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Sunday, March 02, 2008 

Unexpected Phone Calls, Sorrow, And The Comfort Of Lenten Hymnody

My morning started off very, very badly. About fifteen minutes before I was to leave for church I received a phone call from my oldest friend, Anne. She was calling me to request my presence when her husband comes home from the hospital to die. Anne’s husband Les has been on dialysis for kidney failure for many years now and he’s well past the average time that most people with his condition survive. Simply put, Les is at the point where the dialysis no longer does what it is supposed to. In six days he will come home for the last time to die with his family. Anne and Les consider me to be the not so sane younger brother, their three children all call me Uncle Frank, and for this reason, because I’m considered family, I too will be there at his passing.

This is not the way I expected my Sunday to start. Who knew? Not me I assure you. So needless to say I went off to church not in the right frame of mind. Fortunately, God’s gifts through His promised means of grace are not dependent on me being in the right frame of mind. The preached Word does what it does in spite of my emotional state whether it be distressed and cheerless or joyful, it makes no difference. Thankfully the Word of the Lord is not subjective but rather objective and alive and active. The comfort of God’s undeserved gift of grace through faith in Christ preached purely did what it was intended to, it comforted me.

And the closing hymn comforted me as well. I’ve written at length about my love of Lenten hymnody because of the focus on Christ’s passion and his journey to Jerusalem to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for all poor miserable sinners, like me and the rest of the planet. Our closing hymn was My Song Is Love Unknown by Samuel Crossman, written in 1664 was found on page 430 of our hymnal, LSB.

My song is love unknown,
 My Savior’s love to me;
 Love to the loveless shown,
 That they might lovely be.
 O who am I, that for my sake
 My Lord should take frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
 Salvation to bestow;
 But men made strange, and none
 The longed-for Christ would know:
 But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
 Who at my need His life did spend!

Sometimes they strew His way,
 And His sweet praises sing;
 Resounding all the day
 Hosannas to their King:
 Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
 And for His death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
 What makes this rage and spite? 
He made the lame to run,
 He gave the blind their sight,
 Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
 Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have 
My dear Lord made away; 
A murderer they save,
 The Prince of life they slay,
 Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
 That He His foes from thence might free.

In life, no house, no home
 My Lord on earth might have;
 In death no friendly tomb 
But what a stranger gave.
 What may I say? Heav’n was His home; 
But mine the tomb wherein He lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
 No story so divine; 
Never was love, dear King!
 Never was grief like Thine. 
This is my Friend, in whose sweet praise 
I all my days could gladly spend.

What a beautiful confession it is that repeats back in song the very story that is the good news for a fallen world. This Lenten hymn comforted me every bit as much as the reading of this morning's Scripture readings. I pray that I’m in some way able to share that same comfort that I sung this morning very soon with those I love dearly.

Please keep Anne and Les, my oldest friends, in your prayers.

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I hope your friend goes and rests peacefully. Loosing a loved one is never easy.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
  • Confessional Lutheran
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