Hymn Summary: Advent 2

LO! HE COMES WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING (LSB 336)

Advent 2 (1 yr)

The brothers John and Charles Wesley saw that, according to Luther, music teaches the faith and imprints it strongly upon the heart. So he did in this hymn. The tune is new to LSB, but not to the text and a more beautiful pairing to the hymn.  The tune does what the text declares.  As the music descends so the text confesses “. . . with clouds descending.” As the congregation and musicians swell so we sing “Swell the triumph of His train, Alleluia . . .”  It is well worth learning if your parish has not yet undertaken the task. 
 
The hymn primarily pictures through song the words of Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”   Some slight editing has taken place from Wesley’s original which shows theological difference between the Methodists and Lutherans, “once for favored sinners slain,” now reads “Once for every sinner slain.”


On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist Cry (LSB 344)

Advent 2 (3 yr)
 
In light of the recent horrible attacks in Paris, our hymn brings specific comfort to those who mourn and pray.  Hear it well in the middle of tragedy and death, “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s cry Announces that the Lord is nigh.”   The author Charles Coffin was a theologian, hymnist, and Frenchman who among other things served as Rector at the University of Paris.  
 
With these things on our minds, of particular note, verse four, “Lay on the sick Thy healing hand And make the fallen strong to stand,” but also verse three “We hail Thee as our Savior Lord, Our refuge and our great reward.”  So the Word of God speaks particularly to those who suffer most horrible things, as we together in song call out with the comfort that only Christ Jesus can give.
 
As the Church Year has different rhythms, John the Baptist is a central character during Advent with his preaching of repentance.   He signals the season’s penitential character, and prepares the Church for a time of joy: for some Christmas, for all Christians Christ’s return.  Certainly one result of tragedy all about us, is the encouragement to repent.  “What shall we do?” many wonder.  Our hymn provides the way,  “Then cleansed be every life from sin; Make straight the way for God within, And let us all our hearts prepare For Christ to come and enter there.” (vs. 2)
 
The great Lutheran composer Michael Praetorius’s hand is at work in the tune.  Charles Coffin also is the author of the first hymn in our hymnal (LSB 331) The Advent of our King.


Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 


As an extension of LOGIA, LOGIA Online understands itself to be a free conference in the blogosphere. As such, the views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LOGIA’s editorial board or the Luther Academy.

Hymn Summary: Advent 1

Savior of the Nations Come (LSB 332)

First Sunday in Advent – Ad Te Levavi

Savior of the Nations, Come is one of the oldest hymns in the prayer book.  Attributed to Ambrose (b. 340), it is a prayer Christ would come today.  This is not a vain hope as Christ has come from the Father in heaven. The second verse sings it this way “Not by human flesh and blood, By the Spirit of our God, Was the Word of God made flesh Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.”

The first verse of the hymn and then the sixth and the seventh are the petitions of the prayer, asking Christ to come and heal our ills of body and soul, and shine into the world.  That prayer is grounded on the facts contained in verses two through five.  While sung instead of spoken they are quite similar to our creeds.  Consider verse five “God the Father was his source, Back to God He ran His course.  Into hell His road went down, Back then to His throne and crown.”  Finally it closes with a doxology. 
 
The hymn sets the Advent theme, “Christ has come, is coming, and will come again.” It is particularly rich incarnationally, undeniably setting the tone for the season as a whole, the Time of Christmas, which includes Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.  Luther translated this hymn for the people’s use almost literally.  It was arranged for congregational singing with the tune written by Johann Walter, Luther’s Kantor whose own hymn “The Bridegroom soon will call us” was sung by many on the last Sunday of the Church Year.


Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 


As an extension of LOGIA, LOGIA Online understands itself to be a free conference in the blogosphere. As such, the views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LOGIA’s editorial board or the Luther Academy

Hymn Summary: Last Sunday of the Church Year

Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying (LSB 516)

Last Sunday of the Church Year

Wake, Awake, for Night, written by the Lutheran Pastor Phillip Nicolai (1599), is referred to as the King of the Chorales. Outside of its outstanding confession concerning the coming Christ it entails some beautiful hidden gems.  Each verse is written in the shape of a chalice, alluding to the Christ and the host of heaven we now participate with in the Lord’s Supper.  The German original contains three initials at the beginning of each verse vs. 1 – W, 2 – Z, and 3 – G.  These belonged to Count Wilhelm Ernst a student of Nicolai’s who died a year before.  Its specific occasion for writing was a horrible plague that claimed thousands with as many as thirty people being buried each day.  Their committals were said to be in the view of Nicolai’s from his office window.  Thus it serves as a comfort to the dying and their families, causing it to be appropriately heard not only at weddings but also funerals.
 
