A Sacred Meditation
John Gerhard
17 August 2017
John Gerhard (1582-1637) is the elite example of Lutheran orthodoxy. He wrote enormous works including doctrinal theology, Bible commentary, and devotional material. Moderns have judged his work as an example of dead and sterile theology, plagued by over intellectualization and weighed down by the use of philosophical categories. Perhaps this is the judgment of those who don't have the tools to evaluate his work properly or who despise his strictly Lutheran theology. Gerhard exhibited a high and deeply moving Christian piety. He was an intense believer intensely committed to the truth of God's Word.
 
His piety comes out in his devotional works, in his Sacred Meditations, which Gerhard wrote in 1606 when he was but twenty-two years old. The book has gone through innumerable editions, including one in Arabic! Its popularity is well deserved because of the quiet and beautiful articulation of the biblical faith it exhibits, every word a prayer.
 
Gerhard had what today would be called a high view of the sacrament of Christ's body and blood. For him, the holy sacrament was worthy of deep contemplation and holy meditation. The gift of Christ's body and blood brought with it the fullness of the mercy of God. Gerhard expressed wonder that such a precious gift should be fed to us by our God. Here at the table set by our Lord Jesus Christ, His body and blood is given to us under the bread and wine. How could we Christians doubt the extremity of God's mercy, when such precious foods are reserved for us poor sinners? How could we ever wonder if God is truly reconciled to us, if He puts before us the very medicine of immortality?
 
Heavenly hosts surround us when the body and blood of Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God, stands upon our altar, is in the hands of our pastors, and is placed upon our trembling tongues. He who made heaven and earth is willing to be hidden here among us under the humble forms of bread and wine. He, who is seated at God's right hand, condescends to be among us, setting the table with His blood. Almighty God has taken our flesh and borne it to the cross to grant meaning to our crosses, to grant glory where there seems only to be suffering, sin, and death. He comes here to our altar to grant peace in the midst of our earthly trouble and sorrow, comforting poor sinners with forgiveness of sins. Gerhard's work is genuinely a sacred meditation.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

John Gerhard

"Christ holds us dear because He has bought us at so dear a price. He holds us dear because he feeds our souls with so dear and precious food. He holds us dear because we are members of His body, of His flesh (Eph 5:30). This is the only sovereign remedy for all the disease of our souls. Here is the only efficacious remedy for mortality. For what sin is so heinous that the sacred flesh of God would not expiate it? What sin is so great that the life-giving flesh of the Christ would not heal it? What sin is so deadly in its effects that it would not be atoned for by the death of the Son of God? What darts of the devil are so fiery that they would not be extinguished in this fountain of divine grace? What conscience is so stained with sin that the blood of Jesus would not cleanse it?
 
"The Lord journeyed with the Israelites of old in a pillar of fire and cloud (Ex 13:21); but here we have present with us not a cloud, but the Sun of Righteousness Himself (Mal 4:2), the blessed Light of our souls. Here we experience not of the fire of the divine wrath, but the glowing flame of divine love, which does not withdraw from us, but comes and makes its abode with us (Jn 14:23).
 
"Our first parents were placed in Paradise, that most charming and delightful garden, the type of the eternal blessedness of the heavenly paradise, that being mindful of God's goodness to them, they might render due obedience to their Creator.
 
"But behold, in this Holy Supper, more than a paradise; for here the soul of the creature is spiritually fed with the flesh of His almighty Creator. The conscience is cleansed from all its guilty stains in the blood of the Son of God. The members of Christ, their spiritual head, are nourished with His own body. The believing soul feasts itself at a divine and heavenly banquet. The holy flesh of God, which the angelic hosts adore in the unity of the divine nature, before which archangels bow in lowly reverence, and before which the principalities and powers of heaven tremble and stand in awe, has become the spiritual nourishment of our souls. Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad (Ps 96:11), but still more let the believing soul exult and sing for joy, to whom God gives such an unspeakable gift! 

John Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, "The Mystery of the Lord's Supper"
1 Corinthians
11:23-34 
 
 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
 
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another- if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home- so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. 
   (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, You have given Your body and blood to Your church that she might be fed by those things which give forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation. Grant that we might ever hunger and thirst for these things. Amen.
 
For all students who are beginning their college career in these days, that they would use all their talents for the service of others and to the glory of God
 
For the family of Jill Stoneburner, whose remains are being laid to rest in Christian funeral services this day, that they would mourn as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come
 
For Cathy Jutzi, as she recovers from a fall, the the good Physician of soul and body would grant to her swift and full healing
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017