The Denison Circuit has a radio spot every morning, and the pastors rotate week by week to cover it. My week began this morning, so I thought I would share my 'show transcripts.'
Program number 1 for August 23rd
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, new pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. This week I would like to speak to you about the hymn, Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me written by Paul Gerhardt. The hymns of the Church are a wonderful treasure. In them we find the voice of all Christians throughout the centuries, as they respond to the great deeds of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in prayer and praise. When looking deeply at a hymn, it is often helpful to understand where the author is coming from and why he writes the way he does. Today we will learn a bit about the life and ministry of our author, Pastor Paul Gerhardt. Some have called him “A Theologian sifted in Satan’s sieve.” We will soon learn why.
Paul Gerhardt was a Lutheran pastor who lived in the seventeenth century. He grew up in the midst of the Thirty Year’s war, a conflict over religion and power that ended up consuming much of central Europe. All wars cause suffering for the people caught in the middle, but this war was especially horrific and intense. Soldiers ravaged the land as the battle lines moved back and forth over Germany and the rest of central and northern Europe. The war caused disease as well, great plagues that ravaged the towns of Germany. Pastor Gerhardt’s father died when Paul was young, and in the course of his life, Gerhardt lost five of his six children to disease, and finally he lost his wife as well, leaving him with a six year old son. This is in addition to all the suffering he saw in the people he served. In the middle of all this personal suffering and loss, Pastor Gerhardt was removed from his office as pastor. He was tossed out by the government after refusing to sign a document stating that he could not preach against false doctrine. He considered it his duty to remain free to preach the Word of God in its truth and purity, and therefore faced the consequences. After three years he was called to another town where he labored until his death. During this tragedy-filled life, Pastor Gerhardt penned 133 hymns, many of which have found their way into English hymnals.
As we will see in the days to come, Gerhardt’s writing of hymns flowed from his life experiences, but not in the way we would expect. We would think that such a difficult life would cause him to write dark hymns full of despair, doubt, or even anger to God. But instead, his hymns are filled with hope, they are filled with love, they are filled with an inexplicable joy, the joy that can only come from the knowledge that despite all we face in this world, we have a God who loves us. And it is this great love of God that Gerhardt praises in our hymns for this week, Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me. I encourage you to grab a hymnal and look at this wonderful hymn today, and I look forward to digging into it with you tomorrow and through the rest of this week. Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, you preserved your servant Pastor Gerhardt despite all that he faced in this life. Guard and protect our faith from every assault of Satan and keep us firm in all of life’s trials. For you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen. May the Lord bless your day!
Program number 2 for August 24th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. If you remember, this week we are exploring the depths of a wonderful hymn, Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me written by Paul Gerhardt. Yesterday we talked about our author’s difficult life as a Lutheran pastor in the midst of a horrific war. Today it is time to look at the first verse of this hymn. If you have the Lutheran Service Book, you can follow along- it is hymn 683. Here it is: “Jesus, thy boundless love to me No thought can reach, no tongue declare; Unite my thankful heart to thee, And reign without a rival there! Thine wholly, thine alone I am Be thou alone my constant flame.”
What a beautiful prayer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The opening line tells us the subject of this hymn: Jesus’ love shown to us. Pastor Gerhardt says about this love that “No thought can reach, no tongue declare.” We cannot comprehend the depths of Jesus’ love shown to us. It is simply unthinkable that the sinless Son of God would take on our human flesh and join us as a man. Who can imagine that one without sin would take our sins upon Himself? And Jesus didn’t die for us because we were such great people, He died for us when we were sinful and wretched, and altogether unlovable. Isn’t that amazing? He loved us who had done nothing to deserve this love, who in fact had done everything to rebel against our loving creator. Jesus loved us who by our sin could not love Him, and brought us salvation by giving up His life on Calvary’s cross. Paul writes in Ephesians 3: “According to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” It is only through the work of Christ that we can even begin to comprehend such great love!
The response to this love is the prayer that Gerhardt prays in this hymn. “Unite my thankful heart to thee, and reign without a rival there!” Notice who is doing the action here. Our hymn writer realizes that he cannot unite Himself with Christ, he knows that in his sinful heart there are plenty of rivals for Christ. Instead of relying on ourselves, we instead pray that Christ would unite our heart to Himself, and that He would dwell without a rival within us. We cannot do this on our own, and in fact our sinful nature does not want to give any room for Christ. Therefore, our prayer is that He would work within us day by day to renew our hearts and reign there alone. Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, you have shown us unthinkable love by giving up your life for us while we were still sinners. You love us and because you love us you have delivered us and still work to renew us day by day. Continue to work within us, strengthening our faith until you give to us our heavenly inheritance. In your holy and precious name we pray, Amen.
