Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth

This Christmas hymn from Lutheran Service Book is a translation of Luther's text (st. 2-7) (Stanza 1 is German c. 1380.)  Multiple translators worked in this text for Lutheran Service Book (LSB 382) including Gregory Wismar, st. 1, 6;  F. Samuel Janzow, st. 2, 4;  Lutheran Service Book st, 3, 5, 7.  The tune is GELOBET SEIST DU from Eyn Enchiridion oder Handbeuchlein, Erfurt, 1524.

1.  We praise You, Jesus, at Your birth;
     Clothed in flesh You came to earth.
          The virgin bears a sinless boy
          And all the angels sing for joy.

2.  Now in the manger we may see
     God's Son from eternity,
          The gift from God's eternal throne
          Here clothed in our poor flesh and bone.

3.  The virgin Mary's lullaby
     Calms the infant Lord Most High.
          Upon her lap content is He
          Who keeps the earth and sky and sea.

4.  The Light Eternal, breaking through,
     Made the world to gleam anew;
          His beams have pierced the core of night,
          He makes us children of the light.

5.  The very Son of God sublime
     Entered into earthly time
          To lead us from this world of cares
          To heav'ns courts as blessed heirs.

6.  In poverty He came to earth
     Showing mercy by His birth;
          He makes us rich in heav'nly ways
          As we, like angels, sing His praise.

7.  All this for us our God has done
     Granting love through His own Son.
          Therefore, all Christendom, rejoice
          And sing His praise with endless voice.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Holly and the Ivy

This is one of my favorite English traditional Christmas carols.  I like how the writer ties in images of the Passion in this text.  Thus, the reason for Christ's coming is still in the background at the celebration of His birth...still preaching Christ crucified "to do poor sinners good."

1.  The holly and the ivy,
     When they are both full grown,
     Of all the trees that are in the wood,
     The holly bears the crown.
        O, the rising of the sun,
        And the running of the deer,
        The playing of the merry organ,
        Sweet singing in the choir.

2.  The holly bears a blossom
     As white as the lily flower;
     And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
     To be our sweet Savior.
        O, the rising of the sun,
        And the running of the deer,
        The playing of the merry organ,
        Sweet singing in the choir.

3.  The holly bears a berry
     As red as any blood;
     And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
     To do poor sinners good.
        O, the rising of the sun,
        And the running of the deer,
        The playing of the merry organ,
       Sweet singing in the choir.

4.  The holly bears a prickle
     As sharp as any thorn;
     And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
     On Christmas Day in the morn.
        O, the rising of the sun,
        And the running of the deer,
        The playing of the merry organ,
        Sweet singing in the choir.

5.  The holly bears a bark
     As bitter as any gall;
     And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
     For to redeem us all.
        O, the rising of the sun,
        And the running of the deer,
        The playing of the merry organ,
        Sweet singing in the choir.        

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How, Before All Time Began

This Advent/Christmas/Epiphany text was written in 2005 and inspired by the tune ANGELUS AD VIRGINEM to which it is set.

1.  How, before all time began,
     Before the world's creation,
     Could the Lord conceive His plan
     Of mercy and salvation?
     Yet, from that high and timeless place,
     God chose to save our death-bound race:
     Emmanuel--as prophets tell the story
     In Scripture as we know,
     Would veil in flesh His glory
     And dwell with us below!

2.  To the darkness of our light
     And to our need descending,
     Came the Word as Light of Light
     Beyond our comprehending--
     Radiant within the virgin's womb;
     Dawning as day upon our gloom.
     Hail, Jacob's Star!  For all You are now shining
     Your beam of grace on earth,
     Your royal might confining
     Within such humble birth.

3.  As the presence of a king
     Brings honor to a city,
     Bethlehem, be glad and sing
     Your Sov'reign's tender pity;
     Join all the angels who rejoice;
     Let ev'ry creature raise its voice--
     Sing "Glory be to God!" For He is solely
     The God who comes to save
     And to our world unholy,
     The Prince of Peace He gave.

4.  Tarshish lords from distant shore,
     Come pay your tribute to Him;
     Kings of Sheba, kneel before
     The One with worship due Him.
     Rise up, O nations!  See!  Your Lord!
     Long may He live and be adored!
     Oh, may His fame and holy name, transcending
     Each name upon this sphere,
     Be sung with praise unending
     For love so pure and near!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fight, Work, Pray!

I completed this text requested by a deaconess at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne for a hymn based on Luther's meditation and writing on the relationship between the Lord's Supper and works of mercy and care for our fellow human beings. ("Fight, Work, Pray!" is a pamphlet published by LCMS World Relief and Human Care with a preface by the Executive Director, Rev. Matthew C. Harrison.  The pamphlet reprints from Luther's Works, Vol. 35: "The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods" [1519] ).  The hymn text seeks to highlight aspects and benefits of the Sacrament empowering us to serve as Christ to the world today.  The meter, 3 4 9  3 4 6, matches the deeply moving tune by Amanda Husberg, CHILDREN OF PEACE.

1.  Fight, work, pray!
     Precious indeed
     Are all the masses huddled in need.
     Christ sends us
     Out with His love,
     For the life of the world.

2.  "Flesh and blood
     Given and shed
     Once on the cross so you may be fed;
     I in you,
     You now in Me
     For the life of the world."

3.  Mystery!
     How can it be?
     Saint bound to saint in true unity!
     One in Christ,
     One as His Church
     For the life of the world.

4.  Strengthen us,
     Lord, as we live:
     Pardoning others as You forgive.
     Bless our faith
     Active in love
     For the life of the world.

5.  I, Your guest,
     Frail though I be,
     Yet here Your life I taste and I see,
     As You give
     Heavenly gifts
     For the life of the world.

6.  All my debt
     You, Lord, have paid
     When on the cross atonement You made.
     Faith receives
     All You have done
     For the life of the world.

