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.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Where Shepherds Lately Knelt

Written at the request of Augsburg Publishing House for a Christmas song for their 1987 Christmas Annual, Jaroslav Vajda penned this text in 1986.  Vajda sought to place himself in spirit at the humble manger bed and review the implications of such a visit for himself and for all human beings.  As the Christmas season comes to its conclusion, it is good to visit the manger one more time in order to ponder the significance of Immanuel, "God-with-us" in the flesh.

1.  Where shepherds lately knelt and kept the angel's word,
     I come in half-belief, a pilgrim strangely stirred:
          but there is room and welcome there for me,
          but there is room and welcome there for me.

2.  In that unlikely place I find Him as they said:
     sweet newborn Babe, how frail! and in a manger bed:
          a still small Voice to cry one day for me,
          a still small Voice to cry one day for me.

3.  How should I not have known Isaiah would be there,
     his prophecies fulfilled?  With pounding heart, I stare:
          a Child, a Son, the Prince of Peace--for me,
          a Child, a Son, the Prince of Peace--for me.

4.  Can I, will I forget how Love was born and burned
      its way into my heart--unasked, unforced, unearned,
           to die, to live, and not alone for me,
           to die, to live, and not alone for me?