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Praise Ye the Lord, The Almighty  by Joachim Neander 1650-1680

Translated by Cathrine Winkworth 1827-1878

Tune: Lobe den herren (composer unknown)

For a YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/AqdGw7qTSlU

1 Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear; Now to his temple draw near,
Join me in glad adoration.

2 Praise ye the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reignth;
Sheltering thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustainth!
Hast thou not seen How they desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

3 Praise ye the Lord, who will with marvelous wisdom hath made thee,
Decked thee with health, and with loving hand guided and stayed thee;
How oft in grief hath not He brought thee relief,
Spreading His wings for to shade thee!

4 Praise ye the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before him.
Let the Amen Sound from his people again;
Gladly for aye we adore him.

This hymn is a free paraphrasing of Psalm 103: 1-6

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

2 Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

A stronger call to praise the Lord would be hard to find in all of Christendom! The author, Joachim Neander lived but a short 30 years, dying from tuberculous, but within that period he became the most important hymn writer for the German Reformed Church.  He wrote many hymns which are used in Lutheran and Reformed churches today. Neander had a difficult time during his short life and often sought refuge from his difficulties in the country side. He frequently wandered in the area around the Dussel River. This area became known as the Neanderthal (thal means “valley” in German) and in this area the proto humanoid skeletons of the Neanderthal were found.

In many of Neander’s poems we find a strong identification with creation as a starting point. In the very first phrase we are called to praise the King of the creation. The mention of “health” in the second phrase is an example of some of the liberties the translator took to make the text more “relevant” to what was currently of interest to the culture and is not mentioned in the original text.

The second stanza reiterates the declaration of the Lord’s sovereignty over all things. We are sheltered under his wing and sustains us in all of our needs and desires.

Again, in the third stanza it is the wisdom of the Lord which made us, given us health, and with his loving hand guided and protected us. Out of our grief he brings us relief and with his wing he shades us.

In the final stanza, everything within myself, my breath and life must declare his praises. And all of his people must also declare their adoration for Him, the creator and sustainer of us all!




Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

By Charles Wesley 1740

Here is a link to a recording of this hymn: http://youtu.be/bjgPTZn4nSY

1 Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

2 Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee;
Joyless is the day’s return,
Till thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Cheer my eyes and warm my heart.

3 Visit then this soul of mine;
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

Charles Wesley wrote nearly 9000 poems in his life time, with over 6000 of them suitable for use as a hymn. This particular hymn is a great example of his writing, illustrating the theological depth and understanding present in his other works. Within these three short stanzas, there are over 20 direct scripture references.

From the first line, Wesley begins to paint an image of the salvific work of Christ. While it would not be unusual to say that: God’s glory fills the sky, it is a new and bold statement to say that Christ’s glory fills the sky. This Christ, this Jesus, is the true and only light. Carrying on with the theme of light, he makes another unexpected point; instead of using the usual “Son of Righteousness” he uses “Sun of Righteousness”. This comes from Malachi 4:2:  (2But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.) “Day-spring” and “Day-star” also come from scriptural references ranging from Revelations 22:16, Luke 1:78 and Isiah 14:12.

The second stanza describes the life without Christ’s light. Without the Morning Light, the day is joyless. Not until the inward light of Christ is present is our heart warmed. Without the presences of the Christ, life is dark and meaningless.

The gloom of sin and grief is only cast away with the presence of the light of Christ. This light scatters our unbelief and fills us with joy for that perfect day. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

May the Light of Christ which drives out the darkness of sin and despair fill you with the peace which is beyond understanding.

 




It is Well with My Soul

Horatio Spafford

Music by Philip Bliss

Tune: Ville du Havre

YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/tPR-vSCRNlE

1)When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul),

It is well, it is well with my soul.

2) Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

(Refrain)

3) My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

(Refrain)

4) For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pain shall be mine,

for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper

Thy peace to my soul.

(Refrain)

5) And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain)

After the great fire of 1871, in my beloved home of Chicago, which destroyed nearly everything I owned, I spent my days helping those whose loses were even greater. I worked with my dear friend D.L. Moody to do whatever we could to help our neighbors. Out of this, I began to feel His calling to know Him ever more and to pursue a different path for my life.

A couple of years after the Great Fire, my beloved wife, Anna and our four young daughters set sail to Europe for an extended vacation and to visit Mr. Moody as he preached throughout England. At the last minute I was detained on business and would have to follow them later. While in New York, booking them on their passage, I felt a need to change their cabins from mid-ship to the bow. I am not sure why I did this, I just felt it had to be done.

