The Hypocrisy of transplanted schismatic United Methodists #umc


English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of you know my story. I was raised a fundamentalist. I was educated, indoctrinated, and carbonated. Well, not that last bit. However, the time came for a needed change. So, when I went looking for a place where I could find the same God I saw family members worship and serve, the same God who spoke about justice, and the same God who created this world I found the United Methodist Church. I could actually go anywhere I wanted. I could go somewhere that was about me, but in the end, I wanted to experience God free of baggage. Yes, there are (theological) differences I have with the United Methodist Church, but I am not attempting to force a change or force people out who are different than I. I have no need to re-create the United Methodist Church in my image, believing that it is part of the Church universal and thus is part of the Body of Christ. I seek rather to do my part in the UMC.

Now, let’s meet Chad. Chad is a current pastor in the United Methodist Church but is only a pastor in the UMC because he could not be a pastor in other places due to his divorce.1

I quickly discovered that there were several denominations that were not options for me because I have a divorce in my former life.

This is a rather selfish use of the United Methodist Church, in my opinion, and hides much of Chad’s previous theological stances. Further, he demonstrates that he, not wanting to change himself, is more than willing to attempt to force others to change. If Chad was called to be a pastor (and I am not challenging that) and then suffered a divorced, maybe he shouldn’t be a pastor. That’s actually my former belief system.2 Instead, he decided to leave to go find a place a little bit more liberal so he could become a pastor and now because he meets others who are a bit more “liberal” than he, he wants them to leave. Note that Chad wants those who believe (simply believe!) in inclusion to leave the UMC. While he can pretend to admire our integrity, his comments say otherwise.

Let me quote my friend Chad,

We who are calling for church law to be upheld and who defend the biblical and traditional view of marriage do not want to rid our churches of gay people.   We only want you to either repent of calling what God calls sin a blessing or to leave.   Period. 

Let me, from the position once held by Methodists and still held by those who rejected Chad’s call to ministry rewrite that:

We who are calling for church law to be upheld and who defend the biblical and traditional view of marriage do not want to rid our churches of divorced people.   We only want you to either repent of calling what God calls sin a blessing or to leave.   Period. 

You get it, don’t you? Not only is Chad attempting to reject others like he was once rejected, but he is not suggesting they amend themselves according to his vision as well as those who support inclusion. Chad was welcomed into the UMC not because they thought him a rockstar, but because of the history of inclusion and theological reflection. Now, he wants to insure that others do not enjoy that same benefit, even for simply believing a different way.

Let’s break this down a bit further. Did you know that Chad may not be welcomed in some annual conferences as a pastor? Annual conferences are allowed to restrict divorced people from serving as pastors. There are many United Methodists who would not view Chad as capable of serving as a pastor because he has broken “God’s law.” (I do not support that position.)

He then attempts to give something of a send-off to the “progressives” (I find that funny, because in many congregations, Chad is a progressive) by looking to the women who fled other denominations in order to answer the call to ministry and to be accepted as full and equal members in the Church. Chad doesn’t seem to remember the time when women could not be ministers in the United Methodist Church (or, rather, its predecessors).3 What happened? They worked on it. Yes, it took a long time, but eventually the “biblical position” of a male-only clergy was changed to a “biblical position” of a gender inclusive clergy.4 Of course, he politely calls this “biblical obedience” whereas in so many churches and congregations, Chad or an ordained woman serving as pastors are signs of biblical disobedience.

Finally, Chad’s often used analogy of marriage and divorce as schism continues to fall flat. We are not married to one another but to Christ. His use of this, I believe, betrays more about him than he realizes. His misuse of Scripture doesn’t speak well of the Duke education he tries to hide, either. If, as he points out, the disciples were commanded to leave if people didn’t receive the words of Jesus… then I guess rather than a schism, there needs to be a lot of transfers out of the United Methodist Church from both sides.

By the way, it is the United Methodist Church, and not simply the Methodist Church. That hasn’t exist since 1968.

Chad, I’m praying for you. Come home.

