Family Hymnody Teaching Worship

Week in Review

This has been a busy week. There are a number things I thought I'd share.

Sara and the kids traveled to Leesville, Louisiana, for the affirmation of baptism for Joel & Natalie's baby girl, Emma. They were planning to drive on Tuesday, when Gustav hit that area. They waited a day to come home, but didn't get much damage there. The nearest WELS church experienced flooding, though.

Shut-in Call and Hymns
I visited a shut-in this week who is not really responsive. I had not met her before, but she's unable to carry on a real conversation. But there was no hesitation on her part when I asked if I could read a psalm to her. And the moment I started singing a hymn to her, she clearly sang along with much of the first stanza. I have been teaching hymnology in our school here, and these kind of events just solidify my conviction that we need to keep teaching these hymns. This week I taught "Salvation Unto Us Has Come" (CW 390)—next week's Hymn of the Day.

The first week of the month we have our board meetings (before the council meeting next week). So this week I met with the Boards of Discipleship, Elders, and Education. I have been very encouraged my the commitment and support these people give. Not everything that we have to talk about is always fun, but it has been encouraging to work with these partners in the gospel.

Church Mice
I heard earlier in the week that people had seen mice droppings in the church kitchen. So I picked up a couple mouse traps and set them out yesterday. I actually caught two of them today. While I was preparing for Sunday in the sanctuary today, I saw a mouse run across the floor under the pews. I tried chasing him for a while—it was pretty funny. But as I was doing that, I starting thinking about various "church mouse" books or cartoons, and I imagined that perhaps there was a group of church mice who come out when the church is empty to learn about the church year or something. I didn't catch him, but I set another trap in the working sacristy.


Credo and the Ordinary
Tomorrow I'll be covering the Creed in our Bible class on the songs of the liturgy. Tomorrow's is interesting because it is the one part of the ordinary that is most often not sung. I've always found that interesting, and I wonder why it is. I wonder why people don't write settings of the Creed like the wide variety of settings of the Kyrie or the Gloria, for example.

Sunday School
Tomorrow we're going to start a new quarter of Sunday School and begin using the Growing in Christ curriculum. I've got 4 teachers lined up and 16 kids registered in K-8, though I'm expecting a few more. I'm looking forward to working with the teachers, and just in general giving Sunday School the attention that it deserves.

Now I'm ready for this week to come to a close and begin a new week with the Lord in his Word and Sacrament.

For Church, School, and Home

A couple weeks ago now we started going through a study on Lutheran music called Singing the Faith in our Sunday Bible Hour. It’s a video presentation that discusses the history and background and theology of Lutheran music. It is very well done.

Gesangbuch The first Sunday we covered the first part, on the hymns of Martin Luther and the first Lutheran hymnals of 1524. One point that didn’t actually make it into the video (it was in the intro video) was that the first hymnals were not primarily church books, but household books. That is so different than today, when hymnals aren’t always even used in church, much less in the home. But it wasn’t just the Lutheran hymnals of the 16th century that were intended to be used in the home. This picture is from an old WELS hymnal. It doesn’t have a date on it. But notice that the intention is spelled out clearly: "Songbook for church, school, and house" (This might also remind us of the importance of Lutheran elementary schools in teaching music.)

I think that if we are to carry on the rich heritage of music that sings the faith, the music must extend beyond a weekly worship service. Whether that comes from a hymnal in the home or not, at the very least, our own exposure to this music must be more than the 3 or 4 hymns we sing on a Sunday.


This idea is not new to me. We always did a lot of singing at home. And that is something I’m sure they learned from their parents. Singing was a part of everyday life. Grandpa sang hymns while he milked the cows. Mom sang hymns to wake us up in the morning and to put us to sleep at night.

My point here is that if we are to pass on our musical heritage, I think that our hymnals—or at least the hymns—need to be used as those early hymnals were intended: for church, school, and home.


#8 — O Dearest Jesus (CW 117)

I’m not sure I can add much to the Lenten hymns that I’m about to add to the list. I’ve already noted those classic themes common to most Lutheran lenten hymns.

  1. "It is my sins for which you Lord must languish"
  2. "To do your will shall be my sole endeavor"

This morning I started listening to one of my favorite recordings—J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. I particularly love the way these hymns weave in and out of the passion narrative. Herzliebster Jesu is one of the hymns that he uses. Like I said, I’m not sure I can really add anything.

O dearest Jesus, what law have you broken
That such sharp sentence should on you be spoken?
Of what great crime have you to make confession—
What dark transgression?

They crown your head with thorns, they smite, they scourge you;
With cruel mockings to the cross they urge you;
They give you gall to drink, they still decry you;
They crucify you.

Whence come these sorrows, whence this mortal anguish?
It is my sins for which you, Lord, must languish;
Yes, all that wrath, the woe that you inherit,
This I do merit.

What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!
The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;
The Master pays the debt his servants owe him,
Who would not know him.