Oh what tragedy! My heart is broken into pieces! Why, oh God, did you take my children from me?

Just days after leaving my arms, my precious children passed into His arms as the Ville du Havre sank to the ocean’s bottom, rammed mid-ships by another vessel. Only my beloved Anna survived.

After receiving Anna’s telegram which read: “Saved alone. What shall I do?” I set out immediately to bring my beloved and heartbroken Anna home. One day, during the crossing, the captain calls me to the bridge. He shows me on his chart where we are and tells me it is here that Annie, Margret Lee, Elizabeth, and my infant Tanetta went home to be with Jesus.

Upon returning to my cabin I pour out my anguish and my continued dependence upon my Savior. Despite my utterly broken heart, I know that peace, which flows through my life, comes from the blood of Christ which was shed for me. No matter the hardships or trials which Satan may throw my way, I can rest in the comfort of my Savior.

Andrew Remillard from the perspective of Horatio Spafford

(A few years later Horatio, Anna, and their two young daughter born after the tragedy, Bertha, and Grace move to Jerusalem. They established the American Colony and dedicated the remainder of their lives to the care of the poor and needy without regard to faith or status. Horatio died of malaria in 1888 and was buried at the Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem. Anna continued their labors in Jerusalem until her death in 1923. Their daughter Bertha also lived her entire life in Jerusalem.)



Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott 

Music and text by Martin Luther based upon Psalm 46

YouTube recording: http://youtu.be/cnvnfq5ut7s

1.      A mighty fortress is our God,

a bulwark never failing;

our helper he amid the flood

of mortal ills prevaling.

For still our ancient foe

doth seek to work us woe;

his craft and power are great,

and armed with cruel hate,

on earth is not his equal.

2.      Did we in our own strength confide,

our striving would be losing,

were not the right man on our side,

the man of God’s own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is he;

Lord Sabaoth, his name,

from age to age the same,

and he must win the battle.

3.      And though this world, with devils filled,

should threaten to undo us,

we will not fear, for God hath willed

his truth to triumph through us.

The Prince of Darkness grim,

we tremble not for him;

his rage we can endure,

for lo, his doom is sure;

one little word shall fell him.

4.      That word above all earthly powers,

no thanks to them, abideth;

the Spirit and the gifts are ours,

thru him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go,

this mortal life also;

the body they may kill;

God’s truth abideth still;

his kingdom is forever.

No other hymn has the same connection to the German and Lutheran Reformation as this hymn. (And is now ironically begun to be used in the Roman Catholic Church) Luther wrote it very early in his reformation efforts. He possibly wrote it as a dedication for his friend Leonhard Kaiser, who was executed on August 16, 1527. It is also recorded that it was sung by Luther and his companions as they entered The Diet of Worm on April 16, 1521 where he was called to defend his 95 Thesis.  Though in all likelihood it was written around 1527… almost 500 years ago.

One of Luther’s goals for the reformation was to reintroduce congregational singing to the service and to that end he wrote many  hymns (poetic texts) and tunes to accompany those hymns.

Luther used his hymns to teach important theological truths and declare those truths in no uncertain terms. This direct truthfulness is one of the many reasons his hymns still resonate centuries after they were written.

He starts with declaring in terms very understandable to his audience of the confidence they can have in their protector. Life and security was very tenuous in his day. Neighboring towns or provinces would wage war over the slightest of provocation or ambition, and often did. The security of the community rested in the protective fortresses. We can find refuge from  the ancient foe, the devil, (and in Luther’s mind probably Pope Leo X), whose craft and power is greater than all others. None of this is from our own strength, but rather from a man of God’s own choosing, his Son. Ultimately the truth will win the day and our enemies will be vanquished.  The Spirit of God will provide all we need. Though this mortal body may be killed, God’s truth will not fail, for His Kingdom is forever! Amen and Amen.

Luther was facing significant pressure from the Roman Church to recant his teaching. His life, and the lives of his friends and family were most certainly in danger. It was a common practice to kill political and spiritual opponents during this time in Europe. The reformers, if captured by the authorities of the Roman church could certainly have been executed for their crimes of heresy. This explains the strong language in many of Luther’s hymns, they quite accurately reflect his life and times and one does not face certain death over trivial matters.

