Tag Archives: W(h)ither The Great Lutheran Hymns?

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – Trinity 3: “Lord to Thee I Am a Rayciss”

First: we’re going to have a new featured image for these posts, this’n right here…

Second, let’s look at some Bible verses:

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. (Psalm 51:7-8)

What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us? My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. (Song of Songs 5:9-11)

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

[T]he punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her. Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire: their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick. (Lamentations 4:6-8)

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9-10)

Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed. (Daniel 11:34-35)

And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. (Daniel 12:9-10)

And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. (Matthew 17:1-3)

And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. (Mark 9:2-4)

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

[I]n the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. (Revelation 1:13-15)

I could include more, but I think that’s an adequate sampling.

Third, here’s the chief hymn for this week, “Lord to Thee I Make Confession,” the TLH and LSB versions side by side:

I guess it might be a highly triggering experience for persons of color (like myself) to take a line from the Word of God upon their lips and sing “Wash me, make me white as snow.” Thankfully the LSB has smoothed things out for us. Thank you, LCMS synod-o-crats, for saving us from the Bible! That was a close one!

Tell me, did you feel awkward reading all of those verse from Scripture listed above? You did? Perhaps you even felt ashamed? If so, you need to stop watching T.V., sunshine. I am here today to tell you that, according to the Bible, it is OK to be white.

Actually, it’s more than OK. In some sense—namely, the sense which the Bible frequently employs, which is reflected in the TLH translation of v. 4 of this week’s hymn—whiteness represents purity from sin, righteousness, God’s glory, etc. That all seems to be quite a bit more than just “OK”, doesn’t it? In this sense, we should all want to be white, right?

Yeah, well, that has nothing to do with being white as a race.

Who said it did? Incidentally, though, it’s also OK to be racially white.

Yeah, well, “make me white as snow” is confusing and could offend black female midgets, and in today’s LCMS we need to be more sensitive and intersectional. People need to know that we, like, stand against oppression in all of its forms.

Huh. Is that right? Well, the LSB is certainly very sensitive to those who feel “offended” and “excluded” by male pronouns and references to men. So this move makes sense. We already borrow crappy hymns from LWF; maybe eventually we’ll borrow their liturgy, too. “For us men and for our salvation”? “And was made man? No way! How about “for us and for our salvation…was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary and became truly human”? (I guess “and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary” excludes the role of the eternal feminine—represented by Mary—in god-creation. Knowing these loons, I’ll bet they think the original is tantamount to rape. And, wow—optional Filioque, too? “Well actually…”— yes, spare us, we know that you are gay heretic hipsters who know all the factoids.)

If the ELCA is reading this, I have a suggestion for how you all can continue to improve the liturgy: fix the Preface! When will the disenfranchised underclass of angels rise up against the privileged archangels and SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER?!!?

All joking aside, it’s a little unsettling to see the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod falling over itself in attempts to signal leftwards on current-year concerns about race, class, and gender. Just sayin’. Speaking of “just sayin” things, here’s something else that I will “just say”: I actually don’t “stand against oppression in all of its forms,” because I don’t believe that what is included under that heading (“oppression”) by liberals is any such thing. When I read things like this…

…I cheer. I literally cheer.

Man, I cheer, but all of this is getting me down. What a struggle the Church is engaged in! So many forces arrayed against Christ and his Christians, and against the God-ordained magistrates enforcing the law for the good of the the Patria! Let us pray:

Lord, keep us in Thy Word and work,
Restrain the murderous Pope and Turk,
Who fain would tear from off Thy throne
Christ Jesus, Thy beloved Son.

Lord Jesus Christ, Thy power make known,
For Thou art Lord of lords alone;
Shield Thy poor Christendom, that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.

Thou Comforter of priceless worth,
Give one mind to Thy flock on earth,
Stand by us in our final strife,
And lead us out of death to life.

Destroy their counsels, Lord our God,
And smite them with an iron rod,
And let them fall into the snare
Which for Thy Christians they prepare.

So that at last they may perceive
That, Lord our God, Thou still dost live,
And dost deliver mightily
All those who put their trust in Thee.

Amen. Yes, yes—it shall be so.

…you didn’t sing ELHB #274 on Reformation Day, did you? Even TLH falls down on this one—a hat-tip to carlvehse.

Pastor Krusemark said to “save some stones for TLH.” Well, here I will lob one: the leaven of liberalism (by which I mean to include your vile LOLbertarianism, just so I’m not misunderstood) had already begun to trickle through the cracks around the door here and there by the time TLH was published in 1941. By the time LSB was published in 2006, though, we had decided it was much better just to fling the door wide open. After all, if you can’t beat em’, join em’! That was the approach of our Lutheran fathers when it came to the enemies of Church and State, right?

