Tuesday, May 04, 2021

HYMN: Lift Up Your Eyes, O People


Now that I’ve gone through the Propers for the 1-Year Lectionary, I’ve wrestled with a direction to take with writing hymn texts. It was easier when I had a blueprint: I wanted to write a text for each of these Sundays of the Church year, so I’d write until I was finished. But it’s harder when you’re waiting for inspiration to strike.

Recently I was inspired to work on a text based on an ancient sermon for Matins of Holy Saturday. A friend and fellow hymnologist, the Reverend John Fleischman, had written a text based on the Exsultet text of the Great Vigil of Easter. When he saw my text, he suggested that we team up to write texts for every Scripture reading of the Vigil. What an intimidating project to pursue! Then again, after jumping into turning the Litany into a hymn text as one of my first five texts, apparently my hubris knows no bounds! Well, actually, I was at a loss at first.

However, as it always seems to work out, I received inspiration while attending a pastors’ conference today. Instead of tackling the first text, which is the creation account in Genesis 1-2, I decided instead to look at the crossing of the Red Sea, which is Exodus 14:10-15:1. I wrote an eight verse text in the space of about three hours. Only at conferences do I seem to write so quickly. That doesn’t guarantee a *quality* text, but I’m fairly confident that this will pass my personal muster. As far as the tune goes, that’s still up in the air.

Anyway, here’s the text. Any feedback would be appreciated. Despite my hubris, I’m not so proud as to think my work can’t be improved.


Lift Up Your Eyes, O People

for the Easter Vigil

Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea—Exodus 14:10-15:1



1. Lift up your eyes, O people.
Your enemies draw near.
Cry out to God for mercy.
Fear not! The Lord is here!
He never will forsake you
To perish in the dust.
He hears your plea and answers,
In Him alone you trust.

2. God’s people fled from Egypt,
From slavery and shame.
But Pharaoh, with his soldiers,
Pursued, his rage aflame.
The people cried to Moses,
“Does Egypt have no graves?
We do not wish to die here;
‘Twas better to be slaves.”

3. But Moses said in answer,
“Fear not! Stand firm, and see,
For God will work salvation:
From bondage you are free.
Behold, the fierce Egyptians
The Lord will sweep away.
The mighty God of Jacob
Will fight for you today.”

4. The Lord said unto Moses,
“Lift up at My command
Your staff above the waters,
And stretch out your own hand.
Divide the sea, I tell you,
And bid My people go
Across the land, now barren,
Where waters once did flow.

5. “Yes, Pharaoh will pursue you
With all his fearsome host,
But I, with all My glory,
Will silence ev’ry boast.
And Egypt will be certain
That I, your God and King,
Protect My chosen people.
Now blunt is Egypt’s sting.”

6. So Moses, at God’s bidding,
Stretched forth his prophet hand.
The waters, then, God parted.
His people crossed dry land.
The plume of flame came after
To panic Pharaoh’s hoard.
“Retreat,” they cried in terror,
“Before their mighty Lord.”

7. Then said the Lord to Moses,
“Stretch out your hand again.
The sea will close upon them,
Confounding Pharaoh’s men.”
God spared no man of Egypt,
All swallowed by the sea.
But Israel crossed unhindered.
God heard His people’s plea.

8. The people saw His power.
They saw and feared the Lord.
They sang with joy to praise Him,
Their faith in Him restored:
“I AM, the God of Jacob,
Has triumphed gloriously,
For Egypt’s horse and rider
Are thrown into the sea.”

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Sermon for 5/2/21: Fifth Sunday of Easter


CLICK HERE for the audio file.

CLICK HERE for the video file.

 

The Spirit and Judgment

John 16:5-15

 

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

       

Jesus was preparing His disciples for living through that time from Good Friday to Pentecost. He had to prepare them for those faith-shaking events of Good Friday, for the glorious revelation of Easter, and then for His visible departure on Ascension Day. The thought of Jesus leaving them, mingled with the warnings of trouble and persecution, so filled the disciple’s minds and hearts that they could find no words. So Jesus addresses them gently, calmly telling them that His departure would bring something both wonderful and necessary. He describes for them the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was the encouragement His disciples needed, and which the Church in all ages needs as it lives and works and awaits the return of Christ. And for us who live as yet by faith and not by sight, these are the words of encouragement we need, too.

