Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Lent Devotional - March 20, 2023

Hymn: “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” LSB #438

Our hymn writer for this week, Paul Gerhardt, was one of the most famous Lutheran hymn writers to ever live. He was born into a middle class family in Germany on March 12, 1607. In January 1628, he enrolled in the University of Wittenberg, where he was especially influenced by two faculty members: Paul Röber and Jacob Martini. Röber in particular often took his sermon texts from hymns and instilled in young Gerhardt the use of hymnody as a tool for pastoral care and instruction.

Gerhardt did not immediately receive a placement as pastor upon graduating from Wittenberg, so he moved to Berlin in the midst of the Thirty Years War, where he began to work as a tutor in the family of Andrea Barthold. He wrote many hymns and poems during this time, which drew the attention of Johann Crüger, the cantor and organist in Berlin. This started a partnership that continued for many years. Finally, in September 1651, Gerhardt was sent to Mittenwalde to serve as pastor. During this time is when he composed the vast majority of his hymnody.

The hymn which garners our attention this week was originally titled “Ein Lämmlein geht und trägt die Schuld,” which would be translated “A Lambling goes and bears the guilt.” It was first published in a 1647 edition of hymns, while Gerhardt was working with Johann Crüger in Berlin. It was originally used as a Communion song, but later came to be described as “the masterpiece of all Passion hymns,” which is why it finds its home in the Lent section of our hymnals.

The original hymn was 10 stanzas long, but we only have 6 available to us in The Lutheran Hymnal and 4 available in Lutheran Service Book. The first four stanzas reflect on the Passion of the Christ. We are invited into the throne room of heaven to listen in on a conversation between the Father and His Son. They discuss the plan for how the Triune God is going to save the children of men from their sin and dread. This will involve the eternal Son going forth to suffer wrath and stripes by which men will share the fruit of Christ’s salvation. All this the Son does willingly, because His will conforms to the Father’s.

 Gerhardt wrote this hymn as an expansion of the Agnus Dei, which is sung during our Communion liturgy. Focusing on the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” Gerhardt draws our attention to the same Lamb who “goes uncomplaining forth.” Christ does not drag His feet or get forced into His passion, suffering, and death. He does all this willingly because of His desire to save the children of men. The hymn then leads us in a journey from the glories of heaven, where Father and Son discuss the plan, down to the earth where the plan is executed, back up to the side of the Father, where we shall stand in joy beside Christ as His own bride, bought with His precious blood. This hymn invites us to joy in the blood of Christ which covers our sin. Joy is not a common emotion during the season of Lent, but it is an important one here. We find joy in the saving work of Christ, since Christ Jesus found joy in coming down to this earth for us and for our salvation. Christ is the focus. Gerhardt would have wanted it that way.

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