O God, My Faithful God (LSB 696) — 1 yr
Johann Heermann (1585–1647) was a Lutheran pastor in Silesia during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). During his time as pastor many of his congregation died from pestilence, especially during 1631. It is no wonder that Pastor Heermann could write such words as comfort as are found in this hymn.
We find true comfort in the merciful God alone, in the fountain ever flowing! A prayer for all times is for a “healthy frame,” not only to be healthy, but also to help others through one’s calling and vocation. It is so tempting to curse, swear, or speak out of turn; these betray a mistrust that God would actually work good in this vale of tears. Only forgiveness won by Jesus on the cross can set aside this mistrust. The final two stanzas are pure comfort, echoing the Nunc dimittis (Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace). Death for the Christian body is but sleep; the Christian soul does not die, but immediately is drawn to heaven at the death of the body. Christians now commend themselves to their Savior. Then, in splendor, Christians will rejoice over their salvation with all those who love his name.
In the Very Midst of Life (LSB 755) — 3 yr
Martin Luther (1483–1546) wrote this hymn for use at funerals. Based on the Latin Media vita in morte sumus (Amid life we are surrounded by death), this hymn was sung as mourners walked from the church to the cemetery. That does not mean funerals are the only times it is to be sung for it deals not only with death, but sin and its consequences throughout earthly life. When sin and the snares of death surround the Christian the cry is to him who is holy, holy, holy, that is, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, our baptismal Lord. Whether Christians face death, hell, or any other trial this Triune God is the only one who has mercy on them.
The tune by the first Lutheran kantor, Johann Walter (1496–1570), is based upon the chant that accompanies the original Latin text (Media vita . . .). This hymn is no dirge, but a bold and boisterous confession of faith in Jesus Christ. The whole hymn is forceful, but the voices are raised most at the recurring Trisagion (thrice holy) at the end of each stanza.
Rev. Thomas E. Lock serves as Kantor/Assistant Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado.