Monday, June 30, 2008

Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow

Yesterday at my parish (Sunday, June 29th...St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles) we celebrated the 25th anniversary of my ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry.  It was a glorious day of joyful thanksgiving to God for the innumerable blessings He has poured out so richly these past twenty-five years.   Loving family members, honored guests, special friends, and dear parishioners all helped to make it a very special day that I will not soon forget.   

The "Common Doxology" is probably the most frequently sung hymn stanza in all Christendom.  Thomas Ken (1637-1711) wrote these words in 1674 and they first appeared in a Manual of Prayers for Use of the Scholars of Winchester College for use by schoolboys.  This doxological stanza appeared with the hymn text for morning, "Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun" (LSB 868) as well as with the hymn text for evening,  "All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night" (LSB 883).  Both these hymns have received wide usage in many English language hymnals. 

     Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
     Praise Him, all creatures here below;
         Praise Him above, ye heav'nly host:
         Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen.

In today's gender-neutral climate, one nows sees this "politically-correct" version:

       Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
        praise God, all creatures here below;
            praise God above, ye heav'nly host;
            praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Of course, no poet in his/her right mind would ever use "God" repeated so often is such close proximity, but sadly this is where things stand in some circles of the Church.

Here is an even worse alteration of this doxological stanza, with words that hint at themes of feminism and liberation theology.  This version cannot even name the names of the Trinity:

       Praise God who gives all blessings birth
        praise God all creatures on the earth;
            praise God, who makes, sustains, sets free
            one holy God in persons three.  

Friday, June 27, 2008

All Who Believe and Are Baptized

This coming Sunday we will be celebrating St. Peter and St. Paul here in my parish, marking the 25th anniversary of my ordination (June 26, 1983), and receiving new members into our parish. Two of the adults being received on Sunday will be baptized.  

One of today's lectionary readings is the account of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts 8:26-40.  Philip, urged by the Spirit, encounters this man puzzling over the scroll of Isaiah, not understanding of whom the prophet had written.  Philip, beginning with that very passage, spoke to him about Jesus.  The eunuch was baptized and continued on his way to his home in Africa.

Thomas Kingo, a Dane, wrote this hymn which was originally intended for use after Holy Baptism.  This Sunday it is our opening hymn in both services.

1.  All who believe and are baptized
        Shall see the Lord's salvation;
     Baptized into the death of Christ,
        They are a new creation.
            Through Christ's redemption they shall stand
            Among the glorious, heav'nly band
       Of ev'ry tribe and nation.

2.  With one accord, O God, we pray:
        Grant us Your Holy Spirit.
     Help us in our infirmity
        Through Jesus' blood and merit.
           Grant us to grow in grace each day
           That by this sacrament we may
        Eternal life inherit. 

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lord Jesus Christ, With Us Abide

The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, commemorated on June 25th, recalls an event that was very important in the history of the Christian Church.  On June 25, 1530 in the city of Augsburg, the rulers and mayors of Saxon Germany confessed their faith in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Augsburg Confession was signed by laymen who endangered their own lives by signing the document.  John the Steadfast and other courageous laymen stood before the emperor and presented 28 doctrinal statements called articles; the first 21 dealt with the Christian faith as taught by Lutherans, the other 7 articles dealt with abuses in the medieval Roman Catholic church.  The Augsburg Confession was written by Philip Melanchthon, scholar and theologian.  (Luther could not appear at Augsburg due to the imperial ban that had been placed upon him, making Luther an outlaw who could be arrested or killed.)

One thinks of the many threats the Church of the Reformation faces in our own day and age.   We seek to remain faithful to the Word of God, the only source of Christian teaching, central among which is justification by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Melanchthon and Selnecker's hymn wonderfully expresses the believer's prayer: 

1.  Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide,
     For round us falls the eventide.
         O let Your Word, that saving light,
         Shine forth undimmed into the night.

2.  In these last days of great distress
     Grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness
         That we keep pure till life is spent
         Your holy Word and Sacrament.

3.  To hope grown dim, to hearts turned cold
     Speak tongues of fire and make us bold
         To shine Your Word of saving grace
         Into each dark and loveless place.