Probably not. Their sons fought and died in wars that actually mattered, and they had more than just an heir and a spare because they didn’t contracept their children out of existence in order to afford the SWPL-set lifestyle. They also didn’t deface Bibles with crayons, put dogs in their seminary chapels, or write smarmy, virtue-signalling thinkpieces in which they giddily rhapsodized about the prospect of Europeans dying out in US and the LCMS—yeah, let’s get some immigrants to get the job done.

I’d better stop. Back to the gist of this post:

If you think “wash me, make me white as snow” is an offensive line, you are an idiot. Just…objectively, you are an idiot who is incapable of understanding the language of the Bible, and you have no appreciation for beauty, poetry, nuance, literary representation, or wisdom. Chances are good that you are also “uncomfortable” with sound doctrine. Basically, you could be on a hymnal committee. Get help.

Here’s the TLH version of the hymn that this post was supposedly about. Sing it with gusto.

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W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – Triduum’s Worst Hits

I don’t have a lot of time, so I’ll get right down to business here.

First, there’s Luther’s communion hymn that the “worship staff at the LCMS” (my latest favorite moniker from the LCMS website) selected for Maundy Thursday, “O Lord, We Praise Thee.”

Like everything else from Johann Walter’s 1524 Wittenberg hymnal (that’s the original TLH, paisanos), it’s a great hymn. Marvelous hymn. People were always calling Martin Luther about this hymn, saying “Marty? You know that Maundy Thursday hymn you wrote? It’s great.” Martin had the best hymns.

So I’m singing my heart out—and I’ll admit, I like the dotted-eighth/sixteenth note thing that LSB has going on—and feeling pretty good, because it’s this great hymn, and it’s all familiar, just exactly what I grew up with. I’m skipping along with abandon (not literally, this is a metaphor) and then BAM! My leg goes into a gopher-hole up to the shin and CRACK! There goes my ankle. Grade 3 anterior talofibular hymn-sprain.

Look at what the antinomians did to this hymn:

TLH 313 LSB 617
1. O Lord, we praise Thee, bless Thee, and adore Thee,
In thanksgiving bow before Thee.
Thou with Thy body and Thy blood didst nourish
Our weak souls that they may flourish:
O Lord, have mercy!
May Thy body, Lord, born of Mary,
That our sins and sorrows did carry,
And Thy blood for us plead
In all trial, fear, and need:
O Lord, have mercy!
1. O Lord, we praise Thee, bless Thee, and adore Thee,
In thanksgiving bow before Thee.
Thou with Thy body and Thy blood didst nourish
Our weak souls that they may flourish:
O Lord, have mercy!
May Thy body, Lord, born of Mary,
That our sins and sorrows did carry,
And Thy blood for us plead
In all trial, fear, and need:
O Lord, have mercy!
2. Thy holy body into death was given,
Life to win for us in heaven.
No greater love than this to Thee could bind us;
May this feast thereof remind us!
O Lord, have mercy!
Lord, Thy kindness did so constrain Thee
That Thy blood should bless and sustain me.
All our debt Thou hast paid;
Peace with God once more is made:
O Lord, have mercy.
2. Thy holy body into death was given,
Life to win for us in heaven.
No greater love than this to Thee could bind us;
May this feast thereof remind us!
O Lord, have mercy!
Lord, Thy kindness did so constrain Thee
That Thy blood should bless and sustain me.
All our debt Thou hast paid;
Peace with God once more is made:
O Lord, have mercy.
3. May God bestow on us His grace and favor
To please Him with our behavior
And live as brethren here in love and union
Nor repent this blest Communion!
O Lord, have mercy!
Let not Thy good Spirit forsake us;
Grant that heavenly-minded He make us;
Give Thy Church, Lord, to see
Days of peace and unity:
O Lord, have mercy!
3. May God bestow on us His grace and favor
That we follow Christ our Savior
And live together here in love and union
Nor despise this blest Communion!
O Lord, have mercy!
Let not Thy good Spirit forsake us;
Grant that heavenly-minded He make us;
Give Thy Church, Lord, to see
Days of peace and unity:
O Lord, have mercy!

They can’t. keep. their. grubby. hands. off. things.

This is impiety, pure and simple. Stupid, ignorant, arrogant, good-for-nothing impiety. How dare they.

Really? There’s something wrong with asking God to bestow His grace and favor upon us so that we might please Him with our behavior? This had to go??

No, no antinomianism here! It’s all fine, we’re all fine. The spirit of Martin Luther is alive and—

I win.

I’m going to tie this one off because I need to save some spleen for what’s coming.

There I was, limping, sad, and bewildered. Like the Elephant’s Child, I was a little warm, but not at all astonished. Perhaps respite and Nepenthe awaited me later on in the service. After all, on Maundy Thursday we commemorate the institution of the Lord’s Supper. “Maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum,” which, when translated, means “Gospel imperative.” So I had hope that my wounded soul would be soon be staunched by one of our great Lutheran communion hymns during the distribution.

