Christian music on earth
is nothing but a foretaste of
or a Prelude to everlasting life,
since here we only intone and sing the Antiphons
until through temporal death
we sing the Introit and the Sequence,
and in everlasting life the true Completory
and the Hymns in all eternity.
Dedicated to my mentor, teacher, and friend, Bruce R. Backer,
Professor, Dr. Martin Luther College, New Ulm, MN
O come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us make a joyful noise to Him with psalms.
For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land.
O come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
(Psalm 95, the Venite from the Office of Matins)
God created our world perfect and in harmony with Himself and His holiness. All the earth was to serve man and glorify God, so "let everything that has breath praise the LORD" (Psalm 150:6). All God's creation from the beginning sings His praise and announces His glory, as He says in Job: "To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:6-7). "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).
The history of Christian worship begins in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve at first lived in perfect harmony and communion with God our Maker. Cain and Abel worshipped God with sacrifices of thanksgiving for His blessed promises; Cain in hypocrisy, Abel in true faith. In the days of Seth, Adam and Eve's third son, we are told: "Then men began to call on the name of the LORD" (Genesis 4:26), indicating what most people consider the beginning of public worship. Already the first human family was attending the Service of the Church and singing the Song of the Church, exhorting one another: "O come, let us worship!"
The word "worship" is used about 185 times in the Bible. The English word "worship" comes from worth-ship; in worship we proclaim God's worthiness to receive our praise and reverence. The English word "worship" in Scripture usually comes from Hebrew and Greek words  which mean to "bow down." When the Lord God appeared to His people in the Old Testament, they bowed before Him to show respect and reverence-whether He came in the strangers who visited Abraham, in the burning bush, the pillar of cloud and fire, as the Angel of the LORD who appeared at various times, or in the still small voice which spoke to Elijah.
God still comes to us today in the Divine Service, the "Worship Service", in His Word and Sacraments. We too worship God by bowing down. Most of our churches have the custom of kneeling to receive the Lord's Body and Blood in the Sacrament; some also have kneelers for the pastor during the Opening and Closing Prayers of the Service and during the Confession of Sin. Our liturgies use the expression: "Let us bow before the Lord and confess our sins." These acts of bowing and kneeling acknowledge our complete dependence upon God, our submission to the Almighty Lord, our utter unworthiness before the One who alone is worthy "to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!" (Revelation 5:12). But this is not a forced submission or a self-righteous obedience as one finds in other "religions"; with it we acknowledge God's glory, and we bow to receive God's Word in all its marvelous grace and undeserved forgiveness.
We bow our hearts, just as did the blessed Mother of Christ: "Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). She was overwhelmed by God's grace, bowed herself in lowliness, and received its wonder with all humility, joy, and faith in the Savior promised to her and all sinners. The angel Gabriel had come to her in the service of God and proclaimed the wondrous message of the Gospel. When visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Mary responded to God's Word with a Song of the Church that the Lord inspired her to sing. We still sing that beautiful hymn, the Magnificat, thanking God for these promises and for His wondrous grace. She sang this song of praise first and foremost because she was filled with the Holy Spirit, but also because the word of Christ dwelt in her richly as she had learned so many of the hymns of the Church at her time, the Psalms. The Magnificat is filled with the words and images of the Psalter: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God, my Savior" (Luke 1:46-47). Mary's hymn, like the Psalms, invites us: "O come, let us worship!"
OLD TESTAMENT WORSHIP
Worship in the Old Testament involved resting from work on the Sabbath day to hear God's Word. At first that Word was proclaimed by word of mouth with no written Scriptures. Adam taught Seth; Seth taught Enosh; Enosh taught Cainan; Cainan taught Mahalelel, and so on. The Word and promises of God were faithfully transmitted from generation to generation. Early Old Testament worship also included sacrifices or offerings to God: as thanksgiving for God's blessings, and as pictures of the one perfect sacrifice of Christ yet to come. "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks" (Hebrews 11:4). These sacrifices were offered not to appease an angry God, but to show the believers' faith and trust in God who forgives all sins through the Promised Savior who appeased God's wrath once for all. The patriarchs brought offerings and sacrifices to God in response to His words and promises; Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob built altars to God and worshipped Him. They bowed down before Him because He had redeemed them, had called, gathered, and enlightened them, and had given them His Word. God served them with the Bread of life; they responded with songs and prayers of praise and thanksgiving.
When Israel came out of Egypt as a great nation, God told them how they were to worship Him and how He would come to them. "In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you" (Exodus 20:24). Later the Lord commanded Solomon to build a temple for Him and promised to hear the prayers of His people wherever He put His name. At the dedication of the temple, Solomon prayed:
Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, "My name shall be there", that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place (1 Kings 8:28-29).
The worship service, the divine service, of the Tabernacle in the wilderness and later the Temple in Jerusalem was a liturgy of sin and grace, confession and absolution, Law and Gospel. The sinner came before God and confessed his sins; the sacrifice was made and the blood sprinkled on the altar, and the priest pronounced God's forgiveness and grace to the believer. This is shown in how Moses instituted the first covenant: "For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you'" (Hebrews 9:19-20). All these foreshadowed the one perfect sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world and the forgiveness which He gives to all who believe. So we say of all believers, Old and New Testament: "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). The liturgy of the Old Testament brought to the people the benefit of Christ's work centuries before it was done; the liturgy of the New Testament brings to us the benefit of Christ's forgiveness centuries after it was finished.
Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:11-12,24).
Luther also comments on this:
We treat of the forgiveness of sins in two ways. First, how it is achieved and won. Second, how it is distributed and given to us. Christ has achieved it on the cross, it is true. But he has not distributed or given it on the cross. He has not won it in the supper or sacrament. There he has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the gospel, where it is preached. He has won it once for all on the cross. But the distribution takes place continuously, before and after, from the beginning to the end of the world. For inasmuch as he had determined once to achieve it, it made no difference to him whether he distributed it before or after, through his Word, as can easily be proved from Scripture... If I now seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, as Dr. Karlstadt trifles, in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross. Therefore, Luther has rightly taught that whoever has a bad conscience from his sins should go to the sacrament and obtain comfort, not because of the bread and wine, not because of the body and blood of Christ, but because of the word which in the sacrament offers, presents, and gives the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for me.
The services of the Temple were elaborate and detailed, beautiful and glorious, as our God is exalted and glorious. The most beautiful treasures of God's creation adorned His Temple: gold, silver, fine cloth, embroidered curtains and robes, and jewels on the robe of the high priest. Glorious sounds filled the Temple from trumpets and cymbals, psalteries and stringed instruments, flutes and other wind instruments. Skilled and trained choirs sang lovely settings of the psalms, the inspired hymns of the Church, some of them dating back to the time of Moses (Psalm 90). Memorable aromas ascended to God as a sweet-smelling savor from the offerings of incense and animals, the lighted lampstand, the anointing oil perfumed with myrrh, cinnamon and cassia (Exodus 30:23-25). Even the sense of taste was sanctified for holy use as parts of the sacrificial animals were eaten by the priests and sometimes by their families (Leviticus 5:13; 7:9; 21:22, Deuteronomy 18:3). The whole believing family ate the Passover meal of roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs to remember that the Lord had miraculously delivered Israel from bitter slavery in Egypt, as He delivers us from bondage to sin for joyful service in His kingdom (Exodus 12).
God does not command us to use all of these things today, for the Old Testament sacrifices and festivals were "a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Colossians 2:17). Yet the heritage and precedent of using only the best in the service of the Church is clearly set forth in Scripture itself for the Church of all the ages. When the Israelites were to build the tabernacle and bring gifts for its construction, their giving of gold, silver, fine cloth, and precious stones so overwhelmed Moses that finally he had to tell them to stop:
The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the LORD commanded us to do. So Moses gave a commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, "Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary." And the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done-indeed too much (Exodus 36:5-6).
In the same way our churches and the services of God's House among us today are the very best that we are able to give. Not every church can be an ornate Gothic cathedral, but neither is it to be an ordinary house or a make-do building; it is a temple fit for our heavenly King, a memorial to the greatness of our God, a house consecrated for the preaching and singing and praying of the divine oracles of the King of heaven. The Divine Service of God's House transports us out of the sinful and corrupt world into the holy dwelling of God Most High. The church is not a lecture hall  or a meeting place, but a House of God, a Gate of heaven, for God Himself comes to us in the Divine Service of His House. "Surely the Lord is in this place How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" (Genesis 28:16-17). In God's House the gates of heaven are opened for us through the forgiveness of sins and the promise of everlasting life.