May the Lord bless your day!
Program number 3 for August 25th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. This morning we will continue our hymn study, examining the second verse of Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me written by Paul Gerhardt. Yesterday we spoke about the unfathomable love of Christ, that He, the sinless Son of God, would give up His life for us. Today, we will explore how the love of Christ is expressed in our lives. Here is the second verse of our hymn:
O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
All coldness from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought be love.
Paul writes in Galatians chapter 2: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Pastor Gerhardt expresses that same though in our verse for today. Because Jesus gave Himself up to death for our sins, because He shed His very blood to reconcile us with our Creator, our lives are now lived in Christ Jesus our Lord. As Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” That is what Pastor Gerhardt prays for in this second verse. He cries out to God, “Oh, may Thy love possess me whole, my joy, my treasure, and my crown!”
Notice the order of events here. First Jesus shows His great love to us by giving up His life for us. He hung upon that cross for you and your salvation, He did not come down because He loves you and wants to bring you to Himself in heaven someday. Only once Jesus has shown His great love to us are we then able to live in Christ. We don’t meet Jesus halfway, but instead He shows His great love to us, and then we respond in love toward Christ and our neighbor.
Pastor Gerhardt prays that his “every act, word, thought be love.” Because Jesus has shown His great love to us, we then go out and show that same love to others. This doesn’t have to be spectacular, like a mission trip or a huge donation, though those are certainly good ways to show Christ’s love to others. Instead, God has placed people around us in every part of our lives that need our love shown to them. Our spouse, our children, our friends, and our co-workers all need the love of Christ shown to them, and it is our joy to serve them because Jesus first served us! Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, we praise you for the great love that you have shown to us. Through that love enable us to live in you and serve our neighbor in joy. They need your love shown to them, and we pray that you would use us as your instruments to serve them. Amen.
May the Lord bless your day!
Program number 4 for August 26th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. This week we are studying the wonderful hymn Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me by Pastor Paul Gerhardt. Yesterday we spoke of how the love Christ first showed to us is expressed in our day to day lives. Today we are going to look at how Christ’s love affects our inner being. Here is the third verse:
This love unwearied I pursue
And dauntlessly to Thee aspire.
Oh, may Thy love my hope renew,
Burn in my soul like heavenly fire!
And day and night be all my care
To guard this sacred treasure there.
Christ showed such great love to us by giving His life for us on the cross. His shed blood on Good Friday removed our sin and corruption, it destroyed all that kept us from a relationship with our heavenly Father. And this love first shown to us has a powerful effect on us. Jesus is working within us to renew us, to remove all our sin. But this is not some triumphant march toward perfection. No, instead the Christian’s life is a cycle of repentance. We sin, we repent of our sin, and we are forgiven. Then the next morning we wake up and repeat the cycle again. That is the baptismal life of the Christian. We daily return to the baptismal font, where the Lord claimed us as His own and washed away our sin. The more we grow in our faith, the more we realize our sin and our need for repentance and Christ’s forgiveness
Listen to how Pastor Gerhardt describes the Christian life: This love unwearied I pursue and dauntlessly to thee aspire. The Christian life is one of striving after the love that Christ showed us. We need His love shown to us each and every day, and thankfully Jesus wants to give us His love each and every day. The last two lines capture the repetition and continual cycle of the Christian life: And day and night be all my care to guard this sacred treasure there. Christ has given to us a great treasure in our baptism, and His work within us is to constantly preserve that treasure that He first gave us. Notice who does all the work here- it is all about our God! He is the one who delivered us; He is the one who claimed us as His own through the waters of the Holy Baptism; He is the one who preserves us in the faith delivered to us. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are at work within us!
Let us pray: Thank you Lord Jesus Christ for the great gift of Baptism, which makes us your children. Work within us to strengthen and preserve our faith each and every day, for we sin much and need your precious forgiveness daily. In your precious name we pray, Amen. May the Lord bless your day!
