F.G. Hedberg on the New Life in Christ

So when the Apostle says that we have both died and been raised together with Christ in baptism (Col 2:12), his meaning is clearly nothing but this: We have been so truly joined to the body of the Christ who once died for our trespasses and was raised for our justification (Rom 4:25) that, on the basis of this union, we already in baptism we have received the real foundation and beginning of the death of the old man and the resurrection of the new man. … Its progression is the entire purpose and goal of the Christian life, but its fulfilment will be attained only when in true faith we depart from this life in the blessed hour, when we this body of sin is fully taken off and buried, and when it rises on the Last Day purified and glorified to eternal life.

Fredrik Gabriel Hedberg, Pyhän kasteen puolustus (Finnish translation of Baptismens vederläggning och det heliga dopets försvar [A Refutation of the Baptists and a Defence of Holy Baptism], 1855), 113.

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.

An absolute gem…

…from Salomo Franck and J.S. Bach.

I have just finished the script for next Sunday’s Sunday Cantata on Lutheran Radio UK, on Bach’s cantata BWV 132, Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn, for the Fourth Sunday in Advent. (If you haven’t heard the earlier episodes yet, visit the programme page to catch up! And send me your feedback at info@lutheranradio.co.uk or through Facebook.)

And what a delight it has been to delve into this masterpiece, a perfect marriage of music and theology. Just to think that Bach churned these out first once a month, and then once a fortnight or even weekly, for several years!

I won’t post all the music here, obviously. For that, you need to listen to the programme. Or buy the recordings. I can’t recommend highly enough the set from Bach Collegium Japan used by Lutheran Radio UK.

But do enjoy the start of the first movement, with its brilliant word painting: the soprano’s meandering crooked path (on the word ‘Bahn’)  being made straight as she sings joyfully of preparing for the coming of the Messiah.

[audio:http://simonpotamos.org.uk/audio/BWV-132-I.-Aria-soprano-Bereitet-die-Wege-bereitet-die-Bahn.mp3]

Here are the words in English. Note the wonderfully crafted movement from the promise of Christ’s coming and the need for preparation by faith and life, through the accusation of the Law, the confession of sin, and absolution on the basis of your baptism, to a prayer for God to sanctify the believer. Straight out of the Catechism!

The Cantata is based on the Gospel reading for next Sunday, John 1:19–28.

Prepare the ways and level the path!
Prepare the ways
And make the paths
Of faith and life
Quite even for the Highest.
The Messiah is coming!

If you will call yourself a child of God and Christ’s brother,
you must freely confess the Saviour with your heart and mouth.
Yes, your entire life must bear witness your faith!
If the words and teaching of Christ
Must also be sealed through your blood,
Then offer yourself willingly!
For this is the Christian’s crown and glory.
Meanwhile, my heart, prepare
Even today
The way of faith for the Lord,
And clear away the hills and the mountains
Which stand in the way!
Roll back the heavy stones of sin,
Receive your Saviour,
That He may be united with you in faith!

Who are you? Ask your conscience,
You shall have to, without hypocrisy,
Hear your just sentence, whether you are false or true.
Who are you? Consult the Commandments,
They will tell you who you are,
A child of wrath in Satan’s net,
A false and hypocritical Christian.

I shall, my God, confess to You openly,
I have until now not confessed You properly!
Although my mouth and lips have called You Lord and Father,
my heart has turned away from You.
I have denied You by my life!
How can You give a good testimony of me?
O Jesus, when Your bath of spirit and water
Cleansed me from my misdeeds,
I did in truth swear constant faith to You;
Alas! but alas! The bond of baptism’s bond has been torn asunder.
I rue my faithlessness.
O God, have mercy!
O help me, that with steadfast fidelity
I may always renew through faith the covenant of Grace!

Members of Christ, ah consider
What the Saviour has given you
Through the pure bath of baptism!
At the spring of blood and water
Your clothes become bright,
Which had been stained by misdeeds.
Christ gave you new garments,
Red purple, white silk,
These are a Christian’s garb.

Mortify us through Thy goodness,
Awaken us through Thy grace;
Make the old man sick,
That the new may live well
Here upon this earth,
To direct his mind and desires
And his thoughts towards You.

Baptised into the Triune Life

Sermon preached on Trinity Sunday at Our Saviour Lutheran Church
3 June 2012
Text: John 3:1–15 (Isaiah 6:1–7; Romans 11:33–36)

The audio recording of the sermon can be found here.

Today’s Gospel text from John 3 gives us a rather disjointed conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. As is so often the case in John’s Gospel, the reason the conversation is disjointed is that Jesus doesn’t seem to be answering the other person at all, but rather using their words as an opportunity to launch into a conversation of His own. In this case, Jesus completely ignores Nicodemus’ rather polite and deferential conversation opener—“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him”—and launches straight into a speech on the need for new birth.

Continue reading Baptised into the Triune Life

And he was clean

Sermon preached at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Fareham on 23 January 2011, Epiphany 4 [typos and all]

Naaman is one of those characters in the Bible whose story is familiar to almost everyone who has been to Sunday School for any length of time. Every time I read or hear the story myself, images of the fuzzy felt storyboard from my own Sunday School in the early ‘70s and ‘80s come flooding back.

And like so many of the biblical characters we encounter through Sunday School, Naaman gets a bit of a rough deal. He comes across as something of an anti-hero: he is the enemy general who has vanquished God’s people in battle, killed their king, kidnapped a poor Israelite girl as a slave, who shows no faith in the promise God makes through His prophet, and who is saved only after his servants persuade him to listen to the prophet. However, even a brief moment of self-scrutiny should make us realise that this is hardly fair on Naaman: he is certainly no worse than us. At every turn his reactions are just what you would expect from any normal, rational person. This passage is not a story about Naaman’s foolishness—it is a story about God’s foolishness, about how God saves us through wonderfully foolish means.

Continue reading And he was clean

Me, a poet?

Certainly not!

I did once coin a little, naff limerick, though, as a comment on a discussion about Baptism between Reformed evangelicals. I post it here so I know where to find it, and in case anyone else enjoys it.

With apologies to poetry.

There once was a man who said, “Lo!
This physical stuff’s a no-no.
It’s spirit that flies
Right up to the skies.”
And we all know his name was Plato.