It is based primarily on Matthew 25; the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.  Earlier translations both in TLH and LW missed the reference to the Lord’s Supper in verse two (Das Abendmahl).  LSB has rightly restored it.  The hymn makes the text seen to its hearers and from leads one from the beckoning of the Word of God to the Supper to full participation with Christ and all the saints in heaven.


Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending (LSB 336)

Last Sunday of the Church Year

The brothers John and Charles Wesley saw that, according to Luther, music teaches the faith and imprints it strongly upon the heart. So he did in this hymn. The tune is new to LSB, but not to the text and a more beautiful pairing to the hymn.  The tune does what the text declares.  As the music descends so the text confesses “. . . with clouds descending.” As the congregation and musicians swell so we sing “Swell the triumph of His train, Alleluia . . .”  It is well worth learning if your parish has not yet undertaken the task. 
 
The hymn primarily pictures through song the words of Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”   Some slight editing has taken place from Wesley’s original which shows theological difference between the Methodists and Lutherans, “once for favored sinners slain,” now reads “Once for every sinner slain.”


Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 


As an extension of LOGIA, LOGIA Online understands itself to be a free conference in the blogosphere. As such, the views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LOGIA’s editorial board or the Luther Academy.

Hymn Summary: Second to Last Sunday of the Church Year

The Day is Surely Drawing Near (LSB 508)

Second to Last Sunday

Our hymn written by Bartholomaus Ringwaldt, a Lutheran pastor who died in 1599.  It is based on the historic Medieval Latin poem, Dies Irae (Day of Wrath).  Its historic usage and its nineteen verses were associated with and used at the time of the Christian’s death.  Some say it was written in the thirteenth century though others ascribe its origin with Gregory the Great (500s)!  It comes from various portions of the Scripture including St. Matthew’s separation of the sheep from the goats, St. Luke’s description of the last days, and Paul’s descriptions of the final day with its trumpet sound in 1 Thess. 4 and 1 Cor. 15.  Many of these texts you can still hear at the grave during the Christian committal, pointing to the hope of the great Resurrection of all flesh.

To listen to the historic rendition of Dies Irae one hears a powerful, foreboding, perhaps even terrifying sound.  Our hymnal’s setting is concerned with a balance of warning and comfort from God’s Word, terror over unbelief and joy for Christ’s sake.  The first four verses tell the events of the last day, emphasizing the final judgment and the punishment for being without faith.  The final three verses deliver those who sing from the terrors of hell, beautifully proclaiming the work of Jesus: writing the singer’s name in the book of life, interceding for His own before the Father, and hearing his children’s prayer and hastening their salvation.


Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 

Hymn Summary: Third to Last Sunday of the Church Year

Preserve Your Word, O Savior (LSB 658)

Third to Last Sunday of the Church Year
 
This end of the Church Year hymn makes clear that missions and outreach are not mutually exclusive, but hand in hand. They are the work of God and the hope of every Christian.   “Preserve Your Word, O Savior to us this latter day,” asks that the saints of God below would remain in the faith and be joined by others in Christ’s kingdom.  Those who sing begin by praying for the extension of the kingdom and finally ask the Father to preserve the little flock, the singer’s own parish.

The first verse asks that the Holy Trinity would enlarge the kingdom.  Its vast concern is for people everywhere and yet personal: “Oh keep our faith from failing.”  Verse two is concerned with neighbor, those who are not Christians, as we cry alongside of one another, “Convince, convert, enlighten . . . to all who dwell below.”  Verse three turns to Zion, historically a reference to the stronghold of the New Testament Church, that she would be defended from all danger.  Verse four narrows the circle still more as it prays for faithful pastors and faithful preaching.  Finally our hymn concludes with the picture of Christ Jesus bringing each little congregation over the wind and the waves of life on the last day, “Then we will reach the harbor In Your eternal Light.”
 


Lord of all hopefulness (LSB 738)

Third to Last Sunday of the Church Year – Series B
 
This is a vocational hymn that follows the Christian through the course of their day’s activities: from waking to labor, to homing, to sleeping.  Each of four verses also highlight the various times of the day beginning, noon, evening, and end.  Those who sing pray for blessing at the different hours according to the Lord’s presence in these various endeavors of life.  Its usage as the chief hymn of the day seems curious as it is quite general, not specifically Trinitarian, Christological, Sacramental, or a clear pairing to the widow’s mite (Mark 12:38–44).  One may find a reference to the Second Person of the Trinity in the phrase “Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe . . .”  With its beautiful tune one can imagine a usage perhaps with children in its simplicity, at the beginning or ending of the day in the family devotional.  As for its use in the Church Year, parishes may consider their Christian liberty to highlight the text with something stronger or more in keeping with end time themes.


Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 

Hymn Summary: All Saint's Day

For All the Saints (LSB 677)

For All the Saints comforts us regarding those who have died in Christ and encourages us to share bravely their confession.  It is a commentary on Christ's one church, here militant, there in glory.  It was written off of the text "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses ..."

It is an example of liturgy and hymnody teaching the faith and comforting in the face of death and every lonely day thereafter.  When sung many tears are on cheeks, with words such as "Oh blest communion, fellowship divine, we feeble struggle, they in glory shine..." "And when the fight is fierce the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song..."  Who cannot help but give thanks to God in Christ Jesus for grandfathers and grandmothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, children and friends who have died in Christ Jesus?  Who cannot be encouraged with God's sung Word to be brave that they might participate with them and join them once more?   

The hymn was written by an Anglican bishop, William How.  Among other things he was a higher critic and evolutionist.  Yet in death, his best words remain and through song become our own.  Through the ages hymns and liturgy have sanctified many wayward preachers and preserved faith in those who sing Christ's song.  With its short stanzas and refrain, even small children, can be encouraged happily singing Alleluia time and again.   There is no theology of glory here, but instead the truth that to be a Christian is a lifelong struggle that ends with yet more glorious days indeed the victor's crown of gold.  


Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 

Hymn Summary: Reformation

 

Salvation Unto Us has Come

Reformation Observed Oct. 25

The hymn of the day for Reformation is Salvation unto us has come (1524).  Included in the first Lutheran hymnal, the Achtliederbuch (1524), it was one of eight hymns given to the Church to carry the Gospel by song, particularly through the school children, who could quite quickly set it to memory.  Luther wrote four of these hymns, including Dear Christians One and All Rejoice, and Speratus wrote three.  Speratus wrote this particular hymn while in prison (1523)!  He had been excommunicated and sentenced to death by burning at the stake by the Church of Rome for among other things breaking the vow of celibacy, preaching against monastic vows (works), and getting married.  Through the intervention of friends he was delivered from prison and spared, his hymn preserved for the church, and he and his wife made able to join Luther in Wittenburg.

While the original German had 14 verses our English versions retain 10.  When many were illiterate and the services of the Church conducted in Latin what joy this hymn would bring to the brokenhearted, perhaps for the first time ever, to hear of Christ's saving work in one's own language.  The hymn is thoroughly grounded in the doctrine of the Scripture.  It contains powerful Law and Gospel, as it sings of the treasures of Word, grace, faith, atonement, salvation, baptism, and service to neighbor, poured out by Christ for sinners.  Imagine the relief it brought to those trying to buy their way out of hell with their money and works to hear "Since Christ hath full atonement made and brought to us salvation, Each Christian therefore may be glad and build on this foundation.  Your grace alone dear Lord I plead, your death is now my life indeed for you have paid my ransom." (vs. 6)

 

Hymn Summary: St Michael and All Angels

Lord God to Thee We give all praise (LSB 522)