4.  May glorious truths that we have heard,
     The bright sword of Your mighty Word,
          Spurn Satan, that Your Church be strong,
          Bold, unified in act and song.

5.  Restrain, O Lord, the human pride
     That seeks to thrust Your truth aside
         Or with some man-made thoughts or things
         Would dim the words Your Spirit sings.

6.  Stay with us, Lord, and keep us true;
     Preserve our faith our whole life through--
        Your Word alone our heart's defense,
         The Church's glorious confidence.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sing Praise to the God of Israel

JUNE 24th is "The Nativity of St. John the Baptist" on the Church Year calendar.  Luke (1:5-25; 57-80) records the events surrounding the birth of John, son of Zechariah the priest and Elizabeth, his wife.  You'll recall that Zechariah was was struck dumb for his unbelieving response to Gabriel's announcement about the birth of a son to him and his wife.  Upon the birth of their son, when neighbors and relatives questioned Elizabeth's naming their newborn son John, Zechariah confirmed what she had said as he wrote on a tablet that their son was to be named John.  His tongue was loosed and he spoke words of praise and prophecy.  These words are known as the "Benedictus,"  the first word of this song of praise and prophecy in Latin.  The Benedictus is the alternate canticle at Matins.  Originally, the Te Deum was used at Matins (the first hour), and the Benedictus at Lauds (the second hour), but when the Reformers adapted these daily services to the needs of their times and decreased the number of the daily hours services, Lauds was combined with Matins and the use of the Benedictus retained.

This versification of the Benedictus set to the tune DEN SIGNEDE DAG is #936 in Lutheran Service Book and was written in 1992:

1.  Sing praise to the God of Israel!
        Sing praise for His visitation!
            Redeeming His people from their sin,
       Accomplishing their salvation,
            Upraising a mighty horn within
                 The house of His servant David!

2.  God spoke by the prophets long ago,
         His promise on oath recalling--
              To Abraham made in former years:
         Of vanquishing foes appalling,
              That those He delivered from their fears
                  Might gladly and truly serve Him.

3.  You, child, will go on before the Lord
          As prophet, His way preparing;
               To speak on behalf of God Most High,
         His counsel of truth declaring:
               Rich mercy and grace for all whereby
                   Iniquity is forgiven.

4.  O bright, rising Sun, now shine on us
          In need of illumination;
               Come scatter the shades of sin and death
          And shatter their domination.
               Be guiding our footsteps on the path
                   Of peace, in Your presence dawning!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Christians, to the Paschal Victim

Today's lectionary reading is John 20: 1-18.  "Christians, to the Paschal Victim" or Victimae Paschali is the sequence for Easter Sunday.  At one time in the Roman Catholic Church, there were many sequences in use, but the Council of Trent abolished all but a few.  Today only five are used:  Victimae Paschali (Easter), Veni Sancte Spiritus (Pentecost), Lauda Sion (Corpus Christi), Stabat Mater (Our Lady of Sorrows) and Dies Irae (Requiem Mass for funerals, All Souls, or other Mass for the Dead).  The first two are obligatory in the Roman Church; the last three are optional.  The sequence was usually placed before the Alleluia:
1.  First Reading
2.  Gradual
3.  Second Reading
4.  Sequence
5.  Alleluia
6.  Holy Gospel.
In recent years, the sequence is sometimes placed after the Alleluia.
Victimae Paschali is attributed to Wipo of Burgandy (1039), chaplain of the German Emperor Conrad II in the 11th century.  In Lutheran Service Book, only the text is given for the Victimae Paschali and the hymn "Christ Is Arisen" is sung between the verses of "Christians, to the Paschal Victim," which may be sung by the choir.