7.  What can I
     Render to You?
     True thanks and praise in all that I do;
     Fear, love, trust,
     Serve and obey,
     For the life of the world.

8.  Mercy known,
     Mercy received,
     Mercy now lived by all who believe.
     We are Christ's
     Body and voice
     For the life of the world!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thine the Amen

I had the distinct privilege and honor of meeting Herbert Brokering in the fall of 2008 at Camp Arcadia on Lake Michigan for a worship forum led by Herb and Carl Schalk and Robert Rimbo.  Herb was energetic, witty and a true delight.  He approached hymn writing in a totally different way than I had ever thought of the craft and we had an opportunity to visit a few times at the forum in that lovely setting at Camp Arcadia.  He shared some of the tunes written by his late wife, Lois, one of which in particular, a tune written for Herb's text, EVERYTHING IS ONE, made a deep impression on me.  Probably my favorite text by Dr. Brokering is "Thine the Amen."  We sang it as our closing hymn this past All Saints' Day.  It is a "stream of consciousness" text with little punctuation.  Herb now sees his Savior face to face in the "wonder full surprise" of the eternal wedding banquet of the Lamb.  Thank you, Lord, for Herb!

Thine the amen
    Thine the praise
            angels raise
Thine the
    everlasting head
        Thine the breaking
            of the bread
Thine the glory
    Thine the story
        Thine the harvest
            then the cup
Thine the vineyard
    then the cup is
        lifted up
            lifted up.

Thine the life
        Thine the promise
            let there be
Thine the vision
    Thine the tree
        all the earth
            on bended knee
Gone the nailing
    gone the railing
        gone the pleading
            gone the cry
Gone the sighing
    gone the dying
        what was loss
            lifted high.

Thine the truly
    Thine the yes
        Thine the table
            we the guest
Thine the mercy
    all from Thee
        Thine the glory
            yet to be
Then the ringing
    and the singing
        then the end
            of all the war
Thine the living
    Thine the loving

Thine the kingdom
    Thine the prize
        Thine the wonder
            full surprise
Thine the banquet
    then the praise
        then the justice
            of Thy ways
Thine the glory
    Thine the story
        Then the welcome
            to the least
Then the wonder
    all increasing
        at Thy feast
            at Thy feast.

Thine the glory
    in the night
        no more dying
            only light
Thine the river
    Thine the tree
        Then the Lamb
Then the holy
    holy holy
Thine the splendor
    Thine the brightness
        only Thee
            only Thee.

Monday, November 9, 2009

O God of Light

This is a great text by Sarah Taylor, (1883-1954).  It was first introduced in Hymnal Supplement 98 and has appeared again in Lutheran Service Book.  It is set to the tune ATKINSON...a fine and strong tune but a challenging melodic line in the third musical phrase, which covers the whole lower and upper range and gets there by a series of jumps.   It keeps things interesting, that's for sure!

O God of light, Your Word, a lamp unfailing,
    Shall pierce the darkness of our earthbound way
And show Your grace, Your plan for us unveiling,
    And guide our footsteps to the perfect day.

From days of old, through blind and willful ages,
    Though we rebelled, You gently sought again
And spoke through saints, apostles, prophets, sages,
    Who wrote with eager or reluctant pen.

Undimmed by time, those words are still revealing
    To sinful hearts Your justice and Your grace;
And questing spirits, longing for Your healing,
    See Your compassion in the Savior’s face.

To all the world Your summons You are sending,
    Through all the earth, to ev’ry land and race,
That myriad tongues, in one great anthem blending,
    May praise and celebrate Your gift of grace.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blest Be the Father of Our Lord

This Sunday, All Saints' Day, our first grandchild is being baptized at St. John-Amelith!  (She will be wearing the baptismal gown first made for my brother, which I wore when I was baptized in 1955, which all our children have worn for their baptisms, which my cousins and nieces and nephew have worn, and which now will be worn by our little Alina...the twelfth child to be baptized in this christening gown.)  This hymn text is written for this happy occasion to the glory of God at Alina's baptism into Christ Jesus.  I chose the wonderful tune KIRKWOOD by Joseph Herl.

1.  Blest be the Father of our Lord
     For His intended mercy toward
     Our lost and fallen race:
     In Christ, before the world began,
     He chose us in a wondrous plan
     Of His most glorious grace!

2.  Now at this font by faith we see
     Time intersect eternity,
     As here God's will is shown:
     One born without His saving Name
     He comes to cleanse; He comes to claim,
     Adopting as His own.

3.  We bring, dear Lord, our infant small;
     She shares the sin of Adam's Fall,
     A stranger to Your love.
     Come with Your life, invigorate;
     Her second birth initiate--
     An heir of bliss above.

4.  O Christ, by You our child is prized,
     Our little one by You baptized,
     Redeemed and reconciled;
     A spotless robe You freely give:
     Your precious blood that she might live
     Forever as Your child.

5.  Let us no little ones despise;
     In heav'n their angels fix their eyes
     Upon the Father's face.
     Good Shepherd, guard and keep we pray
     This lamb, that she might never stray
     From Your rich fold of grace.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

O God the Father, Your True Being

This text is my English translation of the baptism text written in 1941 by Jochen Klepper, "Gott Vater, du hast deinen Namen" :

Gott Vater, du hast deinen Namen                O God the Father, Your true being
in deinem lieben Sohn verklaert                    You have in Your dear Son declared;
und us, so-oft wir zu dir kamen,                   We come, with eyes of faith here seeing
die Vatergnade neu gewaehrt.                     Your tender favor newly shared.

So rufe dieses Kind mit Namen,                    You give Your Spirit in this water;
das nun nach deinem Sohne heisst.               Your Word invites in Jesus' name:
Wir glauben, du Dreiein'ger!  Amen!            "Beloved son, beloved daughter,
Zum Wasser gabst du Wort und Geist            You may as heir My heaven claim!"