Well…

TLH 313 LSB 618, LSB 619
1. I come, O Savior, to Thy Table,
For weak and weary is my soul;
Thou, Bread of Life, alone art able
To satisfy and make me whole:

REFRAIN:
Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood
Be for my soul the highest good!
1. I come, O Savior, to Thy Table,
For weak and weary is my soul;
Thou, Bread of Life, alone art able
To satisfy and make me whole:

REFRAIN:
Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood
Be for my soul the highest good!
2. Oh, grant that I in manner worthy
May now approach Thy heavenly Board
And, as I lowly bow before Thee,
Look only unto Thee, O Lord!
3. Unworthy though I am, O Savior,
Because I have a sinful heart,
Yet Thou Thy lamb wilt banish never
For Thou my faithful Shepherd art!
3. Unworthy though I am, O Savior,
Because I have a sinful heart,
Yet Thou Thy lamb wilt banish never
For Thou my faithful Shepherd art!
4. Oh, let me loathe all sin forever
As death and poison to my soul
That I through wilful sinning never
May see Thy Judgment take its toll!
5. Thy heart is filled with fervent yearning
That sinners may salvation see
Who, Lord, to Thee in faith are turning;
So I, a sinner, come to Thee.
2. Thy heart is filled with fervent yearning
That sinners may salvation see
Who, Lord, to Thee in faith are turning;
So I, a sinner, come to Thee.
6. Weary am I and heavy laden,
With sin my soul is sore opprest;
Receive me graciously, and gladden
My heart, for I am now Thy guest.
4. Weary am I and heavy laden,
With sin my soul is sore opprest;
Receive me graciously, and gladden
My heart, for I am now Thy guest.
7. Thou here wilt find a heart most lowly
That humbly falls before Thy feet,
That duly weeps o’er sin, yet solely
Thy merit pleads, as it is meet.
8. By faith I call Thy holy Table
The testament of Thy deep love;
For, lo, thereby I now am able
To see how love Thy heart doth move.
9. What higher gift can we inherit?
It is faith’s bond and solid base;
It is the strength of heart and spirit,
The covenant of hope and grace.
5. What higher gift can we inherit?
It is faith’s bond and solid base;
It is the strength of heart and spirit,
The covenant of hope and grace.
10. This feast is manna, wealth abounding
Unto the poor, to weak ones power,
To angels joy, to hell confounding,
And life for us in death’s dark hour.
11. Thy body, given for me, O Savior,
Thy blood which Thou for me didst shed,
These are my life and strength forever,
By them my hungry soul is fed.
1. Thy body, given for me, O Savior,
Thy blood which Thou for me didst shed,
These are my life and strength forever,
By them my hungry soul is fed.
12. With Thee, Lord, I am now united;
I live in Thee and Thou in me.
No sorrow fills my soul, delighted
It finds its only joy in Thee.
2. With Thee, Lord, I am now united;
I live in Thee and Thou in me.
No sorrow fills my soul, delighted
It finds its only joy in Thee.
13. Who can condemn me now? For surely
The Lord is nigh, who justifies.
No hell I fear, and thus securely,
With Jesus I to heaven rise.
3. Who can condemn me now? For surely
The Lord is nigh, who justifies.
No hell I fear, and thus securely,
With Jesus I to heaven rise.
14. Though death may threaten with disaster,
It cannot rob me of my cheer;
For He who is of death the Master
With aid and comfort e’er is near.
4. Though death may threaten with disaster,
It cannot rob me of my cheer;
For He who is of death the master
With aid and comfort e’er is near.
15. My heart has now become Thy dwelling,
O blessed Holy Trinity.
With angels I, Thy praises telling,
Shall live in joy eternally.
5. My heart has now become Thy dwelling,
O blessed Holy Trinity.
With angels I, Thy praises telling,
Shall live in joy eternally.

There is no balm in Gilead. Nevermore.

Five verses of sublime Christian comfort and wonderful catechesis—gone! Why? So we can make room for some high quality material from the Lutheran World Federation. No, I’m not engaging in absurd hyperbole. Look:

Suggested accompaniment: beaten hollow stump of baobab tree. Mandrill bone flute, if you’ve got one. Great news: there is a “setting” available in the hymn-accompaniment edition.

“Oh my goodness! This is so racist! ‘Hollow stump of baobab tree’?!?! I can’t believe he went there!”

Is it, though? Do you really think that this doggerel is worth the ink it took to print and the paper it took to print it on? You really think it’s worth the five verses of “I Come, O Savior, To Thy Table” that were memory-holed so that it could be included, all so that white liberal boomers in the LCMS could feel virtuous for making obeisance to the totems of cultural relativism erected by the Marxist liberation “theologians” of the LWF and their fellow apostates?

This hymn says nothing. It is worthless.

