Date: April 4, 1937
Prayer for Abiding Power of the Resurrection
God of all grace, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer:
We bless Thy holy name for the riches of divine mercy in the risen Christ and for the power of His resurrection, by which we can seek and find those things which are above, heavenly hope and eternal life. Help us glorify the grace which sent Thy Son into the confusion of earth’s sin, to redeem us from the consequences of our iniquities, and by His death on the cross to liberate us from the thralldom and terror of eternal death. Grant that, with our consciences stricken by the charge of guilt, our hearts filled with true contrition, our souls triumphing in the confidence of faith, we may find in Thy rising from the grave the seal and assurance of our own salvation and resurrection. May Thy Spirit bring us all to the risen Christ and to that inner joy and peace which in its endless blessings passes all understanding. Especially are our hearts raised in thanks for Thy rich and repeated blessings during these broadcasts; and we beseech Thee, God, our Father, our Savior, our purifying Spirit, continue among us with Thy blessing, so that the seed which we have sown in weakness may by Thy benediction bring forth rich harvest. Help us to resume this testimony to Thy glorious Gospel when and how it pleases Thee, and until then abide with us, in Thy Word, Thy grace, Thy truth, Thy power, through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
They constrained Him, saying, Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them. – Luke 24:29
ON a late Sunday afternoon ninety years ago a solitary figure could have been seen, poised atop the towering cliffs near Brixham, on the south coast of England. Closer investigation would have revealed the form and features of a clergyman, wrapped in solemn thought. It was Henry Francis Lyte, the pastor of a nearby parish, who only a few hours before had preached a farewell sermon to his congregation of fisherfolk. Broken in health (he had borne the heavy cross of sickness during his entire ministry of thirty-two years), he was walking alone and for the last time along familiar paths high above the ocean. On the morrow he would leave England to seek healing in the sunnier climes of Southern France and the warmer winds of the Mediterranean. Far below him in this moment of his farewell the waves of the British Channel rose and fell, each one reflecting the fire of sunset; and far behind him loomed the high hills of Devon, crowned with the flashing diadem of closing day. What a symbol and foreboding of eternity with its golden glory and its sapphire throne! God had never seemed closer than in the hush of that gloaming on the Brixham cliffs, and Henry Lyte hastened to his home, secluded himself in his study, and after a short hour emerged with the words of a hymn which thousands of our countrymen have acclaimed the most beloved of all sacred songs, “Abide with Me.” A few weeks later the invalid poet, pointing to heaven and whispering two words, “Joy, peace!” died, strengthened in his last hours by the answer to the concluding prayer of his hymn:
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes,
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!
Today we, too, have come to the hour of parting with this final broadcast of our fourth annual radio mission, inaugurated for the purpose of bringing Christ to the nation. And because this may be the last time that some of us will worship together, since the darkness may be deepening and the eventide of life falling more quickly than we know; because all of us need the presence of Jesus for the joys and sorrows of every passing hour, Henry Lyte’s farewell prayer is particularly appropriate for our last broadcast.
And what theme could be more timely? Easter is too close and the radiance of the Savior’s resurrection too brilliant to overlook that gripping incident in the life of our Savior which flashed across the mind of the worldweary poet when his trembling hand wrote “Abide with Me!” This hymn takes us back to the first Easter. Two followers of Jesus, approaching the village of Emmaus, about eight miles from Jerusalem, are discussing the crucifixion of the Lord, when suddenly and silently a mysterious Stranger meets them on that dusty road. To heal their hearts, wounded by the apparent failure and death of Jesus, their new Companion proves from the prophecies that, as Christ had to die, so He had to rise from the grave. And He comforts them with such heart-warming truth that we read: “They constrained Him, saying, Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them.” (St. Luke 24, 29.)
Applying to ourselves the sacred assurance of these memorable words, which even unbelief has acclaimed, let us in this final broadcast turn to Christ, as we have on every Sunday, and, asking:
“ABIDE WITH US,”
make the prayer of the Emmaus road our own.