The means of grace are the powerful vehicles through which the Holy Spirit brings to us God's grace which Christ has won for us, vehicles through which He creates in us a new spirit and makes us a new creation. We are a valley of dry bones, but the Word of God makes us alive (Ezekiel 37). The Word of God, Holy Baptism, and the Sacrament of the Altar bring us into direct communion with God, our Maker, Redeemer, and Comforter. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts through His Word as it is read, preached, sung, and prayed in the Divine Service. All these elements of worship are a proclamation of the Word of God, the Gospel of Christ. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16; also Ephesians 5:19). "O come, let us worship!"
NEW TESTAMENT WORSHIP
New Testament believers built on the familiar foundation of worship in the Temple and synagogue. At first they still went to the Temple at the appointed hours of prayer (Acts 3:1). They continued to use the Psalms as their hymnbook, adding new Christian hymns as they were written and appropriate, the first of these naturally being the songs of the New Testament: Zacharias' Benedictus, Mary's Magnificat, and Simeon's Nunc Dimittis (Luke 1 and 2), and the Palm Sunday Hosanna (Matthew 21:9). Worship in the temple and synagogue consisted of Scripture lessons, singing the psalms and hymns, sermons on the lessons, and prayers. The early church continued the lessons, singing, sermons, and prayers-pointing to Jesus our Lord as the perfect and complete fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets and the Writings. And as the Apostles by inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote the books of the New Testament, they too found a place of honor in the liturgy of the churches. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42); "Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine Meditate on these things" (1 Timothy 4:13, 15). 
LESSONS: In the synagogue the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) was read by cantillation (chanting) from beginning to end each year. Often there was also a reading from the Prophets, as when Jesus read from Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:21). Certain other readings were used in connection with the festivals, as was most fitting. 
The Christian Church built on this foundation also, singing  the Scriptures from Sunday to Sunday. Eventually texts were chosen for the festivals and Sundays until the entire system of the familiar Epistle and Gospel readings had been set in place. Each year the people heard the major events of Jesus' life from His birth at Christmas to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In the Trinity or Pentecost season the Scripture lessons taught the faith and life of the Holy Christian Church. The readings we have used for centuries were set quite early, within the first few centuries of the Christian Church. They are a treasure, inherited from the learned Fathers of yesterday. They present the whole counsel of God and all the major teachings of the Bible each and every year, and they discipline preachers from selecting only their favorite topics or passages to preach again and again. The selection of these readings (known as pericopes) is a marvel of Christian teaching. Some of the selections may seem arbitrary and even inappropriate, but the more one reads them year after year and uses the Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel readings together, their unity and appropriateness becomes more and more apparent. They are a remarkably well-ordered system. The Lutheran Church retained and treasured these pericopes, removing only the few apocryphal readings and the antiChristian festivals (Corpus Christi, Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, etc.).
The historic set of readings remained almost the same in most Western churches until this century, with minor variations according to denomination and country. In the 1960's the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church instituted many liturgical reforms. Some of these were very welcome and long overdue, such as conducting the services in the language of the people instead of Latin, and giving the people both the host and the cup in the Lord's Supper. Vatican 2 also made changes in the system of readings, introducing a 3-year series of readings. Many other churches, including the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) have followed their lead and have changed the readings for the Church Year.
Over the past centuries the one-year series of readings has served the Church well. The most important lessons from the Scriptures were read every year and became familiar to the people, so that they were almost memorized as they heard them read. The best sermons and sermon-helps of the Lutheran Church are based on these pericopes.  With the new 3-year series repetition is lessened in favor of reading "more" of the Bible over three years. Yet, with this trend one loses the familiarity of the traditional Gospel lessons and the beneficial reinforcement gained through that repetition. The Church of Norway introduced a 3-year series in 1886, but these were alternate texts for preaching and were not to displace the traditional Epistle and Gospel readings. 
In a similar way, the Psalms have always held a unique place in the liturgical life of the Church. This prominence continues also in the New Testament era. The Psalms were the first hymns sung in the Church. Eventually particular psalms were chosen to be sung with each particular Sunday (for example: Psalm 118 for Easter, Psalm 47 for Ascension). At first, whole psalms were sung; in time they were shortened to the few verses of the Introit and Gradual. In the monasteries and the cathedral churches the whole Psalter was sung every week. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer appoints the Psalms to be read by individuals or congregations over the course of one month. The Lutheran Hymnal (p. 166) gives a similar table. Consider also that the Bible is often available in editions of the "New Testament and Psalms." Leaders of the Lutheran Reformation, such as Luther and Bugenhagen, knew the entire Psalter very well from singing it every week in the monastery. It influenced everything they did, including serving as the basis for many of the early Lutheran hymns. (Examples are: A Mighty Fortress, Psalm 46; May God bestow on us His grace, Psalm 67; Out of the depths I cry to Thee, Psalm 130). The Church today would benefit by further use and study of the psalms in the congregation and the home.
The Scripture lessons, of course, were a highlight of the Divine Service. Though the liturgies of the Christian Church differed according to the various cultures and countries in which they developed, some elements are common in almost all Christian services: hymns, Scripture lessons, creeds, sermons, and the sacraments. But there is a major divergence of liturgical tradition between the Eastern and Western Christian Churches. Greek, Syrian, Russian and other eastern liturgies are quite different from our own, and we will not study them here in detail. Our heritage derives from Western Christianity with its centers in Rome and North Africa which developed its own liturgical traditions. Yet even these liturgies varied somewhat from place to place, according to local custom.
The basic structure of the Western liturgy is generally called the Mass, even in Lutheran countries. Our Scandinavian brothers and sisters still use the term High Mass (Høimesse) for the Communion Service. Luther called his two services: the German Mass and the Formula of the Mass. Bach and other Lutheran composers (such as Hassler and Pedersøn) wrote masses or parts of masses for use in Lutheran churches. Other Lutheran composers who wrote works for use within the Divine Service include Walter, Schütz, Scheidt, Schein, Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Praetorius, Walther, Telemann, Zachau, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bender, Distler, Pepping, Micheelsen, Nystedt, and many others.
The main parts of the Mass or Divine Service are:
Prayer of the Church or Litany
Preface and Sanctus
Words of Consecration
This basic structure was established in the first few centuries of the New Testament Christian Church and is still evident in the service of many denominations today.  During the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church changed the theology of the mass, making it a sacrifice from us to God instead of a sacrament from God to us. Removing the false sacrifice theology of the Roman Mass and other anti-Scriptural elements, Luther's Church Orders preserve the basic form of the Mass. The Church Ritual of 1685 for Denmark and Norway , and the Common Order11 used in many American Lutheran churches, also retain this basic structure.
Another term for the Mass or Divine Service is the Liturgy, coming from the Greek word leitourgia, which means a work for the people. It comes first from classical Greek usage. "Leitourgia is the service that a benefactor renders by putting up the money for the next sports event or a ship for the city's navy."12 So in the Divine Service God is the Benefactor. He puts up the whole price and gives the wealth and inheritance to us who are the beneficiaries of Christ's last will and testament. The Christian liturgy is God's work for us, God's service to us, Divine Service, in teaching, absolving, strengthening, and confirming our faith unto everlasting life. The Lutheran Confessions also give us a definition:
Let us talk about the term "liturgy." It does not really mean a sacrifice but a public service. Thus it squares with our position that a minister who consecrates shows forth the body and blood of the Lord to the people, just as a minister who preaches shows forth the gospel to the people, as Paul says (1 Cor. 4:1), "This is how one should regard us, as ministers of Christ and dispensers of the sacraments of God," that is, of the Word and sacraments. (Ap XXIV 80, Tappert p. 264)
RITUAL or rite refers to a particular form of a ceremony. We commonly refer to the orders of service in our churches as liturgy and they may also be called rites. The Lutheran Confessors defend keeping all rites of the Church which do not contain false teaching or false piety. Article XV of the Augsburg Confession on "Ecclesiastical Rites" says:
Of rites in the Church we teach that those ought to be observed which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable for tranquility and good order in the Church, such as particular holidays, festivals, and the like.
Nevertheless, concerning such things, let all be admonished that consciences are not to be burdened, as though such an observance were necessary to salvation. We also admonish that human traditions instituted to appease God, to merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins, are opposed to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith. Therefore vows and traditions concerning foods and days, etc., instituted to merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins, are useless and contrary to the Gospel.
