perplexed by fears on ev’ry hand.

5 O from our sins, Lord, turn Your face;
Absolve us through Your boundless grace.
Be with us in our anguish still;
Free us at last from ev’ry ill.

6 So we with all our hearts each day
To You our glad thanksgiving pay,
Then walk obedient to Your Word,
And now and ever praise You, Lord.

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