WE NEED THE ABIDING CHRIST
The sadness in the lives of the two disciples rose from their doubt and disbelief of the Savior’s resurrection. They had heard the Easter-message from the lips of the women who on that very morning had stood before the open tomb; they had spoken with the disciples who likewise had found the grave empty; still they refused to believe. Some of you have likewise doubted the truth of the resurrection. You live on as though Christ had never risen and you had to fight the battles of life with your own strength. How vital that you join in our prayer, “Abide with us!” and ask Christ to come to you, in His Word, in Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper, to prove the power of His resurrection in your life! Some of you write me that you are “almost persuaded” to accept Christ as your atoning Savior. But “almost” is not enough. You must have that doubt-destroying faith of the mighty apostle, who heroically affirms, “I am persuaded.” Others in this audience claim that they cannot believe or understand the message of the Cross and the truth of the Open Grave. This refusal to accept Christ and His Word must be traced to the tragedy that you will not permit Jesus to abide with you, to explain the Scriptures as He did to those Emmaus pilgrims, and to open your eyes so that you, too, can discover in Him your crucified, yet victoriously resurrected Lord and God. As the risen Lord unexpectedly confronted His doubting disciples on that Easter afternoon, so He now approaches many of you, not through the chance turn of a radio dial, but by God’s deliberate plan and counsel, to reveal Himself as your risen Redeemer. And because I want to stand with you—every one of you—in that all-glorious Resurrection before the throne of the Lamb, I ask God to bless these words especially in the hearts of doubt and disbelief, so that you, too, may turn to Him in contrition and faith, praying, “Abide with me!”
Another reason for the sadness written on the countenances of the Emmaus disciples was their human disappointment in Christ. They had hoped that their Lord, “a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,” would redeem Israel from its degraded slavery and exalt it to glory. Instead of a crown Jesus had left a cross; instead of the fanfare of royalty, His complete repudiation of any temporal kingdom; instead of the lingering applause of the multitudes, the solitary voice of a crucified thief acclaiming Him king! He had spoken of life and power and triumph, but His end on the cross seemed to prove death and failure and decay.—Much of our modern thought shows the same disappointment in Jesus, and some of you have kept yourselves away from the risen Christ because your dollars-and-cents standards and your profit-and-loss principles find little attraction in Christian faith. What profit, we are challenged, can there be in a creed which tells us that, if we have two coats, we must give one to our destitute brother? How many take this program seriously when industrial warfare throws the working-man into the bitterest and most widespread campaign against his employer that this nation has ever seen? What possible advantage can there be in following the ideals of a Teacher who asks us to turn the other cheek to those who strike us in persecution? “Let the fittest survive and every man shift for himself!” our bloody age screams as it turns disdainfully away from Christ’s new commandment “that ye love one another.” Twenty years ago our country was caught in that selfishness by the maelstrom of a great World War which proved the international protest against Christ’s principles. And since that fatal April day of 1917 when this nation was seized by the dreams of war profit, when American pulpits became recruiting offices that helped to send our young men into wholesale killing and American preachers allied themselves in spirit with munitions manufacturers, we have not only suffered the disastrous death-toll and the loss of billions, but we have also been thrown into a convulsive social revolution the end of which is not even in sight. The same tragedies are reenacted on a smaller scale in those hearts and lives that have no room for a Savior who demands, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” who damns “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life,” who tells men that with all their vaunted programs and ambitions they are spiritually dead. Surrounded by this rejection of the Christ of love, we need to repeat the fervent prayer, “‘Abide with us,’ O Jesus,” to ask God daily that we may find the real Christ, the true Christ, the divine Christ, and realize that He came to save our souls, souls so precious and priceless that, if you could take all the gold in the world, place upon it all the diamonds, the matched pearls, the costly rubies, all the precious gems in royal crowns and the rarest of jewelry and adornment, in the sight of God, who alone recognizes true value, your soul, for which Jesus died and rose again, would far outweigh the value of all men’s treasures.
