Our organ console is about to get rebuilt on the inside. The technology in there is not in the best of health. What’s going in will be much more efficient and modern. Our organ repair man tells us we’ll need to replace the flute ranks soon too. That’s why you see in your pews envelopes for the organ fund. We need to prepare for that work to be done so we can pay for it when the time is here, and that time is coming quickly.
I don’t tell you this because I’m an organist or because I’m trying to be a pitchman. It’s just a coincidence that I hand out the offering plates to the ushers and they give them back to me. It’s just convenient to do it that way. My call papers say nothing about being church fundraiser-in-chief. I say it because the purpose of the organ is to support our singing as a congregation. Today is called Cantate. That’s the opening word of today’s Introit in the Latin language, in which our Liturgy was first composed. Cantate. “Sing ye.”
Our Lutheran Church is known throughout the world as “The Singing Church.” When the Reformation began, congregations didn’t sing much. I won’t blame anybody for it, it’s just the way it was. The closest thing to a hymn at the communion service, other than the great songs like the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, was something sometimes sung between the Epistle and Gospel. When Dr. Luther came on the scene, the faithful only sang a few 1-stanza songs in church throughout the year, around feast days like Easter and Pentecost, a couple of them are “Christ Is Arisen” and “We Now Implore God the Holy Ghost.”
Luther kept singing those songs. He expanded some of them. While some parts of the Reformation discouraged hymn-writing, he encouraged it. He believed what he was preaching was something to sing about. St. Ambrose had written hymns like “Savior of the Nations, Come” to combat the Arian heresy, so Luther knew the best way to teach the people the saving Gospel was not his sermons, but hymns. Through hymns The Gospel was sung into the hearts of the people. Through hymns they learned to confess Jesus Christ is Savior of the world. They learned to confess our works cannot salvation gain – they merit only endless pain. They learned to believe Jesus, God’s own Son, came down to win for man salvation.
Lutheran hymnody is intended to praise God. After all, St. Peter says we are God’s royal priesthood that we might proclaim His praises. What are His praises? He has brought us out of darkness into His wonderful light. How did He do that? Through Jesus’ Death and Resurrection! So our hymnody, sermons in song, teach us to confess what Jesus has done for us and is still doing for us. How do we praise our mothers? By talking about everything they did for us when we were growing up, and maybe about everything they do for their grandkids too! Praising God is the exact same concept. We tell what He has done for us, focused in Jesus’ Death and Resurrection.
Jesus’ Death: that’s Him going to The Father, like He mentioned in the Gospel. The Father sent Him to die. He sent Him to die because we are by nature bound in Satan’s chains to sin and death. We were bound to sin when mom gave birth to us, and she was born in sin to her mother, and so was dad. They couldn’t escape it, and we can’t either. There’s nothing we can do, no good work, to free ourselves. We can’t just decide to keep God’s commands on our own. Without Him we can do nothing good. We all deserve hell and death because of our sins.
But God saw before all eternity how we’d be bound to sin and death without His help, so, because He is full of mercy, He planned to save us. He turned His Father-heart to us to seek our redemption by giving up His Son, His dearest Treasure. When it was time to have compassion He sent the bright Jewel of His crown to bring us salvation. He obeyed His Father’s will and was born of Virgin Mother. He fulfilled His Father’s good pleasure in order to become our Brother. The Foe shed His precious Blood, but He suffered for your good. His innocence bore your sin. From sin and sorrow He set us free. He slayed death for us so we can live with Him forever. You are blest forever because He led the devil captive. The Foe shall not divide you from Him. You are His forevermore.
Now He sends us His Spirit. He teaches us heavenly wisdom through His Word. He comforts you in all troubles, in sickness and in death, in good times and in bad, with the message that Jesus died for you. He teaches you to know and follow Jesus and guides you in all truth. He uses Sacred Scripture to do that. There He shows you all your Lord has done for you. In times of trouble He shows you that your Savior suffered far worse than we ever have precisely to end our troubles and give us everlasting joys. He will do this when He brings us to His side through death and most fully when He raises us from the dead on the last day.
So we have something to sing about. That’s why the Psalmist sang out this morning: “Oh, sing unto The LORD a new song!” What is that new song? It doesn’t mean we need to just sing newly-composed songs all the time. The old song is the song of being under the control of sin, of death and condemnation. The new song is directly connected with what follows in The Introit. Sing to God a new song because He has done marvelous things. How did He do that? His right hand and His holy arm have gotten Him the victory. Upon the Cross God the LORD made known His salvation. There He openly showed His righteousness in the sight of the heathen.
Therefore His right hand is exalted, because it did valiant things upon The Cross. Since He is raised from the dead, He will never die again. Death no longer has dominion over Him, or over those who love what He commands and desire what He promises. For He sends us His Spirit to fix our hearts and minds where true joys are to be found. The Father uses His Spirit to beget us with His Word of truth that we might be the first fruits of all creation.
That means He’s looking for fruits in us. James told us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. He explains this by saying anger leads us to do and think bad things, not righteous things. Then He tells us to put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness. Only then can we receive with meekness His Word, which alone saves our souls. For sin rejects God’s Word, but faith believes it. When sin is in control, we cannot please God. We only are pleasing to Him when we believe His Word and live according to it.
So let us sing to His delight and praise His holy Name. The organ will soon lead us again in our praises. Sing out into the world and down into your heart all He has done for you and what it means for your life in this world and in the life to come. Sing those hymns we’ve been singing since The Reformation and even before or after. Proclaim the glorious Resurrection of Christ our Lord, our Passover Lamb Who was offered for us and took away the sins of the world. For by His Death He has destroyed death and by His rising to life again He has restored to us everlasting life.