Hymnody

Cling to Christ

What do you really get to do when you go to seminary?  Well, you get to read cool languages, read lots of books, go to church, and drink lots and lots….and I mean loads of coffee!  You also get to be a nerd in your spare time – though I’m not sure all seminarians take part in that.

Tonight as I was relaxing I was listen to "Johann Pachelbel: The Complete Organ Works."  When it came to a Partite on "Christus, der ist mein Leben," that is, "For me to live is Jesus" (LSB 742).  It is a good hymn, which shows that we, by faith, cling to Christ even as we approach the little hour of our death.

As I was humming along – here is where my nerdiness takes over – I decided to lookup in my Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal the German of the hymn:

Alsdann fein sanft und stille,
Herr, lass mich schlafen ein
Nach deinem Rat und Willen,
Wenn kommt mein Stündelein,

Und lass mich an dir kleben
Wie eine Klett’ am Kleid
Und ewig bei dir leben
In Himmelswonn’ und -freud’!

For those of you who aren’t privileged to read German, and even I walk blind sometimes, it is (as Catherine Winkworth renders):

In my last hour, O grant me
A slumber soft and still,
No doubts to vex or haunt me,
Safe anchored in Thy will;

And so to Thee still cleaving
When death shall come to me,
I fall asleep believing
And wake i heav’n with Thee!
(LSB 742: 5, 6)

Now this is not going to be a slamming of Catherine’s rendering because it is good, and conveys the Gospel to our ears so our mouths can praise God.  Yet there is something in the German which is precious, and not conveyed; it is in verse 6.  The German says, "Und lass mich an dir kleben wie eine Klett’ am Kleid."  Winkworth conveys the sense in the words "safe anchored"  and "cleaving," but the German roughly translated – and I mean roughly I’m a bit rusty – is, "And let me cling unto Thee as a burr clings unto a gown."

That’s faith isn’t it?  Faith clings to Jesus.  Much as the woman who was ill clung to Christ’s garment and was healed.  Much like we, through are baptism, are clothed with Christ.  What does a burr do to cling to the gown?  Nothing.  Christ comes amongst his field, and our faith just sticks to him, and only him.  If you were to search for the burr’s original location you would not find it.  Now it can only be found on the garment.  So also if you were to search out where you were or where your sins were, you would not find anything!

You would not find your old Adam because he’s dead in the font, you wouldn’t find your sins they’ve been washed away. Faith clings to that.  Faith clings to Christ found there.  Faith clings to Christ through Absolution, and clinging is strengthened when it is given the true food of Christ’s body and blood. So what do really do when you go to seminary?  You learn to be like a lily, err thistle of the field that clings to Christ and His robe of righteousness which he has given you in all of his gifts!

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