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  1. Chad is attempting to respond to a post by Jeremy here. Unfortunately, Chad disparages Jeremy and attempts to hide what he is actually saying by ridicule. For recent posts by Jeremy worth reading, see here, here and here.
  2. In one former congregation, it was recommended that divorced and re-married people divorce again to avoid sin.
  3. Note, Wesley had no issue giving licenses to women to preach. The Anglican Church did. I believe the history of Christianity shows a historic connection for women clergy.
  4. There are still problems in some UMC congregations with women in ministry. I’ve asked on a public forum how long would a “conservative” UMC allow women ordination, citing the example of the Anglican Church in North America retreating from ordaining women.

Thoughts on schism…part 4,327

“I am the church
you are the church
we are the church together.
All who follow Jesus
all around the world
Yes, we’re the church together”

Yeah…that about sums it up…but I’ll write more anyway. I, like many young children, was taught this song as a small child going to Sunday school. I learned it along with such classics as Jesus Loves Me, I am a ‘C’, and This Little Light of Mine. Any of you who happen to support schism…learn the song. Sing it often. Believe it.






the Church is not ours

John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism

John Wesley sees you trying to schism and he’s not happy.

With all of this talk of schism from both sides in the LGBT debate, I once again returned to something I once overheard in seminary: The Church is not ours. I wrote about this several years ago and I want to revisit this for a moment.

A trust is something, perhaps a financial benefit, established by one act of grace and forethought for later generations. The trust is governed in such a way as to benefit some future beneficiary, with little or no advantage to those administering it. I cannot shake this as a proper description of the Church. How so? Because through the act of grace, Christ has himself established the Church universal in such a manner that it is always for future generations.

For Wesley, the Church is not merely an early organization. He writes, “Here, then, is a clear unexceptionable answer to that question, “What is the Church?” The catholic or universal Church is, all the persons in the universe whom God hath so called out of the world as to entitle them to the preceding character; as to be “one body,” united by “one spirit;” having “one faith, one hope, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in them all.””[1]

Note the words, “all the persons in the universe whom God hath so called…” Perhaps, Wesley has something more cosmic in mind.

I would be remiss if I did not note Wesley’s challenge here to Article 19, the one where the “real church” is limited to those with the pure doctrine and the administration of sacraments. Wesley challenges then-current assumptions by preaching, “I will not undertake to defend the accuracy of this definition. I dare not exclude from the Church catholic all those congregations in which any unscriptural doctrines, which cannot be affirmed to be “the pure word of God,” are sometimes, yea, frequently preached; neither all those congregations, in which the sacraments are not “duly administered.””[2]

For Wesley, he cannot enforce separation based on our notions of doctrine, or the lack thereof. Further, he goes on to say that even non-members who defend the Church zealously are to be left along because this is God’s wisdom! Oh, how precious the words of Wesley are to everyone but the United Methodist schismatic!

John Wesley thought forward. He knew something we seemed to have lost today.

The Church is not ours, but Christ’s. It contains not just us, but all believers in Christ — past and present. Again, I cannot help but place into Wesley’s words here the proper veneration of the Saints.

How then are we to behave? While I am not so sure the “Romish Church” does not have “the pure Word of God” taught and the sacraments properly administered as the founder of Methodism believed, nevertheless the schism remains between Rome and the Anglican Communion. And while the Anglican Communion has accomplished much in resurrecting the Gospel to the poor, there still exists a separation between it and the people called Methodists. Of course, some of this is in the process of reconciliation. When schism is accomplished, ancient writers and others important to us suggest it opens the doors to all types of heresy.

Might we suggest, in however a nuanced way we find fashionable, that schism not only separates brother from sister, but so too the body from the head, if even for a moment — and it is in this crevice the demons play and from this fissure the demons escape! Schisms billow heresy like hell billows smoke.

If the Church is not ours, but Christ’s, then we but administer and do not control; if the Church is not for us, but for all future generations (since we are present, we must not count ourselves in this lot), then we must be weary of schism for the long-range damage it will do for future generations.

We are cast as administrators, as ministers, but never as rulers.

How might the world be different today if the wound between Canterbury and Wesley had not ruptured — between Rome and the Reformed, between East and the West, if the lesion had healed rather than have the body disassembled? How might the people called Methodists further fracture and face extinction if a schism within our ranks occurs once more?

American Methodism has started to heal from the great fracture over slavery. Reconciliation has gone further – English and Germans have combined! What might we accomplish if we further heal previous wrongs, such as with the Evangelical Methodists? Or even with larger, older communions?