Christians, to the Paschal Victim      Victimae Paschali
Offer your thankful praises!              laudes immolent Christiani.
The Lamb the sheep has ransomed: Agnus redemit oves:
Christ, who only is sinless,               Christus innocens Patri
Reconciling sinners to the Father.    reconciliavit peccatores.
Death and life have contended         Mors et vita duello
In that combat stupendous:              conflixere mirando:
The Prince of life, who died,             dux vitae mortuus,
Reigns immortal.                             regnat vivus.
        sing LSB 459, stanza 1
"Speak, Mary, declaring                   Dic nobis Maria,
What you saw when wayfaring."       Quid vidisti in via?
"The tomb of Christ, who is living,   Sepulchrum Christi viventis,
The glory of Jesus' resurrection;      et gloriam vidi resurgentis:
Bright angels attesting,                    Angelicos testes,
The shroud and napkin resting.       sudarium et vestes.
My Lord, my hope, is arisen;           Surrexit Christus spes mea:
To Galilee He goes before you."      praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
       sing LSB 459, stanza 2
Christ indeed from death is risen,           Scimus Christum surrexisse
Our new life obtaining.                            a mortuis vere:
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!  Tu nobis, victor Rex miserere.
Amen.  Alleluia.                                      Amen.  Alleluia.
       sing LSB 459, stanza 3

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Continue in the Things That You Have Learned

This afternoon I participated in the ordination and installation service of a son of our congregation.  It was a joy to be a part of his special day and know that God will now use him as a called and ordained servant of the Word, an undershepherd of the Good Shepherd.   St. Paul's words of encouragement to Timothy are good to recall:  "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (2 Tim. 1:14)
The following text was inspired by Richard Hillert's tune, RIVER FOREST, and the refrain is based on the passage just quoted.   The hymn text is written in free verse.

1.  Continue in the things that you have learned,
        Convinced by those who taught the sacred text;
           The Holy Scriptures you have known since youth
              Have brought you saving faith in Jesus Christ:
 Refrain:  Guard well that treasure
                    Given to you--
                       The Word of God's truth!

2.  Fan into flame the Spirit's gift from God
        Bestowed on you through laying on of hands.
           Be bold, not timid--God will make you strong,
              Self-disciplined, empow'red by holy love.   Refrain

3.  Be not ashamed, proclaim the living Lord,
        And join with those who suffer for His sake;
           For God's great mercy saved you by His grace:
              His love in Christ before the world began.   Refrain

4.  Christ Jesus has destroyed the reign of death,
        Brought life and immortality to light;
           Now trust that He in whom you have believed
              Will keep your faith secure until that Day.   Refrain

5.  Now in the presence of the Triune God--
        Our holy Father, who in boundless love
           Once sent His Son to die upon the cross
              And through the Spirit brings this solemn charge:   Refrain

Saturday, June 21, 2008

In Silent Pain the Eternal Son

Today's Bible reading from the LSB daily lectionary (John 19:1-22) gives us another opportunity to meditate upon the crucifixion of our Lord on Calvary.  The text, "In Silent Pain the Eternal Son" was written by Christopher M. Idle (b. 1938) and was included in the synodical hymn resource, Hymnal Supplement 98.  In both HS98 and in Lutheran Service Book, the text is wed to the tune REALITY by John L. Bell (b. 1949).  The images in stanza three are particularly striking.

1.  In silent pain the_eternal Son
        Hangs derelict and still;
     In darkened day His work is done,
        Fulfilled, His Father's will.
     Uplifted for the world to see
     He hangs in strangest victory,
     For in His body on the tree
        He carries all our ill.

2.  He died that we might die to sin
        And live for righteousness;
     The earth is stained to make us clean
        And bring us into peace.
     For peace He came and met its cost;
     He gave Himself to save the lost;
     He loved us to the uttermost
        And paid for our release.

3.  For strife He came, to bring a sword,
        The truth to end all lies;
     To rule in us, our patient Lord,
        Until all evil dies:
     For in His hand He holds the stars,
     His voice shall speak to end our wars,
     And those who love Him see His scars
        And look into His eyes. 