In Augsburg Confession Article XXIV on the Mass the Lutheran Reformers refute the charge that they had abolished the Mass, the historic liturgy of the Church:
Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass, for the Mass is retained by us and celebrated with the highest reverence. All the usual ceremonies are also preserved, except that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added to teach the people. For ceremonies are needed for this reason alone: that the unlearned be taught. And not only has Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14, commanded that the Church use a language understood by the people, but it has also been so ordained by human law.
They go on to reject the abuses of the private masses which were instituted mostly for making money for the church of Rome.
Now, inasmuch as the Mass is such a giving of the sacrament, we hold one Communion every holy day, and on other days it is given to those who ask for it, should any desire the sacrament
Since we celebrate the Mass according to the example of the Church, taken from Scripture and the Fathers, we are confident that it cannot be disapproved, especially since the public ceremonies are retained for the most part, like those currently in use. Only the number of Masses differs, and considering the very great and manifest abuses, it is doubtless they might be profitably reduced. For in the past, even in churches most frequented, the Mass was not celebrated every day, as the Tripartite History, book 9, chapter 33, testifies: "Again in Alexandria, every Wednesday and Friday, the Scriptures are read and the doctors expound them, all things are done except the solemn rite of Communion."
The Reformers certainly could have made more changes in the Divine Service if they had considered it necessary and beneficial. But they never intended to create a new rite or a new church. Like Hezekiah of old, they cleansed the Temple; they did not build a new one. They were Reformers, not revolutionaries.13
The Lutheran liturgy as we know it in our services is a clear and full proclamation of the Word of God. The elements of the liturgy are very often quotations from the Scriptures and summations of their teachings. Basing our services on the Mass and using the Greek and Latin titles for these parts of the Divine Service testifies to our connection to the one Holy Christian Church throughout the ages. We would never think of giving up such words as Amen, Hallelujah, Hosanna, Apostle, Christ, Evangelical, or Synod. So let us learn the names of the parts of the liturgy and appreciate them as part of our Christian and Lutheran liturgical heritage.
Introit (Entrance Psalm) is a selection of Psalm verses fitting the theme of the Sunday, woven together with the confession of the true God as Triune: Glory be to the Father, etc.
Kyrie eleison is "Lord, have mercy", the cry of the lepers and others who came to Jesus, begging for His help (Matthew 9:27, 15:22, 17:15, 20:30-31, Mark 10:47-48, Luke 17:13, 18:38-39).
Gloria in excelsis Deo is the song of the angels, announcing the birth of Christ: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14), making each Sunday a celebration of Christmas.
Collects are short prayers with a set pattern: 1. addressing God, 2. acknowledging some aspect of His mercy or work, which forms the basis for our request, 3. asking for a certain blessing, 4. stating the desired result, and 5. closing in Jesus' name with a Trinitarian doxology.14 The best Christian prayers are filled with Biblical language and images. Many of the collects, written hundreds of years ago, still speak to our Christian life today remarkably well.
Epistle is a reading from a New Testament letter by the apostles (Romans to Revelation).
Gradual is a selected few verses of an appropriate Psalm.
Gospel is a reading from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John; the life and teachings of Christ.
Creed is a summary of the main teachings of Scripture.
Hymns: The best hymns too are often filled with Biblical images and phrases. The best Christian poets are steeped in Scriptural language, so that it simply fills their hearts and their writings. Many hymns are also paraphrases of psalms. Between the Creed and the Sermon is the usual place for the Chief Hymn or the Hymn of the Day.
Sermon is an explication and application of a certain text of Scripture.
General Prayer or Prayer of the Church: If the greatest martyr in the liturgy is the Lord's Prayer (because our minds so often wander as we pray it), the second greatest martyr must be the General Prayer. Too often it is omitted for the sake of time because some think it is too long or unnecessary to have every Sunday. One of the reasons we gather together as a Christian congregation and a Synod is to pray. The early Church "continued steadfastly [also] in prayers." (Acts 2:42). The General Prayer, one of the most beautiful and all-encompassing prayers of the liturgy, reminds us of the concerns of the congregation and individual Christians and brings these petitions to our Father who has promised to hear our prayers. We pray for people in all situations and for the welfare both of the Christian Church and the whole world by praying for our Church, our government, our enemies, the needy and afflicted, and all people, as the Lord directs us through St. Paul: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." (1 Timothy 2:1-2). You will probably recognize those last words as being quoted in the General Prayer.
Preface and Sanctus: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest." This hymn welcomes Jesus our Savior who comes to us with His Body and Blood and the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament. This song of praise joins us with the prophet Isaiah (6:3), with the people of Israel (Psalm 118:25-26), and the worshippers on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:9).
Our Father: as Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2).
Words of Consecration: the words Jesus commands us to use in the Sacrament.
Agnus Dei: (Lamb of God) again greets Christ who comes in the Sacrament as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
Benediction is the blessing given for Aaron to speak upon Israel (Numbers 6:24-26).
So the liturgy is in large part a compendium of Scripture passages. To argue that we need less liturgy and more Bible is a fallacy, for it argues against what is Scripture itself. The liturgy simply arranges the Scripture in an orderly fashion for each Sunday (Confession, Absolution, Scripture reading, Preaching, Sacrament), and each Church year (the life of Christ and the life of the Church). The Lutheran Divine Service is permeated with the Word of God. One may never leave a Lutheran service without hearing the basic doctrines of the Christian faith: Law and Gospel, sin and grace. What a comfort to Christian preachers! Though we may fail in our preaching (because of our human weakness), the Christian congregation still has heard an orderly and appropriate proclamation of God's Word, of Law and Gospel, in the liturgy and hymns. We also find comfort in this with regard to our Christian brothers and sisters in churches where preaching is either not emphasized properly or is filled with error. The Liturgy kept the Christian Church alive throughout the dark ages of Romish corruption, because despite the poor preaching and false ceremonies the Liturgy at least was a proclamation of God's Word, of Law and Gospel. Indeed our gracious and faithful God promises: "My word shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).
Divine Service is the usual Lutheran term for the Sunday service. It comes from the German Gottesdienst and the Norwegian Gudstjeneste and may also be translated "God's service." The Lutheran understanding and the Scriptural emphasis of worship is that God serves us by giving us faith and forgiveness of sins through the Means of Grace, Word and Sacraments. In response we offer to God our thanks and praise in prayers and hymns. Therefore we call certain parts of the Divine Service sacramental (God to us) and certain parts sacrificial (us to God).
SACRAMENTAL describes the parts of the Divine Service where the almighty and eternal God comes down from heaven, enters our sanctuary, and serves us with His divine grace and power. Here the Lord of heaven speaks His Word to us in the mouth of His servant. The Spirit of God rides upon the vehicles of the Means of Grace, creating and strengthening true Christian faith. In these aspects of worship we human beings are empty vessels which the Lord cleanses and into which He pours the oil of faith and the power of His Holy Spirit. Sacramental parts of the Divine Service include Absolution, Scripture Readings, Sermon, Baptism, Sacrament of the Altar, Benediction. Hymns or parts of hymns might also be considered sacramental for their character in teaching us God's Word. The sacramental aspects of the service are the heart and center of Christian worship, the core of every worship service. If we take away these things, we have no Divine Service, but instead some social work of man, an empty ritual.
SACRIFICIAL describes other parts of the Divine Service where we as God's people respond with sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving for what God freely gives us in His Word. In these parts we, as vessels filled by God, as adopted children of God, as instruments of His workmanship, return our thanks and praise to God for His wondrous and miraculous mercy and grace. We declare to God and to our fellow creatures the grace of God, His mercy, His wondrous works. Here we list: Kyrie, Gloria, Collects and other Prayers (including Our Father), Gospel versicles, Creeds, and Hymns of praise and thanksgiving.
Some parts of the liturgy might have both sacramental and sacrificial aspects. For example, the Creed teaches and thus is sacramental, but we also use it to honor and praise our God in a sacrificial way. Likewise certain fine hymns, such as "Dear Christians, one and all rejoice", certainly sing praise to God, but at the same time they also teach the way of salvation and comfort and strengthen us through their teaching.