Meanwhile, in Africa…

…African Lutherans are singing hymns by Paul Gerhardt. Because Paul Gerhardt is a god among Lutheran hymn-writers, and all Lutherans everywhere, in every age, should be learning and singing his hymns. Thanks be to God that these Africans are being taught the truth!

No, it is not because Gerhardt was German, or white, or because he lived in the seventeenth century. Why it is does not matter as far as I am concerned, at least for the small point I am making. It only matters that it is. It is a fact. If and when African Lutherans begin composing hymns of singular and universal excellence, we should all sing them. For that matter, if and when twenty-first century Lutherans of any ethnicity, any color skin, and any global zip-code begin composing hymns of singular and universal excellence, we should all sing them. Until then, stop the pandering. Stop the tokenism. Stop pretending that everything is “equal.” You don’t strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

“Oh my goodness that sounds like Nietzsche. I’m pretty sure that’s Nietzsche. I saw a meme once about Nietzsche, I’m sure I’m right. Besides, Jesus became weak for us by becoming man human! So this guy doesn’t know anything. He sounds alt-right. I’m going to tell Russell Moore.”

Five verses have been excised from “I Come, O Savior, To Thy Table” by the stewards of your heritage so that we can sing some LWF woogity-boogity nothing song about how we’re eating, and isn’t it just so all-fired spectacular that we’re eating. Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

***UPDATE: a friend pointed out that LSB actually splits “I Come O Savior To Thy Table” into two separate hymns, which I initially did not notice, as I was looking at a bulletin insert. Pardon my sloppy mistake. So LSB “only” got rid of five verses of this hymn, rather than ten, as I had originally alleged. However, this almost makes it worse when you look at which verses failed to make the selective cut. It seems once again that the “worship staff at the LCMS” see language about hating sin or pondering the inevitable approach of death as leaven to be swept out.

Then there was Good Friday. “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Lutheran Good Friday hymn. There are a few other solid contenders, but I think we’d all agree that a Good Friday service bereft of “O Sacred Head” would be incomplete.

Here’s what the LSB did to this great hymn:

TLH 172 LSB 450
1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, tho’ despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.
1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, tho’ despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.
2. Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee,
Thou noble countenance,
Tho’ mighty worlds shall fear Thee
And flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish
That once was bright as morn!
2. How pale Thou art with anguish
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth thy face now languish
That once was bright as morn!
3. Now from Thy cheeks has vanished
Their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished
The splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor,
Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor,
Thy strength, in this sad strife.
Grim death, with cruel rigor,
Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor,
Thy strength, in this sad strife.
4. My burden in Thy Passion,
Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression
Which bro’t this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee;
Wrath were my rightful lot.
Have mercy, I implore Thee;
Redeemer, spurn me not!
3. What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered,
Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
5. My Shepherd, now receive me;
My guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me,
O Source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me
With words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
To heavenly joys above.
4. My Shepherd, now receive me;
My guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me,
O Source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me
With words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
To heavenly joys above.
6. Here I will stand beside Thee,
From Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me!
When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish,
in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish,
Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
7. The joy can ne’er be spoken,
Above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken
I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of life, desiring
Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring,
I’d breathe my soul to Thee.
8. What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me Thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love for Thee.
5. What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me Thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love for Thee.
9. My Savior, be Thou near me
When death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
Oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
By virtue of Thine own!
6. My Savior, be Thou near me
When death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
O leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
By virtue of Thine own!
10. Be Thou my Consolation,
My shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion
When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well.
7. Be Thou my Consolation,
My shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion
When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well.

The good news is that by removing three verses from this hymn, space was saved for this gem of orthodox Lutheran spirituality:

THAT’S IT. HE’S RACIST. FIRST THE AFRICAN COMMENT, NOW THIS.

Look, I am an equal-opportunity shade-thrower. Most of the jabs I have thrown on this blog have been at white people, so hitch up your righteous indignation hoop-skirt and go clutch your pearls somewhere else. No one is making you read this (as far as I know).

This hymn is terrible. It is stupid. It literally says nothing—the whole thing is a question, to which the answer is, “No, I was not. I was not there when they crucified Jesus, when they nailed him to the tree, laid him in the tomb, or when God raised him from the dead. That’s great that it causes you to tremble (3x), though.”

I was born in 1979, which means that I have missed out on the entire thirty-three year earthly ministry of Jesus, as have most Christians. However, I was crucified with Christ when I was baptized, and in the Lord’s Supper I receive the very body and blood of Christ which he sacrificed on the cross. I will be united with him in a resurrection like His, and I am reminded of this by the prophetic word which is preached to me, which St. Peter says is even more sure than my own experience of “being there” could be. This prophetic word is preached to me by my dear pastor, yes, but it is also preached to me in the beautiful and comforting words of orthodox Lutheran hymns, which to me are lamps of God’s Word shining in a dark place, against which this wad of Quakerish garbage cannot hold a candle or even a match.