Friday, June 20, 2008

In the Hour of Trial

In the 18th chapter of John, we read of Jesus' trial before the high priest and before Pilate.  We also read about Peter's denial of the Lord.  The rooster is seen on the church steeples of some Episcopalian churches as a reminder for the parishioners of Peter's denial.  The hymn "In the Hour of Trial" was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854).  He faced a number of trials in his own life, even at a young age.  His parents were missionaries and they died when he was only twelve years old.  Soon afterward, he was asked to leave school for not turning in his assignments on time.  After working at a couple of bakeries, he left for London, where he thought he might be able to sell his poetry.  Instead, he got a job at the newspaper.   After the editor fled England to avoid persecution, Montgomery took that job when he was twenty-three years old.  After he commemorated the fall of the Bastille, he was fined, imprisoned, and labeled a "wicked, malicious and seditious person."  In time, James Montgomery was ultimately honored by the British government for his outspoken advocacy of humanitarian causes, especially the abolition of slavery.

1.  In the hour of trial,
       Jesus plead for me
    Lest by base denial
       I depart from Thee.
    When Thou see'st me waver,
       With a look recall
    Nor for fear or favor
       Suffer me to fall.

2.  With forbidden pleasures
        Should this vain world charm
    Or its tempting treasures
        Spread to work me harm,
    Bring to my remembrance
        Sad Gethsemane
    Or, in darker semblance,
       Cross-crowned Calvary.

3.  Should Thy mercy send me
        Sorrow, toil, and woe,
     Or should pain attend me
        On my path below.
     Grant that I may never
        Fail Thy hand to see;
     Grant that I may ever
        Cast my care on Thee.

4.  When my last hour cometh,
        Fraught with strife and pain,
     When my dust returneth
        To the dust again,
     On Thy truth relying,
        Through that mortal strife,
     Jesus, take me, dying,
        To eternal life.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oh, How Good and Truly Pleasant

A portion of today's daily lectionary reading is from the 17th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, where we read these verses:  "The glory that you have given me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."  (John 17:22-23)  In addition, Psalm 133 is a psalm that speaks of the blessedness of unity among the people of God.  "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!  It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!  It is like the dew of Herman, which falls on the mountains of Zion!  For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore."  This hymn text is based in part on these two lessons and was written by me for a hymn festival at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan on May 20, 2007.  The text concludes with a prayer to the Holy Spirit for such godly unity among believers.  It is set to the tune BEACH SPRING.

1.  Oh, how good and truly pleasant
        When we dwell in unity:
           Gentle sisters, caring brothers
       Loving others selflessly!
    This the oneness God desires
       For the people called His own,
          So that we, by our affection,
       Might His love to all make known.

2.  Like the oil of consecration
        Running down from Aaron's brow,
           On his beard and sacred collar,
        To his priestly role endow,
     So our love, to God devoted,
        Spreads His fragrance everywhere;
           Royal priests by God anointed,
       One in service, faith, and prayer.

3.  Were the heavy dew of Hermon
        On Mount Zion to descend,
           There the Lord commands His blessing:
        Life eternal without end;
     So would God, from Calv'ry's mountain,
        Rain down love on desert lives,
           Causing them to bud and flower
        Till His grace our world revives.

4.  Come, O precious Oil of Gladness,
        Help us love and live as one,
           As the Son is in the Father
        And the Father in the Son,
     You as love from both proceeding,
        Three in One and One in Three--
           One in love at the beginning,
        One in love eternally!