St. Michael and All Angels

Philipp Melanchthon, the chief author of the Augsburg Confession, wrote this beautiful hymn on the holy angels and their work.  Written a few years before Luther’s death one can imagine it bringing comfort to Luther himself as he lay on his death bed.
Music helps us to see what is unseen.  Through Word and song we see the holy angels: that watchful band that guard us in this life and attend us as we die (stanza 7).  As we busily go they are forgotten, but they do not forget us as they protect toddling children, those who travel, grow weak, who are tempted, who are dying and many others.
The hymn shows them in two dimensions, before the Father in heaven, and here on earth in daily life.  Stanzas 1–3 teach that they are created and are attending the Christian Church on earth.  This makes clear their work for human beings as seen as they attended even to our Lord Jesus in birth, time of danger, and Resurrection. 
Stanzas 4–6 depict another angel, who is not from eternity, but also one of the creation, the devil.  He is not equal to Jesus but fallen and angry (4), always causing trouble in both Church and State (5), and as St. Peter writes is looking to harm Christians like a roaring lion. 
He cannot and will not win, as we are blessed to see in Revelation the angels fight for us in heaven.  Today we can join our voices with theirs in praise of God (8) because Satan has been conquered by the blood of Christ.


Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 

Hymn Summary: Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart (LSB 708)

Trinity 19

Martin Schalling's hymn is one of the most loved among confessional Lutherans today because it places the Christian’s praise squarely in the midst of the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh that rages on in us.  In the Gospel lesson for today Jesus teaches us the greatest commandment, which is to love God with all our heart.  How can we do this?  Only through faith in Christ, and not by our natural powers.  There is nothing greater than the first commandment.  It contains all theology in it, and Schalling does a masterful job showing how a Christian should meditate on this commandment. 


Our Father, By Whose Name (LSB 863)

Proper 22

This hymn takes a Trinitarian approach to asking God to bless our families.  The Gospel lesson deals both with divorce and with training children up in the true faith, and so it is fitting to pray to God for protection and help in preserving marriage and family, which are so attacked these days.  God does not in love proclaim that each family is his own as if each family has his grace and favor.  Only those who trust in Christ know God as their Father.  But we must understand these words in stanza 1 of today’s hymn of the day to mean that the love of God expressed in the Law claims the right to the love and obedience of every family.  Christians come to know God through his Son Jesus, who says, “Let the little children come to me,” teaching us that our highest priority in preserving marriage and family is to teach God’s Word in our homes, so that faith, love, and hope may abound there. 


Rev. Mark Preus serves as a campus pastor at St. Andrews in Laramie, WY.

Hymn Summary: Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

See Where You May to Find a Way (LSB 557) 

Trinity 17

George Weissel 1590-1635 was a pastor in Koenigsberg, Prussia. His hymn, “Seek Where You May” is a wonderful hymn that describes the Gospel of Christ as the only way for our salvation.  The connection to the Gospel lesson is sparse, but we can say that the Pharisees looked for their righteousness in the observance of the Law (in this case, the Sabbath), while Jesus fulfilled the law of love on our behalf to heal us.  They hymn is full of great dogmatic assertions, such as “His Word is sure, / His works endure,” and “We’re justified / Because He died.”   The entire hymn is didactic, that is, it teaches and applies dogmatic truths to our souls.  Who is this Jesus?  “The God-man and none other.”  He is the one who serves us as our King, and his goal is to lead us all to heaven.


Triune God Be Thou our Stay (LSB 505) 

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Today’s Gospel in Mark 9 talks about the horrible punishment for those who cause believers to fall away from Christ.  The spiritual surgery that Christ requires leaves us practically disemboweled.  This is why we appeal to the name of the Triune God in which we are baptized.  This is the protection we need in the battle against sin and causing offense.  Martin Luther wrote this hymn to encourage us in our fight against the flesh, so that we do not rely at all on our natural powers but entirely on the grace of God.  For the Church to sing this hymn after hearing this Gospel lesson makes a lot of sense.  The only cure for the infection of sin is the grace of God. 


Rev. Mark Preus serves as a campus pastor at St. Andrews in Laramie, WY.

Hymn Summary: Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Will of God Is Always Best (LSB 758)

Trinity 16

Albrecht von Preussen was the first ruler to establish Lutheranism as the official religion of his realm.  He was convinced of the Gospel by Martin Luther during a visit to Lutheranism.  His hymn is a contemplation on the 3rd Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done.”  We confess in Luther’s Small Catechism, “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature…and when he strengthens and keeps us firm in His word and faith until we die.  This is his good and gracious will.”   Death is the ultimate question concerning God’s will.  Is it God’s will that we die?  We know that the wages of sin is death, but we also know that God does not desire the death of a sinner, but that he turns from his evil way and live.  It was God’s will to send his Son Jesus to taste death for us everyone (Heb. 2:9).  And it is this Son, who is our brother, who raised the widow of Nain’s son.  It is only through Christ that we can say, “Thy will be done," because he himself fulfilled God’s will for us in his own body through death and resurrection.  This hymn can only be sung with this knowledge in the back of our minds.


Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us (LSB 851)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”  Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us was chosen for this Gospel lesson because of the words in stanza 3, “Wondrous honor You have given / To our humblest charity / In Your own mysterious sentence, / ‘You have done it unto me.’”  Every good work a Christian does for his neighbor his done for Christ.  The Gospel lesson specifically speaks about receiving a child in Christ’s name.  This means that charity is never severed from our confession of Christ as our Savior from sin.  “In my name” means with Christ’s Word.  By bringing children to church, baptizing them and teaching them, we are serving Christ, who desires that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. The Old Adam doesn’t believe God’s Word.  It needs to die and be drowned in our baptism every day so that the new man believes the Gospel and rises up to believe and know that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  


Rev. Mark Preus serves as a campus pastor at St. Andrews in Laramie, WY.

Hymn Summary: Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

From God Can Nothing Move Me (LSB 713)

Trinity 14

Ludwig Helmbold (1532-98) wrote this hymn after a deadly plague had wiped out 4000 of the inhabitants of Erfurt. The hymn was written on the occasion of his friend and family leaving the city to escape the plague. Though death and other things can take friends away from us, “From God Can Nothing Move Me.” This hymn is born out of a deep devotion on the part of Helmbold, who eventually had to leave his prestigious position (and many friends) at Erfurt to stay true to his Lutheran convictions. The situation of the lepers in today’s Gospel was such that they were “moved” or divided from normal society. But they were not divided from Jesus, who was their God. The hymn is a wonderful encouragement to bear our cross with the knowledge that God’s will is good and gracious towards us in Christ Jesus. This life carries with it many sorrows, “But time we spend expressing / The love of God brings blessing / That will forever last.” 


Praise the Almighty, My Soul Adore Him (LSB 797)

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18)

In the hymn Praise the Almighty, John Daniel Herrnschmidt (1675–1723) provides a beautiful summary of Psalm 146, which speaks of God as the true ground of faith because of all his merciful works towards us. So in today’s Gospel Jesus has mercy on the Syro-Phoenician woman and on the deaf-mute. No one could help them—only Jesus. He is the one who “executes judgment for the oppressed.” (Psalm 146:7) Just as Jesus could not silence those who proclaimed his great deeds in Mark 7, so we do not keep silence about the mercy God has shown to us, and which we see so clearly portrayed for us in the woman whose daughter was demon possessed and the man who could neither hear nor speak. 


Rev. Mark Preus serves as a campus pastor at St. Andrews in Laramie, WY.

Hymn Summary: The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me (LSB 683)

Trinity 13

Paul Gerhardt (1607–76) scarcely needs an introduction among Lutherans, who for generations have loved his hymns. Today’s hymn of the day is actually a summary of Gerhardt’s original, written by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley (1703–91). He uses a different meter than what Gerhardt chose, and from that summary the LSB contains four verses. Gerhardt’s original had sixteen verses. One such missing verse, which I have gathered from a translation other than Wesley’s goes like this:

My Savior, Thou in love and grief
Didst go to peril, death and loss,
Yea, as a murderer and thief,
Mocked, spat on, wounded on the cross;
Ah, let Thy wounds pierce deep in me
That I Thy love may always see.

The hymn speaks of God’s love, which is shown in the actions of the Good Samaritan of today’s Gospel. Jesus is the Good Samaritan who does what the Law cannot, binds up our wounds and places us in the church to be taken care of. There is no love that we can show to our neighbor without knowing Christ’s love first. While interpreting Wesley’s summary, we should keep in mind that faith receives this love by means of God's Word, as Gerhardt originally described.


By Grace I’m Saved, Grace Free and Boundless (LSB 566)

Proper 17

In LSB we have six of ten marvelous stanzas of Christian Ludwig Scheidt’s (1709–61) comprehensive hymn on grace. Scheidt was actually a lawyer but clearly a pious Christian who understood the grace of God. Growing up and living in the midst of pietism, he still shows a clear regard for the objective promises of the Gospel from which the Pietists unfortunately turned in their inward focus on enlightenment and conversion. He clearly speaks of the free nature of God’s favor towards us in Christ, lambasts reason and points to Scripture as the source of our certainty of salvation.