Erhalte uns bei deinem Namen!                     In Your strong Name, Lord, keep us growing
Dein Sohn hat es fur uns erfleht.                    In all Your Son for us has prayed;
Geist, Wort und Wasser mach zum Samen      Come, make this bath the seed bestowing
der Frucht des Heils, die nie vergeht!            Salvation's fruit that will not fade.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Holy Word of God Endures Forever

This text was commissioned by CPH for the release of The Lutheran Study Bible, a hymn on the Word of God for Reformation, 2009. Stanza 1, the power of God's Word to bring sight for those blind in sin.; stanza 2, the Gospel call goes out to all enemies of God, made such by their sin; stanza 3, the work of the Holy Spirit who makes spiritually dead people alive by the power of God's Word; stanza 4, God's Word as Law and Gospel, to cut (Law) and to heal (Gospel) with the result that our lives become Christ's letter to a fallen world. Jeffrey Blersch wrote a tune for this 11 10 11 10 D text and he named it CONCORDIA CINCINNATI.

1. The holy Word of God endures forever
With living truths the Spirit has revealed.
These are not myths conceived by authors clever;
They never fade like flowers of the field.
No Scripture came by human inspiration;
God breathed His life in each and ev'ry part,
So Christ, the Morning Star of our salvation,
Might dawn with sight for ev'ry blinded heart.

2. Christ Jesus is the content of this writing,
The banner of God's love for all unfurled,
For through the Word the Father is inviting:
"O wayward one, forsake your rebel world;
No greater gift I have than what I gave you--
My only Son for sin--that you might know
The distance that My grace stretched out to save you
And make your scarlet sins as white as snow."

3. O Spirit--calling, gathering, uniting--
Come, breathe Your life in all whose hope is lost
And in such lives with power come, igniting
The flames of faith first lit on Pentecost;
To those long dead, the victims of sin's vi'lence,
To all forgotten casualties of strife,
Now speak to driest bones and break the silence--
Where there is death, now raise enfleshed new life!

4. The holy Word of God endures forever!
It comes to hearts where sin remains concealed,
And like a two-edged sword, to pierce and sever,
It cuts the heart so that it might be healed.
With Gospel salve renew us, faith's Begetter;
Write living words, yet not with ink on stone,
But write upon our hearts, that as Christ's letter
We tell of how God saves by grace alone.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

By All Your Saints in Warfare

This hymn text is by Horatio Bolton Nelson, 1823-1913.

1. By all Your saints in warfare,
For all Your saints at rest,
Your holy name, O Jesus,
Forevermore be blest!
For You have won the battle
That they might wear the crown;
And now they shine in glory
Reflected from Your throne.

St. Mary Magdalene (July 22)
20. All praise for Mary Magdalene,
Whose wholeness was restored
By You, her faithful master,
Her Savior and her Lord.
On Easter morning early
A word from You sufficed;
For she was first to see You,
Her Lord, the risen Christ.

3. Then let us praise the Father
And worship God the Son
And sing to God the Spirit,
Eternal Three in One,
Till all the ransomed number
Fall down before the throne,
Ascribing pow’r and glory
And praise to God alone.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thanks to Thee, O Christ, Victorious

Text: Thomas Hansen Kingo, 1634-1703, translated by George A. T. Rygh, 1860-1942.  Tune:  WERDE MUNTER by Johann Schop, c. 1590-1667.

1.  Thanks to Thee, O Christ, victorious!
     Thanks to Thee, O Lord of Life!
     Death hath now no power o'er  us,
     Thou has conquered in the strife.
     Thanks because Thou didst arise
     And hast opened paradise!
     None can fully sing the glory
     Of the resurrection story.

2.  Thou hast died for my transgression,
     All my sins on Thee were laid;
     Thou hast won for me salvation,
     On the cross my debt was paid.
     From the grave I shall arise
     And shall meet Thee in the skies.
     Death itself is transitory;
     I shall lift my head in glory.

3.  For the joy Thine advent gave me,
     For Thy holy, precious Word;
     For Thy Baptism, which doth save me,
     For Thy blest Communion board;
     For Thy death, the bitter scorn,
     For Thy resurrection morn,
     Lord, I thank Thee and extol Thee,
     And in heav'n I shall behold Thee.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

All Mankind Fell in Adam's Fall

Lazarus Spengler originally wrote "Durch Adams Fall ganz verderbt Menschlich Natur und Wesen" as a nine stanza text of eight lines.  Matthias Loy freely translated Spengler's text into Long Meter.  Spengler's hymn first appeared in Walter's Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn (Wittenberg, 1524), Johann Walter's choir book.  This text was held in high regard at the time of the Reformation, but during the eras of Pietism and the Enlightenment, it fell into disuse.  Matthias Loy's free translation appeared in The Lutheran Hymnal (1880) of the Ohio Synod and in The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), Lutheran Worship (1982) and now in Lutheran Service Book (2006).

1.  All mankind fell in Adam's fall;
     One common sin infects us all.
          From one to all the curse descends,
          And over all God's wrath impends.

2.  Through all our pow'rs corruption creeps
     And us in dreadful bondage keeps;
          In guilt we draw our infant breath
          And reap its fruits of woe and death.

3.  From hearts depraved, to evil prone,
     Flow thoughts and deeds of sin alone;
          God's image lost, the darkened soul
          Seeks not nor finds its heav'nly goal.

4.  But Christ, the second Adam, came
     To bear our sin and woe and shame,
          To be our life, our light, our way,
          Our only hope, our only stay.'

5.  As by one man all mankind fell
     And, born in sin, was doomed to hell,
         So by one Man, who took our place,
        We all are justified by grace.

