Seven days left for the hymn contest! To encourage you, I asked a hymn-writer if he could offer us a glimpse into something he’s written: a hymn example for our consideration with a little of his thinking behind it. Rev. Mark Preus, who writes Lutheran poetry especially in its hymnic form at Revive Lutheran Hymns, kindly responded with the following. Would any more of you hymn-writers like to share and so encourage? Just let me know!
The following hymn was written in the midst of teaching a class on baptism. Baptism has been my favorite topic since I was in college, when so many of my friends rejected their baptism either by immoral living or by embracing the false doctrine of sectarians.
This was written, however, as I was preparing my sermon for the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord during Epiphany. It models especially Paul Gerhardt’s hymn, “All Christians Who Have Been Baptized” (Lutheran Service Book, #596), where he first deals with original sin and its effects before he deals with how the delivery of Christ’s sufferings and death in baptism show how we are freed from all the effects of original sin.
This is why the first verse attacks the “human will” and “power of nature” as unable to “give new birth when we were dead.” (Ephesians 2) The cause of original sin is in the rejection of God’s Word. Without God’s Word everything we have to do, anything moral or spiritual, is ruled by the devil’s lie. Baptism is joining God’s Word to water. This is “all the power / That once created heaven and earth.” In the third stanza we see the power of God’s Word to “make anew what we destroyed.” Then comes God uniting us to Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6), and in verse 5 a comparison to Creation, the incarnation, and our new creation in Christ. Verse 6 then emphasizes the doctrine of grace, apart from “all your labor.” Christ’s labor is what clothes us (Galatians 3).
The final stanza challenges and mocks the devil’s original lie, returning to original sin, by pointing to the power of God’s Word that Christ confirms in us who believe in the forgiveness of sins. Our faith in Christ always crushes the devil’s head, because what we cling to, Christ’s victory on the cross, is the action that crushed Satan’s head and silenced his accusations against us. It looks forward to the final day, when we will finally have Satan beaten “down under our feet.”
Tune: RENDEZ À DIEU (LSB 652)
1 Come, let us sing with hearts united
To God the Father, Spirit, Son;
He has in us true faith ignited –
What we could not our God has done.
No human will or pow’r of nature
Could give new birth when we were dead;
Our Maker makes a newborn creature
By means of words which He has said.
2 Our loss, our death, our sinful nature
Comes from despising God’s pure Word;
Our unbelief, it is the feature
That separates us from our Lord.
Without His Word all our emotions,
Our mind, our intellect and will
Are ruled by those satanic potions
That promise life, but only kill.
3 God joins to water all the power
That once created heav’n and earth,
The Word that now in this bright hour
Gives to the earthly heavenly birth.
For out of nothing we could give Him
God makes anew what we destroyed
So that by faith we now receive Him
And by His grace are overjoyed!
4 And into Jesus we are buried,
So that his death is made our own,
The death that all our guilt has carried
Away from us to Him alone;
All of the poisons that infect us
Our Jesus drank down to the dregs
So that our God does not reject us
While Christ for mercy for us begs.
5 As God once breathed the Holy Spirit
Into the dust a man to make;
So now because of Jesus’ merit,
Who by the Spirit flesh did take,
From Father and the Son proceeding,
The Spirit breathes new life in us,
And now for us is interceding
Declaring Jesus’ righteousness.
6 Come, sinner, turn from all your labor
And find Christ’s labor clothing you,
So that you find God’s love and favor
In nothing you could will or do,
But in the blood of Christ our Brother,
Where we who are by sin defiled
Are brought before the Holy Father
Spotless and pure and reconciled.
7 Come, Satan, see your lie’s reversal –
We cling to what God really said!
And this is only the rehearsal
Before we crush with Christ your head,
When he returns in pow’r and glory,
Restoring our poor flesh and blood,
And we shall sing salvation’s story
Forever to the Triune God.