Anyway, you can calm down. I’m only kidding…

No space at all was saved by omitting those verses from “O Sacred Head,” rearranging things, snipping and clipping:

They could easily have fit all ten verses.

Then again, we also could just as easily use TLH.

Have a blessed and happy Easter, friends. I don’t know when inspiration will hit me again, but when it does, you’re sure to hear about it.

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”

So, the chief hymn for Laetare is “Jesus, Priceless Treasure” by Johann Franck. It’s a wonderful hymn. You can read the text here. I don’t need to do a side by side comparison of this one because…you know what? The LSB left this one pretty much entirely alone.

Am I happy about this? Only somewhat.

I’m happy that I’ll get to sing a great, unredacted Lutheran hymn in church tomorrow, sure. But I’m a bit annoyed that this experience is an exception. It makes you wonder…why didn’t they leave them all alone?

What, am I supposed to say “Thank you, LCMS/LSB, for letting me have a taste of my heritage”? Or “On behalf of myself and other backwards types, thank you for indulging our nostalgia”? “Thanks! It was really fun to have this old-fashioned experience and remember what church used to be like for people in the olden days”? What is this? The script for some Lutheran historic church re-enactors? How quaint.

“I tell you what, Paul— we should include a few of the florid old duffer-hymns so that people can use them at their 8:00 Heritage Service™; if it makes the old people get mopey, they can come back at 10:45 and get pepped at SpiritZest™, where the real worshiping happens.”

“I hear you, Zane. But shouldn’t we make at least some changes?”

“No, no. Some of them have to be untouched. Like…I dunno…ten hymns can be left well enough alone.”

“But won’t some of the weird traditional types look at those ten hymns and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute—why couldn’t all of them have been left well enough alone?'”?

“No, Paul. That will never happen.”

[Fin]

You’re wrong, Zane. It’s happening right here, right now.

This is exactly what it feels like. It’s like the beautiful golden candlesticks that used to adorn a church’s altar which are now kept in a display case in the “fellowship hall,” bathed in hot fluorescent light. Wouldn’t it be neat to…take them out and use it for a service sometime? Oh, that would be so neat and special. Like having a seder meal!

Wait, what? Use them all the time? Don’t be silly! We’re not peasants, you know! Besides, the edge of the projector screen comes down right at that level, so they’d be in the way.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy singing “Jesus, Priceless Treasure” tomorrow. It’s a beautiful hymn. Certainly not the greatest of all hymns, but a solid hymn all the same. Winkworth’s translation is good. It’s Scriptural, it’s full of Christian comfort, it’s poetic, and it’s beautiful. There are no lines about “faithless murmurs” or “acclamation.” Yes, in fact it just might make you think of “how church used to be” in the LCMS. The secret which these glib company men don’t want you to believe is that church can be that way again. Church is that way still, and in many places. “You can’t go back.” < – That’s a dumb rejoinder. Ignore it. Sing the great hymns. Opt for the excellent and beautiful. You don’t need to go back, because you can bring the past forward and make it present again, then tradition it on into the future, so that your children can benefit from our great heritage of beautiful church music and hymnody which, until recently in the Lutheran Church, has always served as the handmaiden of our greatest heritage: God’s Word.

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – “Speak, O Lord, Thy Servant Heareth”

Even if the first time I encounter a Lutheran hymn is in its LSB version, I can somehow still tell that something is off. This isn’t too surprising, as most of us have this experience time to time when we read poetry. Translation is a poetic art, after all. And while the canons of poetry and verse are not mathematical, you can still sense when they’re being violated, much as you can get the sense that something is “off” in a house where nothing is quite square, level, or plumb.

I’ll call it “hymndar.” Like gaydar, hymndar is more intuition than anything else, and it can be wrong. Mine usually isn’t, though. The first alert is a sense of incredulity. Just as a well-calibrated gaydar will make you think, “Why on earth would a self-respecting man wear that?”—but in an instant, before you can even put the thought into words—hymndar makes you think, “There’s no way that the 17th century original says this,” or something along those lines. I would say that in both cases you are reacting to something gay, but I don’t want to be offensive.

Well.

Where to begin? Whether to begin? Why bother?

Sorry, George T. Rygh, your translation was sadly lacking. The LCMS has “updated” it for you. Just like this guy is updating a Chromebook:

Hymn-smoke. Don’t breathe this!

I’ve gotta say, this might be my favorite LSB edit so far:

Sort of the LSB writ small, innit? A needless verbal change, blunting the Law, and modernized language. Beautiful in its simplicity, and by beautiful I mean “Sad!” Put some clip-art on that sucker and sell it to some cat ladies. We got us a winner.

