Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Lent Devotional - March 6, 2023

Hymn: “O Christ, You Walked the Road” (LSB #424)

The appointed hymn for our consideration this week is “O Christ, You Walked the Road,” whose words were written by Herman Stuempfle Jr. This man had quite an impressive career. Stuempfle was born in 1923 in Clarion, Pennsylvania and lived in Gettysburg for more than five decades. He was the president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, as well as a professor and dean. He was a professor of homiletics (preaching) and wrote a widely acclaimed book, Preaching Law and Gospel. An entire generation of ELCA pastors were blessed to study under him in Gettysburg. Steumpfle is also estimated to have written 550 hymn texts, making him one of the most respected hymn-writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Our hymn this week is just one of his masterful creations. Steumpfle died in 2007.

Steumpfle’s hymns are marked by his love for the Scriptures, as well as practical and preaching applications. This hymn is no exception. Much of the imagery comes from the account of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness, which we heard read in church the First Sunday in Lent. The rhyme scheme of each line adds to the beauty of the theologically-rich text. Steumpfle invites the worshippers to contemplate the very moments of Christ’s temptation as if they were our own. All three of the temptations which Christ faced are also faced by the congregation who sings. This is almost preachable, which we would certainly expect from a professor who taught preaching classes for almost thirty years.

This text was copyrighted in 1997, approximately a decade before Steumpfle’s death. He did much of his prolific hymn-writing during his retirement years. It is likely that Steumpfle was thinking about the rise of modern temptations as he wrote these words. In case you do not remember some major events that happened twenty-five years ago, here is a brief review.

  • A team led by Doctor Ian Wilmut and Doctor Keith Campbell announced the creation of the first sheep via cloning. It was named Dolly.
  • Princess Diana was killed in a horrific car accident.
  • The Harry Potter series hit the market with its first novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
  • Ellen DeGeneres became the first openly homosexual woman to have her own daytime sitcom.
  • Beanie Babies became the must-have toy for Christmas.
  • 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed suicide near San Diego.

No bread of earth, no blinding sign, no lure of easy gain shall fill our hungering hearts. Steumpfle knew and believed that the only thing which can satisfy human hearts is the Word of God. Steumpfle wrote this hymn because he knew that we were now walking the road on which Christ Jesus had walked almost two thousand years ago. The final stanza is a prayer that we would have Jesus by our side as we face these same temptations. We are likewise tempted to turn after the breads, signs, and easy lures of this earth. Steumpfle knew this, so he wrote this hymn as a prayer to Christ for His strength. We’ll examine all of these things in more detail throughout the rest of the week’s devotions.

Herman G. Stuempfle Jr. was a Lutheran who cherished God’s Word, just like you and me. Though Stuempfle is well-known for his professorship, teaching, and hymn-writing, he was first and foremost a Lutheran pastor, having served congregations in Baltimore, Gettysburg, and York. That pastoral heart shines through in this beautiful hymn. I commend it to you this week.
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