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Grace, Mercy, and Peace to You

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace, mercy and peace to you during this Easter season from our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

As I’m writing you this month, I’d like you to contemplate the nature of rhetorical greetings. I’m sure we’ve all heard or even used the phrase “How are you doing?” or “How’s it going?” as a greeting. It’s a peculiarity of our culture that we use these “rhetorical questions” as greetings. We know these are “rhetorical” questions because we don’t really expect an answer other than the standard “I’m fine, how are you?” response.

In fact, it is sometimes even considered a breach of etiquette to answer with a genuine or lengthy response, especially by responding with a serious listing of problems or concerns. We make the distinction when, on occasion, we really want to engage someone at a personal level and know how they are doing by saying, “How are you doing, really?” This seemingly “gives permission” for a genuine response.

That said, there is a time and place for everything, and these rhetorical greetings have their use and are not inherently bad. However, as Christians and fellow members of the body of Christ, I hope that we will minimize their use as we fellowship with one another.

I believe that God calls on us to earnestly engage with one another as brothers and sisters (Hebrews 13:1), showing our love (and His love) for one another (John 13:35 and 1 John 4:7) and caring for and supporting one another (Galatians 6:10 and 1 Peter 4:10). It comes down to this – do not take anything for granted, but make every effort to truly know, be at peace with and minister to one another (Romans 14:19 and Ephesians 4:3).

With regard to rhetorical greetings and taking things for granted, please take another look at the first line of this article and know that I did not write that as a rhetorical greeting, but that I meant it to be rich in meaning. The writers of the epistles often opened their letters with similar words (2 John 1:3) and I am convinced that these words were not intended to be bypassed or set aside as rhetorical.

What does it mean that we have grace, mercy and peace from God?

Grace may be defined as receiving something that we do not deserve,such as salvation (Ephesians 2:8 and Titus 2:11).

Mercy may be defined as not being subject to the consequences of our actions, such as punishment for our sins (Romans 8:1 and Titus 3:5-6).

Peace may be understood to be peace with God, which is ours because of His grace and mercy (John 14:27 and Romans 5:1).

Let none of us ever take for granted these gifts from God and let us all be reminded of the deep meaning of these words whenever we hear or read them!

Finally, drawing again from the first line of this article, let us be reminded that we are still in the Easter season. It is not “over” just because Easter Day is past. In fact, we remember and celebrate Easter every week when we worship (even during Lent) by meeting on Sunday (Resurrection Day) rather than on the Sabbath.

He is Risen!

Mike Kunschke, Elder

 

Hymn of the Day

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 THE HYMN OF THE DAY A unique element of Lutheran worship is the “Hymn of the Day,” sometimes called the “Hymn for the Word” or even the “Sermon Hymn” in the old hymnal. This hymn’s purpose differs from hymns used elsewhere in the service as it should relate closely to the sermon and to the lectionary (readings) for the day. Ideally, all three readings are related by a common theme—in practice, this theme is occasionally difficult to discern, so the Hymn of the Day should relate unambiguously to the text on which the pastor is preaching.

Currently, Pastor Shaltanis usually preaches on the gospel of the day, and hence this hymn will relate closely to that. Luther Reed, a liturgical scholar, writes of the Hymn of the Day that, “This is the principal hymn of the Service (Hauptlied). Following the lessons and the Creed and immediately preceding the Sermon. . . [it] must be chosen with care.” (The Lutheran Liturgy, p. 305) You may notice that often the first and last hymns of the service will be more general—they are often seasonal, singing Advent hymns during Advent, Lenten hymns during Lent, etc. Or, they may hail from the “Morning” or “Beginning of Service” or the even more generic “Praise and Adoration” sections of the hymnal. In our evening services, for example, usually the last hymn is taken from the “Evening” section (since there are so many good evening hymns and only limited opportunities to sing them!) But the Hymn of the Day must convey the theme of the day much more closely.

During Lent we sang, “God Loved the World So That He Gave” (571), on the Sunday the Gospel lesson was taken from John 3 and from which that pinnacle verse of Gospel theology is taken: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Here one can easily see the close connection between this Hymn of the Day, the Gospel lesson, and the sermon. This month, on the Second Sunday of Easter, the assigned Hymn of the Day is, “O Sons and Daughters of the King” (470/471), in which we sing, “That night the apostles met in fear; among them came their master dear and said, ‘My peace be with you here.’ Alleluia! When Thomas first the tidings heard that they had seen the risen Lord, He doubted the disciples word.” This correlates closely with the Gospel that day taken from John 20 in which Jesus appears to His disciples and confronts Thomas with his unbelief saying, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Selecting hymns for the Lutheran Divine Service must be done carefully. And of course, sometimes Hymns of the Day don’t align so completely with the Gospel text and sermon theme as the two examples above. So no doubt you will also notice times where there may be incongruity in one way or the other—the fact is, we don’t have good hymns that apply to every situation of scriptural topic! And of course, I hope you sing all the hymns and liturgy with enthusiasm, but if you can only sing one on any given Sunday, please sing the Hymn of the Day!

INJ+ Benjamin Kolodziej Director of Music 

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