The two disheartened disciples were laboring under the weight of heavy sorrow, too. Their Friend, their Leader, their great Prophet, Jesus, had died; and with Him, it seemed, their own joy of life had perished within their hearts.—Some of you see yourselves on this Emmaus road. Afflictions in number and weight greater than you have ever believed you could bear have roared down upon you. Your letters tell of broken hearts and broken bodies, vanished fortunes and vanished friends, shattered homes and shattered hopes, disquieted minds and disquieted souls, and—death. In moments when these sorrows weigh heavily upon your soul, where can you find the helping comradeship, the sustaining love, the blessed assurance, for which you crave? Shall I direct you to the fatalistic spirit of indifference that leaves you small comfort with the thought that everything in life happens because it must happen and that you and I are only human dust in this cosmic cruelty? Shall I point you to the flowery oratory of the high-sounding, but empty rhetoric that likes to speak of the fatherhood of God, but that refuses to tell us how we can truly be reconciled to our heavenly Father? Shall I thrust the problem of sorrow back on your own shoulders and encourage you to have faith in yourselves, to trust in your own hidden powers? How cruel these lies and how disastrous these vain delusions, when you can pray to the incarnate God Himself, “Abide with us,” and your risen Savior will share your burdens, remove your sorrows, and teach you the healing, strengthening, purifying benediction of adversity! When He abides in your heart, you know in exultant faith that even death, the last enemy, cannot separate you from Him or from those blessed ones who have gone before you in faith. In the light reflected from Easter you find the brightness that will illumine the darkness of your last moments and shine into that blessed reunion in eternity.
When your penitent heart asks Christ to abide with you, His love removes the one prime and basic cause for all suffering, all sorrow, and all death: our sins. It has not been a pleasant task, I will confess to you in this final broadcast, to stand here near the center of the United States and to proclaim across the continent and into the reaches of Canada and Mexico that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” to repeat from coast to coast, “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not,” to tell this age, which leans back in selfsatisfied approval of its own greatness, that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” It would have been easier to soften this universal indictment of the race. We could have had more publicity, if the ugly, hideous evidences of sin in your life and mine had been hushed in favor of a current-topic discussion and a roseate round of optimistic generalities. But in the first broadcast of this series I promised to preach “Christ, and Him crucified”; and you cannot preach Christ without preaching sin. You cannot tell men that they are saved unless they recognize that they need to be saved. You cannot understand Calvary and the open grave unless you know that Jesus “was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification.”
Every one of us should join in the prayer “Abide with us”; for we, too, must say, “It is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” This is not the time for delay or postponement; for who knows how far spent the day of our life is and how close we are to the evening of our existence? Despite the greatest safety campaigns that history knows the accidental death-toll is rising to new heights during these months. With all the advances of medical science in the conquest of disease the death-rates of these last years have not dropped markedly. In the midst of life we are in death. Remember, too, the shadows of this world’s existence are also lengthening. We are closer to the second coming of Christ for His Judgment upon the quick and the dead than when this radio mission was started. Signs of the last times are multiplying. “This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Has there ever been an agency that could fulfil this more literally than the marvel of the radio? There will be tribulation for God’s elect and days of darkness and tyranny upon the earth, we are told; and I would not be true to the charge with which I have been entrusted if I were not to warn you that vast and formidable forces are mobilizing to battle against the Cross and persecute the followers of Christ even as across the ocean they have suffered under tyranny and bloodshed. In our own country so many potential menaces to our liberties, our peace and tranquility, arise that we, too, may be tried and tested by fiery afflictions. Come what may, however, let our prayer by day and night, in prosperity and adversity, always and ever be, “O Christ, ‘abide with us,’ in our hearts, in our homes, in our churches, in our country.”