Program number 5 for August 27th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. Today we are looking at the fourth and final verse of Pastor Paul Gerhardt’s hymn, Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me. This is my favorite verse of the hymn, and I believe that it delivers great comfort at the times that we need it most. Here it is:
In suffering be Thy love my peace,
In weakness be Thy love my power;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
O Jesus, in that final hour,
Be Thou my rod and staff and guide,
And draw me safely to Thy side!
This verse contains what I believe are two of the most beautiful lines in the entire hymn. “In suffering be Thy love my peace, In weakness be Thy love my power.” If you remember Monday’s segment, the author of this hymn, Pastor Paul Gerhardt, lived an incredibly difficult life. He lived during a terrible war, and disease claimed five of his six children and his wife. To top it off, he was removed from His pulpit by the town government! This man knew suffering! And see what he says about suffering. In suffering Christ’s love is to be his peace and in weakness Christ’s love is to be his power. How does a person survive suffering in this life? Only through the love of Christ! Notice that Pastor Gerhardt doesn’t try to avoid talking about suffering, but instead he takes it head on as a reality in this world. And He provides the solution to suffering: Christ’s love. Jesus Christ knew suffering, in fact, that was the reason that He came to our world as a man. He had come to suffer and to die for all of our sins. And so in suffering we know that we have a Lord and Savior who knows intimately what we are going through and that He suffered so that our suffering would end when He brings us to heaven.
That is what Pastor Gerhardt sings about in the last several lines. And when the storms of life shall cease, O Jesus, in that final hour, Be Thou my rod and staff and guide, And draw me safely to Thy side! This is a wonderful hymn of comfort to sing when one is facing death. It put our focus exactly where it should be- on the love that Christ showed to us on the cross. Because He shed His blood and died for us on Good Friday, death for those who are in Christ is nothing other than the gateway to life. The Lord draws us safely to His side because He has conquered death through His death and resurrection. I can’t think of better words to have on the lips of a Christian as death draws near. Let us pray: Lord, in suffering be our peace and our comfort, and when death draws near give to us the comfort that you have conquered death for us. Strengthen us with this hope as only you can, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen. May the Lord bless your day!
Program number 6 for August 28th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. Throughout this week we have been studying the wonderful hymn, Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me by Pastor Paul Gerhardt. I choose this hymn for several reasons. First of all, I wanted to introduce you to Pastor Gerhardt. Our Lord raises us many important people throughout the centuries that truly bless His Church here on earth, and I believe that Paul Gerhardt is one of those people. The Lord was with Him in the midst of all the trials He faced, and He blessed him with the talent to write beautiful and comforting hymns. I believe that Pastor Gerhardt is a person that many of you can connect with. He was a man very much acquainted with sorrow and suffering. He had a difficult life, and I know that for all of us, life in this sinful world is often a struggle.
That is why his hymns have so much to teach us. They do not shy away from suffering, but instead speak the great promises of God in the midst of it. God doesn’t always tell us why things happen to us in this world, but He does give to us His great promises. He promises to be with us, to protect us, and He promises to deliver us from all suffering when He calls us home to Himself in heaven. Jesus has shown great love to us, and He will continue to do so.
If there is one thing that I want you to take away from our study of this beautiful hymn, it is Pastor Gerhardt’s great theme from beginning to end: Christ’s love. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, of which each one of us is the worst. We were left condemned to an eternity apart from our Creator, but our Father in heaven did something about our situation and send His Son to deliver us. Jesus never shied away from His task, but instead His love made Him seek us out and deliver us through His shed blood. Think back to the first verse of our hymn: Jesus thy boundless love to me, no thought can reach, no tongue declare. It is amazing that Jesus would give up His own life into the most horrific death in human history for people who were sinful and corrupted. We had nothing of our own to offer Jesus, just our sins, and He took them upon Himself and sacrificed His life in our place. If you do not have a church home, we invite you to visit one of our area Lutheran Churches, where this same Jesus is proclaimed to you each and every Sunday. Thank you for listening this week and I hope and pray that you learned of Christ’s love from the words of Pastor Gerhardt.
Let us pray: Lord, we ask that you would continue to pour out your love upon us in your great gifts of your Holy Word, the washing of Holy Baptism, and the gift of the Lord’s Supper. Use these gifts to strengthen our faith and forgive our sins so that we may join you in heavenly glory. In your saving name we pray, Amen. May the Lord bless your day!