Death as debtor to Christ

An interesting thought from Luther’s sermon for New Year’s Day in the Church Postil:

For when death fell on Him and killed Him, and yet had no right or case against Him, and He willingly and innocently submitted and let Himself be killed, then death became liable to Him, did Him wrong and sinned against Him, and itself spoiled everything, so that Christ has an honest claim against it. Now the wrong of which [death] became guilty toward Him is so great that death can never pay nor atone for it. Therefore, it must be subject to Christ and in His power forever, and so death is overcome and put to death in Christ. (Luther’s Works 76 [CPH, 2013], 45)

Again, this fits beautifully with the centrality of the baptismal union:  all things are subjected to Christ, for the Church (Eph. 1:22). Apart from Christ, death rules over my body. In Christ, death is subject to me, because it is subject to Him and I am in Him.

Strike soon, blessed hour

In next week’s Sunday Cantata, you will be treated to an extraordinary musical experience: a pair of oboes accompanied by a symphony of bells (as rendered by pizzicato strings). The lower strings, cellos and basses, play slow funeral bells, while the upper strings, violins and violas, play faster, more celestial bells. One set to ring good-bye from this world, the other to ring welcome from the world to come.

All to accompany these thoroughly disturbing words:

Ah, strike soon, blessed hour,
The very final stroke of the bell!
Come, come, I reach my hands towards you
Come, make an end to my distress,
You day of death for which I have long sighed!

Disturbing, because in reality most of us don’t feel like that, or even believe that one could or should. We cling to this dear life like a pig to a loaf, as we Finns say. All the while forgetting the apostle’s words—and the fact of the matter—that “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Have a little foretaste of this musical and theological treat here. The rest will be available live on Lutheran Radio UK on Sunday and thereafter here.

English translation: Francis Browne
Performance: Bach Collegium Japan (cond. Masaaki Suzuki) and Makuto Sakurada, tenor.