“It was … the Marseillaise of the Reformation. It was sung at Augsburg during the Diet, and in all the churches of Saxony, often against the protest of the priest. It was sung in the streets; and, so heard, comforted the hearts of Melanchthon, Jonas, and Cruciger, as they entered Weimar, when banished from Wittenberg in 1547. It was sung by poor Protestant emigrants on their way into exile, and by martyrs at their death. It is woven into the web of the history of Reformation times, and it became the true national hymn of Protestant Germany.”  Louis Benson Studies of Familiar Hymns 1903

And it continues to speak to us today and will continue speak until he comes again.



Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended (1630)

by Johann Heermann 1585-1647 tr. Robert Bridges 1844-1930

Traditional tune: Herziebster Jesu (1640)

YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/RkI838hBO9M

1.      Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,

that we to judge thee have in hate pretended?

By foes derided, by thine own rejected,

O most afflicted!

2.      Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?

Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!

‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;

I crucified thee.

3.      Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;

the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.

For our atonement, while we nothing heeded,

God interceded.

4.      For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,

thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation;

thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,

for my salvation.

5.      Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,

I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,

think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,

not my deserving.

Isaiah 53 3-7

3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

(A number of Lutheran hymnals use a translation written in 1863 by Catherine Winkworth which begins “O dearest Jesus, what law hast thou broken?”[)

 Johann Heerman was born in Raudten (modern day Rudna) in Silesia which is wedged between modern Poland and the Czech Republic. He was the fourth son of a middle-class Protestant family; none of his elder siblings survived beyond their childhood. As a thirteen year old child he was sent to a nearby town to further his education. His health proved too fragile and he had to frequently interrupt his learning to return home to recover.

During his early 20’s his patron (for whom he was tutoring his children) took him on a tour of Europe and Heerman was able to spend time studying in many capitals of Europe. He eventually settled in Chobienia, Poland and began work at the Lutheran congregation in a role we would call the assistant pastor today. The senior pastor was in poor health and died days after he began his duties. That Fall in 1611 he married Dorothea Feige, the daughter of the mayor of Raudten.

However, life in the 1600’s was generally short and brutish. By 1613 the Plague was ravaging the area, in 1616 a fire nearly destroyed the entire town and Johan’s wife died childless in 1617. He remarried the next year and eventually he had four children we know of. A few years later Johan once again fell ill and never recovered his health, though he lived another 25 years. By the 1630’s his community fell victim to the 30 Year War and was plundered by Catholic armies repeated over the next decade.  Survival was tenuous at best, by the 1630’s his health was so poor he was unable to work.

Despite all of the hardship Johan Heermann endured throughout his life this poem shows he still understood his dependence upon God for salvation and his gratitude for the underserved mercies of his salvation.

The first two stanzas ask a questions which are answered in their final verse.  Jesus, what did you do to deserve this? Who brought this upon you? The answer is: O most afflicted, I crucified thee. But God interceded for my salvation, which I did not deserve.



Savior, When in Dust to Thee  by Robert Grant, 1779-1838

A recording is available here:  http://youtu.be/3RIypqGC6x4

  1. Savior, when in dust to Thee
    Low 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 man below,
    Bending from Thy throne on high,
    Hear our solemn litany!

  2. By Thy helpless infant years,
    By Thy life of want and tears,
    By Thy days of sore distress
    In the savage wilderness,
    By the dread, mysterious hour Of the insulting Tempter’s power,
    Turn, O turn, a favoring eye,
    Hear our solemn litany!

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 cry,
Hear our solemn litany!

  1. By Thy deep expiring groan,
    By the sad sepulchral stone,
    By the vault whose dark abode
    Held in vain the rising God,
    Oh, from earth to heaven restored,
    Mighty, reascended Lord,
    Listen, listen, to the cry
    Of our solemn litany!

Luke 18:13

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Two men went to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a despised tax collector. One boasted of his righteousness to the righteous one, the other knew his sine and unworthiness before God. We acknowledge our utter dependence God as we bow down into the dust. Acknowledgment of our sins brings with it the knowledge of our guilt before God. How can we even lift our eyes to the cross, knowing ourselves as we do? Yet, God reached down from his throne to hear our prayers.

From Christ’s birth, through his sore temptation in the desert by Satan himself to that faithful day on the cross, through nails, thorns, and spear, God listens to our humble cry.

John 19:30

 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said: “It is finished,”  and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

With a deep groan, heard for millennium to come: “IT IS FINISHED”. We are redeemed from the grave. The grave will wait in vain for he is risen! He has heard our solemn litany!