Another way of distinguishing the parts of the Divine Service is the Ordinary, the parts which are the same every Sunday, and the Propers, the parts which change for each Sunday or holy day. ORDINARY refers to the parts of the Divine Service which stay virtually the same every Sunday. That does not mean that they are ordinary or common, but that we ordinarily and regularly use them (Confession & Absolution, Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, etc.). These are perhaps the parts to which some people might object, saying that every Sunday is the same in the Church. But the value of the Ordinary is its stability, its sameness, in giving structure and order to our worship and to our lives. We never hear anyone object to singing "Happy Birthday" or eating cake and ice cream in celebration of a birthday. Who would say that singing the National Anthem at sports events or "Take me out to the ball game" during the seventh inning stretch is outdated and old-fashioned and that we need something new? There are many other rituals in our day and week that we like to have the same always, or at least most of the time: having certain foods for breakfast, exercising, reading the newspaper. We could say: "We did that yesterday; why should we do it again today?" But there is something very satisfying about having certain things the same every day and every week. Would we really consider having a Sunday service without the Creed or without the Lord's Prayer? We wouldn't do it very often! We would shudder to hear someone say that they are boring or repetitious.
For those who like variety and want things to be different often, many parts of the service do change every week: the PROPERS. They follow the Sundays and seasons of the Church Year: Introit, Scripture Readings, Sermon, Hymns, Collects and Prayers. A large portion of the service changes each and every Sunday, to teach us the "whole counsel of God"(Acts 20:27), to teach us all the major events of Jesus' life and to teach us "what God would have us believe and do."15
Within the Lutheran Church there are variations of this order of service, musically and otherwise. These variations point to the rich and diverse traditions within Lutheranism. Luther put together two orders (Formula of the Mass, and the German Mass).16 Bugenhagen established Lutheran Church Orders for many provinces and cities in Germany and Scandinavia. Because Germany was not a unified nation until the 19th century, many cities and regions had various church orders, each region establishing its own liturgy, but all were based on the basic form of the Mass. Also in Germany there was much conflict with the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformed churches. The German Lutherans who came to America thus brought with them many different church orders.
The situation in Scandinavia was entirely different. Denmark and Norway constituted one united kingdom from 1450 to 1814. Therefore the king could establish one liturgy for the whole kingdom. So the primary liturgy of the Church of Norway and the old Norwegian Synod, and thus of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, descended directly from Luther's German Mass to Bugenhagen's Church Ordinance of 1537 to the Church Ritual of 1685 to what we still call the "Bugenhagen" or Hymnary service with relatively few changes.17
In 1537 King Christian III brought Bugenhagen to Copenhagen to establish a Lutheran Church Order for his kingdom. The outline of the Danish order of 1537 is: Confiteor, Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Collect, Epistle, Alleluia, Gradual or Hymn, Gospel, Nicene Creed, Exhortation, [Preface & Sanctus,] Our Father, Words of Institution, [Agnus Dei &] Distribution Hymns, Collect of Thanks, Benediction. To go along with Bugenhagen's Lutheran Service a hymnbook was published by Hans Thomissøn in 1569 which contained 268 hymns. This served as the official hymnbook for almost 150 years.
CHURCH RITUAL OF 1685
In 1685 King Christian V ordered a revision of the Church Order. In this Church Ritual (Kirke-Ritual) of 1685 many, but not all, Latin portions of the service were replaced with Danish. Opening and Closing Prayers were also added. In succeeding years other minor changes were made, which were included as end notes in later editions. In 1699, after some political difficulties, Kingo's Gradual or Hymnbook was published with about 300 hymns, including all the hymns and chants necessary for the full service and Church Year of the Church Ritual of 1685.
Early Norwegian immigrants to America brought with them the Church Ritual of 1685 with the prescribed changes. In 1889 the Church of Norway revised the Church Ritual. This revision also soon came to be used by the daughter church in America. This, along with the Common Service, is still the pattern of worship urged by our Synod's Constitution.
Other Lutherans in America had various liturgies according to the customs of their homeland. In 1884 Lutherans in the eastern United States (General Council, General Synod, and General Synod of the South) met to work toward a "Common Service", based on this principle: "The common consent of the pure Lutheran liturgies of the sixteenth century, and when there is not an entire agreement among them the consent of the largest number of greatest weight."18 These liturgies were, for the most part, based on Luther's Formula of the Mass. The work of the "Common Service" committee, first published in 1888 and 1892, soon became the liturgy of most of Lutheranism in America. This "Common Service" (which we usually know as page 5 or 15 of The Lutheran Hymnal) was included in the Missouri Synod's Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book (1913), the Lutheran Hymnary (1913), the Common Service Book (1917), The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), and the Service Book and Hymnal (1958). It has been revised more or less in the newer Lutheran hymnbooks.
These two liturgies, the "Bugenhagen" or "Hymnary service", and the "Common Service", have served our Synod well, and, God willing, will continue to keep us in our liturgical heritage of the Christian Church, the Western Church, the Lutheran Church, the Norwegian Synod, and the Lutheran Church of today in the United States and around the world. They preserve for us the basic structure of the Lutheran Christian Mass, joining us with all the orthodox believers and teachers before us.
The Church Service of the Lutheran Church is God's Service, a Divine Service, in which the Lord girds Himself and comes and serves us (Luke 12:37) with His precious feast of Word and Sacrament, with the medicine that gives eternal life. He is the Bread of Life come down from heaven still today. May it be truly said of us:
Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass, for the Mass is retained by us and celebrated with the highest reverence. All the usual ceremonies are also preserved, except that German [English] hymns have been added to teach the people. (Augsburg Confession XXIV)
The Church Song, or the Hymn, occupies a place of high status in the Christian Church, both Old and New Testament. During the Middle Ages, however, the Church Hymn was gradually transferred to the clergy and the choir and became locked away in Latin which was no longer the language of the common people. The Reformation restored the hymn to its importance and its proper use. Lutheran hymnwriters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have given the world the richest treasury of hymnody that has ever been. "The Lutheran church developed and maintained a liturgical worship service whose very core is the congregational singing of hymns."19 This is especially true of Scandinavians where the hymn often replaced congregational chant. No other church can claim a hymnic heritage equal to that of the Lutheran Church. Our Norwegian Synod fathers recognized this, for in the Preface to the Lutheran Hymnary they write: "The Norwegian Lutheran Church of America has inherited a rich treasury of hymns and chorals from the Mother Church."20 As the Preface to the Lutheran Hymnary, Junior tells us: "The best Lutheran songs are the best Christian songs in the world." Quoting Dr. Philip Schaff, a Presbyterian theologian, they continue: "To the Lutheran Church unquestionably belongs the first place in the history of Church song." And with Dr. Adolph Spaeth, a Lutheran theologian, they say: "The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century is the mother of true evangelical church song."21
The hymnic heritage of the Lutheran Church is beyond measure, a mother lode of precious jewels to be explored as deeply as possible. We should never discard our liturgical and hymnic heritage, just as we should never discard our doctrinal or confessional heritage. We treasure them, learn from them, and use what is best in them. The best hymns will stand the test of time both musically and theologically. Lutherans are free to use all true and good hymns, whatever hymns are of benefit to praise God, to proclaim the grace of God, to teach the people, and to promote true faith and Christian life. Such hymns may come from ancient Greek and Latin sources, from the Reformation heritage of Germany and Scandinavia, from British, American, and other sources, when these hymns are doctrinally pure, when they speak with the Scriptures and with the Church22, and when they are of high poetic and musical quality. We would not let a cartoon be our altar painting in the church, because it would not be considered art appropriate for that service of God. The same criterion, of using only the best, applies also to the quality of speech, poetry, and music that we use in the Church. In all things our principle is: "For our children only the best is good enough."23
WHAT IS A HYMN?
Augustine of Hippo (a city in North Africa, Ý430) defines a hymn in this way:
Hymns are praises of God accompanied with singing; hymns are songs containing the praise of God. If there be praise, and it be not of God, it is no hymn; if there be praise, and God's praise, and it be not sung, it is no hymn. It must needs then, if it is to be a hymn, have these three things, both praise, and that of God, and singing.24
Matthew Lundquist, a Lutheran hymnologist, gives clear parameters for true hymnody. It must be thoroughly Biblical, congregational, and have poetic quality. Its subject is Christ: the objective message of saving grace by Jesus' work of atonement, and the personal appropriation of that salvation through faith in Christ, created by the Holy Spirit.25
Professor Bruce Backer, a knowledgeable Lutheran liturgiologist and hymnologist, presents us with seven legitimate characteristics of good hymnody.
