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!