“Why are you so sarcastic and mean?” writes one person who read one of these hymn posts. That’s a good question. I don’t think I’ve been mean in these posts. I will admit that I’ve been sarcastic, though. I’ll peel back the mask and tell you why:

Because sometimes mordant sarcasm helps us cope with awful realities. Sometimes we laugh in order to keep from weeping.

When you get right down to it, I don’t think the destruction of our hymnal is actually a laughing matter. I think it’s deeply sad. I find it very frustrating that so many of our great Lutheran hymns have been bowdlerized, mutilated, and memory-holed by the very men who are supposed to be preserving our heritage. Maybe you don’t care about that. You’re free to not care. Am I not free to care?

I’m not alone, by the way. There are dozens of us. DOZENS, I tell you.

In closing, all I’ll say is that the LSB-Bingo (pronounced “ell-ess bəh-BING-go”) scorecard that I will eventually make is definitely going to have “glad anthems” and “banner” on it.

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – I’m not dead

I’ve really dropped the ball on this project, and I apologize. To you Brits, I apologise.

This post is short, but in it I’ll be “trialing” (see? Nagelite) a new method of highlighting textual discrepancies. Since it’s a new method, and things could go wrong in the laboratory, I’ve decided to do some animal testing: rather than a Lutheran hymn, I’m using an Anglican hymn.

I give you… “Glorious Things of Ze Are Spoken”

Just say this beautiful line a few times: “What can shake thy sure repose?” It’s great. Needs no modification.

Now say, “What can shake your sure repose?” Your sure. Yorshur. If you’re really good, yore shoor. Doesn’t matter. It’s ugliness on the level of “holy be Your name.”

Here is the only place that LSB and LW differ:

…because no one knows what a “worldling” is.

The LSB committee had the chance to undo the botches of LW, but by and large they simply did not. By and large, they simply took the offal from LW, and, well…polished it. If you work in the corporate tech world, you know what I’m talking about. This is a prime example.

I would have loved to be in the meeting, if one even happened, where they decided how to redact verse 3. Let me set the scene:

“So, guys, we’ve got this Scriptural image of the pillar of fire or cloud leading God’s people in the wilderness. My question is…how can we get rid of it?”

“Well, Floyd, I really think we should change it to a line about banners. I mean, we’ve got these horrendous things all over the walls of our churches, so why don’t we sing about them?”

“That’s a great idea, Ned. How about we say ‘thus deriving from their banner light by night and shade by day’?”

“…yeah but who derives light from a banner?”

“Now, Ned, you know what I’m going to tell you, don’t you?”

“You know, Floyd, you’re right. I’d almost forgot! You can derive light from anything if you…”

(ALL, in unison) “Set it ABLAZE™!!”

(chortling and back-patting ensue; then they all go to lunch at Chili’s)

You know I’m right.

“Daily on the manna feeding” obviously might make people hungry to receive the Sacrament, if not daily, at least weekly, so that clearly had to be re-tooled to the limp “Safe they feed upon the manna.” They definitely had to be sure to include an overwrought reminder that God doesn’t just give us daily bread when we ask for it, because there’s just no way to read Newton’s original other than that God will only give you manna when you pray for it.

It’s just an Anglican hymn. But it’s not a bad one, and it sounds good to “Galilean,” “Abbot’s Leigh,” or “Austria.” There was nothing wrong with the text. So, naturally, LW ruined it, and LSB didn’t bother to undo the damage.

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – Trinity 13: “Jesus Thy Boundless Love To Me”

We begin today’s hymnological examination with some wise words from Pastor David Peterson:

If we are to debate practices — and we must — then we will denigrate. This might be slightly painful, but it should be no surprise. Consider the matter of LSB hymnody. We must all surely know that its hymns are unequal. They all passed doctrinal review. Thus we trust that they are all free of blatant false teaching. But some are abysmally weak, have to be explained away from their original context, and do little actually to teach the faith. Others are confession, praise, and catechesis of the highest order. We may not agree on which hymns fall into which category, but we all know that some hymns are stronger than others. We all choose hymns in context. We don’t use the strongest hymn in the hymnal each Sunday. We vary hymns week to week. So also, not every hymn, regardless of its merits, is necessarily immediately accessible, while some hymns, weak as they are, are simply congregational favorites for sentimental reasons and for the sake of love we sing them. We don’t dogmatize the hymns of the day. But we certainly should teach both our pastors and laity to practice theological discernment in hymn choice and also encourage them to strive for stronger and stronger hymnody as they are able. A congregation or pastor without discernment who choses hymns merely for entertainment or emotional value deserves rebuke.

Good stuff. With respect, though I might qualify something he said: while the hymns in LSB are free of blatant false teaching, they are not free of subtle false teaching. That’s almost more of a problem. People get used to hearing and singing sub-orthodox formulations of our doctrine Sunday by Sunday, week by week. Eventually they will bristle when the weaknesses are pointed out to them. “Hey! I like that hymn. Quit being mean!” “Yeah, well it’s—” “SHUT UP. I LIKE THE LSB. THE LSB IS THE BEST. LOOK, I WROTE IN MY COPY. IT LOOKS LIKE A BAPTIST’S BIBLE.” Which proves…what, exactly? I happen to like cigarettes, which I know are bad for me.