1. Hymnody is a gift of the Holy Spirit
2. Hymnody is a response to God
3. Hymnody is a mutual ministry
4. Hymnody requires textual restraint. Since the above matters are true, the text of a given hymnal must conform to the doctrines of the Scriptures and of the Lutheran Confessions in letter and in spirit Hymns cannot be equated with doctrinal propositions. Yet the text of a hymn cannot speak anything contrary to God's word Textual restraint is important for other reasons. For example, use of too many metaphors confuses the mind Words with too strong an emotional impact will call attention to themselves However, the same restraint applies to simplicity, strange as this may seem. There is a growing number of simple songs. They may consist of many Hallelujah's and a short, catchy phrase or two. The phrases are too short to address faith and to strengthen it. Often such songs have no more than an emotional impact. Pastor Werner Franzmann has shown the Church how to write simple hymns that tell the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
5. Hymnody implies emotional restraint. [Believers edify one another by speaking the truths of God's Word in "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" (Col. 3:16-17).]
6. Hymnody and psalmody complement each other. [Psalms teach true hymnody.]
7. Hymnody is a guide for the practice of church music. Most pastors do not preach on a series of texts that they develop as they move through the year. They use pericopes. Teachers are not permitted to teach only the Bible stories that are their favorites. They have a curriculum. Church musicians, organists and choir directors in particular, also need guides to help them develop good taste in church music. Besides the message of the Lord's Year, the ordinary of the service, and the propers (psalmody), the hymn in combination with the Lord's Yearthe Hymn of the Dayis an excellent guide to teach church musicians what to say and how to say it both in text and music The history of music of the Lutheran Church, from 1500 to 1750, is grand affirmation of the topic under discussion. The Spirit-wrought, Gospel-centered hymns written during these centuries brought forth a hymn-centered treasury of music the value of which is incalculable.26
Mention of "simple songs" in point four above perhaps invites us here to consider a few comments about "lighter" hymns or "gospel songs" as viewed by Christian and Lutheran scholars. George Hedley, chaplain (?) of Mills College, analyzes these songs in this way: "In one collection of these materials, used in the Billy Sunday campaigns, forty-five of the first hundred pieces are couched in the first-person singular, and twenty-three more in the second-person singular. Only two of the hundred are addressed to God, and three to Jesus."27 In other words, such "gospel songs" talk a lot about "me and you" and not so much about God and our Savior. Dr. Gerhard Cartford, a Lutheran church musician, describes some of these gospel hymns and their effect on the Norwegian Lutherans of 19th century America:
Most Lutheran hymns dealt with doctrines fundamental to the faith. These the people were accustomed to from church, and many of them were dear to them. But in the nineteenth century there was an insistent demand for a new type of expression. It sprang from the revivals of the century, and with the revivals came a type of music which was at the same time more superficial and more emotional than the regular hymns of the church. The Norwegians were caught up in it, as were most of the Americans around them What are the characteristics of [this] type of music? There is a sameness about the music due to the fact that it relies to such a great extent on melodic, rhythmic and harmonic cliches. Harmonies often remain static while melodies repeat a rhythmic pattern. Rhythm depends for variety on passages of quick, short-value notes and dotted figures. Harmonies do not often venture far beyond the stage of the primary relationship-tonic, subdominant and dominant, with a liberal use of the seventh note of the chord, especially with the dominant Parallel thirds and sixths in running passages are frequently used All the characteristics noted here, used excessively and coupled with a general lack of creative imagination in the writing of this music, eventually dull musical sensitivities and stunt musical growth.28
Several "gospel" song books were published among the Norwegian-Americans, but the reaction of the church bodies was clear. In 1896 the Norwegian Synod passed this resolution: "Books such as Harpen and Frydetoner ought not to be distributed by Lutheran Publishing House in Decorah."29 The United Church passed a similar resolution in 1901:
The assembled delegates deplore the fact that there are congregations in our synod that prefer "gospel hymns" to our Lutheran church music, since most of the so-called "gospel hymns" are not suited either musically or textually to be used in Lutheran services or Sunday schools. The delegates see it as the duty of the Sunday schools to teach the children to sing the congregational hymns and to take part in the service. Therefore they hold that the content of congregational and Sunday school hymnals should be of the same type.30
Hymnody is not something to be taken lightly. Which hymns and what kind of hymns we use in the Church matters tremendously. Once again we remember the principle: we use only the best in the service of God. Hymnody has become an important and indeed integral part of our worship and devotional life. Hymns are to be studied, learned, and used with care and devotion. The pastor and the congregation should never consider the hymns as "fillers" in the Divine Service, merely as preludes to and reflections on the real worship. Sometimes there is a perceived competition among the various branches of church work: for example, between missions and Christian education. But there need be no rivalry there; both are commanded by God in their proper place, for Jesus says: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them" (Matthew 28:19-20). Mission and education go together in the Church; likewise hymnody and liturgy, liturgy and preaching, preaching and hymnody. All work together to glorify God and to teach the people. The Word of God drives all: preaching, teaching, missions, and hymnody. If they do not come from the powerful and life-giving Word of God, they will fail. In the Divine Service, everything including hymns, liturgy, reading and preaching serves to teach us the Word of God and gives us opportunity to thank and praise God for His glad tidings, His good news, of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Again Professor Backer helps us to learn good hymnody with nine solid criteria.
1. A good hymn is liturgical. It addresses God, or it calls believers to address him. The psalter is the best teacher of this quality.
2. A good hymn is doxological. A doxology is a speech or a song of praise.
3. A good hymn has doctrinal content.
4. A good hymn makes use of the Word of God. It quotes the Scriptures, makes use of word pictures from the Bible uses Bible stories to strengthen its message.
5. A good hymn applies the message.
6. A good hymn is poetry with choice of words, thought progressions, and word pictures that are drawn from experiences common to many people.
7. A good hymn has an emotional component that supports the message.31
8. A good hymn is influenced by the Year of our Lord.
9. Good hymns have melodies that bear the accent of eternity and touch the heart of the worshiper.32
The teachers of the Norwegian Synod made very strong statements on what they considered good hymnody also, which may well serve to remind us of our worthy heritage and urge us to study and appreciate it all the more. Their concern was not simply to transmit Scandinavian culture, but true Lutheran and Christian doctrine and hymnody to us who are their children and grandchildren, even if some of us are such not by birth but by "adoption."
The songs of Lutheran children and youth should be essentially from Lutheran sources. The Lutheran Church is especially rich in songs and hymns of sound doctrine, high poetical value and fitting musical setting. They express the teachings and spirit of the Lutheran Church and help one to feel at home in this Church. Of course, there are songs of high merit and sound Biblical doctrine written by Christians in other denominations also, and some of these could and should find a place in a Lutheran song treasury. But the bulk of the songs in a Lutheran song book should be drawn from Lutheran sources. We should teach our children to remain in the Lutheran Church instead of to sing themselves into some Reformed sect.33
OUR HERITAGE OF HYMNODY
The Evangelical Lutheran Synod at the end of the 20th century is blest with a surpassingly rich heritage of hymns. We may sing hymns from many times and many places: from Hebrew, Greek, or Latin heritage; from the Reformation and Lutheran hymns of Germany, Scandinavia, Bohemia, Slovakia, and other places; from the English and Scottish Psalters and their later hymns; and hymns written by Lutherans and other fine Christian teachers in America. Because of their poetical and metrical form, hymns are not easily translated and transferred from one language to another. The hymn translator faces a very difficult task, but we have inherited some marvelous translations which bring Greek, Latin, German, and Scandinavian hymns to us in a very beautiful and edifying form. As English-speaking Christians, we can draw on the gifts the Lord has given His Church in Britain, Ireland, and America. Also on our own American soil the Lord has given the Lutheran Church some hymnwriters who add to our already vast and bountiful treasure chest of English-language hymnody.
Of course, the Psalter is the most well-known example of Hebrew hymnody, and it is still used in the Christian Church more than any other national hymnody. Every Christian uses the Psalms. Study of the Psalter, together with its liturgical uses and hymns based on it, occupies a prominent place in the life of the Christian Church. When we remember the descriptions of the beautiful music in the Temple at Jerusalem with trumpet, lute and harp, with timbrel, stringed instruments and flutes, with high sounding cymbals (Psalm 150), our hearts also long to praise God with such beautiful music and poetry.
Beyond this the Christian Church has also learned a few later Hebrew hymns. The most familiar of these is "Yigdal" or "Leoni", a 17th-century Hebrew melody, with its text, based on a Hebrew creed, paraphrased and Christianized in the hymn:
The God of Abr'ham praise; All praiséd be His name
Who was and is and is to be And still the same!