What if we began to think of the Church as something we must leave for future generations rather than let our squabbles, differences, and divides take center stage? What if we simply serve as each position of the church is called to do rather than attempt to control as if we are the rules?  If we are truly one body, under one Lord, with one baptism with one mission, then we must remain in connection with not only our past but so too our future. Our concern should never be over something we cannot control, but about that which is given to us.

The Church is established by Christ, but not for us here and now. Rather, while we are a part of the Church, we do not rule it. We benefit from those before us and we seek to leave it to those after us. We are but tenders of a field that is not ours, but the Father’s.

[1] John Wesley, Sermons, on Several Occasions, Sermon 74 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999).

[2] John Wesley, Sermons, on Several Occasions, Sermon 74

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the soon coming of… a “Christian” China?

National emblem of the People's Republic of China

National emblem of the People’s Republic of China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world’s number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule.

via China on course to become ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years – Telegraph.

A few years ago, China made a pronouncement that it was easing some religious restrictions, but only for as an aid for social morality and ethics. They’d still like to avoid the superstition (their words).

By way of anecdotal evidence, when I was in Beijing a few years ago, I attended a state church which was filled to the brim and was fortunate enough to see a street preach in mid-conversion for a passer-by. Both very beautiful sights.

I think this is overstated, however. In a country of 1billion+ people, the number of Christians can easily outpace American Christians without ever making China a Christian nation.

It will be interesting to watch, however.

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The Descension into Hades – The Orthodox Liturgical Response

16th century Russian icon of the Descent into ...

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Today Hades tearfully sighs: “Would that I had not received him who was born of Mary, for he came to me and destroyed my power; he broke my bronze gates, and being God, delivered the souls I had been holding captive.”

O Lord, glory to your cross and to your holy resurrection!

Today Hades groans: “My power has vanished. I received one who died as mortals die, but I could not hold him; with him and through him I lost those over which I had ruled. I had held control over the dead since the world began, and lo, he raises them all up with him!”

O Lord, glory to your cross and to your holy resurrection!

• Holy Saturday Orthodox Liturgy
A Triddum Sourcebook, p. 66


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God is Dead

de: Gottvater mit dem Leichnam Christi, Nieder...

de: Gottvater mit dem Leichnam Christi, Niederlande (?), 15. Jh.; Lindenholz, alte Fassung en: God the Father with the Dead Christ, Netherlands (?), 15th century, limewood, old colours Skulpturensammlung (Inv. 8079, erworben 1918, Geschenk James Simon), Bode-Museum, Berlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…Suddenly all of them standing around the gallows know it: he is gone. Immeasurable emptiness (not solitude) streams forth from the hanging body. Nothing but this fantastic emptiness is any longer at work here. The world with its shape has perished; it tore like a curtain from top to bottom, without making a sound. It fainted away, turned to dust, burst like a bubble. There is nothing more but nothingness itself.

The world is dead.

Love is dead.

God is dead.

Everything that was, was a dream dreamt by no one. The present is all past. The future is nothing. The hand has disappeared from the clock’s face. No more struggle between love and hate, between life and death. Both have been equalized, and love’s emptying out has become the emptiness of hell. One has penetrated the other perfectly. The nadir has reached the zenith: nirvana.

Was that lightning?

Was the form of a Heart visible in the boundless void for a flash as the sky was rent, drifting in the whirlwind through the worldless chaos, driven like a leaf?

Or was it winged, propelled and directed by its own invisible wings, standing as lone survivor between the soulless heavens and the perished earth?

Chaos. Beyond heaven and hell. Shapeless nothingness behind the bounds of creation.

Is that God?

God died on the Cross.

Is that death?

No dead are to be seen.

Is it the end?

Nothing that ends is any longer there.

Is it the beginning?

The beginning of what? In the beginning was the Word. What kind of word? What incomprehensible, formless, meaningless word? But look: What is this light glimmer that wavers and begins to take form in the endless void? It has neither content nor contour.

A nameless thing, more solitary than God, it emerges out of pure emptiness. It is no one. It is anterior to everything. Is it the beginning? It is small and undefined as a drop. Perhaps it is water. But it does not flow. It is not water. It is thicker, more opaque, more viscous than water. It is also not blood, for blood is red, blood is alive, blood has a loud human speech. This is neither water nor blood. It is older than both, a chaotic drop.

