We have chosen LSB 421, Jesus, Grant That Balm and Healing, for our 2021 Lenten seasonal hymn. The hymn was first published in 1644, but was inspired by a text at least 500 years older, which focuses on Jesus’ wounds as a healing remedy for lust, temptation and all affliction (Isaiah 53:4-5; 1 Peter 2:21-24). Our Lord Himself taught us to pray, “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Only in His forgiving and healing wounds may we be led away from temptation and delivered from evil, be made whole, and look forward to a blessed end, when our Father takes us from this “valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven” (SC III Seventh Petition). It is this truth that underlies our prayers through this hymn. Note that Jesus’ wounds themselves are not objects for us to venerate, rather are reminders of His Crucifixion for the forgiveness of our sins.
In the first stanza, we pray that our Lord guard us from the temptations that arise from within our sinful selves, as He has promised (1 Corinthians 10:13). It is these sinful temptations that lead to illness of body and mind, and we pray for the healing that only the wounds of His Passion can offer. In the second stanza, we pray for the courage to resist the attacks of the evil one (Revelation 12:17) through God’s Word (“Christ for me was wounded;” 1 Corinthians 1:23; Ephesians 6:10-17), knowing that Jesus Himself was able to so resist Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, the Gospel text for Invocavit, or Lent 1 [Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13]). In the third stanza, we pray our Lord turn us from the wide gate and easy way of the fallen world, namely the seductive and sinful vices that lead to destruction, to the narrow gate and hard way, namely prayer and meditation on His Passion and death on the Cross, that keep us alive in Him (Matthew 7:13-14). In the fourth stanza, we remind Jesus (and ourselves) of the benefits of His Passion and death: nothing that we suffer in this life can separate us from our wholeness, namely our salvation, obtained through His sacrificial love for us (Romans 8:31-39). We conclude in the fifth stanza, declaring that by His death and Resurrection, Jesus has crushed death in the dust (Genesis 3:15). We pray that His Passion continue be a source of comfort to us to the time of our death, that, having been healed through His Crucifixion, we may sleep certain in the hope of His ongoing protection, and at the last, our resurrection to eternal life in Him (1 Corinthians 15).
Johann Heermann (1585-1647) penned this hymn toward the end of his life. From childhood, he experienced long periods of poor health, which were especially severe toward the end of his life. His first wife died childless. Early on, the town in which he served as Pastor was almost completely destroyed by fire, and subsequently suffered recurrent plundering from invading Roman Catholic forces during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Furthermore, in 1631 the town suffered a plague which killed 550 of its inhabitants. On several occasions, Heermann lost all of his material possessions. At one point, he was forced into hiding for 4 months, and on several occasions was almost killed by sword and gun. By God’s grace alone, rather than succumbing to Satan, Heermann remained secure, knowing that he was a baptized child of God. In His Crucifixion, Jesus was wounded for him, and he was forgiven, healed and saved (LSB 568.3). In the end, this was the only thing he ever truly needed!
We are now entering the second Lententide of the current pandemic, on top of which, we are now faced with changing political realities. Like Heermann, we may remain secure in the knowledge that Jesus was crucified for our sins as well, as we daily remember our Baptism, and at least weekly receive His gifts of forgiveness, healing, life and salvation in His Divine Services! We are thankful for your presence today and wish God’s richest blessings on you as you receive His healing Word and Sacrament in our midst.