6.  We thank You, Christ; new life is ours,
     New light, new hope, new strength, new pow'rs.
          This grace our ev'ry way attend
          Until we reach our journey's end.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Have You Known or Have You Heard

This text was written for the baptism of Edmund Carl Reske, infant son of Peter and Kim Reske.  Edmund was baptized today--April 19th, the Second Sunday of Easter--in St. Louis.  The opening thought of the hymn text is from Isaiah 40:28, which reminds us that the ways of our almighty God, the Creator, are unsearchable.  This seemed like a good starting point when considering God at work in infant baptism, which for many Christians is difficult to grasp.  How can Baptism save? (Baptism saves because it connects us to the death and resurrection of our ever-living Savior! )  Baptism seems so simple...too simple.  So this hymn seeks to answer that unspoken question in the hearts of many people (about God the Recreator), people who may not have  strong faith in the promises connected to Holy Baptism.  Have they known it and forgotten?  Have they heard it but rejected it?  Have they ever known or heard about the efficacy of Holy Baptism as a gracious act of God and an ongoing reality of His presence and power in our lives?  In light of this, the text seeks to instruct about some of the meanings of Baptism.  The first four stanzas go from the more simple to the more difficult biblical teachings on baptism: 1. definition/cleansing/claiming; 2. curing/cleansing/robing;  3. gift of faith/calling/keeping; 4. dying/rising/second birth.  The final stanza is a prayer to God the Holy Spirit to come and breathe His life-giving breath/bring spiritual life/anoint the child with His gracious presence to make him complete.  The text is set the tune THE CALL, which was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).  Williams was one of the most prominent English composers of the 20th century.   In writing this text, I strove to keep an open and easily singable vowel on the long melisma in the fourth musical phrase of this tune.  

God's richest blessings to Edmund Carl Reske now and always!  

1.  Have you known or have you heard?
     Here is water with the Word:
          Cleansing us from Adam's vice,
          Claiming us for Paradise!

2.  Have you known or have you heard?
     Here sin's leprous scars are cured:
          Washed by God, who makes us clean;
          Robed in Christ, we are pristine!

3.  Have you known or have you heard?
     Faith in Christ is here conferred:
          Called by God the Paraclete,
          His good work His shall complete!

4.  Have you known or have you heard?
     We with Christ are sepulchered,
          Raised to life from that pure tomb,
          Born again from fontal womb!

5.  Spirit, by Your living breath,
     Breathe Your life where there is death:
          Quicken now this precious soul,
          By Your chrism make him whole.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

When Time Was Full, God Sent His Son

This text was written in the Easter season of 1999 and focuses upon Christ as the second and greater Jonah.   Jesus compared Himself to Jonah when He spoke about His forthcoming resurrection triumph.  In 2005, Walter Pelz wrote a tune for this text called VALIANT ONE.

1.  When time was full, God sent His Son
          To save those under Law;
     His destined path, Christ did not shun,
          But faced death's hungry maw.
     As Life was swallowed up and died,
          Creation shook and groaned:
     Its Lord and Maker crucified,
          Deposed, entombed, disowned.

2.  This holy Jonah undecayed
          Lay still with the whale;
     This Lord of Life on death then preyed,
          Hell's titan to impale:
     From gaping jaws came forth this King,
          With death the casualty!
     Colossal foe, where now your sting?
          Where grave, your victory?

3.  God's valiant One, once sacrificed,
          Is high-exalted now,
     That at the name of Jesus Christ
          Each knee should surely bow;
     Each tongue confess and praise the Lamb,
          Our resurrected Lord,
     The First and Last, the great I AM--
          Acclaimed, enthroned, adored!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Darkness Shrouds the Awful Mountain

1.  Darkness shrouds the awful mountain;
          Christ our Lord yields up His final breath:
               "Father, now receive My spirit,"
          As He bows His head in death.

2.  Silent is the deposition
          Of His sacred body from the cross;
               Quickly to the tomb they bear Him
          Hushed by grief at their great loss.
3.  Be fulfilled the sign of Jonah--
          Bringing life from death on the third day.
               God has not His Son abandoned
          Nor will Jesus see decay!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Purple Robe

This past Sunday in church, one of the preschoolers here at St. John, a bubbly little boy who also thinks deeply about spiritual things, greeted me at the door after worship not with his usual zest, but instead with a serious look on his face and a series of questions.  His first question was this:  "When they put the crown of thorns on Jesus' head, didn't that hurt Jesus?"  I said to him that it did hurt Jesus a great deal.  His next question was this:  "Why would the soldiers want do that and hurt Jesus?"  I said that not everyone liked Jesus and some people were trying to hurt Jesus on purpose.  His final question was the clincher and one about which I have been thinking all week:  "When the soldiers put the crown of thorns on Jesus' head, didn't that hurt their fingers too?"   I assured him that it probably did hurt the men who did this as well.  His final question was a reminder that while our sin was the cause of Jesus' suffering, our sin also hurts us as well. Jesus spoke about the faith of a child and it was very touching for me to see this Passion detail of Christ's suffering through the little eyes of this child.

The text is by British hymn writer Timothy Dudley-Smith.  The tune A PURPLE ROBE is by Noel Treddinick.   Text and tune are found in Worship Songs, Ancient and Modern, published in 1992 by The Canterbury Press Norwich and in the United States by Hope Publishing Company. The tune follows an A B C A B pattern with stanzas 1 and 4 sharing the same melody, stanzas 2 and 5 sharing the same melody. Stanza 3 has a unique melody and stands alone as a bridge.

1.  A purple robe, a crown of thorn,
         a reed in his right hand;
    before the soldiers' spite and scorn
         I see my Savior stand.

2.  He bears between the Roman guard
          the weight of all our woe;
     a stumbling figure bowed and scarred
          I see my Savior go.