Grace is for those who feel their sins and mourn over it. It gives them certainty despite all their anguish of conscience. The hymn concludes with these beautiful words, “I cling to what my Savior taught / And trust it, whether felt or not.” 

Hymn Summary: The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

My Soul, Now Praise Your Maker (LSB 820)

Trinity 12 — One year

John Poliander (pen name of John Graumann, 1487–1541) was at one time the secretary of Luther’s great opponent, Dr. Eck. But after the Leipzig Disputation in 1519, he was convinced by the Gospel and joined the Reformation. He spent his life furthering the Reformation and combatting errorists such as the Anabaptists, especially in Prussia. He wrote this hymn in 1525 at the request of Margrave Albrecht, who loved Psalm 103, of which this hymn is a summary.

The Margrave, according to Chemnitz, had it sung at his death bed. It was also sung by Gustavus Adolphus after taking back Augsburg in the 30 Years War. It is a song of praise that matches the closing of the Gospel, “He has done all things well.” Jesus is our maker as much as is the Father and the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus opened the deaf-mute’s lips, and those lips spoke plainly, so we open our lips to praise and bless God for all the benefits we have received from him. It is always through Jesus that we receive not only health for our bodies, but for our souls as well. It is in the person and work of Christ alone that we truly come to worship our maker in spirit and in truth. 


Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain (LSB 865)

Proper 16

Ludwig Hembold (1532–98) left many honors, including being a poet laureate of the Holy Roman Empire, to stay true to the true faith of the Lutheran Church. He is known for many hymns he wrote for the use in schools to help teach the Bible and the Confessions. He even wrote a metrical version of the Augsburg Confession!

His best known hymn is From God Can Nothing Move Me (LSB 713), but Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain is a masterful summary of the catechism’s doctrine that finds good use at home, in schools and also in the divine service on Sunday. Considering that the Gospel lesson from Mark 7 warns against the harm of following tradition over Scripture, this hymn is very fitting, as it points us to the plain doctrine of Scripture which Luther summarized in the Small Catechism, often called “The Layman’s Bible.” Each part of the 6 Chief Parts of the Catechism are referenced in the hymn, showing how the whole of Christian doctrine is applied to our life and conscience. 


Rev. Mark Preus serves as a campus pastor at St. Andrews in Laramie, WY.

Hymn Summary: Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

O How Great Is Your Compassion (LSB)

Trinity 11 — One year

John Olearius (1611-84) was one of Lutheranism’s greatest hymnists, and it shows in this masterpiece on the means of grace. Others have suggested From Depths of Woe (LSB 607) for this Sunday, whose theme revolves around true repentance with the contrast between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. While a good option, O How Great Is Your Compassion works well also, since it shows what completes repentance, namely the Gospel.

The hymn begins with singing of God’s compassion, which is magnified by focusing on our “depth of degradation” in which God had mercy on us. There is no understanding of God’s grace apart from understanding our sin. Without the Law revealing to us our need and our condition as sinners, we have no desire for the Gospel.

And so Olearius shows first how salvation was gained. Jesus gave himself up for us to bring us to God. Then he shows how salvation is given. Christ’s Spirit witnesses to our salvation in the Sacraments and Word. Then he shows how salvation is gotten, “Giving us the gift of faith.” The hymn ends with a sweet repetition of praise. Thus the hymn concludes with the hope of a union with God guaranteed to repentant sinners in the voice of the Gospel. 


O God, My Faithful God (LSB 696)

Proper 15

John Heermann (1585-1657) rivals Paul Gerhardt as the best hymnist of the 17th Century. A glance at his hymns in LSB will give you an idea of this. He lived through the 30 Years War, was almost killed several times by war and illness, and in general suffered beneath many crosses. This, coupled with a desire for God’s pure Word, fostered his ability to apply the Word of God in song so beautifully. O God, My Faithful God demonstrates how virtuously he prays for a holy life that pleases God, with his eyes on the resurrection and the hope of glory. Heermann shows the concern for his neighbor that every Christian has, recognizing that Christ alone works such good in us.