The one eternal God, Ere aught that now appears;
The First, the Last: beyond all thought His timeless years.
This hymn fulfills the requirements of being a good hymn. It is liturgical, doxological, congregational, Scriptural, poetic, and (especially the last stanza) Trinitarian. Its text and melody bear the accent of eternity and touch the heart of the worshiper.
The study of this area of hymnody alone would be a worthy undertaking. Poetry and music of the Eastern churches is not very familiar to us, although from the Syrian Church we derive the custom of singing the Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father), one of our dearest Trinitarian hymns or liturgical songs, at the end of each Psalm.34 This, as well as the Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth), was used in the early Greek liturgies of St. Mark, St. James, and St. John Chrysostom, as well as by Clement of Rome (AD 91).35 Early orthodox Christians (Greek and Latin) used hymns to combat heresy with truth, truth in the text strongly supported by and wedded to music. We owe our use of many Greek and Latin hymns to the gifted translator, John Mason Neale. (19 of his translations appear in the LHy, 20 in TLH.)
Greek hymnody comes from many eras and areas. Among the earliest we usually consider are Clement of Alexandria (Egypt, about AD 200) who wrote "Shepherd of tender youth" (also translated "Master of eager youth", literally the title is "Bridle of steeds untamed", Stomion pwlwn adawn) and Synesius of Cyrene (also in North Africa, about AD 400) who wrote "Lord Jesus, think on me."
One of the outstanding Greek theologians and hymnwriters is John of Damascus (Ý749). Two of his Easter hymns are known to us: "The day of resurrection" and:
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain Of triumphant gladness,
God hath brought His Israel Into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh's bitter yoke Jacob's son and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot Through the Red Sea waters.
This hymn, filled with Biblical images (Exodus 15), rightly juxtaposes Passover and Easter, saying that Christ "as a sun hath risen." It preaches, teaches, comforts, praises, and gives all glory to God for Jesus' resurrection and "the queen of seasons, bright."
LATIN HYMNODY (including Gregorian chant)
Latin hymnody may be the most prolific in the world. It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 Latin hymns. Latin was the language of the Western Christian Church for at least 1200 years, in Roman Catholicism for nearly 1700 years.36 So Latin hymnody spans the ages in both text and tune as no other. Ambrose (Ý397) is generally regarded as the father of Latin hymnody. His most famous hymn is known around the world, translated into many languages. For Lutherans it was translated by Martin Luther himself and then came into English.
Savior of the nations, come, Virgin's Son, make here Thy home!
Marvel now, O heav'n and earth, That the Lord chose such a birth.
Thou, the Father's only Son, Hast o'er sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be; When shall we its glories see?
This hymn is a marvelous compendium of theology, teaching Christ as true God and true Man, as humbled and then exalted, as Savior and King. The hymns of Ambrose and his style of singing, known as Ambrosian chant, flourished in the early Latin Church, until it was displaced by Gregorian chant. Other early Latin hymnwriters are Prudentius ("Of the Father's love begotten"), Sedulius ("From east to west"), and Fortunatus ("Welcome, happy morning" and "Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle").
Unsurpassed in his contribution to Western Christian hymnody is Gregory the Great (540-604). Himself a hymnwriter, he collected and compiled hymns and chants for use throughout the Church. Hence it became known as Gregorian chant. It is still in use today, in its pure form and in the many hymns based on it. Gregorian chant is a powerful musical form and continues to give life to the Church today. Some of our best hymns and tunes derive from the tradition of Gregorian chant: "Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest" (Rhabanus Maurus Ý856) and "Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord" (Innocent III Ý1216).
One of the best-known Latin hymns is "Victimae paschali laudes", which Luther used as the source for his Easter hymn: "Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bands." Note the similarities in excerpts of these two hymns:
Christians, to the Paschal Victim Offer your thankful praises!
The Lamb the sheep has ransomed: Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciling sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended In that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.37
It was a strange and dreadful strife,
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life,
The reign of death was ended:
Stripped of power, no more he reigns;
An empty form alone remains;
His sting is lost forever! Hallelujah!38
Another prominent Latin hymnwriter was Bernard of Cluny (c. 1140) who wrote the hymn "Hora Novissima", often divided into several English hymns: "The world is very evil", "Brief life is here our portion", "Jerusalem the golden", and "O sweet and blessed country"; also Bernard of Clairvaux (Ý1153) whose hymn "O Sacred Head, now wounded" was recast so well by Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676); and Theodulph (Ý821) "All glory, laud, and honor". Latin hymn writing continued even into the 18th century when Father Charles Coffin (1676-1749) of Paris wrote "The advent of our King" and "On Jordan's banks." 48 Latin hymns are included in the Lutheran Hymnary; 45 in The Lutheran Hymnal. Many more come to us indirectly through German, Scandinavian, or English reconstructions. If we had only the Latin hymns, we would have a wealth of Christian tunes and texts, treasures we would never want to lose or give up.
We might make this same boast of Reformation hymnody: If we had only the Lutheran hymns from 1500 to 1750, we would have enough to serve our churches very well. Still today the heart and core of our Lutheran hymnody includes "A Mighty Fortress", "Dear Christians, one and all rejoice", "From heaven above", "Salvation unto us has come", "He that believes and is baptized", "If God Himself be for me", and the list could go on. The quality of these Lutheran hymns is attested also by their appearance in contemporary hymnbooks of other denominations (Rejoice in the Lord, Worship III, Hymnal 1982).
The Reformation changed the face of Christian worship forever, producing the magnificent chorales of the Lutheran lands as well as the "psalters" of Geneva and Britain. The central doctrinal truth of justification by grace through faith for the sake of Christ was restored especially through sermons and hymns. Luther restored hymn-singing to the congregation, and in the language of the people, using these hymns to teach the people the Word of God. Luther drew on the few vernacular hymns and religious songs that were already known: "O Lord, we praise Thee", "Though in midst of life we be", and "We now implore God the Holy Ghost." He also produced psalm settings, liturgical hymns, and hymns on the Catechism.39 A simple reading of Luther's "Dear Christians, one and all rejoice" or Speratus' "Salvation unto us has come" gives a thorough lesson in Law and Gospel, sin and grace. Many people of the Reformation (Selnecker, Spengler, Decius, Weisse) were busy teaching the doctrines of God's Word through hymnody, including Mrs. Elisabeth Cruciger who wrote the beautiful hymn on the incarnation of Christ:
The only Son from heaven, Foretold by ancient seers,
By God, the Father, given, In human shape appears;
No sphere His light confining, No star so brightly shining
As He, our Morning Star.
O time of God appointed, O bright and holy morn!
He comes, the King anointed, The Christ, the virgin-born;
His home on earth He maketh, And man of heaven partaketh,
Of life again an heir.
O Lord, our hearts awaken, To know and love Thee more,
In faith to stand unshaken, In Spirit to adore,
That we still heavenward hasting, Yet here Thy joy foretasting,
May reap its fulness there.
The output of Lutheran hymnody and church music from 1500 to 1750 is remarkable. The works of J. S. Bach alone could serve the Church sufficiently with his splendid use of hymns and thoroughly Lutheran texts. After coming to know Bach's Christmas Oratorio, one can never celebrate Christmas or preach its message the same again; the text and music are filled with such true and lasting joy and exuberance. Likewise the St. Matthew Passion with its contemplation on Holy Week, and the cantata "Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bands" with the triumph of Easter.
After Luther, the greatest German Lutheran hymnwriter is Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676). Having suffered the ravages and personal losses in the era of the Thirty Years' War, losing his wife and four children, he still confidently sings the enduring comfort and joy of the Christian in his Christmas and Easter hymns. Consider a stanza from "All my heart this night rejoices" and one from "Awake, my heart, with gladness."
Hark, a voice from yonder manger,
Soft and sweet, Doth entreat,
"Flee from woe and danger;
Brethren, come; from all that grieves you
You are freed; All you need
I will surely give you."
Awake, my heart, with gladness, See what today is done,
Now after gloom and sadness Comes forth the glorious Sun!
My Savior there was laid Where our bed must be made
When to the realms of light Our spirit wings its flight.
Paul Gerhardt's hymns are Lutheran sermons which bind up the broken hearts of troubled sinners with our Savior's own healing compassion. Such Christian preaching lifts us up to the glories of heaven through the comforting and confident message of hope in Christ our Savior.