3.  Fast to the cross's spreading span,
          high in the sunlight air,
     all the unnumbered sins of man
          I see my Savior bear.

4.  He hangs, by whom the world was made,
          beneath the darkened sky;
     the everlasting ransom paid,
          I see my Savior die.

5.  He shares on high his Father's throne,
         who once in mercy came;
     for all his love to sinners shown
         I sing my Savior's name.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jesus, Greatest at the Table

1.  Jesus, greatest at the table,
          The almighty Son of Man,
               Laid aside His outer clothing,
          Poured some water in a pan;
                    As the Twelve lay, hushed in silence,
          He the servant's task began.

2.  Marvel how their Lord and Teacher
          Gently taught them not to vie
               As He humbly knelt before them,
          Dusty feet to wash and dry,      
                    By His tender touch expressing
          True compassion from on high.

3.  Jesus took the role of Servant
          When upon that gruesome span,
               For all human sin He suffered
          As a vile and loathsome man;
                    On the cross poured out like water
          To fulfill the Father's plan.

4.  Can we fathom such deep mercy?
          Do we see what God has done?
               Who can grasp this great reversal:
          Love that gives His only Son?
                     Christ, the sinless for the sinner,
          For the many dies the One.

5.  Jesus gave to His disciples
          A commandment that was new:
               "Show My love to one another,
          Do as I have done for you;
                    All the world will know You love Me
          As you love each other too."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What Grace is This!

This text from Christian Worship Supplement (CWS 715) is by Laurie F. Gauger, b. 1965.  A series of stanzas reflect different aspects of Christ's Passion and what it means for each individual Christian believer.  Yes, "God so loved the world...," but God also so loved...me!  What grace to love someone like me!  The tune WHAT GRACE, to which the text is wed in CWS, is by G. A. Hennig, b. 1966.

1.  What grace is this!
          My Lord and King
          Has set His face to suffering.
         My God eternal dies to bring
               Eternal life to me.

2.  What grace is this--
         That very God
          Would stoop to lift a cross of wood
          And walk a road of rock and blood,
               A sinner's road, for me.

3.  What grace is this!
          Though Lord of all,
          He yields to Pontius Pilate's law
          And lets the Roman hammers draw
               A rush of blood for me.

4.  What grace is this!
          Rude agonies!
          With common thieves He hangs and bleeds.
          The sinless Son bears each misdeed.
               He pays for all, for me.

5.  What grace is this! 
          Once wrapped in cloths
          And gently laid in manger trough,
          He's taken dead, from wretched cross
              And wrapped again for me.

6.  What grace is this?
          How can it be?
          He wears this raw humility
          To lift me to eternity.
               Such grace--sweet grace--for me.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our Lord a Prayerful Vigil Kept

This text was written in 1991 for our Lenten worship at Grace Lutheran Church in Middletown, Connectictut, where I served as pastor from 1985-2000.  It is set to the tune CONSOLATION.

1.  Our Lord a prayerful vigil kept
         Within an olive grove;
     Three chosen friends in weakness slept
          While fervently He strove.

2.  His solitary figure lies
          With face upon the ground,
     And to His holy Father cries
          In sorrow so profound:

3.  "My Father, if there yet may be
          A way this cup be shunned,
      Then let this suff'ring pass from Me--
          Your will, not Mine, be done."

4.  The anguish of His soul unknown,
          His sweat, like drops of blood;
     Sin's burden bearing all alone,
          An overwhelming flood!

5.  A torch-lit mob His vigil ends
          With sign that none could miss:
     A friend still loyalty pretends,
          Betraying with a kiss.

6.  The Son of Man is led away
          By those with club and sword;
     The pow'rs of darkness have their prey!
          Will no one help afford?

7.  The timeless plan has now begun
          Unfolding as it should--
     The Father offers up His Son
          To suffer for our good.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

In Faithful Silence Take Your Stand

This text by Lutheran Church-Canada pastor, Kurt E. Reinhardt, speaks of the power of God at work in Holy Baptism to defeat our enemies and enable us to walk through life's terrible circumstances on dry ground.   "In Faithful Silence Take Your Stand" is found in a book of Pastor Reinhardt's texts entitled "My Light and My Salvation," (ISBN:  978-1-934328-02-6) published in 2008 by Redeemer Press.  (Go to www.redeemer-fortwayne.org for additional information and to order.) For permission to use this text in worship, please contact Pastor Kurt Reinhardt at prkreinhardt@gmail.com

1.  In faithful silence take your stand,
     Be still and watch My saving hand,
          As surging waters heed My cry
         That you might pass and never die.

2.  The Prince of Hell is at your back,
     With hatred straining to attack,
          My mighty arm keeps him at bay;
          He shall not conquer you today.

3.  Pass through the water, do not fear;
     I will not fail you, I am near.
          Though sin and death will follow in,
          The distant bank they shall not win.

4.  A thund'rous wave will charge them down
     And they will flounder, they will drown;
          Yet you shall stand upon the shore
          To sing My praise forevermore.

5.  The edge of these baptismal seas,
     All littered with dead enemies,
          Throughout your life shall daily stand
          A tribute to My saving hand.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Tree of Life

1.  The tree of life with ev'ry good
     In Eden's holy orchard stood,
          And of its fruit so pure and sweet
          God let the man and women eat.
     Yet in this garden also grew
     Another tree, of which they knew;
          Its lovely limbs with fruit adorned
          Against whose eating God had warned.

2.  The stillness of that sacred grove
     Was broken, as the serpent strove
          With tempting voice Eve to beguile
          And Adam too by sin defile.
     O day of sadness when the breath
     Of fear and darkness, doubt and death,
          Its awful poison first displayed
          Within the world so newly made.

3.  What mercy God showed to our race,
     A plan of rescue by His grace:
          In sending One from woman's seed,
          The One to fill our greatest need--
     For on tree uplifted high
     His only Son for sin would die,
          Would drink the cup of scorn and dread
          To crush the ancient serpent's head!

4.  Now from that tree of Jesus' shame
     Flows life eternal in His name;
          For all who trust and will believe,
          Salvation's living fruit receive.
     And of its fruit so pure and sweet
     The Lord invites the world to eat,
          To find within this cross of wood
          The tree of life with ev'ry good.   

Thursday, February 26, 2009

You Satisfy the Hungry Heart

This hymn unites the work of composer, Robert Kreutz, and hymn text writer, Omer Westendorf.  It was among 200 texts submitted for possible use at the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia in 1976 and "You Satisfy the Hungry Heart" was selected as the official hymn of that gathering.  First embraced by Roman Catholics, this hymn has since become well-known and a favorite in many denominations.  The hymn was first published in We Celebrate with Song (1979) with the tune name FINEST WHEAT substited for the original tune name given by the composer, BICENTENNIAL.

     You satisfy the hungry heart  
         With gift of finest wheat.  
              Come give to us, O saving Lord,
         The bread of life to eat.

1.  As when the shepherd calls his sheep,
         They know and heed his voice;
              So when You call Your fam'ly, Lord,
         We follow and rejoice.   Refrain

2.  With joyful lips we sing to You
          Our praise and gratitude
               That You should count us worthy, Lord,
          To share this heav'nly food.   Refrain

3.  Is not this cup we bless and share
          The blood of Christ outpoured?
               Do not one cup, one loaf, declare
          Our oneness in the Lord?   Refrain

4.  The myst'ry of Your presence, Lord,
          No mortal tongue can tell:
              Whom all the world cannot contain
          Comes in our hearts to dwell.   Refrain

5.  You give Yourself to us, O Lord;
          Then selfless let us be,
               To serve each other in Your name
          In truth and charity.  Refrain

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Savior, When in Dust to Thee

1.  Savior, when in dust to Thee
     Lo, we bow the_adoring knee;
         When, repentant, to the skies
         Scarce we lift our weeping eyes;
     Oh, by all Thy pains and woe
     Suffered once for us below,
         Bending from Thy throne on high,
         Hear our penitential cry!

2.  By Thy helpless infant years,
     By Thy life of want and tears,
         By Thy days of deep distress
         In the savage wilderness,
     By the dread, mysterious hour
     Of the_insulting tempter's pow'r,
         Turn, O turn a fav'ring eye;
         Hear our penitential cry!

3.  By Thine hour of dire despair,
     By Thine agony of prayer,
         By the cross, the nail, the thorn,
         Piercing spear, and torturing scorn,
     By the gloom that veiled the skies
     O'er the dreadful sacrifice,
         Listen to our humble sigh;
         Hear our penitential cry! 

4.  By Thy deep expiring groan,
     By the sad sepulchral stone,
         By the vault whose dark abode
         Held in vain the rising God,
     O, from earth to heav'n restored,
     Mighty, reascended Lord,
         Bending from Thy throne on high,
         Hear our penitential cry!  

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jesus, Take Us to the Mountain

Our choir sang this Transfiguration text by Jaroslav Vajda as the anthem before the Gospel lesson in our early service today.   Vajda wrote the text in 1991 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Silver Spring, Maryland.  Here the hymn writer is as much at a loss for words contemplating the glory of the transfigured Christ as were the disciples!  Christian Worship Supplement features this text (CWS 712) with the tune SILVER SPRING by Carl Schalk, who composed the tune for Vajda's hymn text to commemorate the same joyful occasion. 

1.  Jesus, take us to the mountain
         Where, with Peter, James and John,
             We are dazzled by Your glory,
         Light as blinding as the sun.
                 There prepare us for the night
                 By the vision of that sight.

2.  What do you want us to see there
         That Your close companions saw?
             Your divinity revealed there
         Fills us with the self-same awe.
                 Clothed in flesh like ours You go,
                 Matched to meet our deadliest foe.

3.  What do You want us to hear there
         That Your dear disciples heard?
             Once again the voice from heaven
         Says of the incarnate Word:
                 "Listen, listen ev'ryone;
                  This is My beloved Son!"

4.  Take us to that other mountain
         Where we see You glorified.  
             Where You shouted, "It is finished!"
         Where for all the world You died.
                 Hear the stunned centurion:
                 "Truly this was God's own Son!"

5.  We who have beheld Your glory,
         Risen and ascended Lord,
             Cannot help but tell the story,
         All that we have seen and heard,
                 Say with Peter, James, and John:
                 "You are God's beloved Son!"

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love in Christ Is Strong and Living

This text by Dorothy Schultz (b. 1934) and tune by her husband Ralph C. Schultz (b. 1932) were written for the wedding of their daughter Debra to Kevin Cook on July 15, 1978...which happens to be the same year my wife Pat and I were married (5/6/78).  The tune was named DOROTHY after the hymn writer.  In Lutheran Service Book, the hymn "Fruitful Trees, the Spirit's Sowing" (LSB 691) by Timothy Dudley-Smith is also set to the tune DOROTHY.

1.  Love in Christ is strong and living,
         Binding faithful hearts as one;
     Love in Christ is true and giving.
         May His will in us be done.

2.  Love is patient and forbearing,
         Clothed in Christ's humility,
     Gentle, selfless, kind and caring,
         Reaching out in charity.

3.  Love in Christ abides forever,
         Fainting not when ills attend;
     Love, forgiving and forgiven,
         Shall endure until life's end.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In Christ Alone

Christian Worship Supplement, the new WELS hymnal supplement, includes this contemporary song by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend.  "In Christ Alone" was also one of the 100 contemporary songs, the 100 that were given the "green light" and "stamp of approval" by the LC-MS Commission on Worship and commended for use in LC-MS parishes.  However, is it a "starke Kirchenlied"?  Is it a strong church-song?