Slowly, slowly, unbelievably slowly the drop begins to quicken. We do not know whether this movement is infinite fatigue at death’s extremity or the first beginning – of what?

Quiet, quiet! Hold the breath of your thoughts! It’s still much too early in the day to think of hope. The seed is still much too weak to start whispering about love. But look there: it is indeed moving, a weak, viscous flow. It’s still much too early to speak of a wellspring.

It trickles, lost in the chaos, directionless, without gravity. But more copiously now. A wellspring in the chaos. It leaps out of pure nothingness, it leaps out of itself.

It is not the beginning of God, who eternally and mightily brings himself into existence as Life and Love and triune Bliss.

It is not the beginning of creation, which gently and in slumber slips out of the Creator’s hands.

It is a beginning without parallel, as if Life were arising from Death, as if weariness (already such weariness as no amount of sleep could ever dispel) and the uttermost decay of power were melting at creation’s outer edge, were beginning to flow, because flowing is perhaps a sign and a likeness of weariness which can no longer contain itself, because everything that is strong and solid must in the end dissolve into water. But hadn’t it – in the beginning – also been born from water? And is this wellspring in the chaos, this trickling weariness, not the beginning of a new creation?

The magic of Holy Saturday.

The chaotic fountain remains directionless. Could this be the residue of the Son’s love which, poured out to the last when every vessel cracked and the old world perished, is now making a path for itself to the Father through the glooms of nought?

Or, in spite of it all, is this love trickling on in impotence, unconsciously, laboriously, towards a new creation that does not yet even exist, a creation which is still to be lifted up and given shape? Is it a protoplasm producing itself in the beginning, the first seed of the New Heaven and the New Earth?

The spring leaps up even more plenteously. To be sure, it flows out of a wound and is like the blossom and fruit of a wound; like a tree it sprouts up from this wound. But the wound no longer causes pain. The suffering has been left far behind as the past origin and previous source of today’s wellspring.

What is poured out here is no longer a present suffering, but a suffering that has been concluded–no longer now a sacrificing love, but a love sacrificed.

Only the wound is there: gaping, the great open gate, the chaos, the nothingness out of which the wellspring leaps forth. Never again will this gate be shut. Just as the first creation arose ever anew out of sheer nothingness, so, too, this second world – still unborn, still caught up in its first rising – will have its sole origin in this wound, which is never to close again.

In the future, all shape must arise out of this gaping void, all wholeness must draw its strength from the creating wound.

High-vaulted triumphal Gate of Life! Armored in gold, armies of graces stream out of you with fiery lances. Deep-dug Fountain of Life! Wave upon wave gushes out of you inexhaustible, ever-flowing, billows of water and blood baptizing the heathen hearts, comforting the yearning souls, rushing over the deserts of guilt, enriching over-abundantly, overflowing every heart that receives it, far surpassing every desire.

–Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988, Heart of the World)

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An Ancient Homily – The Lord’s descent into the underworld

Good shepherd

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The Lord’s descent into the underworld

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all”. Christ answered him: “And with your spirit”. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”.

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden. See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

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Benedict XVI on the Existential Side of the Cross

On Good Friday, I thought this quote from the Pope Emeritus’ book was fitting:

In all that we have said so far, it is clear that not only has a theological interpretation of the Cross has been given, together with an interpretation, based on the Cross, of the fundamental Christian sacraments and Christian worship, but also that existential dimension is involved: What does this mean for me? What does it mean for my path as a human being? The incarnate obedience of Christ is presented as an open space into which we are admitted and through which our lives find a new context. The mystery of the Cross does not simply confront us; rather, it draws us in and gives new value to our life.

This existential aspect of the new concept of worship and and sacrifice appears with particular clarity in the twelfth chapter of the Letter of the Romans: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren by the mercies of God, to present you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [word-like] worship” (v. 1) ….

Three words

“It is finished”. Found in the gospel of John (John 19:30), these three simple words changed everything. It is fair though to ask the question what exactly is finished? We can look around our cities and towns and see violence and addiction, poverty and need. We can watch the news and see all manner of evil across the globe. We can look into our lives and see all the mistakes and misdeeds. So what exactly is finished really?