The Lutheran hymns of the Reformation and the succeeding 250 years are the core of Lutheran hymnody around the world even today. Translated into the language of the people, they are welcomed with joy because they rightly preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Lutheran hymnody of Denmark and Norway especially touches us of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, because of our historical link to our Mother Church in Christiania (Oslo), Copenhagen, and Wittenberg. Our Synodical forefathers brought hymnbooks to this country which serve as the basis for our hymnic heritage. Thanks to their influence we do still sing "On my heart", "How blest are they who hear God's word", "On Mary, virgin undefiled", and many other Danish and Norwegian hymns.
As we have seen, Denmark and Norway were united in one kingdom from 1450 to 1814. Their church and their written language were essentially the same during those years. Lutheranism came to the North early. In 1537 Bugenhagen formally organized the Lutheran liturgy for Denmark and Norway, and installed seven Lutheran bishops. A small Danish Lutheran hymnbook (10 hymns), Det kristelige Messeembede [The Christian Office of the Mass], had already been published in 1528 by Hans Mortensen at Malmø [then in Denmark, now in Sweden]. In 1544 it was revised and expanded by Bishop Hans Tausen. Den danske Psalmebog (268 hymns) by Hans Thomissøn in 1569 became the official hymnbook of Denmark and Norway for almost 150 years. These hymnbooks drew on a few pre-Reformation Scandinavian hymns like "On Mary, virgin undefiled" and "O day full of grace", as well as translating Latin hymns and German Lutheran chorales into Danish.
Kingo's Hymnbook (1699)
King Christian V's revision of the Church Order in 1685 created the need for a revised hymnbook as well. In 1699, after some political difficulties, Kingo's Gradual or Den forordnede Salmebog (usually called Kingo's Salmebog) was published with about 300 hymns, 85 of them by Kingo himself. As a companion to the Church Ritual of 1685, it contained all the hymns and chants necessary for the full Divine Service and Church Year. The hymns for each Sunday were appointed, not to be chosen by the pastor, but to be sung as listed in the hymnbook.40
Thomas Kingo (1634-1703) built on the foundation of his predecessor, Thomissøn, and also included more recent hymns, such as those of Hans Christenson Sthen ("Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior blest"). Kingo has been called the "Easter Singer" and the "singer of orthodoxy." An astounding 83 hymns by Kingo appear in Landstad's Salmebog (1871); the Lutheran Hymnary has 10; and The Lutheran Hymnal has 7.41 His stature compares to that of Paul Gerhardt among the 17th-century Germans. Kingo's Hymnbook enjoyed almost the same enduring appreciation and use as Thomissøn's, being used from 1699 into the middle 1800's.
After Kingo, several fine Danish hymnwriters continued the work: Hans Brorson (1694-1764) "I walk in danger all the way" and "Behold a host"; Birgitte Boye (1742-1824) "He is arisen! Glorious word!", "Rejoice, rejoice this happy morn", and "O Light of God's most wondrous love"; as well as N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872) "God's Word is our great heritage", "Built on the Rock", and "Peace to soothe our bitter woes."
The first truly Norwegian hymnwriters were Kingo's contemporaries: Petter Dass (1647-1707) and Dorothe Engelbretsdatter (1634-1716), called the "Poetess of the North."42 Neither is represented in the Lutheran Hymnary or The Lutheran Hymnal. Petter Dass is best-known in English for his hymn "Herre Gud dit dyre navn og ære."
Mighty God, to Thy dear Name be given Highest praise o'er all the earth and heaven.
All souls distressed, All men oppressed,
Their voices raising, Unite in praising Thy glory.43
Dorothe Engelbretsdatter, like Kingo and Gerhardt, experienced the hardships of life in the 17th century. Losing her husband and nine children,44 she knew the sorrows of earth and the comfort of heaven again and again from her own life. With true Christian faith she writes:
When earth with all its joys defeats me And fortune smiles at me no more,
The cross before me turns to greet me And sees into my heart of woe.
No better counsel can I take Than flee to Jesus for His sake.
Therefore, my thoughts have turned to singing Hymns to the highest heav'n above.
Praise to the Lord of life is ringing, Filling my mouth with songs of love.
When life within me fails and dies, My longings turn to paradise.
My suffering here is brief and fleeting, Compared to heaven's peace and joy.
Here I am lost in pain and weeping, Filled with complaints and bitter sighs.
In heav'n my song with praise will ring, When with the angel choirs I sing.45
Other Norwegian hymnwriters include the champion of Lutheran orthodoxy, Bishop Johan Nordahl Brun (1745-1826), "an eloquent preacher and a very able opponent of the rationalists"46, who wrote "How blest are they who hear God's word"; and Wilhelm Wexels (1797-1866) "O happy day when we shall stand." (Wexels' niece, Maria Wexelsen, wrote the favorite "I am so glad each Christmas eve.")
Because of new hymns written over the years, other hymnbooks also came to be printed and used in Denmark and Norway in addition to Kingo's. The most important were Guldberg's Hymnbook (1778) and Balle's Evangelical-Christian Hymnbook (1798). Hymnbooks at that time usually contained only the words of the hymns, making revision and publication much easier and less costly. The music was printed in a chorale-book (Koralbog) for the trained church musicians. Without printed music in front of the people, much diversity arose as to how the hymns were sung in different regions. The leaders (pastor, deacon, or klokker) sang them as they remembered them or according to their own musical taste.47 Even what we consider the most standard hymn tunes, such as "A Mighty Fortress", took on wide variations. This is also how Norwegian religious folk-tunes came to be used as hymn melodies, such as: "Behold a host", "In heaven above", and "The sun has gone down."
Norwegian laymen and pastors who came to America brought with them the Church Ritual of 1685 (in the revision of 1802) and one of these hymnbooks: Kingo's, Guldberg's, or Balle's. In Norway, Kingo's hymnbook was still the most common until 1855.48 In America, Guldberg's hymnbook was the most popular in 1854 and was reprinted that year by two different groups.49 The Norwegian Synod also published Synodens Salmebog in 1870 and revised it in 1903 with 492 hymns.
Landstad's Hymnbook (1869) & Lindeman's Chorale-book (1871)
In Norway, Magnus Landstad produced a new hymnbook in 1869 which quickly gained wide acceptance and usage in Norway and America. He included some of his own hymns, for example: "When sinners see their lost condition" and "I know of a sleep in Jesus' name." Within ten years 70% of the congregations in Norway (648 of 923) were using Landstad's Hymnbook.50 It was reprinted in America in 1895 (keeping the same hymn numbers!) with some changes and an appendix of 96 hymns.51
To go along with Landstad's hymnbook (hymn texts), Ludvig Lindeman published a chorale-book, a book of tunes. Some of these were old chorale tunes, some were Scandinavian folk-hymns, and some were original tunes by Lindeman himself. Many of Lindeman's tunes and harmonizations, such as "Built on the Rock" and "Come to Calvary's holy mountain", were taken into the Lutheran Hymnary.52 Only four were included in The Lutheran Hymnal.53 The work of Landstad and Lindeman is still evident in the hymnbooks of Norway today. Some newer texts and newer tunes have appeared and some older texts have been retranslated, but Lutheran hymnody from the Reformation and succeeding generations is prominent.
Congregational singing in Reformed (non-Lutheran) lands developed quite differently than in the Lutheran countries. The Reformers of Geneva had a very different premise and outlook when beginning their work. The Lutheran teachers never intended to begin a new church denomination; such a thought was inconceivable to them, because they believed strongly and rightly that there is only one Holy Christian Church. Our Lutheran fathers built on the rich and familiar heritage of the Mediaeval and Renaissance Christian Church in Europe, but they cleaned it up, discarding what was false or misleading (the sacrifice of the mass, prayers to saints, purgatory, indulgences). They retained and cultivated church art in painting, music, vestments, and whatever was useful to teach the people. Churches in Europe and in America display marvelous works of Christian art by Lutherans.54 Everything in the Church has a meaning and a purpose for teaching and edifying. Lutherans did not burn paintings, smash statues, and tear down church organs; that was the work of the radical reformers who wanted to rid the Church of everything Roman or popish. For example, Zwingli made clear regulations regarding the Lord's Supper: "The plates and cups are of wood, that pomp may not come back again."55
The fear of anything "non-Biblical" was apparent also in the use of music in the Reformed churches. Many of them banned musical instruments; some allowed only the singing of Psalms and no other hymns. Calvin's Preface to the Genevan Psalter states: "Therefore, when we have looked thoroughly, and searched here and there, we shall not find better songs nor more fitting for the purpose, than the psalms of David which the Holy Spirit made and spoke through him."56 Though this hindered the development of Reformed hymnody for some time, it did produce the beautiful metrical Psalters of Geneva, Scotland, and England. From their use in these Psalters we get such tunes as "Old Hundredth" (Praise God from whom all blessings flow) and "Old 124th" (God of the prophets). (The numbers refer to the Psalms with which they were commonly sung.)