Our Father, Who from Heaven Above

"Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you." (John 16:23)  Luther's great catechetical hymn on the Lord's Prayer is rich for our personal reflection and devotion. 
Introduction to the Lord's Prayer
1.  Our Father, who from heav'n above
     Bids all of us to live in love
        As members of one family
        And pray to You in unity,
     Teach us no thoughtless words to say
     But from our inmost hearts to pray.
First Petition
2.  Your name be hallowed.  Help us, Lord,
     In purity to keep Your Word,
        That to the glory of Your name
        We walk before You free from blame.
     Let no false teaching us pervert;
     All poor deluded souls convert.
Second Petition
3.  Your kingdom come.  Guard Your domain
     And Your eternal righteous reign.
        The Holy Ghost enrich our day
        With gifts attendant on our way.
    Break Satan's pow'r, defeat his rage;
    Preserve Your Church from age to age.
Third Petition 
4.  Your gracious will on earth be done
     As it is done before Your throne,
        That patiently we may obey
        Throughout our lives all that You say.
     Curb flesh and blood and ev'ry ill
     That sets itself against Your will. 
Fourth Petition 
5.  Give us this day our daily bread
     And let us all be clothed and fed.
        Save us from hardship, war, and strife;
        In plague and famine, spare our life,
     That we in honest peace may life,
     To care and greed no entrance give.
Fifth Petition
6.  Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore,
     That they may trouble us no more;
        We too will gladly those forgive
        Who hurt us by the way they live.
     Help us in our community
     To serve each other willingly.
Sixth Petition
7.  Lead not into temptation, Lord,
     Where our grim foe and all his horde
        Would vex our souls on ev'ry hand.
        Help us resist, help us to stand
     Firm in the faith, a mighty host,
     Through comfort of the Holy Ghost.
Seventh Petition
8.  From evil, Lord, deliver us;
     The times and days are perilous.
        Redeem us from eternal death,
        And, when we yield our dying breath,
     Console us, grant us calm release,
     And take our souls to You in peace.
Conclusion to the Lord's Prayer
9.  Amen, that is, so shall it be.
     Make strong our faith in You that we
        May doubt not, but with trust believe
        That what we ask we shall receive.
     Thus in Your name and at Your Word
     We say, "Amen, O hear us, Lord!" 

Monday, June 16, 2008

O Holy Spirit, Grant Us Grace

"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you."  (John 16:13-14)  Part of today's daily lectionary reading from LSB, the inspired apostle records the words of our Lord first spoken to His disciples in the Upper Room on the night of His betrayal.  All the riches of salvation Christ earned for all people on the cross, the Spirit offers in the Gospel, taking from what is Christ's, declaring it, and guiding people into all truth.  Indeed the Spirit guides sinners to the One who is the very Truth, the Life, and the Way.

1.  O Holy Spirit grant us grace
        That we our Lord and Savior
    In faith and fervent love embrace
        And truly serve Him ever.
    The hour of death cannot bring loss
    When we are sheltered by the cross
       That canceled our transgressions.

2.  Help us that we Thy saving Word
        In faithful hearts may treasure;
     Let e'er that Bread of Life afford
       New grace in richest measure.
    O make us die to ev'ry sin,
    Each day create new life within,
       That fruits of faith may flourish.

3.  And when our earthly race is run,
        Death's bitter hour impending,
    Then may Thy work in us begun
       Continue till life's ending,
    Until we gladly may commend
    Our souls into our Savior's hand,
       The crown of life obtaining.

Text:  Bartholomaus Ringwaldt, 1532-99; trans. Oluf H. Smeby, 1851-1929, alt.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Our Father, by Whose Name

Yesterday we celebrated my father's 90th birthday and today we jointly celebrated Fathers' Day. "Our Father, by Whose Name" was written for The Hymnal 1940 by F. Bland Tucker. He served on the editorial committee for this hymnal and felt the need to expand the prayer section of this hymnal, which was the authorized hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The tune RHOSYMEDRE, a Welsh tune by Rev. John D. Edwards. The tune is named after the parish at which Pr. Edwards served. The tune was first published about 1840. Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote a wonderful organ preluded based on this tune.

1. Our Father, by whose name
All fatherhood is known,
Who dost in love proclaim
Each family Thine own,
Bless Thou all parents, guarding well,
With constant love as sentinel,
The homes in which Thy people dwell.

2. O Christ, Thyself a child
Within an earthly home,
With heart still undefiled,
Thou didst to manhood come;
Our children bless in ev'ry place
That they may all behold Thy face,
And knowing Thee may grow in grace.

3. O Spirit, who dost bind
Our hearts in unity,
Who teachest us to find
The love from self set free,
In all our hearts such love increase
That ev'ry home by this release
May be the dwelling place of peace.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Lord Prepares a Banquet on This Mountain

I have been quite busy of late here in my parish with a series of funerals, four in the last six weeks.  Two were expected; two came quite suddenly.  Not too long ago, I wrote the Easter text below based on the Old Testament lesson for Easter, Isaiah 25:6-9.  This hymn text was inspired by the tune RED HILL ROAD by Carl Schalk, which may be found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship #760.  The third stanza is my favorite and gets to the heart of the matter with the promise of the final resurrection anchored securely in Christ, the firstfruits of the resurrection harvest. 

