Das neue Regiment

In 1708, bwv71deckblattdruckJohann Sebastian Bach performed a
cantata at the annual inauguration of the new town council in Mühlhausen. It was entitled “Gott ist mein König” (God is my King).

It quotes a number of verses from Psalm 74, such as vs. 12: “Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”

And vs 16: “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth.”

It closes with this prayer:

Das neue Regiment
Auf jeglichen Wegen
Bekröne mit Segen!
Friede, Ruh und Wohlergehen,
Müsse stets zur Seite stehen
Dem neuen Regiment.

Glück, Heil und großer Sieg
Muss täglich von neuen
Dich, Joseph, erfreuen,
Dass an allen Ort und Landen
Ganz beständig sei vorhanden
Glück, Heil und großer Sieg!

The new government
in every way
crown with blessing !
May peace, rest and prosperity
always stand by the side
of the new government.

Good fortune, salvation and great victory
must daily anew
delight you, Joseph,
so that in all lands and places
there may be continually by you
good fortune, salvation and great victory!

Te Deum Laudamus

Every Wednesday, we pray Matins at church. We usually read an Old Testament selection from a daily lectionary. Then I usually comment on the Epistle from Sunday. Today, we commemorated the Lutheran hymnwriters Nicolai, Heermann, and Gerhardt and sang the Queen of Chorales. The other thing we regularly do is pray by name for the members of the congregation. 

But every week I look forward most to singing the Te Deum Laudamus. Today, this sight gave me all the more reason to sing, and I think the angels, apostles, prophets, martyrs, and Church throughout the world rejoice at this, too.

Church Bells Ringing for Peace

JEAN-FRANÇOIS_MILLET_-_El_Ángelus_(Museo_de_Orsay,_1857-1859._Óleo_sobre_lienzo,_55.5_x_66_cm).jpg

In Jean-François Millet’s The Angelus, two peasants stop digging potatoes to pray when the bells in the distance church tower ring.

I suppose one could say that church bells are a thing of the past. Of course, there are places where churches still have bells, and those bells still ring. They might ring at the beginning or during services (during the Lord’s Prayer, for example). They might even still ring to announce a member’s death or at certain times of the day. But the fact is that most of us live, work, and travel out of earshot of church bells.

I’ve been reading Martin Chemnitz’ 1569 Church Order for Braunsweig-Wolfenbüttel. In it, he has instructions of all kinds for church life in his principality. Today I came across his instructions regarding the ringing of bells, right after a long list of collects (prayers).

Under the papacy, a special ringing of the bell was observed morning, noon, and evening by which the people were admonished to pray to the Virgin Mary. But because the most blessed Virgin Mary does not desire the honor due God alone, and because it is also contrary to God’s Word, the people are to be instructed in this regard. The ringing of the bell in and of itself can be retained, as is also the case in the neighboring Reformation churches, to indicate to the people morning, noon, and evening. Moreover, the people are thereby reminded and exhorted to pray morning, noon, and evening for common peace and good government—in so doing prayer is made at the same time for the authorities and against all enemies of common, Christian peace. For this reason, in the neighboring Reformation churches, it has been very appropriately referred to as ringing the prayer bell or the “peace bell.” And it is Christian, good, and useful for the common people to be accustomed to it, so that they do not forget such necessary prayer. But because prayer is often forgotten, the peal of the bell can remind them to pray such things, whenever they hear the peace bell ringing, whether at home, in the garden, on the road, or in the field. At that time also, the children in the house may be encouraged to sing: Erhalt uns Herr bey deinem Wort, etc.; likewise, Verleihe uns Frieden gnediglich. Such prayer is of very great necessity in these latter and perilous days.

saleby_kyrkklocka_vastergotlandWouldn’t you say that prayer for the “common peace and good government” is still “of very great necessity”? And I’m pretty sure that forgetting to pray is no less a problem today than in 1569.

But if church bells are out—or perhaps drowned out by our world’s noise—is there anything that could fill the function of church bells to call us to pray? What could remind us, whether we are at home, at work, or in the car? Perhaps something that we carry with us practically everywhere.

Perhaps you could consider setting an alarm on your phone in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. You could even use the sound of bells to remind you to pray.

Verdin Bells has a few church bell sounds available for download on their web site. There is one called the Angelus (that’s the name of the papist bell-ringing Chemnitz refers to above) and one that is just a single swinging bell. Here are converted files for iPhone ringtones (Peace Bell / Single Bell).

Chemnitz encourages prayers for peace at these times. I think I might like to modify that just slightly with an area of focus for each hour—in the morning, for peace in the home and family; at noon (the hour of Jesus’ death), for peace in the Church; and in the evening, peace in the government and civil sphere. In another place I saw that some have used the morning hour to meditate on the Resurrection, the noonday to contemplate the Crucifixion, and the evening hour to reflect on the Incarnation.

The hymns Chemnitz suggests are also worth considering. Most Lutherans are familiar with “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” (CW 203). “Grant Peace, We Pray, in Mercy Lord” (CW 522) is worth knowing better. These two hymns always seem to be paired together. In J.S. Bach’s Cantata on “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast” the closing chorale is “Grant Peace, We Pray.” I love how it concludes:

Grant to our princes and all those in authority
peace and good government
so that we, among them
may lead a calm and peaceful life
in all godliness and honesty.
Amen.

