A HYMN OF GLORY LET US SING
As we come to receive the Lord’s Supper, what is it that is on our minds? Is it the meaning of the sacrament and the great blessing from God that it is to us? Is it the cares and troubles of life in this world?
It is probably both. We come to the Lord’s Supper because we believe in Jesus Christ and treasure this sacrament that He instituted for our blessing. We make an effort to put away sinful thoughts and troubling thoughts as we come to the altar to partake of it. But we are also sinners who live in a sinful world and are not always successful at putting away unworthy thoughts when we come to Communion.
This great Communion hymn by Johann Franck (1618-1677) draws us away from the troubles of this world and opens our eyes to the blessings that Christ gives us in the sacrament. He invites us, “Leave behind all gloom and sadness / Come into the daylight’s splendor / There with joy thy praises render / Unto Him whose grace unbounded / Hath this wondrous supper founded.”
And then in stanza after stanza the hymn writer gives us reasons for putting aside sorrows and troubles and adorning ourselves with gladness as we come to Communion:
We come as members of the Holy Christian Church, which is the bride of Christ. “Hasten as a bride to meet Him / And with loving reverence greet Him; / For with words of life immortal / Now He knocketh at thy portal.”
When we come to Communion we receive something of great value. With the bread and wine Christ gives us His true body and blood that He gave and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins. “Though the wealth of earth were proffered, / Naught would buy the gifts here offered/ Christ’s true body for thee riven, / And His blood, for thee once given.”
The blessings of Holy Communion are undeserved gifts from Jesus, our dearest friend. “Ah, how hungers all my spirit / For the love I do not merit! . . . For the Friend who here invites us / And to God Himself unites us.”
In Holy Communion, Christ invites us to share in a mystery of divine grace. “Human reason, though it ponder, / Cannot fathom this great wonder / That Christ’s body e’er remaineth / Though it countless souls sustaineth. / And that He His blood is giving / With the wine we are receiving.”
The Lord’s Supper is evidence of the love of God in Christ. “Lord, by love and mercy driven / Thou hast left Thy throne in heaven / On the cross for me to languish / And to die in bitter anguish, To forego all joy and gladness / And to shed Thy blood in sadness. / By this blood redeemed and living, / Lord, I praise Thee with thanksgiving.”
Holy Communion is a foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb, where all who believe in Jesus Christ will enjoy perfect fellowship with Him forever (Revelation 19:7-9). “From this Supper let me measure, / Lord, how vast and deep love’s treasure. / Through the gifts Thou here dost give me / As Thy guest in heaven receive me.”
Unlike many other Lutheran hymn writers, Johann Franck was not a pastor. His education was in law rather than theology. He was a devout layman who worked as a lawyer and served as a public official.
Franck lived through the Thirty Years War, a time of severe hardship and suffering. A hymn like this, written during such times, teaches us how God turns even trying times into a blessing for His children. It is when the comforts and seeming security of this world are taken from us that we most treasure the true comfort and security of the Gospel in Holy Communion.
John Klatt is a retired pastor. He lives in Watertown, South Dakota.