The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;
The sinful child of man may live in gladness;
We forfeited our lives, yet are aquitted—
God is committed!

I’ll think upon your mercy without ceasing,
That earth’s vain joys to me no more be pleasing;
To do your will shall be my chief endeavor
Henceforth forever.

And when, dear Lord, before your throne in heaven
To me the crown of joy at last is given,
Where sweetest hymns your saints forever raise you,
I too shall praise you.


#7 — My loved ones, rest securely (CW 587)

Hannah has been sick the past several days. Friday night Hannah and Andrew were both sick. Andrew seems to have bounced back quickly, but Hannah has taken a little longer.

Just a few minutes ago I tucked her into bed and sang to her a few stanzas that I commonly use at bedtime. I remember learning these two stanzas in 1st grade. I remember Mrs. Kraus putting the words on the overhead projector. I remember trying to find this hymn in the hymnal at home. It was difficult because we didn’t learn the first stanza.

Here are stanzas we sing at bedtime. Notice that the first stanza appeals to Jesus’ love as the reason he should watch over us. Jesus’ love is an objective truth that we already know. It gives us confidence to ask for his care and protection. The last stanza seems to be directed to those loves ones who are about to go to sleep. We pray that Jesus’ love, protection, and care rest on them as they "rest beneath night’s shadow" (st. 1).

Dvc00082Lord Jesus, since you love me,

Oh, spread your wings above me
And shield me from alarm.
Though Satan would assail me,
Your mercy will not fail me;
I rest in your protecting arm.

My loved ones, rest securely,
For God this night will surely
From peril guard your heads.
Sweet slumbers may he send you
And bid his hosts attend you
And through the night watch o’er your beds.

The picture here is Hannah when she was a baby.


Lenten Hymns Part 2

I’ve noticed that Lenten hymns, more than those of other seasons of the year, refer to the new life of faith on the part of the Christian who has realized what great cost was spent on his behalf. Notice that all these references are at the end of the hymns. It shows that living a life to serve the Savior is always a response to the message that the Savior born the penalty for sin.

Grant that I your passion view
With repentant grieving.
Let me not bring shame to you
By unholy living.
How could I refuse to shun
Ev’ry sinful pleasure
Since for me God’s only Son
Suffered without measure? (CW 98, st. 5)

From morn till eve, in all I do,
I’ll praise you, Christ, my treasure.
To sacrifice myself for you
Shall be my aim and pleasure. (CW 100 st. 4)

What language shall I borrow
To thank you, dearest Friend,
For this, your dying sorrow,
Your pity without end?
Oh, make me yours forever,
And keep me strong and true;
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my live for you. (CW 105, st. 5)

Your cords of love, my Savior,
Bind me to you forever;
I am no longer mine.
You you I gladly tender
All that my life can render
And all I have to you resign. (CW 113, st. 5)

I’ll think upon your mercy without ceasing,
That earth’s vain joys to me no more be pleasing;
To do your will shall be my sole endeavor
Henceforth forever. (CW 117, st. 6)

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a tribute far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. (CW 125, st. 4)

What can I for such love divine
To you, Lord Jesus, render?
No merit has this heart of mine;
Yet while I live I’ll tender
Myself alone
And all I own
In love to serve before you.
Then when time’s past,
Take me at last;
In heav’n I shall adore you.(CW 126, st. 5)

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away—
’Tis all that I can do. (CW 129 st. 5)


Lenten Hymn Themes

This is a post that I wrote last Lent. But I thought it was worth thinking about again. I had also promised to write another post and I never got around to it. This year I’ll make sure to do that.


Christian_worship_colorThis evening I was singing to the kids before bed–just going through the hymnal singing various Lenten hymns. I was reminded of something I had noticed some time ago, but forgot about. I noticed a couple
themes that keep repeating themselves in Lutheran Lenten hymns. Both of them are unique to the Lenten season (at least among Lutheran hymns).

The first theme is the idea that our sin caused Jesus’ suffering and death. This probably sounds terribly obvious for Lent, but it needs to be said. Here are a few examples:

[The second stanza of "Jesus, I Will Ponder Now" points out that Jesus died for those who put him to death.]
Yet, O Lord, not thus not thus alone
Make me see your passion,
But its cause to me make known
And its termination.
Ah! I also and my sin
Wrought your deep affliction;
This indeed the cause has been
Of your crucifixion. (CW 98 st. 3)

Of course, the next stanza reminds us that when our sin troubles us, we remember that the cross is what disarms our fear. Some more examples:

A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth,
Our guilt and evil bearing
And laden with the sins of earth
None else the burden sharing. (CW 100 st. 1)

My burden in your passion,
Lord, you have borne for me,
For it was my transgression,
My shame, on Calvary. (CW 105 st.4)

’Tis I who should be smitten,
My doom should here be written:
Bound hand and foot in hell.
The fetters and the scourging,
the floods around you surging,
’Tis I who have deserved them well. (CW 113 st.3)

Whence come these sorrows, whence this mortal anguish?
It is my sins for which you, Lord, must languish;
Yes, all the wrath, the woe that you inherit,
This I do merit (CW 117 st.3)

Do you see what I mean? We caused it, and knowing this brings us great sorrow. But what joy to know that he did it for us. And that joy–even during Lent–always brings a response. That is the 2nd theme I noticed. I’ll write about that theme in another post.

