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: 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: 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: 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


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.”


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


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!”


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.