Thursday, February 6, 2020

Lent 2020 Our Beautiful Savior

Perhaps my favorite traditional hymn is Beautiful Savior. I must admit that it may be so meaningful to me because it is simple, easy to memorize and easy to sing. The first verse goes:

Beautiful Savior, King of Creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I'd love Thee, Truly I'd serve Thee,
Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown

The unknown writer makes direct and astonishing claims about Jesus. Jesus is King of all in the universe and is the son of God as well as humanity. These are what a Christian theologian would call credal formulas, they make a statement of what the community believes about God.  This is why I am using this simple song to frame our study together as a congregation this lent.  Lent was originally a time in the early church where new believers would be instructed to prepare for their baptism. The core of that instruction is found in the church's creeds. The hymn Beautiful Savior focuses on the most basic aspect of those creeds, which is that Jesus is Lord.  

Lord of My Life 

The stanza continues "truly I'd love thee, truly I'd serve thee". The hymn does not just make a claim about Jesus, it lays an imperative upon the believer.  It echoes the call Martin Luther made to the church when he explained the first of the Ten Commandments. "We are to fear, love and trust God above all things."  This is exactly how I like to frame Lent. It is our annual period of re-commitment to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We begin with Ash Wednesday reminding us of our own mortality and sinfulness, and we end with Good Friday where Jesus conquers those two things on the cross. 

The goal of the season is to remind ourselves to place God above all things once again. We set the time apart to do this, so that we make sure that we will do it.  If we don't schedule it, the cares of the world, the lure of wealth, the attraction of attention or seduction of self-absorption will crowd out what little space remains for our God in our lives.  If we neglect God we neglect life, so taking time to be with God means embracing a life of purpose, meaning, and peace.  Therefore, our practices effect God less than they do us. They have been given by the Holy Spirit for our benefit. 

Savior of All 

Jesus is the only hope we have when we look at the reality of the world we live in today. The second stanza makes the claim that Jesus is above nature. Nature worship is very common among people of all times and places in part because to the beauty God endowed it. The hymn writer continues. 

Fair are the meadows, Fair are the woodlands,
Robed in flowers of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer;
He makes our sorrowing spirit sing  

God's creation is indeed beautiful, but like human beings it has been subjected to sin and brokenness (see Romans 8). All one needs to do is see the headlines in one's news feed to see that this is true.  To depend upon nature to heal us is to put our trust in something mortal like us.To place our hope in Jesus is to hold out for God's healing. The third stanza will continue to show how Jesus is more powerful than the heavens, while the last stanza states: 

Beautiful Savior, Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine!

As Lord of the nations, Jesus is more powerful than any human structure. In my lifetime, which is an historical blink of an eye, I have seen many things that were thought to be permanent come and go. Much of the distress I see in the lives of those whom I serve comes from the fact that jobs, institutions and ways of life thought to be stable were found to be remarkably fragile.  The concept of "disruption" is the contemporary darling of business schools and economists, what is that but the breaking down of that which people formally relied upon. It is why we must re-commit to our faith in the eternal, so we may have strength to help each other deal with the present. 

This Lent we are making an active call to love Christ above all things, and that be doing so we may serve and follow him no matter how uncertain life may seem to be. It is my hope that we can all confess with the apostle Paul "for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him." 2 Timothy 1:12 (NRSV) 

Be blessed
Pastor Knecht