Saturday, 12 December 2015

The first thing Scripture says about joy

"The first thing Scripture says about joy can be summed up in the beginning of the hymn Jesu meine Freude [Jesus, my joy][1]. This is the keynote of the biblical proclamation of the birth of Christ, of the advent of the kingdom of God in the fellowship of Jesus with his disciples, of his resurrection and ascension. (Lk 2:10; Mk 2:19; Lk 24:41,52; Joh 20:20). God wants to make us glad through Jesus Christ. He does not want to depress us or shoulder us with problems, he does not want to present us with insoluble problems, but he wants us to rejoice in Jesus Christ and his rule...This belongs to the simple things which we like to forget as we are engrossed in the difficult things, namely that we learn to be chuffed about Jesus like children. Is it not the worst case of ingratitude and obduracy of heart, if the one who came for our salvation, for deliverance, now becomes a burden to us? If our joy in Christ dwindles away, so does our love for him. Without joy in the Son of God who became man and rose from the dead we get into grumbling, dissent and sadness. But how do we find such joy? Only through the firm belief: Jesus lives! If it is really true that Jesus lives, that he testifies himself to us, guides and helps us, how can we be other than glad like the disciples when they saw him on Easter Day? (Joh 20:20)

Those who have found Christ walk their way with joy, in their joy they go and sell all that they have and buy the precious pearl (Mt 13:44 [cf. v.46]). Those who do not walk the way of Jesus become sorrowful like the rich young man (Mt 19:22). Those who commit themselves entirely to the way of Jesus will become glad in it. Such joy proves itself also in the suffering which this way can bring for us (Mt 5:12; 1. Pet 4:13ff; 2. Cor 6, 10; Phil 2:17; Col 1:24; Heb 10:24 et al.). The basis of all such joy is the nearness of Jesus (Phil 4:4). Ach, mein Herr Jesu, dein Nahesein... [My dear Lord Jesus, your closeness...][2]. At the same time there is the confidence that it is exactly in this way that the work of Jesus Christ on earth is fulfilled and completed (2 Tim 2:10). Thus the things that should bring us affliction and annihilation, by God’s wonderful grace, only strengthen our joy. If we remain in the proper joy, then it is really true: ‘No one will take your joy from you’ (Joh 16:22) because this joy will last into eternity (1 Pet 1:8).

The church is a fellowship of joy. All rejoice in the special grace received by one (1 Cor 12:26). John does not know a higher joy that seeing his children walk in the truth  (2 Joh 1:4; 3 Joh 1:4; cf 1. Cor 13:6). Paul invites his church to participate in the joy of his suffering for Jesus Christ (Phil 2:17). Jesus calls for joy with him over every sinner who repents. The whole of Lk 15 is governed by this call (15:6,9,23,32; cf 2 Cor 7:9f). Christians are a daily source of joy for one another (1 Thess 2:19; Phil 4:1). Those who have their eyes open for their fellow Christians can never lack a reason to be joyful. Isn’t it astonishing to know that not only Jesus is our joy but also our Christian brother or sister? Do we not have reason enough today to be filled with this joy?"

[1] A hymn written by Johann Franck in 1650.
[2] The opening lines of a hymn written by Christian Gregor in 1767 which continues brings great peace into our hearts / and the sight of your grace makes us so blessed / that body and soul rejoice in it / and become grateful.

Friday, 11 December 2015

How Jesus Sends People Away

A Canaanite woman once came to Jesus and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ 

But he did not answer her at all, we are told in the Gospel according to Matthew.

When he does answer her, his words seem harsh: ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’

There is a lesson here about how we are to come to Jesus on which I have heard sermons and maybe preached myself. But I only noticed yesterday something about what intervened.

The disciples were rather bothered about the woman's shouting and urge Jesus to send her away to which he responds ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’

What sort of answer is this? ‘You're quite right. This pagan dog is a real nuisance. Let's send her on her way so that we can keep our focus on the lost sheep of Israel.’ No, that's not what Jesus said.

It seems that the disciples and Jesus knew of only one possibility of sending the woman away - by dealing with her request. Jesus does not even contemplate the possibility of shooing off the woman empty-handed. This is why he speaks of his mission.

There is an amazing gracious truth hiding in these harsh words. We cannot approach Jesus as if we had any right to have our wishes and desires fulfilled by him but neither need we fear that he will send us away entirely empty-handed.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Am Morgen der Trauerfeier und Beerdigung

Jetzt brechen wir auf und machen uns auf die Reise dieses Tages.

Wir bitten um die Gegenwart Christi,

der diesen Weg vor uns gegangen ist.


Herr Jesus, Du hast uns den Weg zum Vater gezeigt:

Herr, erbarme dich.

Herr, erbarme dich.


Herr Jesus, Dein Wort ist ein Licht auf unserem Weg:

Christus, erbarme dich.

Christus, erbarme dich.


Herr Jesus, Du bist der gute Hirte, leite uns zum ewigen Leben:

Herr, erbarme dich.

Herr, erbarme dich.


Die Liebestreue des Herrn hört niemals auf,

seine Barmherzigkeit kommt nie zu Ende.

Neu ist sie an jedem Morgen;

groß ist deine Treue.

Der HERR ist mein Teil, spricht meine Seele;

darum will ich auf ihn hoffen.

Denn der HERR ist freundlich dem, der auf ihn harrt,

und dem Menschen, der nach ihm fragt.

Gut ist es, schweigend zu harren auf die Hilfe des Herrn...

Denn der HERR verstößt nicht ewig;

sondern er betrübt wohl und erbarmt sich wieder nach seiner großen Güte.

Denn nicht von Herzen plagt und betrübt er die Menschen.


Himmlischer Vater,

Du hast uns nicht für Dunkelheit und Tod erschaffen,

sondern zum ewigen Leben mit Dir.

Ohne Dich haben wir nichts, auf das wir hoffen können;

mit Dir haben wir nichts zu fürchten.

Sprich zu uns jetzt Deine Worte des ewigen Lebens.

Hebe uns aus Sorge und Schuld

zum Licht und Frieden Deiner Gegenwart,

und halte uns die Herrlichkeit Deiner Liebe vor Augen,

durch Jesus Christus unseren Herrn.



On the Morning of the Funeral, aus Common Worship: Pastoral Services (2011)