The chief hymn for Trinity 13 is Paul Gerhardt’s “Jesus Thy Boundless Love To Me.” The first and most obvious problem with the LSB version of this hymn is the melody. Here is the melody for TLH’s version:

You probably already know the LSB melody. There’s no contest. LSB’s tune, composed by Norman Cocker (1889-1953), sounds like it’s straight out of Porgy & Bess. It’s not an unpleasant melody—I like Gershwin just fine. But this melody is not churchly. It’s big-band sing-songy schmaltz.

This hymn by no means the only one whose glorious traditional tune LSB has dispensed with in favor of some airy schlock. This isn’t even the worst offender. The worst offender may in fact be LSB 941, “We Praise You And Acknowledge You,” which is set to a theme from Gustav Holst’s suite The Planets, movement four: “Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity.” Don’t get me wrong, I like Holst fairly well, and I once enjoyed a live performance of “The Planets.” Holst does a masterful job in the fourth movement of acoustically conjuring Jovial imagery in the minds of his hearers. That said, I don’t worship Jove/Jupiter/Zeus, so I personally find it a little off-putting that this theme is used as the musical setting for a (mediocre) paraphrase of the Te Deum, which is a glorious hymn to the One True God. (Unsurprisingly, the Te Deum only made it into LSB’s Matins after a botched plastic surgery—that might merit its own piece.) Yes, the theme from “Jupiter” is beautiful and soaring…in the context of the movement and of the whole Planets suite. When it gets looped for use as a hymn tune, though, it sounds canned, kitschy, and sentimental. To adapt the great Scaer the Elder: it makes your mother, who is a Methodist, want to sing with her eyes closed. It simply is not churchly. As for the lyrics…Stephen Starke is a good man, but St. Ambrose of Milan he ain’t. As for me and my house, we will sing the actual Te Deum—from TLH.

At least there is some context in which Holst’s music is beautiful and fitting, though. Look up LSB 406, Martin Luther’s “To Jordan Came The Christ Our Lord,” a very welcome addition to the Kernlieder, and set to Johann Walter’s beautiful 1524 melody. Not so fast, though! With fear and trembling, turn the page to 407. What’s this? Same hymn? No, not exactly. The “alternate melody” for this great hymn is truly awful. It sounds like somebody mashed up the soundtrack of Muppet Treasure Island with something by Rodgers & Hammerstein. If you have never sung this hymn to this tune—if you have never even heard this tune—pray that you never do. Unfortunately, your chances of hearing it are higher than you might have thought: turn to LSB 823 & 824, two facing pages containing two settings of Luther’s “May God Bestow On Us His Grace.” There it is again on 824, ringing the changes. Not content to let either of these marvelous hymns come into our use in their singularly majestic musical idioms, LSB’s editors had to provide a way to make them sound jejune. Somebody once told me that they liked 824 better “because it’s sort of fun and bouncy.” Indeed. It is certainly bouncy. With that said, I’d like to cede the rest of my time to my opponent.

I’ve gotten off track from “Jesus Thy Boundless Love To Me.” So far I’ve only talked about the music, but that’s not the only problem with LSB’s version. Here are the two versions in parallel:

TLH 349

LSB 683

1. Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
Unite my thankful heart with Thee
And reign without a rival there.
To Thee alone, dear Lord, I live;
Myself to Thee, dear Lord, I give.
1. Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
Unite my thankful heart to Thee,
And reign without a rival there!
Thine wholly, Thine alone I am;
Be Thou alone my constant flame.
2. Oh, grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell but Thy pure love alone!
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My Joy, my Treasure, and my Crown!
All coldness from my heart remove;
My ev’ry act, word, thought, be love.
2. O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone!
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
All coldness from my heart remove;
My ev’ry act, word, thought be love.
3. O Love, how cheering is Thy ray!
All pain before Thy presence flies;
Care, anguish, sorrow, melt away
Where’er Thy healing beams arise.
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire or seek, but Thee!
4. This love unwearied I pursue
And dauntlessly to Thee aspire.
Oh, may Thy love my hope renew,
Burn in my soul like heav’nly fire!
And day and night be all my care
To guard this sacred treasure there.
3. This love unwearied I pursue
And dauntlessly to Thee aspire.
Oh, may Thy love my hope renew,
Burn in my soul like heav’nly fire!
And day and night be all my care
To guard this sacred treasure there.
5. Oh, draw me, Savior, e’er to Thee;
So shall I run and never tire.
With gracious words still comfort me;
Be Thou my Hope, my sole Desire.
Free me from every guilt and fear;
No sin can harm if Thou art near.
6. Still let Thy love point out my way;
What wondrous things Thy love hath wrought!
Still lead me lest I go astray;
Direct my work, inspire my thought;
And if I fall, soon may I hear
Thy voice and know that love is near!
7. In suffering be Thy love my peace,
In weakness be Thy love my power;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
O Jesus, in that final hour,
Be Thou my Rod and Staff and Guide
And draw me safely to Thy side!
4. In suff’ring be Thy love my peace,
In weakness be Thy love my pow’r;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
O Jesus, in that final hour,
Be Thou my rod and staff and guide
And draw me safely to Thy side!