The first part of this three-fold conviction is that the Holy Spirit will convict this world of its guilt with regard to sin; and not just any sin, but the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world. How often Jesus was distressed with the unbelief of men and their rejection of Him. He wept as He looked over the city of Jerusalem, knowing full well that disaster that would soon engulf them, all because they had not received Him as the Son of God and their promised Messiah. And yet, He would not use His divine power to force men to give Him their allegiance. Jesus did not, and does not now, want to make men His slaves by force. He wanted them to be His children by faith in Him and nothing else. And all of this meant that when the Savior’s visible presence in this world was removed at the Ascension, He would still provide the means by which men would come to faith in Him. And this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. The disciples were to carry on after the Ascension. But men cannot be convinced into the kingdom through mere human arguments. The disciples would need the Spirit of Truth to lead them into the truth, to convince this world that the sin of sins is the rejection of Jesus Christ. This conquest of the hearts and souls of men, through the persuasion of the Gospel, can be accomplished only through the Holy Spirit.

The second conviction of the Spirit involves convincing this world about the righteousness of Christ. Jesus was Himself righteous in everything He did. And He did not leave without making His righteousness something that can be had by any and all who believe in Him. Jesus goes to the Father in righteousness because He has fully accomplished the salvation of the world. At the Resurrection, Jesus could throw off the bonds of death because the Father approved of all His Son had done. And, at the Ascension, Jesus could return victoriously to heaven because He had won righteousness for all. Now, this righteousness can be yours, indeed it is yours, without cost, through faith in what Jesus Christ has done to gain this righteousness for all.

And now, the Holy Spirit takes up this unending struggle for the minds and hearts and souls of men. And we need to understand that this is the basic struggle that is going on at all times. Against all the efforts of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh to dominate the human soul, the Holy Spirit works to convince this world of the righteousness of Christ. And we cannot be indifferent about the outcome of this battle. But thanks be to God, for Jesus did not ascend into heaven until all was complete. And now the victory is sure, for the Holy Spirit will convict this world about the righteousness of Christ. This is His second conquest, and conquer He will.

The final phase of the Holy Spirit’s triple conquest is that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgment. The picture of the dying Savior on the cross gives no hint that Satan, with his head crushed, lies beaten beneath the cross, but it is so. There are a lot of unconvinced people in this world. Millions are serving the prince of darkness as if his is the winning cause, and they are trying to curry his favor. This is why a false prophet may stand in high regard. This is why the man who disparages the clear words of Scripture may achieve a great measure of earthly attention and success. This is why certain kinds of immorality and evil, like adultery and abortion, are not merely condoned, but are even glorified. And may we not forget that in the judgment against Satan, our sins are also included. Every act of unfaithfulness, every jealousy, every careless word, every refusal to love our neighbor is stamped for what it is: sin.

Thanks be to God, for the Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgment because the prince of this world is judged. And in every heart that God has drawn to Himself in faith, this assurance is created by the Holy Spirit: Satan and all who belong to him are judged; they cannot deceive the faithful of the Lord, even though they may appear as angels of light. Right up to the Day of judgment, the Holy Spirit will enlighten you and all believers and keep you in the one true faith unto life everlasting. What a day of wrath and despair that will be for Satan, for his false prophets, and for all who have insisted on wallowing in their sin. For then the veils will be torn away, and to every eye it will be revealed that Satan is judged, and that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords forever and forever. This is the the three-fold conquest of the Holy Spirit, that ceaseless victorious warfare which He wages down through the centuries until our Lord Jesus Christ returns. The world will be convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and we, together with all believers, will be prepared to meet our glorious Lord and enter into the joys of eternal life. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.