A love for God’s Law because it is true and helps our neighbor is something only God can give. This hymn should be learned by every catechism student in studying the 8th commandment, and every Christian congregation should teach and admonish one another with this hymn, since gossip so cruelly divides many parishes among us. This hymn matches the emphasis from the epistle from Ephesians 5 on looking carefully on how we walk, and making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. The emphasis on the hope of the resurrection matches the Gospel lesson’s promise that Christ will raise up all who believe in him so that they live forever.


Rev. Mark Preus serves as a campus pastor at St. Andrews in Laramie, WY.

Hymn Summary: Tenth Sunday after Trinity

THE CHURCH’S ONE FOUNDATION (LSB 644)

Trinity 10 – One Year Series and Proper 11 (B) – Three Year series

Samuel J. Stone (1839–1900) wrote this hymn as a defense of the creedal article: I believe in . . . the holy catholic (meaning universal, Christian) church. At the time the validity of the Old Testament accounts were being questioned (even as today). While the church must fight (via the Word) against many and various heresies and heretics, it is good to remember that Christ himself is the foundation of the church and his confession is such as even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it! Though we see many communions within her, she is yet one church, the washed bride of Christ. Through all strife and divisions, saints in heaven (along with saints on earth) cry out, “How long?” When Christ returns in all glory all saints will dwell in heaven. We will all confess in blessed victory song that we have been “. . . saved by your grace.”


LORD, ENTHRONED IN HEAVENLY SPLENDOR (LSB 534)

Proper 14 B AND Proper 29 C (Three Year Series)

This hymn by Anglican theologian and educator George Hugh Bourne (1840-1925) is a grand, yet somber hymn to the Redeemer. Often sung during Ascension-tide (along with the hymn with the same tune: Look, Ye Saints, the Sight Is Glorious), this text focuses not on some “absence” of our ascended Lord, but on his presence and providence for his saints. He that was born in lowliest form was lifted to eternal splendor (from which he originally came). So, he also provides for us and promises to raise his lowly, persecuted saints to share in his glory.
Bryn Calfaraia (meaning, “Mount Calvary”) by noted Welsh hymn tune composer, William Owen (1813–93) is noted for solemnity and grandeur.


Rev. Thomas E. Lock serves as Kantor/Assistant Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 

Hymn Summary: Eighth Sunday after Trinity

IN GOD, MY FAITHFUL GOD (LSB 745)

Trinity 8 – One Year series; Proper 25 (C) – Three Year series

This hymn has been ascribed to Sigmund Weingärtner (17th century), but that authorship is in doubt. Whoever penned this text wrote lines of great hope and comfort for Christians. When everything appears dark with troubles and woes, then the faithful Triune God is the only one who can be trusted. When all we see is our grief, then we look to Christ who bore our grief in all meekness through his life and death. By his death and resurrection believers in Christ will be raised, “[w]hen ends this life of sadness.” Thus, saints cry out, “Amen,” that is, “So be it!”


ENTRUST YOUR DAYS AND BURDENS (LSB 754)

Proper 12 (B) – Three Year series

Paul Gerhardt (1607–76) certainly knew days of burdens. He suffered on account of his confession of faith (against Calvinist leaders) and from death in his family and congregation. It was written that he was, “A theologian sifted in Satan’s sieve;” he was not found wanting. He penned numerous hymns which grant comfort from God’s Word. All burdens and cares are best entrusted to the Triune God (The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit). God’s wisdom and care alone can true comfort give. That comfort comes because believers in Christ possess the forgiveness salvation he won for man. While Christians look forward to being in endless jubilation we pray the Lord to strengthen limbs and bless our spirit.
For the first time in our hymnals this fantastic text has its own tune which was written by Stephen R. Johnson (b. 1966).


Rev. Thomas E. Lock serves as Kantor/Assistant Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 

Hymn Summary: Seventh Sunday after Trinity

SING PRAISE TO GOD, THE HIGHEST GOOD (LSB 819)

7th Sunday after Trinity – One Year series; Epiphany 8 and Proper 3 (B) – Three Year series

Johann Jakob Schütz’s (1640–1690) hymn of our merciful Creator is set to the exuberant tune by famed Lutheran composer Michael Vulpius (c.1560/70–1615). He who made man also knew that man would need a Savior from his sin. God had placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil within Eden (Genesis 2). Though his desire was that man should live, he knew that man would pursue the fruit of the forbidden tree unto death. Thus the Father sent his Son as Savior, shepherd, refuge, rock, peace, and salvation for his chosen band. We, who confess Christ’s holy name, continue to sing: “To God all praise and glory!”