TLH has seven verses, LSB has four. LSB’s first verse has been neutered, because twenty-first century Lutheran antinomians are unable to comprehend the Scriptural truth that while unregenerate man is incapable of “giving himself” to Jesus in any sense, the the regenerate Christian’s entire life is a living sacrifice in which he constantly gives himself to Jesus for the sake of his neighbor and his neighbor for the sake of Jesus. This is not some automatic phenomenon effected by vocation tractor-beams. Yes, it has to do with vocation, but it involves your active striving. (See my comments on LSB’s edits to verse 3 of “In God My Faithful God”; the same are applicable here.) Unable to handle nuanced (or just plain basic) spiritual truths, the neo-Lutheran editors of the LSB have ensured that no one will experience the discomfort of encountering such truths in the hymns of our church. Instead we get “Be thou alone my constant flame,” which is bad poetry and weirdly vague. For one, fire is the heraldry of the Holy Spirit, not of Jesus. For two, “Jesus, be my flame”? I’ll pass. You should, too.

Mark well the verses that LSB omits. Read them. Sing them—but don’t sing them to the LSB tune: not only is it inferior, it doesn’t work metrically with these verses. Ask yourself, “Why would someone leave these verses out?” Well, they really needed to save space so that we could include the Jamaican sing-along, “All You Works of God Bless the Lord,” (LSB 930). Yeah, mon! Get out de steel drum and pass de chalice! Let’s ruin de Easter Vigil…

Worst construction? It’s not even a construction. It’s just what happened when LSB was put together. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the LSB is the camel built by the committee that was charged with building a horse. A committee is a democracy in miniature, and democracy is a cancer.

Here’s TLH’s version of “Jesus Thy Boundless Love To Me.” Sing it, and be blessed!

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – Trinity 11: “Oh, How Great Is Thy Compassion”

Sorry, I’m late.

Here’s the damage:

TLH 384

LSB 559

1. Oh, how great is Thy compassion,
Faithful Father, God of grace,
That with all our fallen race
And in our deep degradation
Thou wast merciful that we
Might be saved eternally!
1. Oh, how great is Your compassion,
Faithful Father, God of grace,
That with all our fallen race
In our depth of degradation
You had mercy so that we
Might be saved eternally!
2. Thy great love for this hath striven
That we may from sin be free
And forever live with Thee;
Yea, Thy Son Himself hath given
In His grace an earnest call
To His Supper unto all.
2. Your great love for this hath striven
That we may, from sin made free,
Live with You eternally.
Your dear Son Himself has given
And extends His gracious call,
To His Supper leads us all.
3. And for this our souls’ salvation
Voucheth Thy good Spirit, Lord,
In Thy Sacraments and Word.
He imparteth consolation,
Granteth us the gift of faith
That we fear nor hell nor death.
3. Firmly to our souls’ salvation
Witnesses Your Spirit, Lord,
In Your Sacraments and Word.
There He sends true consolation,
Giving us the gift of faith
That we fear not hell nor death.
4. Lord, Thy mercy will not leave me—
Truth doth evermore abide,—
Then in Thee I will confide.
Since Thy Word cannot deceive me,
My salvation is to me
Well assured eternally.
4. Lord, Your mercy will not leave me;
Ever will Your truth abide.
Then in You I will confide.
Since Your Word cannot deceive me,
My salvation is to me
Safe and sure eternally.
5. I will praise Thy great compassion,
Faithful Father, God of grace,
That with all our fallen race
And in our deep degradation
Thou wast merciful that we
Might bring endless praise to Thee.
5. I will praise Your great compassion,
Faithful Father, God of grace,
That with all our fallen race
In our depth of degradation
You had mercy so that we
Might be saved eternally!

Boomer fingerprints everywhere.

I’d turn this into a shorthand, “BFE,” but in addition to referring to a certain unpleasant locale in Egypt, in Lutheran-land this acronynm also refers to a certain editor-in-chief of Gottesdienst, and I don’t want to suggest that he is somehow culpable for the desecration that I’ve been cataloguing here. He is not.

Just…look what they did to this hymn.

Hymnary doesn’t have a scan of TLH’s version available. Sorry.

Does anyone else feel like they’re watching a train-wreck? I sure do. On to the next disappointment.