Can you think of other hymn stanzas that make this point? Leave them in a comment.


Hymn Catch-up

I’ll try to catch up on the list of favorite hymns. For now I’m going to stick to Epiphany hymns. Maybe next year I’ll go through the list again and re-evaluate my hymns, but here they are for now:

#4 — To Jordan’s River Came Our Lord (89)
This is one of two hymns in our hymnal on the Baptism of our Lord. The other one is a Luther hymn, which may actually be a better hymn—but I’m not as familiar with it because it’s much more challenging to sing. This one was written by Professor Tiefel from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

#5 — Hail to the Lord’s Anointed (93)

#6 — Down from the Mount of Glory (97)
I just discovered this hymn this year. I taught it to our upper grade class for hymnology. I love the reference to Jesus’ "double glory" at his transfiguration. The obvious glory is Jesus in the bright light and his changed appearance. He gives to his disciples a glimpse of the glory that is his by right but that he set aside in his humiliation. Jesus’ majesty and divinity is his glory.

But the hymn makes the point that Jesus is also in his glory when he goes "down from the mount of glory." He could have stayed up on that mountain. He could have stayed in his glory. But he didn’t. He went down the mountain and went on his way to the cross. Jesus came down from the mountain so that he could complete his mission: our salvation. He went down from the mountain in glory, but his glory was hidden in his suffering. His glory was hidden in his death.

When St. John describes the throne of God in heaven (in Revelation), the saints and angels give honor and glory to the Lamb. Why? Because he was slain, and with his blood he purchased men for God. Jesus’ greater glory is displayed by coming down the mount of transfiguration and going to Mt. Calvary.


Week 3: Here, O My Lord, I See you Face to Face (315)

I’ve come to really appreciate this communion hymn. We sang it here on Sunday. I especially appreciate the first line of the 5th stanza that describes the worshiper at the end of communion:

Too soon we rise; the vessels disappear.
The feast, thought not the love, is past and gone.
The bread and wine remove, but you are here,
Nearer than ever, still my shield and sun.

Feast after feast thus comes and passes by,
Yet, passing, points to that glad feast above,
Giving sweet foretaste of the festal joy,
The Lamb’s great marriage feast of bliss and love.

I appreciate the line "Feast after feast thus comes and passes by." It is as though every single time we come to the table we’re so appreciative of what is offered there and what we truly receive. But yet there is still a part of us that aches for that feast that will never end. But soon, soon…


Week 2: How Lovely Shines the Morning Star

I’m a little behind on this one. This is my favorite Epiphany hymn. It is the known as the "Queen of Chorales". Of the five stanzas included in Christian Worship (79), this one is my favorite.

O mighty Father, in your Son
You loved me ere you had begun
This ancient world’s foundation.
Your Son has made a friend of me,
And when in spirit him I see, I joy in tribulation.
What bliss Is this!
He is living, To me giving
Life forever;
Nothing me from him can sever.


Week 1: Where Shepherds Lately Knelt

Even though today is Epiphany, I wanted to get at least one Christmas hymn in before moving to Epiphany. This is actually a newer hymn, written by Jaroslav Vajda (b.1919). I think there are many Christmas songs and writings that try to put the reader into the story and imagine what it would be like to be there. This hymn does that in a most beautiful way. It doesn’t so much focus on the sentimental or emotional aspects of the Christmas story, but marvels at the theological significance of what is happening. I love the way in which it points out Jesus’ purpose and goal, even as a baby: to live and die for us. I love the way it dramatically points out how Jesus is the fulfillment of OT prophecy, especially Isaiah 9. I love the phrase in stanza four that (in one phrase) rules out the errors of Arminianism/decision theology (unasked), Calvinism (unforced), and Roman Catholicism/other religions of works (unearned). It’s a beautiful description of the way our Savior works his way into our hearts.

Where Shepherd’s lately knelt and kept the angel’s word,
I come in half-belief, a pilgrim strangely stirred;
But there is room and welcome there for me,
But there is room and welcome there for me.

In that unlikely place I find him as they said:
Sweet newborn Babe, how frail! and in a manger bed,
A still, small voice to cry one day for me,
A still, small voice to cry one day for me.

How should I not have known Isaiah would be there,
His prophecies fulfilled? With pounding heart I stare:
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me,
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me.

Can I, will I forget how love was born and burned
Its way into my heart unasked, unforced, unearned,
To die, to live, and not alone for me,
To die, to live, and not alone for me.

To listen to a sample of this hymn, click here. or for a midi version.