1.  The Lord prepares a banquet on this mountain,
        A feast of richest food and finest wine,
     That all who thirst may drink from mercy's fountain,
        That all who hunger here may freely dine:
     For Jesus wore our pall of sin with gladness;
        The veil is torn--the sacrifice complete.
     Now Christ has risen swallowing death's sadness--
        This is our God, whose life is death's defeat!

2.  God's saints and sages yearned for this salvation,
        To share the triumph of His saving grace:
     When God would wipe all sin from ev'ry nation,
        When He would dry all tears from ev'ry face.
     What joy was theirs who heard these words astounding:
        "He is not here; He's risen from the dead!"
     Loud alleluias from His tomb resounding,
        Tell us our death we need no longer dread.

3.  Still at our graves in silence we assemble,
        We know that what is sown will one day rise;
     Yet overcome by loss and grief we tremble,
        Sin's awful wage once more before our eyes:
     Here is the question--let us never fear it--
        "Can these bones live...though sight and sense deny?"
     Christ is God's "Yes!" and will through His own Spirit,
        To lifeless clay, breathe life that cannot die.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

O God of God, O Light of Light

At the front of the hymnal, Lutheran Service Book
 offers a calendar of commemorations, men and women from the Old and New Testaments and from the first nineteen centuries of the Church. The commemoration given for June 12th is The Ecumenical Council of Niceaea, AD 325.  The Nicene Creed, written in large part to counteract the errors of Arianism, contains these familiar words, "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made..."  LSB took "O God of God, O Light of Light" and moved it from the Epiphany section of the hymnal, where it had been in Lutheran Worship, and placed it in the Praise and Adoration section of LSB, thereby offering this text for increased use beyond the Epiphany season, perhaps for...The Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, AD 325 on June 12th!  The hymn text was written by John Julian, first appearing in Congregational Hymns, 1884. 

1.  O God of God, O Light of light,
        O Prince of Peace and King of kings:
    To You in heaven's glory bright
        The song of praise forever rings.
    To Him who sits upon the throne,
        The Lamb once slain but raised again,
   Be all the glory He has won,
        All thanks and praise!  Amen, amen.

2.  For deep in prophets' sacred page,
        And grand in poets' winged word,
     Slowly in type, from age to age
        The nations saw their coming Lord;
     Till through the deep Judean night
        Rang out the song, "Goodwill to men!"
     Sung by the firstborn sons of light,
        It echoes now, "Goodwill!"  Amen.

3.  That life of truth, those deeds of love,
        That death so steeped in hate and scorn--
     These all are past, and now above
        He reigns, our king once crowned with thorn.
     Lift up your heads, O mighty gates!
        So sang that host beyond our ken.
     Lift up your heads, your King awaits.
        We lift them up.  Amen, amen.

4.  Then raise to Christ a mighty song,
        And shout His name, His mercies tell!
     Sing, heav'nly host, your praise prolong,
        And all on earth, your anthem swell!
     All hail, O Lamb for sinners slain!
        Forever, let the song ascend!
     Worthy the Lamb, enthroned to reign,
        All glory, pow'r!  Amen, amen.

Two words are worth noting in this text.  A "type" is a person or a thing in the Old Testament era that in some way foreshadowed the coming Christ.
The word "ken" means "knowledge," so something that is beyond our "ken" means something beyond our realm of experience or knowledge.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lift High the Cross

This text was written by an Anglican clergyman named George W. Kitchin for a festival of the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel held in his cathedral at Winchester, June of 1887. Most likely the seminal thought arose from Emperor Constantine's 312 A.D. vision of the Cross of Christ in the sky with the words "In hoc signo vinces" (In this sign you shall conquer). Constantine's vision was reported by the ancient historian Eusebius (c. 260-339).