THE CHURCH’S ONE FOUNDATION (LSB 644)

Trinity 10 – One Year Series; Proper 11 (B) – Three Year series

Samuel J. Stone (1839–1900) wrote this hymn as a defense of the creedal article: I believe in…the holy catholic (meaning universal, Christian) church. At the time the validity of the Old Testament accounts were being questioned (even as today). While the church must fight (via the Word) against many and various heresies and heretics, it is good to remember that Christ himself is the foundation of the church and his confession is such as even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it! Though we see many communions within her, she is yet one church, the washed bride of Christ. Through all strife and divisions, saints in heaven (along with saints on earth) cry out, “How long?” When Christ returns in all glory all saints will dwell in heaven. We will all confess in blessed victory song that we have been “. . . saved by your grace.”


Rev. Thomas E. Lock serves as Kantor/Assistant Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 

Hymn Summary: Sixth Sunday after Trinity

All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall (LSB 562)

6th Sunday after Trinity – 1 year series (July 12, 2015)

Lazarus Spengler (1479–1534) was an early supporter of Luther’s reforms. In fact, Spengler was named and excommunicated in the papal Bull of Excommunication against Luther. His hymn, All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall, is considered one of the most important hymns of the Reformation era (along with hymns like Salvation unto Us Has Come). On the day we hear the Ten Commandments from the lectern it is good to remind ourselves that we not only commit sins, but we are also sinful from the moment of our conception because of Adam’s fall (original sin). Apart from Christ there is no good in any person at all. Thanks be to Christ Jesus that because of his death for our sin and sins we now have forgiveness, life, and salvation in him. We are justified—declared righteous—by his grace. This justifying grace attends his saints until “we reach our final end.”


Jesus, Priceless Treasure – LSB 743

Lent 4 (Laetare; 1 year) AND Proper 10 (B) (July 12, 2015)

Johann Franck’s hymn is a love song from the bride (church) to her Lord Jesus Christ! This is not as easy to see in English as in the original German which includes this line: “God’s Lamb, my Bridegroom.” Jesus is the priceless Bridegroom, pleasure, friend, and Lamb who has ransomed us, not with gold or silver, but with his precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). Jesus defends his bride against all evils of body and soul, especially that accuser from of old—Satan. Christians also are made able to decry fear and death. The world and its treasures hold no sway over those who in faith rely on Christ. Faithful Christians, members of the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22–33), fear not leaving this evil world, for then they can dwell forever before the face of their Bridegroom, their priceless treasure, in heaven. 


Rev. Thomas E. Lock serves as Kantor/Assistant Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 

Hymn Summary: Fifth Sunday after Trinity

“Come, Follow Me,” the Savior Spake (LSB 688) — 1 yr

Based upon the Holy Gospel of today (Luke 5:1–11) this hymn by Johann Scheffler (1624–1677) focuses upon the works a Christian does after coming to faith. Believers are to deny themselves and ever affirm Christ crucified. Our minds are to be like Christ’s—humble, meek, and submissive to God. Christians are taught to live in love with one another, without abandoning the doctrine of Christ. Above all else, the Christian is called upon to cling to the cross, to cling to the means of our salvation. After the battle of this life is the eternal crown in heaven for those dying in the Christian faith.
 


O Christ, Our True and Only Light (LSB 839) — 3 yr

Written in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War, Johann Heermann’s (1585–1647) hymn confesses the eternal Light shining in the midst of the darkness of this world. Further, his own son had become a Roman Catholic (though he returned to Lutheranism later).  Heermann, along with his parishioners, needed hymns of comfort. The comfort provided by Christ the light is the gracious forgiveness of sins. The prayer is that Christians would be reminded of their need and comfort and that those who do not yet know Christ would hearken to His voice, that is, believe in him unto salvation.  The result prayed for is that all would believe and sing the true confession of faith in unity in earth and heaven. All praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

 


Rev. Thomas E. Lock serves as Kantor/Assistant Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado.