OUR CHURCH MUSIC HERITAGE
Have you wondered how we came to have so many hymns in our Lutheran Hymnal? Why we have such a heritage of singing in our faith? How they were written; melodies and words? I will attempt to explain some of this.
Before Luther reformed the church, the music was chanted, usually in Latin, for the services and the priests understood the words, but the parishioners did not. Luther felt strongly that the Word of God should be proclaimed “among the people in the form of music.” Also, that theology and music were to be “tightly connected” and “proclaim truth.” He always emphasized that the Gospel be proclaimed through music.
As this became a large part of the services, hymns were written in poetic structure and set to music. Some of the melodies were familiar to the people then, but most through the years have been com-pletely new.
As I choose the hymns for each Sunday’s worship, I prayerfully try to have them serve the theme for that day and the Pastor’s sermon. You might look at one or more of the hymns for the service as you prepare for worship and try to see meanings and ideas that pertain to this specific service: most especially asking the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to His voice through the words and music. I think we can all agree that words and music can reach our hearts as nothing else.
Our hymnal is a treasure of Gospel truth through praise of our Lord as well as thought provoking lessons and prayers, at times. We truly have a living musical heritage to enjoy! One of our many bless-ings! A quote from Martin Luther: ‘Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treas-ure in the world.’
In Christ’s Service,
I would like for us to consider music, or singing in our worship experience, as God directed: Christ centered, active and not passive. There are many Biblical suggestions for singing, for instance
Ephesians 5:19: 'Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ'.
Also, the book of Psalms is a collection of songs/poetry. And there are many other suggestions for the singing of songs, and the playing of musical instruments of praise in the Bible. Did not David play the lyre and sing for King Saul? And his songs are in the book of Psalms.
Our liturgy has a Psalm suggestion for each Sunday of the church year which can be sung (chanted) by the congregation, or a Leader and the congregation. These were an integral part of the Church (Catholic) worship, al-beit sung by the Priests. It was during the Reformation that worshipers began taking an active part in the services, and songs/hymns became an integral part of the worshipers' experience.
So then, what is the purpose of singing hymns in our services?If, when we are singing hymns, we are attentive to the direction of the text, we become mindful of this means of God's ministry to us, they then release God's Divine power within and through us—Christ’s Living Church. It can be one of His mightiest means of ministry to us when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and we sing with devotion and praise.
If you look at a hymn in our hymnal, you will notice below the hymn on the left is the TEXT author; and below that the TUNE composer; at the bottom on the right side is the TUNE NAME and the meter that it is written in. (The meter of a hymn is based on the number of syllables in a line or phrase of the hymn) You can find all of these things in the indexes at the back of the hymnal. At the very bottom of the hymn page is Biblical references for the words in that hymn.
My hope is that this is helpful to you in your worship and you are blessed.
In His Service,
THE FINEST HYMN
Reginald Heber (1783-1826), a vicar and hymn-writer in England, was the first person to compile a hymnal based around the church calendar.
He composed the beloved hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy" specifi-cally for Trinity Sunday, with lyrics based on Revelation 4:8-11.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
The joyful song celebrates the eternal, omnipotent Triune God. Throughout the verses, Heber used units of three to symbolize the Trinity (God is "perfect in power, in love and purity"; God is worshiped by saints, cherubim and seraphim; and he’s praised "in earth and sky and sea").
Christ Our Savior Music Ministry
Last month I attempted to explain and give a history of our musical heritage in the hymns we sing together in worship. These are a large part of our giving praise and worship to our Father in heaven; but there are other ways music in our worship is a strengthening of our faith lives as it proclaims God’s Word for us.
As we listen to an instrumentalist(s) play an arrangement of a familiar hymn or melody, the Holy Spirit can speak to us of special words of meaning in that song or the gift of beauty the musician is bestowing on us in the use of their talent for the glory of God; or just the whispering of beauty in the music can be uplifting.
We are in fellowship with one another through these musical offerings and receive the Word through the Spirit in these moments.
How blessed we are as a church to have so many talented people giving us their time and talent to God’s glory: The Chancel Choir, the Jubilate Chime Choir, Jubilate Ensemble, Duets; the Dulcimer Trio; The Appalachian Strings; Flute and Clarinetist, Trumpet; Special opportunities such as the Gospel concerts and the two concerts from the seminary choirs last year to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.
These are special moments as we gather in our sanctuary for our offering of praise of our loving God and Father; and receive through His Holy Spirit inspiration for our daily living, with His Presence in our lives. May this help in your spiritual growth through music.
In His Service, Judith Bailey
Director of Music