This hymn is recommended in Lutheran Service Book as the Hymn of the Day for St. Barnabas, celebrated today on June 11th. Intended for use as a processional, the following versicle may be said at the entrance into the chancel:
V: God forbid that I should glory,
R: save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adore His sacred name.

1. Come, Christians, follow where our Captain trod,
Our king victorious, Christ, the Son of God. Refrain

2. Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
The hosts of God in conqu'ring ranks combine. Refrain

3. All newborn soldiers of the Crucified
Bear on their brows the seal of Him of died. Refrain

4. O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
As Thou hast promised, draw us all to Thee. Refrain

5. Let every race and every language tell
Of Him who saves our lives from death and hell. Refrain

6. So shall our song of triumph ever be:
Praise to the Crucified for victory! Refrain

Additional stanzas

This is the sign which Satan's legions fear
And angels veil their faces to revere.

Saved by this cross whereon their Lord was slain,
The sons of Adam their lost home regain.

From north and south, from east and west they raise
In growing unison their songs of praise.

From farthest regions let them homage bring,
And on His cross adore their Savior King.

Set up Your throne, that earth's despair may cease
Beneath the shadow of its healing peace.

For Your blest cross which does for all atone
Creation's praises rise before Your throne.

All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night

Thomas Ken (1637-1711) was an Anglican bishop.  In 1673 he wrote a Manual of Prayers for students at Winchester College.  The book contained a hymn for the morning, one for the evening, and one for midnight.  Students were encouraged to sing morning and evening hymns devoutly.  All three of the hymns concluded with the identical doxological stanza.  

1.  All praise to Thee, my God, this night
    For all the blessings of the light.
        Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
        Beneath Thine own almighty wings.

2.  Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son,
     The ill that I this day have done,
        That with the world, myself, and Thee,
        I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.

3.  Teach me to live that I may dread
     The grave as little as my bed.
        Teach me to die that so I may
        Rise glorious at the awesome day.

4.  O may my soul in Thee repose,
     And my sweet sleep mine eyelids close,
        Sleep that shall me more vig'rous make
        To serve my God when I awake.

5.  When in the night I sleepless lie,
     My soul with heav'nly thoughts supply;
        Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
        No pow'rs of darkness me molest.

6.  Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
     Praise Him, all creatures here below;
        Praise Him above, ye heav'nly host:
        Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Monday, June 9, 2008

When Morning Gilds the Skies

"From the rising of the sun to its setting the LORD's name is to be praised." (Ps. 113:3)  The anonymous Catholic hymn, "Beim fruehen Morgenlicht," which first appeared in the Katholisches Gesangbuch of 1744, was translated into English by Edward Caswall, a Roman Catholic priest.  In translating "When Morning Gilds the Skies," he freely rendered the verses and added some of his own.  The original English had twenty-eight (fourteen double) stanzas.  Here are a few new ones for you to sing:

When you begin the day, 
O never fail to say,  
     May Jesus Christ be praised!
And at your work rejoice, 
to sing with heart and voice,  
     May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this at meals your grace, 
in every time and place;  
     May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this, when day is past, 
of all your thoughts the last   
     May Jesus Christ be praised!

When sleep her balm denies, 
my silent spirit sighs,  
     May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evil thoughts molest, 
with this I shield my breast,  
     May Jesus Christ be praised!

The night becomes as day, 
when from the heart we say,  
     May Jesus Christ be praised!
The pow'rs of darkness fear 
when this sweet chant they hear;  
     May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this, while life is mine, 
my canticle divine;  
     May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this th'eternal song 
thro' all the ages long;  
     May Jesus Christ be praised!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Wilt Thou Forgive That Sin

This hymn by John Donne (1573-1631) from The Hymnal 1982 speaks to the doubt that plagues the Christian struggling with sin.  In H82 it is set to two tunes--the first tune is DONNE by John Hilton (1599-16570); the second tune is SO GIEBST DU NUN, a melody from Geist und Lehr-reiches Kirchen und Haus Buch, 1694.

1.  Wilt thou forgive that sin, where I begun,
        which is my sin, though it were done before?
     Wilt thou forgive those sins through which I run,
        and do run still, though still I do deplore?
     When thou hast done, thou hast not done, 
        for I have more.