Let the morning bring me word…

I used to plug in my phone overnight on the nightstand beside my bed.

This was a bad idea.

First of all, when my phone, which serves as my alarm clock, would sound early in the morning, it was too easy to quickly turn it off and go back to sleep. Charging my phone by my dresser on the other side of the room hasn’t entirely eliminated that problem, but it has made it more of a nuisance to get up and turn it off.

But there was a bigger problem. With my phone beside my bed, it was not unusual for me to just check a few things just before I went to sleep. And in the morning, when I was awake but too lazy to get out of bed, I could just reach over, and with one eye open, check my email, my Facebook or news feed. Worse yet, when on occasion I lay sleepless in the night, I could occupy my sleepless mind by staring at the world of information to be found on my phone.

In the past six months or so I have been spending a great deal of time in the Psalms. And I began to realize that my phone was functioning in the way that the Psalmist speaks of the Scriptures. Oops. Evening and morning I turned to my phone. Let the morning bring me news from the latest source. On my bed I remember my Facebook friends. No, that’s not how it’s supposed to go.

What if, instead of opening my eyes to see what my friends have posted, I did what generations upon generations of believers have done when they arose from slumber? What if my day was more punctuated by prayer than by my regular urge to check my phone? What if I did what Christians for centuries have done and prayed the daily offices of prayer that were basically a structure for prayer using the psalms?

So now my phone charges on my dresser. On my nightstand rests my Psalter. The nice thing is that there are many great options out there for someone who wishes to read, pray, and sing the psalms. Here are a few (beside the option of just reading them from your Bible):

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ESV Psalms
It was our congregation’s transition to the ESV that prompted my venture into the Psalter. My lips have been praying the Psalms in NIV for many years, and this was the best place to start to re-memorize. I love this little volume—the size, format, page layout. The only thing I wish this had was marks for chanting. Right now I’m just writing them in as I need.

Reading the Psalms with Luther / Psalms: with Introductions by Martin Luther
This is basically the Psalm text with some introductions to the Psalms written by Martin Luther. Ironically, Luther asked that people not print them interspersed with the Psalter as they did here. The older version is NIV and not pointed for singing. The newer version (Reading the Psalms with Luther) is pointed for singing and also includes psalm prayers for each psalm.

Concordia Psalter
This one was just published at the beginning of this year. It also has a nice size, it is marked for chanting with simple psalm tones for each psalm and psalm prayers. It is essentially a revision of the above volume, but with the psalm tones in place of Luther’s introductions. The cover is beautiful and feels great to hold in the hand.

Treasury of Daily Prayer
This is a much larger volume, for a complete daily prayer solution. But in the back of the book is the entire psalter, marked for singing. Additionally, the content from this volume is also available in the iOS and Android app PrayNow. One great little feature of that is that when you pull up the psalm (also marked for singing) it displays your psalm tones and will even play the tone so that you can hear it before you sing. This is great for travelling.

Psalm Schedules
In many of these volumes there is some guidance on reading the psalms. I usually don’t advise people to attempt to read the Bible straight through. But that doesn’t hurt to do with the Psalms. Remember that the Psalms were collected and arranged in the order they are in. They are intended to be read in order. Still, perhaps you wish to follow a schedule. And there is good reason to read certain psalms at particular times of the day, or at specified times of the year. I wouldn’t just read the psalms you are already most familiar with, or just pick them at random. Here are a couple schedules you won’t find in the above books.

  • Through the Psalter in 60 days. There is a similar chart like this in TLH and the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary for reading the psalms in 30 days. I have found that 60 days is a more reasonable pace. The other advantage is that this schedule assigns the evening and morning psalms to the appropriate times of day.
  • Seasonal Schedule. This one appoints four psalms for every day—two in the morning and two in the evening. During most seasons of the year this weekly schedule repeats. This one is nice to become really familiar with certain psalms during parts of the year. I first saw this schedule in the little book The Minister’s Prayer Book and more recently it was included in the Lutheran Service Book hymnal.

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The Lenten Fast

For this reason I approve of the Lenten fast, although in the early church it was observed in Christian freedom, so that by fasting people might prepare themselves for more ardent and attentive prayer and for giving thanks in the Supper of the Lord, both for the most precious death of Christ by which we are redeemed from all evils in eternity, and for his most victorious resurrection that is the source of our justification and resurrection.

The Homiletical Handbook of Urbanus Rhegius, 1535

Daily Prayer

Today I am reminded another reason why we have our school students begin every school day with this prayer.

I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have kept me this night harm and danger. Keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please you. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

And when we say its evening counterpart at home before bed each night, I usually don’t dwell on the possible harm or danger that may come upon my loved ones—in the morning or evening. But I know there is evil, and harm, and danger which threatens them every day. I’m aware of that some days more than others. And I commend them into another’s hands. I cannot stop every evil. I cannot watch them at all times. But He can. And does.http://www.blog.pasarsore.com/wp-admin/css/colors/theme-index.php