Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 13, 1998
God relents in judgment because of the sincere request of His servant
|289: Ah, Holy Jesus
363: And Can It Be that I Should Gain
371: I Stand Amazed in the Presence
|There is no God?
The cry for mercy
|414: Thou Hidden Love of
688: God, That Madest Earth and Heaven
|Luke 15:1-10||Value in the Lost and Found department||341: I Sought the
378: Amazing Grace
|1 Timothy 1:12-17||Christ saves the lost||332: Spirit of Faith, Come
573: O Zion, Haste
The Lectionary passages this week involve God's judgment, God's mercy, and God's salvation for us in Christ. The scriptures embody many important aspects about the moving story of God's love for His disobedient and rebellious creation. God requires us to follow His commands, and we must commit ourselves to do so by His grace. "Pietism" is the label commonly given to a 17th century religious movement that originated in Germany. It emphasized the need for a revitalized evangelical Christianity over against an excessive formalism and intellectualism. The movement stressed informal devotional meetings, Bible study, and personal religious experience.
This week's featured hymn was written by Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769), was translated by John Wesley (1703-1791), and is set to music arranged by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Pietism is a thread that ties together each of these people. Let's follow them in chronological order.
Johann Sebastian Bach was orphaned in 1694 at nine years of age, and went to Ohrdruf under the custody of his brother John Christoph. Ohrdruf has been characterized as a "safe haven for the most radical elements of Pietism." Later in life, Bach served as the organist at the church of St. Blasius, where the pastor was a Pietist. Musical preference within Pietism emphasized congregational song. An interesting discussion of Bach's life and the influence of Pietism on him can be found at http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/rationalistpietist.html.
Gerhard Tersteegen was a German philosopher and theologian, and a strong voice in the Pietistic movement. He remains highly regarded today, and on November 6, 1997, a German stamp was issued in honor of the 300th anniversary of his birth. Consistent with Pietism, Tersteegen emphasized Bible study and personal religious experience. Declaring that God was, by definition, beyond human understanding he said, "A comprehended God is no God at all." Despite the futility of understanding God, though, Tersteegen emphasized the need for study and personal devotion. His commitment may be summed up in this one statement, "I promise, with Thy help and power, rather to give up the last drop of my blood, than knowingly and willingly in my heart or my life be untrue and disobedient to Thee." Although a full understanding of God cannot be attained, Tersteegen clearly did not devote himself to futile activities, or encourage others to do so. Introducing his book, Spiritual Flower Garden, Tersteegen said, "God is your beginning. If you have him in essence, you have already read this book through to its end. If you seek him, read this on your way. If you are not one who seeks him, it will be of no use to you." Indeed a pious but practical man!
Wesley was influenced by the German Pietistic Movement, including the Moravians, with whom he was spending much time after returning from his missionary work in Georgia. Tersteegen is considered to have been a pietistic influence on John Wesley. In addition to Thou Hidden Love of God, Wesley also translated other hymns by Tersteegen, including Lo, God is Here and O Thou, to whose all-searching light.
This week's featured hymn reflects much of the Pietistic influence on each of these people. The music comes from the Geistliche Lieder, a collection of music characteristic of Pietism. It was arranged by Bach, who was steeped in Pietistic thought from his youth. It was written by Tersteegen, a pillar of the Pietist community, and translated by John Wesley, whose disciplined methods in Christian worship and service led to the formation of "Methodist Societies." Listen to the way that this blending of Pietist influence is expressed in the words and music of the hymn:
|1. Thou hidden love of God, whose height,
whose depth unfathomed no one knows,
I see from far thy beauteous light,
and inly sigh for thy repose;
my heart is pained, nor can it be
at rest, till it finds rest in thee.
|2. 'Tis mercy all that thou hast brought
my mind to seek its peace in thee;
yet while I seek, but find thee not,
no peace my wandering soul shall see.
O when shall all my wanderings end,
and all my steps to thee-ward tend?
|3. Is there a thing beneath the sun
that strives with thee my heart to share?
Ah, tear it thence and reign alone,
the Lord of every motion there;
then shall my heart from earth be free,
when it hath found repose in thee.
|4. O Love, thy sovereign aid impart
to save me from low-thoughted care;
chase this self-will from all my heart,
from all its hidden mazes there;
make me thy duteous child that I
ceaseless may "Abba, Father" cry.
Do you hear the Pietist themes? Can you hear God in your inmost soul saying, "I am thy love, thy God, thy all"? God's love is deep indeed. Know that the depth of His love is for you.
God bless you--
God bless you!
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|