God Loved the World (ELW 323, focus on verse 4)
1 God loved the world so that he gave
his only Son the lost to save,
that all who would in Him believe
should everlasting life receive.
2 Christ Jesus is the ground of faith,
who was made flesh and suffered death;
all who confide in Christ alone
are built on this chief cornerstone.
3 If you are ill, if death draws near,
this truth your troubled heart can cheer:
Christ Jesus rescues us from death;
that is the firmest ground of faith.
4 Be of good cheer, for God’s own Son
forgives all sins that you have done,
and justified by Jesus’ blood,
your baptism grants the highest good.
5 All glory to the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit, Three in One!
To you, O blessed Trinity,
be praise now and eternally!
“Be of good cheer,” says the hymn writer. That may sound hollow in times like these. So many things get in the way of our “good cheer”; sometimes even faith communities snuff out the spark of life by being too strict in worship. I remember that as a new parent, accompanying wiggly young ones in worship, I was surprised by my unimaginative response: “Would you just sit still and be quiet?”
But the “good cheer” that the hymn writer proclaims may speak to an even deeper issue—our need for rescue. It’s not about how we behave in worship. It’s not even about naming all of our sins. God is present, and God comes to rescue us in our time of need. The gospel song “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”—sung by an unnamed Londoner and made famous by Gavin Bryars—concludes: “There’s one thing I know, that he loves me so.”
God of rescue, we have problems that we cannot solve on our own. Stay with us through the difficult times and help us to know that you are there right beside us, holding us up in a loving embrace. Amen.