This text has much to commend itself and a depth that is so often absent in much of the genre of contemporary praise and worship.  The first stanza begins with the powerful statement, "In Christ alone my hope is found."  Period.   I like that!  This initial stanza speaks of Christ as the solid Rock upon which all believers stand.  The second stanza has some nice incarnational imagery and language as well as incorporating the language of propitiation: Christ's death turning aside God's wrath over humanity's sin.  That's a thought that is hard to find these days!  Getty and Townsend ought to be commended for choosing such words as these.  The third stanza, the resurrection stanza, presents the reality of the resurrection and what that event means for individuals.  So far so good.  It is the final stanza that raises a red flag or two with me.  The fourth line doesn't seem correct somehow.  What does the writer mean, "Jesus commands my destiny"?  Does that mean Jesus has commanded the destiny of some to salvation and others to damnation...or am I reading too much theology into that?  The combination of Romans 8 and John 10 language in the final stanza is appreciated.  However, as a Lutheran, I am wishing there was an additional stanza that would use "means of grace" language to answer this question: How does the Christian stand in the power of Christ?  

1.  In Christ alone my hope is found.
         He is my light, my strength, my song;
     This cornerstone, this solid ground,
             Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
     What heights of love, what depths of peace,
     When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
         My Comforter, my all in all,  
             Here in the love of Christ I stand.

2.  In Christ alone--who took on flesh,
         Fulness of God in helpless babe.
     This gift of love and righteousness,
             Scorned by the ones He came to save.
     Till on that cross, as Jesus died,
     The wrath of God was satisfied;
         For ev'ry sin on Him was laid.
             Here in the death of Christ I live.

3.  There in the ground His body lay,
         Light of the world by darkness slain;
     Then bursting forth in glorious day
             Up from the grave He rose again!
     And as He stands in victory,
     Sin's curse has lost its grip on me.
         For I am His and He is mine--
             Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

4.  No guilt in life, no fear in death,
         This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
     From life's first cry to final breath,
         Jesus commands my destiny.
     No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man
     Can ever pluck me from His hand;
         Till He returns or calls me home;
             Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Christ is With Me

St. Paul writes in the sixth chapter of Romans, "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We were therefore buried with Him through baptisn into death in order tha, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."   The hymn text below was written by Gerald Patrick Coleman, copyrighted by Concordia Publishing House in 1992.  It is very much a paraphrase of a few pasages in Holy Scripture in a free verse style, in which the lines do not rhyme.  Coleman also wrote the tune for this text, a tune called CHRIST IS WITH ME.  The text and tune appear in the recently published WELS hymnal supplement, Christian Worship Supplement.

1.  We were buried with Him into death,
         That as He was raised by God's glory,
             We might walk in life made new by grace.
                 Having died with Christ, we shall live with Him.
      Refrain:  Christ is with me ev'rywhere I go.
                       Never to leave me, this I know.

2.  I have now been grafted to the Vine,
         Drawing life from roots rich in mercy,
             Bearing fruit as I abide in Him:
                 Fruit forever fresh, glorifying God.   Refrain

3.  I have now been crucifed with Christ.
         I no longer live; Christ lives in me.
             Now I live by faith in God's own Son,
                 One who loved me so--gave Himself for me.   Refrain  

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Heart Is Now Thrilling

"And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.  So he came by the Spirit into the temple.  And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 'Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.' "
(Luke 2:25-32)

The oldest member of my parish here (97 years) passed away early Sunday morning.  When I was with her on Saturday, one of the Scripture passages I read was Simeon's song in Luke 2.  This dear sister in Christ was certainly ready to go.  One wonders how many times she sang the Nunc Dimittis during her many, many years of faithful worship. 

I wrote the following text in 1994 to the tune, THE ASH GROVE, as a versification of the Nunc Dimittis.  

My heart is now thrilling
At Your Word's fulfilling,
     O Lord, let Your servant depart in Your peace.
I see Your salvation
Prepared for each nation,
     It shines with a radiance that never will cease:
A light that will brighten
Like dawn, to enlighten
     Both Gentiles and Jews from each tribe and each race.
What sin was concealing
Your love is revealing--
     The glory of Israel, the light of Your grace!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Present Yourself a Worker

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."  (2 Timothy 2:15)  Written for the July 1st, 2007 ordination and installation of my brother-in-law (who is now a dear brother in the ministry), Pastor Larry Wright of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Midland, the recommended tune for this text is AURELIA. The pastoral epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus have much to say to pastors today.  God be praised for all the faithful pastors serving as undershepherds of the Good Shepherd!

1.  Present yourself a worker
         Who need not cow'r in shame,
              As one approved by Jesus;
         With zeal His truth proclaim.  
     Come build on that foundation
         Already laid secure,
              For in the Lord your labor
         Most surely will endure.

2.  Present yourself a steward,
         All pride of self efface,
              As faithfully you manage
         God's precious means of grace--
     The light of Holy Scripture,
         The sacraments divine,
              Where Word is joined to water
         And to the bread and wine.

3.  Present yourself a watchman
         To those within this nave;
              Come, steer this ship in safety
         Through storm and wind-tossed wave.
     The world's deceit and cunning
         Seek not the things above;
              Confront all sin and error,
         But speak the truth in love.

4.  Present yourself a shepherd
         And lead this blood-bought fold
              To pastures green and fragrant,
         To waters pure and cold;
     Be one who seeks the straying
         With love that has no bound,
               As Christ, who sought the lost ones,
         Rejoiced when they were found.

5.  Present yourself a servant,
         For Jesus came as slave,
              His life, a priceless ransom,
         Upon the cross He gave;
     Yet He, before His dying,
         With humble love replete,
              Knelt down with tow'l and water
         To wash disciples' feet.

