Wednesday, September 02, 2009

September 2nd is the day the church commemorates Nikolai F. S. Grundtvig, Danish Lutheran bishop, pastor, and writer of the 19th century. He stood for a Christian faith deeply rooted in the Bible and in the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the ones given to the church by Jesus Christ. For English-speaking Lutherans he is best known for his hymn texts, from "Cradling Children in His Arms" to "Built on a Rock the Church Shall Stand." Here are a few of those hymns that are given to us as many of us still struggle with how we are to go forward following the ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

"God's Word is our great heritage, and shall be ours forever.
To spread its light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way; in death it is our stay.
Lord, grant while time shall last your Church may hold it fast
Throughout all generations."

"Built on a rock the Church shall stand, even when steeples are falling.
Crumbled have spires in every land, bells still are chiming and calling--
Calling the young and old to rest, calling the souls of those distressed,
Longing for life everlasting.

We are God's house of living stones built for his own habitation;
He fills our hearts, his humble thrones, granting us life and salvation.
Were two or three to seek his face He in their midst would show His grace,
Blessings upon them bestowing.

Through all the passing years, O Lord, grant that, when church bells are ringing,
Many may come to hear God's Word where he this promise is bringing:
"I know my own, my own know me; You, not the world, my face shall see;
My peace I leave with you. Amen."

"The Spirit of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, which proceeds from the Father. . . reflects the glory of God, so that the church feels the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, although the world does not see him. He reveals himself spiritually for all those who hold fast his word with proof as plain as when he revealed himself to his friends after the resurrection and spoke to them about matters that pertain to the kingdom of God. He tells us that he can and will dwell in his church and walk in it as the only-begotten Son from eternity in all the regenerated sons and daughters whom the heavenly Father and the Son embrace, sharing his glory.
"Then, and only then, God's kingdom comes to us, not so that one can point to it and say: look here or look there, as one points to the great nations, but in such a way that the whole church lives in it, saying and singing: Now we know that God's kingdom is truly righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. It comes as the Spirit proclaims in deeds and truth what is to come through that which is now worked and created in us. Then we cannot for a moment doubt that what now lives in us, a real and joyful power, though concealed, shall be revealed when he who is our life comes again even as he ascended. Thus it follows that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us, just as surely as this glory has descended and rests upon us.
"Therefore, Christian friends, we will not be fearful or despondent in the great transition period from darkness to light, from death to life, and from clarity to clarity, for it holds true throughout the lives of all God's children in this world, and not only during their last days, that they shall not fear evil as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and he who is the light of the world is with us. . . ."

(The Fourth Sunday after Easter, 1855, in N.F.S. Grundtvig: Selected Writings, ed. Joahnnes Knudsen (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 115-16. As reprinted in New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints, Philip H. Pfatteicher (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008), 426.)

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