For the final week of the Eurasia Blog’s “Season in Song” devotional series, we will reflect on the hymn “Were You There” (LSB 456). While technically listed as a hymn for Holy Week, the character of the hymn with its focus on Christ’s sacrifice and death is still in keeping with Lent. The hymn was chosen by Globally Engaged in Outreach (GEO) Missionary Benjamin Helge, serving in the Czech Republic. Ben makes connections through the English language by working with local schools, groups, clubs and Lutheran churches. The hymn was played on the piano by Amy Johnson, the wife of missionary Rev. Daniel Johnson.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4 ESV).
This contemplative, simple hymn calls us to reflect on Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. It asks us the question, “were you there?” to draw us into imagining what it would have been like to stand there on that day and see it with our own eyes. This is something we do frequently throughout Lent, and which we have done here on this blog during our Lenten devotional series. We have pondered Christ’s death throughout Lent by reflecting on the beautiful hymns that help us to do so. And this is good. It can be helpful to think deeply and repeatedly on Christ’s suffering and death. It can be helpful and good to reflect on the different parts of the Passion Narrative while picturing the events of that day.
But ultimately, Lent is not about our reflections on Christ’s suffering and death. It is not about how good a job we do of picturing it, or if we really “feel it.” Lent is not about us going to the cross in some mystical, emotional reflection. Lent, you see, is not about us. At least, not in the way we would prefer it to be about us. It’s not about our emotions, our reflections, what we “gave up” or what we “focused in on.”
Lent, in fact, is about the fact that God in Christ brought that day 2,000 years ago forward into our present. Lent is about the fact that God, in Christ, continuously brings that day 2,000 years ago forward into our present. In our Baptisms, Christ’s death and resurrection is our present reality. We are crucified with Christ and then we rise with Him! Romans 6:3-4 is one of the base texts for this hymn. When the hymn-writer asks the question, “were you there,” he asks it with these verses and this reality in mind. We can answer “Yes! I was there. Not because I reached backward in time or reflected hard enough, but because God brought the benefits which Christ won for me that day on the cross forward into my present.” God continues to do this very thing. When through repentance God daily drowns our Old Adams in the waters of our Baptisms we die with Christ, are buried with Him, and are raised with Him. God uses other means to continuously bring Christ’s death and resurrection into our present, too. In the Lord’s Supper, we partake of His Body and Blood “in remembrance” of Him. Biblical remembrance is not a reflection on the past or a nice little memory, it is a bringing of the past into the present! The Lord’s Supper brings the finished work of Jesus Christ’s death and all its benefits which were won on that specific Friday in 33 A.D. forward into 2014 (and 1998 and 56 and 312 and 1887 and 2026…). It places the very Body crucified for us and the very Blood shed for us into our mouths. It brings to us life, salvation, and forgiveness of sins.
Lent is about the fact that God puts to death our strivings and any possible need for them as He brings into our midst the very death of His Beloved Son, His Glorious Resurrection, and all the gifts they won for us. Lent is about Christ’s suffering and death for you and delivered to you. Here and now. In water and Word. In bread and wine. You were there because He is here.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for winning forgiveness, life and salvation for us and thank You for delivering those gifts to us through the Means of Grace; help us to cling to where You have promised to be found so that we may rest from our striving, for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Did you miss last week’s “Season in Song” devotion on “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted?” You can still read it and watch the video here.
- This concludes our “Season in Song” series, but the Eurasia Blog Wednesday devotion will still be available each week.
- To learn more about Benjamin Helge, you can read his missionary profile.
Tags: Amy Johnson, baptism, Benjamin Helge, Christ's death, Dan Johnson, lent, Life Together, Lord's Supper, Mercy, Passion Narrative, Season in Song, striving, suffering, video, Were You There, Witness