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 completely 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 blessings! A quote from Martin Luther: ‘Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure 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,
“WHY DO WE SING HYMNS?”
The hymns we sing are an important part of our Lutheran and faith heritage. Did you ever wonder why we sing them? Or how they are chosen for a Sunday service or even for the Lutheran hymnal we use?
Our hymns do not aim to create an atmosphere or mood for worship, but are a vehicle for the Spirit-filled Word of God. They are a proclamation of a divine message, which is as the “living voice of the Gospel”; and is shaped by the theology of the cross as it interprets the Scriptures in reference to Christ. They may indeed alter moods or create atmospheres, but more importantly they are chosen to plant Jesus Christ, in the ear and in the heart.
Each Sunday’s hymns are chosen to augment the theme of that day, or the minister’s Sermon theme. As you come into the sanctuary and prepare for worship, I encourage you to look at one of the hymns we’re singing and read the words. See if you can recognize why that hymn was chosen in relation to the Sermon topic (the Sermon hymn or ‘Hymn of the Day). See how it feeds our faith, our heart, with the Word of God.
As a special committee of Lutheran musicians considers the hymns to be included in a hymnal, it is very careful to stay true to God’s Word; and the proclamation of the Gospel.
My hope is that you may be blessed with an increased understanding of our singing worship.
In Christ, Judith Bailey
A HISTORY OF OUR LUTHERAN HYMNS
Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Martin Luther
Our Lutheran heritage of music in our worship services is a proclamation of the Word of God in the truth of our faith. Luther was the reformer who, with his contemporaries, brought music to the people in the pews, so that they could sing/worship in their own language. Until then, everything was in Latin.
Hymns can praise God, proclaim the Word or teach a truth. I choose the hymns for services with these things in mind: the readings, the church year (Advent, Lent, etc), and the sermon theme.
I would urge you to consider the words of our hymns as you sing them and, if not singing, contemplate the thoughts of those words. As you sing or not, think of the words as a poem. (Most hymns are written in poetic genre.)
The hymn I have chosen for this newsletter is in the Lutheran Service Book: LSB #818 “In Thee Is Gladness”
The words are written by Johann Lindemann, who was a contemporary of Luther’s and were translated into our language by Catherine Winkworth.
She is excellent at retaining the character, rhyme, and line of the text which matches the personality and spirit of the tune with ease.
Interestingly, the tune, in dir ist freude, is from a Balletto by Gastoldi (an Italian Priest); and can be thought of as a “light-hearted, dancelike piece” which defies the struggle of life. It concludes with “shouts for gladness, triumph o’er sadness . . . and voices raising glad hymns forever. Alleluia!”
STANZA 1 STANZA 2
*Words are reminiscent of: (Romans 8:38-39) (Romans 8:31)
In Thee is gladness Since He is ours,
Amid all sadness, We fear no powers,
Jesus, sunshine of my heart. Not of earth nor sin nor death.
By Thee are given He sees and blesses
The gifts of heaven, In worst distresses;
Thou the true Redeemer art. He can change them with a breath
Our souls Thou wakest, Wherefore the story
Our bonds Thou breakest; Tell of His glory
Who trusts Thee surely With hearts and voices;
Has built securely; All heav’n rejoices
He stands forever: Alleluia! In Him forever: Alleluia!
Our hearts are pining We shout for gladness,
To see Thy shining, Triumph o’er sadness,
Dying or living Love Him and praise Him
To Thee are cleaving; And still shall raise Him
Naught can us sever: Alleluia! Glad hymns forever: Alleluia!
So, in all, it reflects the sustaining power of God in the face of life’s troubles; and that Jesus, the “sunshine of my heart” is the source of our hope. Lastly, I chose this hymn for the service (of celebration) we will have as choir and congregation, when we can all worship together as we did before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Judith Bailey, Minister of Music
Note: UTube has a good arrangement of this hymn by Daniel Kallman
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" specifically 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.
I would like to give an invite to join our Chancel Choir this year. We have lost at least six mem-bers due to age or moving in the last two years, so I’m hoping to entice some of you to join. Our choir is friendly and supportive of each other and incredibly welcoming to new members.
We begin rehearsals August 26, Thursday at 3:30PM – 5:00PM. The decision to change to an afternoon format was considered by the choir and me. There are several reasons for the change which in-clude night driving becoming more difficult for some, it opens another weekly night for other social activities; and another advantage of this is that some might go for dinner afterwards which offers a chance to bond with each other in a different setting.
Chorus America found in a survey that singing in groups has been linked to better mental and physical health, especially for older singers: better quality of life, less lonely, and better overall health. They felt community and developed better social skills.
As we search for meaning in our world, it is a chance to be creative and make something beautiful that you cannot make by yourself. There is something immediate and visceral about choirs. The breathing becomes synchronized and almost spiritual, especially in our worship setting.
If you are interested, please see me at the organ or piano after service to discuss joining us, we would love to have you.
In His service, Judith Bailey, Minister of Music
Lastly, the words of LSB 796 St 1, express my feelings about music/singing in our church
When in our music God is glorified
And adoration leaves no room for pride,
It is as though the whole creation cried: