We have chosen LSB 658, Preserve Your Word, O Savior, as our Johntide seasonal hymn for AD 2023. The cycle of the Trinity season begins with the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptizer (June 24). It continues until the Commemoration of Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (August 10). The specific focus during Johntide is on the right division of Law and Gospel in God’s Word.1 God’s Law convicts us of our sin2 and thus reveals our need for a Savior. The Gospel points us squarely to that Very Savior. He is our Lord Jesus Christ.3 It is critically important that we truly believe this! If we don’t, we are either driven to pride or despair, either way declaring His work on the Cross to be irrelevant, while dooming ourselves to an eternity in hell.
Indeed, God’s Word properly divided is quite literally our present and eternal lifeline. To those ends, God has called and sent us Pastors. They stand in His stead and by His command, to preach His Law and Gospel, and they administer His Sacraments according to the way in which He instituted them. It is through the work of our Pastors that the Holy Spirit works faith in us.4 If our Pastors fail in their duty to properly teach, they imperil us and thus, are held accountable by Him.5
As we sing, Preserve Your Word, O Savior, we pray that our Savior, “make all Pastors diligent to preach (His) holy Word,” and that He “grant (His) people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal.”6 In the first stanza, we pray that our Savior Jesus preserve His pure Word, acknowledging that it is through this that He flourishes His kingdom, grows His Church, keeps us in The One True Faith. All that gives us reason to hope as we live in this fallen world.7 We continue in the second stanza praying that our Lord Jesus, through right division of Law and Gospel, preserve His honor (namely, the Cross) by defeating the evil one, converting those who have erred and gone astray and revealing His will to all, that all may come to a saving knowledge of Him.8
In the third stanza, we pray that Christ preserve His Zion, that is the place in which He dwells with His people (the Church, which He bought with His blood).9 Using language recalling His provision for Noah and his family, as well as for His people during the Exodus from Egypt, we pray that our Lord Jesus, would protect and defend the baptized from all danger, as He has promised so to do.10
We continue in the fourth stanza, praying that God preserve the Pastors’ preaching of His Word. That is, literally the “truth that makes us whole.”11 Preaching done properly provides a mirror of God’s glory. It is a power that saves the soul, living water and dew of heavenly grace.12 We conclude in the fifth and final stanza praying that God preserve His Church against all assaults and temptations that in the end, we will spend eternity in the light of His glory in the New Jerusalem.13
The author of the hymn text, Andreas Gryphius (1616-1664), suffered tremendous loss over the course of his life, including the death of his father when he was five, that of his mother when he was twelve, riots, fires and plague by the time he was sixteen, and later forced exile from his home for around a decade from the forces of the Counter-Reformation.14 Yet, no one could take away his most precious possession, namely, Christ, delivered in His Word and Sacraments.15
We thank God also for your presence here today to receive His gifts in our midst, and pray His richest blessings on you during this Johntide season and throughout the Church Year.
- 2 Timothy 2:15; Ap IV 188; FC Ep/SD V. Note that the Greek verb translated in our ESV text as, “rightly handling” is ὀρθοτομοῦντα (orthotomounta), literally meaning, “rightly cutting/dividing.”
- Sin: our utter inability to “free ourselves from our sinful condition,” DS 4 Confession and Absolution; c.f. Luke 18:13.
- Romans 4:25 who shed His blood on the Cross to cover over our sins, and rose again to declare us right with the Father
- AC V
- And the stakes are very high. When Paul writes to Timothy that it is through their right teaching that God knows which Pastors are truly His (2 Timothy 2:19), he likens disregard of this important task to Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16:1-50; in the 2 Timothy 2:19 verse, Paul quotes from the LXX text of Numbers 16:5)!
- Collect for the June 11 Feast of St. Barnabas
- John 17:17; Ephesians 2:19-21; 1 Peter 1:5, 3:15; Jude 3
- He Who is The Light of the World John 1:4-5, 1:9, 8:12, 9:5, 12:46; 1 Timothy 2:3; Hebrews 4:11-13; Revelation 12:7-11, 21:22-26.
- In the Church we experience a foretaste of eternity in the New Jerusalem….Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 14:1
- Genesis 6:9-8:19; Exodus 14; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Peter 3:18-22.
- John 14:6. Note that the Hebrew and Greek words for peace (which we hear from Pastor multiple times in each Divine Service): שָׁלֽוֹם (shalom, Numbers 6:26 and many others), and εἰρήνη (eirene, Philippians 4:7 and many others), convey wholeness/completeness.
- The living water is that through which God sends His life-giving Holy Spirit, and the dew of heavenly grace is God’s rich blessing. These sustain us in this vale of tears until we see Him face to face. Hosea 14:4-7; John 4:10-11, 7:38-39; Romans 1:14-17; 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; James 5:19-20; 1 Peter 1:23; Jude 17-23; Revelation 7:17. Note from the 2 Corinthians text why it was so important that Pastor and all those serving in the Chancel did not mask during the recent pandemic.
- Again, He does this through His Word rightly preached and His Sacraments rightly administered. 1 Peter 1:6-7; Revelation 21:9-22:5
- Todd A. Peperkorn, “Gryphius, Andreas,” in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske, Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns, Volume 2 (St. Louis: CPH, 2019) pp. 371-372.
- Romans 8:38-39