2.  Wilt thou forgive that sin, by which I won
         others to sin, and made my sin their door?
     Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
        a year or two, but wallowed in a score?
     When thou hast done, thou hast not done, 
        for I have more.

3.  I have a sin of fear that when I've spun
        my last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
     swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
        shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore.
     And having done that, thou hast done,
       I fear no more.

We Sing th' Amazing Deeds

This hymn by Isaac Watts he himself subtitled: Incomparable food; or, The flesh and blood of Christ.  

1.  [We sing th' amazing deeds
        That grace divine performs;
    Th' eternal God comes down and bleeds
        To nourish dying worms.

2.  This soul-reviving wine,
         Dear Saviour, is thy blood;
     We thank that sacred flesh of thine
         For this immortal food.]

3.  The banquet that we eat
         Is made of heav'nly things;
     Earth has no dainties half so sweet
         As our Redeemer brings.

4.  In vain had Adam sought
         And searched his garden round;
     For there was no such blessed fruit
         In all that happy ground.

5.  Th' angelic host above
         Can never taste this food;
     They feast upon their Maker's love,
         But not a Saviour's blood.

6.  On us th' almighty Lord
         Bestows this matchless grace,
     And meets us with some cheering word,
         With pleasure in his face.

7.  Come, all ye drooping saints,
         And banquet with the King;
     This wine will drown your sad complaints,
         And tune your voice to sing--

8.  Salvation to the name
         Of our adored Christ!
     Through the wide earth his grace proclaim,
         His glory in the high'st.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Strengthen For Service, Lord, the Hands

I came across this text today as I was thumbing through 100 Hymns for Today (1969), a supplement to Hymns Ancient and Modern.  This text is ascribed to Ephraim the Syrian (c. 306-73), translated by C.W. Humphreys (1841-1931) and Percy Dearmer (1867-1936).  It is a hymn of sending.

1.  Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands
       that holy things have taken;
     Let ears that now have heard thy songs
       to clamor never waken.

2.  Lord, may the tongues which 'Holy' sang
        keep free from all deceiving;
     The eyes which saw thy love be bright,
        thy bles-sed hope perceiving.

3.  The feet that tread thy holy courts
         from light do thou not banish;
      The bodies by thy Body fed
         with thy new life replenish.

Our Hope and Consolation

This text was recently written by me for Hope Lutheran Church in DeWitt, Michigan for the 40th anniversary of their congregation and is based on their anniversary theme verse, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain."  (Hebrews 6:19)  

It is set to the tune, VON GOTT WILL ICH NICHT LASSEN.

1.  Our hope and consolation
        To Christ alone we trace;
     He pleads for our salvation
        In that Most Holy Place:
     Before the Father's throne,
        Christ brings a crimson treasure,
        Surpassing human measure,
     Which did our world atone.

2.  Behind that lofty curtain,
        Beyond our earthly sight,
     In Christ, our hope is certain,
        There fixed by God's own might:
     An anchor for the soul,
        Held tightly and securely,
        Where Christ for us still surely
     Fulfills His priestly role.

3.  For Christ is not like Aaron,
        Nor of that priestly clan;
     From Judah's line, long-barren,
        Came forth the Son of Man:
     The King of Righteousness!
        This holy king once offered
        His sinless life and suffered
     Our death upon the cross.

4.  In hope our Savior rested,
        Within a rich man's grave,
     Until our foes He bested,
        Arising, strong to save;
     Grim death He overthrew!
        A pathway pioneering,
        The way to heaven clearing--
     Our hope is firm and true!

5.  Then let us hold unswerving
        This hope that we profess,
     Though wholly undeserving
        Of grace that we confess.
     We follow where Christ trod;
        His Word will guide and lead us,
        His Supper fully feed us,
     All glory be to God!

6.  O Father, You have made us,
        Your Name is our delight;
     O Christ, You have arrayed us
        In flawless robes of white;
     You, Spirit, we adore--
        Who with the Father reigning,
        And God the Son, remaining
     One God, forevermore.