Today's devotional material comes from select parts of a Gerhardt Hymn Festival featured in Creative Worship for the Lutheran Parish.
On this day, we give thanks for the great hymnwriters Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt. Though their lives were filled with wordly sorrow, the words they penned reflected deep faith in Christ's promises. May the God of all comfort continue to strengthen our faith in times of joy and sorrow as we trust in the sure promise of Christ and His resurrection.
It is said that all the hymns of Paul Gerhardt end in heaven. His life would have given any reasonable person a desire to fly away: war, poverty, sickness, and death dogged his footsteps from childhood to old age. But he writes over and over again about peace and joy. Sadness banished, leaving joy that rings in the air and foretells joy on high that will vanish never. Paul Gerhardt’s poetry has a constant theme of joy in the midst of suffering. He knew well sin and woe, death and hell. But he called them broken and toothless, declaring them no match for the power of God’s Son. . . .
Four separate times in their lives Paul and [his wife] Anna Maria anticipated and welcomed a child and then stood heartbroken by a tiny grave. No wonder every Gerhardt hymn ends in heaven. By the end of their lives, it must have been the only place they wanted to be: standing as a new creation in a Baptism made whole by death. Joining their children and all the Christian family, clothed in glorious robes of righteousness. . . .
Even if we live lives calmer than Paul Gerhardt’s, dreaded ills, cares, and sorrows are a part of every Christian life. To follow Jesus is to share in a cross. On the 100th anniversary of Gerhardt’s death, the last church he served in Lübben, Germany hung his portrait inscribed with these words; Theologus in cribro Satanae tentatus. The translation is, “A theologian tested in Satan’s sieve.”
This testing brought forth marvelous writing that blesses many Christians. The magnificence of grace, the comfort of Christ’s presence in our sufferings, and the solid hope of heaven roar out of Gerhardt’s lines like a battle cry against the workings of Satan. That foe may have the power to test us, but no power on earth can stand against the love of Christ.
“He is your treasure, He your joy, your life and light and Lord, your counselor when doubts annoy, your shield and great reward.” —Paul Gerhardt
Devotional reading is from Creative Worship for the Lutheran Parish, Series A, Part 4, “Be Glad and Sing: Hymn Festival in Honor of Paul Gerhardt” © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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