The Sower sows the seed of His Word (Luke 8:4–15). This Word is living and powerful (Heb. 4:9–13) to conceive new life in those who hear it. But the planting of Christ is attacked by the devil, the world, and the flesh. Satan snatches the Word away from hard hearts. The riches and pleasures of this life choke off faith. Shallow and emotional belief withers in time of temptation and trouble. But see how Christ bears this attack for us! Christ’s cross was planted in the hard and rocky soil of Golgotha. A crown of thorns was placed upon His head. Satan and His demons hellishly hounded and devoured Him. Yet, through His dying and rising again, He destroyed these enemies of ours. Jesus is Himself the Seed which fell to the ground and died in order that it might sprout forth to new life and produce much grain. In Him, the weak are strong (2 Cor. 11:19–12:9). He is the Word of the Father which does not return void (Is. 55:10–13) but yields a harvest hundredfold.
Within the liturgy for each Lord’s day, we receive the Word of God through uniquely appointed readings, psalms, hymns, and prayers. This week we will pray the Divine Service Setting One (audio of this liturgy). The following guide will help you to prepare to hear and sing the Propers, i.e. the varied texts and hymns for this week.
Collect of the Day: O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Old Testament: Isaiah 55:10-13
Epistle: 2 Cor. 11:19-12:9
Holy Gospel: Luke 8:4-15
John Mason Neale, Anglican scholar from the 19th century, translated this 5th-10th century Latin text A Patre Unigenitus into this hymn. While we will conclude our service from a contemporary composer, we will begin with one of the more ancient and powerful songs of the church.
Lutherans have a high view of missions. We confess that God is the one at work. He has given His Church the Word to spread to all men. We, His humble servants, preach the Word and leave God to do the real work. Contrary to others who believe that the Word needs our help to be eﬃcacious, we know that God’s Word is rich in blessing. To illustrate the power of the Word, Martin Luther penned the Lutheran Church’s ﬁrst “missions” hymn in 1524 as he wrote “May God Bestow on Us His Grace.”
In 1523 Luther published his Formula Missæ, “Mass and Communion for the Church at Wittenberg.” Immediately Luther’s friend and coworker, Paul Speratus, made a German translation of it, which he published in January 1524. Attached to that translation was “May God Bestow on Us His Grace,” Luther’s paraphrase of Psalm 67. Knowing that Speratus’s translation was published early in1524, we know that this hymn was written in 1523, making it among Luther’s earliest hymns.
In Speratus’s printing, no music was Martin Luther included. However, it was printed in broadsheet form (like a modern day pamphlet) by Hans Knappe the Younger in Magdeburg in 1524. Also included with this hymn was Luther’s paraphrase of Psalm 130, “From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee.” On May 6, 1524 a man was imprisoned in Magdeburg for singing these hymns and selling them to the public.
Luther thought of “May God Bestow on Us His Grace” as a sort of closing hymn. It is his only Psalm paraphrase that ends with an “Amen.” This idea is also supported by its position at the end of Speratus’s translation of the Formula Missæ and Luther’s suggestion in the same that the service end with the Aaronic Benediction (“Lord bless thee and keep thee…”) or Psalm 67:6-7, which reads: “God, our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.”
John Poliander (pen name of John Graumann, 1487–1541) was at one time the secretary of Luther’s great opponent, Dr. Eck. But after the Leipzig Disputation in 1519, he was convinced by the Gospel and joined the Reformation. He spent his life furthering the Reformation and combatting errorists such as the Anabaptists, especially in Prussia. He wrote this hymn in 1525 at the request of Margrave Albrecht, who loved Psalm 103, of which this hymn is a summary.
The Margrave, according to Chemnitz, had it sung at his death bed. It was also sung by Gustavus Adolphus after taking back Augsburg in the 30 Years War. It is a song of praise that matches the closing of the Gospel, “He has done all things well.” Jesus is our maker as much as is the Father and the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus opened the deaf-mute’s lips, and those lips spoke plainly, so we open our lips to praise and bless God for all the benefits we have received from him. It is always through Jesus that we receive not only health for our bodies, but for our souls as well. It is in the person and work of Christ alone that we truly come to worship our maker in spirit and in truth.
Martin H. Franzmann, scholar, seminary professor, and gifted hymnwriter, has many fine texts that bless our church body and the Church at large. One that ties in beautifully with the Gospel lesson, “The Parable of the Sower,” is the hymn “Preach You the Word.”
I love this hymn for many reasons. First of all, as a pastor and preacher, I find great comfort in this hymn text. Far and above all that seems important and enduring in this world is the Word of God. That Word has been entrusted to pastors to preach faithfully…an awesome task! And so, week after week, the preacher “scatters abroad the goodly seed” of God’s Word intent that all may feast on the Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ, the bread from heaven that all need. And as the pastor labors to preach the Word of God, he may see few results from his efforts. He may see the faithful slipping away as the Word of snatched or scorched or choked or matted flat. All he can do is keep sowing…”Oh, what of that, Lord, what of that?” But when the good seed of God’s Word takes root in the human heart, the heart cleansed and made new by that good seed, and when a rich harvest is raised to the glory of God…”Ah, what of that, Lord, what of that!” Yes, the preacher never faints because the faithful Harvest Lord watches and tends His planted Word.
This is another excellent “contemporary” hymn by Martin Franzmann, best known for his 20th century hymn, “Thy Strong Word.” Unlike many of our beloved hymns translated from Latin and German into English, this hymn was composed in English and features strong poetry of comfort and encouragement to the church in a world in chaos. Coupled with the powerful tune by Jan Bender, this is an excellent example of a modern hymn with roots in our classic hymnody.