The answer is the grip of sin. No, not sin itself, but the grip that sin has over humanity. That is what is finished. The grip that sin had on our lives, the power of sin to condemn us and force us into an endless cycle of guilt then sacrifice, then wash, rinse and repeat is finished. The excuse we had to commit sins as well. That is what is finished. God, knowing that mankind desperately needed both a savior and a sovereign, sent one son to be both. God, understanding that the world was in such need of hope, sent the Blessed Hope, a perfect hope, so that we could rise from the fear, the anger and the depression of a fallen kingdom and become a part of The Perfect Kingdom of God. Yet we look around and can only help but ask, “what is finished?” We look around and see not what God intended, but instead what man has made.

Yet still, it is finished. The central message of Good Friday. The reminder of the price that was paid for us. The worth that we have to God and Christ. The promise that the final sacrifice has been made. What went so wrong? If it indeed is finished, if the grip that sin had is no longer on the faithful, why are things as they are? The problem is not that sin still has a grip on mankind, the problem is that mankind has not lost it’s grip on sin. It is finished- the power of sin is finished- but unfortunately we are not finished with sin.

Christ’s words “it is finished” is both a declaration that sin no longer has  grip on us and a reminder that our grip on sin should be finished as well. It is an encouragement that sin can be overcome, and a reminder that we can overcome it through the power of the cross. It is the central message of Good Friday. It is finished, so that we can begin.

I Shall Be Released

With a few very slight modifications, Bob Dylan’s song I Shall Be Released (1967) is an appropriate song for Good Friday.

They say everything can be replaced,
yet every distance is not near,
so I forgive every face
of every man who put me here.

I see my light come shining
from the west unto the east.
Any day now, any day now,
I shall be released.

They say every man needs protection
they say every man must fall.
I swear I see my reflection
someplace high above this wall.

Hanging next to me on this lonely hill
is a man who swears he’s not to blame.
All day long I hear him shout so loud,
crying out that he was framed.

(this is also posted at my blog…)

O Sacred Head Now Wounded #goodfriday

  1. O sacred Head, now wounded, With grief and shame weighed down, Now scornfully surrounded With thorns, Thine only crown. O sacred Head, what glory, What bliss, till now was Thine! Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

  2. Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance, Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee And flee before Thy glance. How art thou pale with anguish, With sore abuse and scorn! How doth Thy visage languish That once was bright as morn!

  3. Now from Thy cheeks has vanished Their color, once so fair; From Thy red lips is banished The splendor that was there. Grim Death, with cruel rigor, Hath robbed Thee of Thy life; Thus Thou has lost Thy vigor, Thy strength, in this sad strife.

  4. My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me, For it was my transgression Which brought this woe on thee. I cast me down before Thee, Wrath were my rightful lot; Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

  5. My Shepherd, now receive me; My Guardian, own me Thine. Great blessings Thou didst give me, O Source of gifts divine! Thy lips have often fed me With words of truth and love, Thy Spirit oft hath led me To heavenly joys above.

  6. Here I will stand beside Thee, From Thee I will not part; O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart, When soul and body languish In death’s cold, cruel grasp, Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

  7. The joy can ne’er be spoken, Above all joys beside, When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide. O Lord of life, desiring Thy glory now to see, Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

  8. What language shall I borrow To thank Thee, dearest Friend, For this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? Oh, make me thine forever! And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, Outlive my love for Thee.

  9. My Savior, be Thou near me When death is at my door; Then let Thy presence cheer me, Forsake me nevermore! When soul and body languish, Oh, leave me not alone, But take away mine anguish By virtue of Thine own!

  10. Be Thou my Consolation, My Shield when I must die; Remind me of Thy Passion When my last hour draws nigh. Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, Upon Thy cross shall dwell, My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well!

Notes: Hymn #172 from The Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal Text: Is. 50: 6 Author: Paul Gerhardt Based on the Latin poem “Salve caput cruentatum” By Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, asc. Translated by: composite Titled: O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden Composer: Hans L. Hassier, 1601 Tune: Herzlich tut mich. This text was converted to ascii format for Project Wittenberg by Cindy A. Beesley and is in the public domain. You may freely distribute, copy or print this text.