CHRIST AND HIS BLESSING WILL ABIDE WITH US
That prayer on the Emmaus road was answered. We read, “He went in to tarry with them.” Seven simple words, but for our final broadcast they summarize four great truths of our salvation, the four glories of the Savior’s mercy: universal grace, pictured by Jesus, the Friend of the downtrodden, the neglected, the afflicted, the bereaved, entering that humble dwelling at Emmaus, the Christ for all men in all stations and conditions of life; the Redeemer of every soul in this radio assembly, those who have heard our message of the Cross in governors’ mansions and those who have tuned in behind the bars of state prisons! Free grace, offered by the Christ who demanded no conditions and imposed no restrictions, as He entered His disciples’ home and sat down at their table,—the same risen Savior who offers us heaven and the blessings of the prepared mansions not as reward, payment, compensation, but who grants our salvation “without money and without price,” to be received by trusting faith in His power to save to the uttermost! Assured grace, which, as it made two cold hearts burn with ardor of renewed salvation, can strengthen your soul, not only with the wish and hope of a possible redemption, but with the pledge and positive assurance of your accomplished salvation! Complete grace, which convinces us, too, that we need nothing to supplement or finish God’s plan for our salvation. Full grace, free grace, assured grace, and complete grace—this has been the hope that I have tried to offer you in Christ’s name and by His promise. If from all these broadcasts you could take only one truth, I pray to God that it would be this fourfold pledge of the mercy which Christ offers to those who penitently pray, “Abide with us!” Let everything else recede and the brilliance of intellectual light fade; but always, until in glory you see what you now believe, let this life-and-death truth, sealed by the reality of the Savior’s resurrection, claim dominion over your hearts and lives.
As these Emmaus disciples, with newborn faith, showed their zeal for Christ by hastening to proclaim, “The Lord is risen indeed,” so in His abiding strength I ask you to continue your testimony to the risen Christ and help us as we prepare for a new and even greater radio mission in the name of our resurrected Savior. If you believe that this groping age needs first of all a return to the whole Christ, the entire Bible, and the complete teaching of the Scriptures; that all antichristian, anti-Biblical, antimoral instruction must be excluded from the public educational system in the higher and lower schools of the nation; that on all fronts widespread campaigns must be waged against atheistic Communism, particularly because of its acknowledged purpose to break the home ties and to eliminate Christian marriage; if you hold, as we have always held, that the Church’s responsibility is not to present economic theories or to propose legislative programs, but now, as never before, to seek the kingdom of God, to prepare men for the next world, and to do this first, last, and always through Christ and for Christ, will you not during these next days send us your letter, your suggestion, your endorsement, your encouragement, your vote for a new and larger Gospel network? You know that we pay for every minute of our broadcasting time, while other networks, which arbitrarily bar us from the air, grant their facilities free of all charge to some who deny the Christ of the Scripture. Stand by us in the face of this opposition! We must have—above all else—an aggressive, militant Christianity in this day, when the shadows of evening are lengthening over the land, together with the uncompromising loyalty to the great and blessed doctrines of the infallible Bible and our all-sufficient Savior, His full deity, His virgin birth, His atoning death on the cross, His glorious resurrection, and His second coming.
As in His name I ask you to rally for this great privilege of spreading the eternal Gospel, I commit you wholly to the rich and perpetual mercies of Jesus Christ. No earthly joy that I can now contemplate would mean more to me than the privilege of meeting every one of you personally and thanking all who have written us during these weeks for their friendship and faith. While this privilege will not be granted, may we be taught to pray daily, “Abide with us,” so that on that glorious day of our own resurrection, before the throne of that precious Savior, we may greet you who are now in Christ and you who have not yet come to Christ, for whom we have prayed daily. God be with you till we meet again! Commending ourselves to the risen Christ, we conclude the last message in this series of broadcasts with the prayer: O blessed Savior, Thou hast redeemed us with Thy blood; into Thy mercies we entrust ourselves, in body and soul, for time and eternity. Come with us now, “abide with us,” that we may abide in Thee! Amen!
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.