6.  Know Christ the Lord is present
         To hear your solemn vow
              And with the Holy Spirit
         Your service will endow;
     With joy embrace your calling
         And always be assured:
              God's blessing rests upon you,
         A preacher of His Word.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Now Let Us All in Hymns of Praise

This text is found in the new WELS hymnal supplement, Christian Worship Supplement.  The text was written by Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000) and the tune OPEN DOOR, to which this text is wed in CWS, was written by Roy Hopp (b. 1951).  (If you have not yet had the opportunity to take at look at the new WELS hymnal supplement, I would recommend you to do so.  While a large percentage of its contents may be familiar to LC-MS Lutherans from Lutheran Service Book, it contains some wonderful new texts and tunes, of which this text is an example.)

1.  Now let us all in hymns of praise, bear witness with one voice
     To God's redeeming work in Christ and bid the world rejoice.
         Today we call to mind the things that time cannot erode:
         What God, Creator of the world, is doing for our good.

2.  What changes, challenges, and tests the Church of Christ survives!
     How rich the records left to us of dedicated lives!
         Still must the Church proclaim to all, both now and evermore,
         God's house to be an open house, and Christ the open door.

3.  Of all our labors who can say what harvest there shall be
     When time, that limits and distorts, becomes eternity?
         Then shall our hymns, rehearsed below, be perfect praise above,
         As face-to-face, we fully know the truth that God is love.

Rise, Shine, You People

Ronald Klug wrote this hymn at the request of Wilson Egbert of Augsburg Publishing House for a 1973 series of bulletin inserts featuring new hymns.  This Epiphany text was inspired by one of Klug's favorite Epiphany texts, Isaiah 60:1  "Rise, shine, for  your light has come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you."  The publisher sent Klug's text to Dale Wood so that the text could be published with a new tune.  Wood named his newly-written tune WOJTKIEWIECZ (voyd-KEV-itch), the original Polish family name that was simplified by the immigration official to Wood.

1.  Rise, shine, you people!  Christ the Lord has entered
     Our human story; God in Him is centered.
          He comes to us, by death and sin surrounded,
          With grace unbounded.

2.  See how He sends the pow'rs of evil reeling;
     He brings us freedom, light and life and healing.
          All men and women, who by guilt are driven,
          Now are forgiven.

3.  Come, celebrate, your banners high unfurling,
     Your songs and prayers against the darkness hurling.
          To all the world go out and tell the story
          Of Jesus' glory.

4.  Tell how the Father sent His Son to save us.
     Tell of the Son, who life and freedom gave us.
          Tell how the Spirit calls from ev'ry nation
          His new creation.

Monday, January 5, 2009

As with Gladness Men of Old

"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh."  (Matthew 2:10-11)   On Epiphany Sunday (1858), William Dix was too sick to attend church.  At home in bed, he read the story of the wise men and tried to apply the lesson to his own life.  The result was this familiar Epiphany hymn, "As with Gladness Men of Old."   As the wise men did--following, adoring, giving--so should we.  William Dix was a gifted poet but he made his living as the manager of a maritime insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland.  He knew the rigors of travel in the late 19th century and the joy of bringing gifts from far-off places.  Yet in this text he does not focus on the costliness of the Magi's gifts but rather that the Magi found what they sought and their worship of the Christ child.   In 1859, the text was already slated for inclusion in the original edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861) but was first published in 1861 in a small collection intended for private circulation entitled Hymns of Joy and Love.

1.  As with gladness men of old
     Did the guiding star behold;
        As with joy they hailed its light, 
        Leading onward, beaming bright;
     So, most gracious Lord, may we
     Evermore be led by Thee.

2.  As with joyful steps they sped,
     Savior, to Thy lowly bed,
         There to bend the knee before
         Thee, whom heav'n and earth adore;
     So may we with willing feet
     Ever seek Thy mercy seat.

3.  As they offered gifts most rare
     At Thy cradle, rude and bare,
         So may we with holy joy,
         Pure and free from sin's alloy,
     All our costliest treasures bring,
    Christ, to Thee, our heav'nly King. 

4.  Holy Jesus, ev'ry day
     Keep us in the narrow way;
         And when earthly things are past,
         Bring our ransomed souls at last
     Where they need no star to guide,
     Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

5.  In the heav'nly country bright
     Need they no created light;
         Thou its light, its joy, its crown,
         Thou its sun which goes not down;
     There forever may we sing
     Alleluias to our King.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning

This Epiphany hymn by Reginald Heber (1783-1826) first appeared in print in the November 11, 1811 edition of the Christian Observer.  Later it was included in his posthumous collection of texts entitled, "Hymns, written and adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year (1827).  Heber's original opening line was "sons of the morning," a reference perhaps to Isaiah 14:12 in which Lucifer is described, or possibly a reference to Job 38:7 in which the "morning stars" and "sons of God" join to praise God for His mighty acts of creation.  In the preparation of Lutheran Book of Worship, the ILCW (Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship) thought it advisable to change Heber's "sons of the morning" to "stars of the morning" to avoid any confusion.  Other minor changes froma the original include the change from "odors" to "fragrance" since "odors" in our modern context usually means unpleasant smells.  The tune MORNING STAR, to which this hymn is set in Lutheran Service Book, was written by James Harding (1850-1911) and first published in an American hymnal in 1901, The New Psalms and Hymns, a hymnal used by Presbyterians of that era.

1.  Brightest and best of the stars of the morning,
        Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
     Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
        Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

2.  Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
        Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
     Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
        Maker and Monarch and Savior of all.

3.  Shall we not yield Him, in costlly devotion,
        Fragrance of Edom and off'rings divine,
     Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
        Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?
4.  Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
        Vainly with gifts would His favor secure,
     Richer by far is the heart's adoration;
        Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

5.  Brightest and best of the stars of the morning,
        Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
     Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
        Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.