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The Gifts Christ Freely Gives

August 20, 2009

I have a list of hymns I’d like to teach my congregation.  Now before you ask me what’s on it, I have to say, I’ve written it down and lost it more times than I’d like to count.  (I plan to keep it electronically and with multiple backups from now on, so hopefully I won’t lose it anymore.)  So while I don’t have a physical list, I do have certain hymns in my head that I think would be great for the congregation to learn.  One in particular is The Gifts Christ Freely Gives (LSB 602).  This is a straight-forward hymn that tells us exactly what Christ gives, and where He gives them.  It is very catechetical  in nature, which is a great thing in my book.  The hymn text is by Kantor Richard Resch from Concordia Theological Seminary, with tune (DENBY) by Charles Dale.

Stanza One is an introduction to what the hymn is talking about.  Stanza Two shows the first place where we receive Christ’s gifts, in Holy Baptism: The gifts flow from the font Where He calls us His own; New life He gives that makes Us His and His alone.  Here He forgives our sins With water and His Word; The triune God Himself Gives pow’r to call Him Lord. These are not strange or unknown gifts, but they are the gifts promised in Holy Scripture.  Lutherans call them the means of grace, of which Baptism is the first.  We receive forgiveness & life at the font, where Christ puts His name on us, marking each of us as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified.  This is the first of the 2 (or maybe 3) Sacraments that Lutherans speak of.  More on that later…

Stanza Three speaks of Holy Absolution, which may or may not be a Sacrament by itself, depending on which part of the Book of Concord you read.  Either way, Holy Absolution flows from Baptism and is where we are reminded of the forgiveness won for us by Christ on the cross, delivered by the Pastor, “in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The gifts of grace and peace From absolution flow; The pastor’s words are Christ’s For us to trust and know.  Forgiveness that we need Is granted to us there; The Lord of mercy sends Us forth in His blest care. I know it sounds blasphemous to some that the pastor can say, “…I forgive you your sins…” but don’t miss the next part of the liturgy: “…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”  That phrase, along with the statement about how he is speaking “in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ” is summed up well by this phrase: The pastor’s words are Christ’s For us to trust and know. If they were merely the pastor’s words there would be no certainty.  But Christ has given the Church the authority to forgive or retain sins, as stated in John 20:19-23.  So we can know that this forgiveness, first given to us in Holy Baptism, continues to be given through Christ’s Church in Holy Absolution.

Stanza Four speaks of the Word as the Means of Grace that is with us each day in our homes, as well as during the Divine Service.  The gifts are there each day The holy Word is read; God’s children listen, hear, Receive, and they are fed.  Christ fills them with Himself, Blest words that give them life, Restoring and refreshing Them for this world’s strife. (I cannot think of anything to add, so I’ll just let the stanza speak for itself.)

Stanza Five brings us back to the Sacraments by speaking of The Lord’s Supper.  The gifts are in the feast, Gifts far more than we see; Beneath the bread and wine Is food from Calvary.  The body and the blood Remove our ev’ry sin; We leave His presence in His peace, renewed again. I especially love the line “Beneath the bread and wine is food from Calvary.”  We believe that the same body of the same Christ who hung on the cross of Calvary is bodily present each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  This is indeed a mystery and some churches, such as the Roman Catholics, try to explain how this is possible.  As Lutherans, we speak as far as the Scriptures speak and no further, so we believe that it is Christ’s True Body and True Blood that we receive, but we do not try to explain how that is possible. The word “sacrament” comes from the Latin sacramentum, which in turn comes from the Greek mysterion (sorry, I don’t write in Greek letters), meaning “mystery.”  The bodily presence of our Lord is like the Trinity: we believe it to be true because Scripture tells us that it is, but we cannot fully explain it.

Stanza Six is a great doxological stanza that gives praise to the One who gives us such great gifts.  Indeed, as the final phrase says, “All thanks and praise for His great love by which we live!”  Each breath we take is a gift from God, and He continues to bless us with the gifts given through His Word and Sacraments.  Thanks be to God!

The Gifts Christ Freely Gives  – Lutheran Service Book 602

1 The gifts Christ freely gives
He gives to you and me
To be His Church, His bride,
His chosen, saved and free!
Saints blest with these rich gifts
Are children who proclaim
That they were won by Christ
And cling to His strong name.

2 The gifts flow from the font
Where He calls us His own;
New life He gives that makes
Us His and His alone.
Here He forgives our sins
With water and His Word;
The triune God Himself
Gives pow’r to call Him Lord.

3 The gifts of grace and peace
From absolution flow;
The pastor’s words are Christ’s
For us to trust and know.
Forgiveness that we need
Is granted to us there;
The Lord of mercy sends
Us forth in His blest care.

4 The gifts are there each day
The holy Word is read;
God’s children listen, hear,
Receive, and they are fed.
Christ fills them with Himself,
Blest words that give them life,
Restoring and refreshing
Them for this world’s strife.

5 The gifts are in the feast,
Gifts far more than we see;
Beneath the bread and wine
Is food from Calvary.
The body and the blood
Remove our ev’ry sin;
We leave His presence in
His peace, renewed again.

6 All glory to the One
Who lavishes such love;
The triune God in love
Assures our life above.
His means of grace for us
Are gifts He loves to give;
All thanks and praise for His
Great love by which we live!

© 2001 Richard C. Resch. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, no. 100011479.

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From → Church Music, Hymns

2 Comments
  1. Vicki Schnack permalink

    Nathan, I am really enjoying your blog here! I have to completely agree on “The Gifts Christ Freely Gives.” Richard Resch is a hero of mine, not just because of his God-give talent, but because he is a very humble servant. This hymn really stresses that all of these things are God-give gifts and not of ourselves.

    Great artlicle; thank you!

    Vicki

  2. Pete permalink

    Something else I like about this hymn is that in stanza one it links the community of faith together with these gifts from God. We don’t experience the gifts simply as individuals, but we experience them in the corporate expression of God’s people. Thanks for bringing this great hymn to our attention!

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