Today I’d like to introduce you to one of the greatest theologians of the Lutheran Church, named Johann Gerhard (not to be confused with the hymnwriter by a similar name, Paul Gerhardt, although the two were contemporaries). Gerhard is often referred to “the third in that series of Lutheran theologians (Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz, Johann Gerhard) in which there is no fourth.”
Before you start to read, take a minute and listen to Johann Sebastian Bach's beautiful harmonization of the Lenten hymn, "A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth."
(A little plug before I continue. If you click on the picture of the man at the piano on the video above, it will take you to his YouTube channel. He has recorded all of The Lutheran Hymnal on piano. His playing is excellent, and is good for devotional use if you like to have something to sing with!)
The Fifth Sunday of Lent begins a new division of the season and is called Passiontide, because all of the Readings from this point forward move us ever closer to Our Lord’s Passion, the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Just like Lent is announced visibly by the appearance of violet on the Altar, Passiontide is visibly announced by the veiling of crucifixes and any statues the church may have.
The Fourth Sunday in Lent takes its name from the first word of the Introit in Latin, Laetare, which means “rejoice.” Laetare is much like Gaudete, the third Sunday of Advent. Rejoicing is a key theme of this day, as the Propers are a clear break from the somberness of the prior three weeks.
This is the question we all ask when we see something different, especially in church. Why are we using white instead of red? Why does this day have a name? Why did the Pastor do what he just did?