Eventually the Reformed churches did allow other hymn-singing. Thus in 17th- and 18th-century England we meet Independents (Congregationalists) and Methodists who began to write hymns: Isaac Watts (the Father of English hymnody), John Newton, John and Charles Wesley, and others. The 19th century was a turning point within the Church of England where hymns were beginning to enter the worship services. In 1820 the Archbishop of York officially sided with Thomas Cotterill and James Montgomery who had introduced hymn-singing in the Church. This, along with the Oxford Movement (1833), caused the Anglican Church to begin a renewed study of its historical and liturgical traditions and brought about a proliferation of English hymns by John Keble, William How, Christopher Wordsworth, Henry Lyte, and others.
The 1861 publication of Hymns Ancient and Modern with its eclectic hymn selection, liturgical arrangement, and printed music made it the first modern English hymnal. New hymn-tunes also appeared from John Dykes, Arthur Sullivan, John Stainer, John Goss, and William Monk, along with several Welsh tunes.57 Skilled English poets translated Greek, Latin, and German hymns. Particularly noteworthy as translators are Catherine Winkworth, John Mason Neale, and Richard Massie58, whose names appear many times in our hymnbooks. On rare occasion a hymn translation becomes even more beautiful and beloved than the original. Winkworth's "Let the earth now praise the Lord" is considered an example of this. The work of these hymnwriters and translators benefited English-speaking Lutherans as well.
Very important in 20th-century England, Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958) wrote hymn-tunes ("For all the saints") and arranged English folk-tunes for church use. He was editor of the English Hymnal (1906) and the Oxford Book of Carols (1928). His arrangements are prominent in the Episcopal Hymnbook 1982 and in most modern hymnals, including LBW, LW, CW, Worship III, and Rejoice in the Lord. Herbert Howells (1892-1983) will probably become more familiar in coming years for his settings of psalms and canticles for Mattins and Evensong, as well as hymn-tunes such as "Michael" ("All my hope on God is founded").
Americans have also made their contribution to the hymnody of the Church. Immigrants brought along their Bible and their hymnbooks. Americans have also introduced English, Irish, Welsh, and American folk-tunes into church use. Several English non-Lutheran hymnals, of course, were produced in the United States. Southern Harmony gives us "What wondrous love is this" (text and tune), and the tune "The Saints' Delight" for "In Adam we have all been one." Kentucky Harmony gives us the tune "Consolation" for "The King Shall Come." A noteworthy figure in 19th-century American church music is Lowell Mason. He lectured and published many works on church music and wrote several hymn-tunes, such as those we know for "My faith looks up to Thee", "May we Thy precepts, Lord, fulfill", and the F-major tune for "When I survey the wondrous cross."
In the 20th century, Americans have been influenced by Vatican 2 in hymnody as well as liturgics. Since the 1960's, publication of church music and hymnals in the United States has exploded in many denominations. Just a few examples are: Worship Supplement (1969), Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), Lutheran Worship (1981), Hymnal 1982, Rejoice in the Lord (1985), Methodist Hymnal (1980's), Worship III (1986), and Christian Worship (1994).
AMERICAN LUTHERAN HYMNODY
Lutheran Churches in the United States have also produced some fine poets and translators. The first Lutheran pastor ordained in America, Justus Falckner (1672-1723), gave us the hymn "Rise, ye children of salvation" (originally German). Prominent church leaders like C. F. W. Walther of the Missouri Synod ("He's risen, He's risen") and U. V. Koren of the Norwegian Synod ("Ye Lands, to the Lord") wrote in their mother tongues. Matthias Loy translated German hymns and wrote some in English ("The Law of God is good and wise"). Other important translators include August Crull, Carl Døving, George Rygh, Oluf Smeby, Harriet Reynolds Krauth Spaeth, and Peer Strømme. Our Synod owes special thanks to Norman A. Madson and his children.
Lutheran Hymnary (1913)
Toward the end of the 1800's, children and grandchildren of immigrants were learning English as their mother tongue. The Norwegian Synod saw the need to produce an English hymnbook. In 1898 the Synod published Christian Hymns for Church, School, and Home (309 hymns). This need was felt by other immigrant Lutherans as well. The Missouri Synod published its Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book (ELHB, 567 hymns) in 1913. The Lutheran Hymnary was published in 1913 by the Norwegian Synod, the United Church, and the Hauge Synod. The work of putting standard Lutheran chorales and hymns into English was not an easy task. But through the efforts of translators in England and America over the years, much progress was made.59
The Lutheran Hymnary and the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book retained many of the old chorales that were abandoned by American Lutheranism in the middle of this century. Some of them, thankfully, have returned in the newer Lutheran hymnbooks (LBW, LW, and CW). Luther's excellent baptism hymn "To Jordan came our Lord the Christ" was still in ELHB, was missing from the Lutheran Hymnary, The Lutheran Hymnal, and Service Book and Hymnal, but now has returned to modern Lutheran hymnbooks. "Lord, hear the voice of my complaint" (Ich ruf zu dir) was in the Lutheran Hymnary and ELHB, but sadly has not found a place in any of the newer hymnbooks at all (TLH, SBH, LBW, LW, CW).60 The Lutheran Hymnary so far has remained the best source of Scandinavian hymns by Kingo, Brorson, Grundtvig, Brun, Landstad, and others.
The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)
Our Synod also participated in working on The Lutheran Hymnal, produced by the Synodical Conference (LCMS, WELS, Norwegian Synod [ELS], and Slovak Synod). The Lutheran Hymnary and The Lutheran Hymnal are both very fine Lutheran hymnbooks. Taken together, they present us with a rich treasury of German and Scandinavian Lutheran hymns, as well as Greek, Latin, Slovak, English, and American hymns, along with a few others. The Scandinavians knew the German hymns, but the Germans didn't necessarily know the Scandinavian hymns. Our Synod's delegates to The Lutheran Hymnal committee (N. A. Madson, C. Anderson, and A. Harstad) assured that some of the finest Scandinavian hymns appear in TLH: "Behold a host", "There many shall come from the east and the west", "God's Word is our great heritage", "I walk in danger all the way", "Built on the Rock", "O Jesus, blessed Lord, to Thee", "On my heart", and "Like the golden sun ascending."
Recent Lutheran Hymnody
New Lutheran hymns have been written in America in the past 50 years. Among the best poets are Martin and Werner Franzmann. Martin Franzmann's hymns include: "Thy strong word", "In Adam we have all been one", and "Weary of all trumpeting." Werner Franzmann is author of the hymn "Triumphant from the grave." Recently we have received hymns such as "Hear us now, our God and Father" by Harry Huxhold, and "This is the feast" by John W. Arthur. New translations and hymns by Gracia Grindal, Jaroslav Vajda and others are also becoming known in many places.
Music programs at Lutheran colleges in the United States were always strong because of the Lutheran emphasis on music in worship. But with liturgical renewal sweeping the world this century, Lutherans were also urged to a renewed interest in and production of music to serve the Church. Bethany Lutheran College, Dr. Martin Luther College, ConcordiaRiver Forest, and others all have made their contribution. Briefly we mention a few names to illustrate the vastness of this work: Alfred Fremder, Walter Buszin, Paul Bunjes, James Engel, Bruce Backer, Carl Schalk, Richard Hillert, Jan Bender, Leland Sateren. No doubt, there are more names and more will be added in the years to come.
SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG (Conclusion)
The Evangelical Lutheran Synod, with the whole Christian Church, sings the Lord's song in the midst of the strange land of the unbelieving world. We have inherited a worthy tradition of liturgy and hymnody. We have a purpose and a mission in teaching our people, as well as testifying to others and preserving the truth of God's Word in the special heritage of true Christian teachers like Kingo, Brorson, Landstad, and Koren. Their writings are good Lutheran hymns, and therefore good Christian hymns. We ought not to consider our Synod's heritage of liturgy and hymnody as weak or influenced too much by "Pietism." Our forefathers were orthodox Lutheran teachers, trained at the University of Christiania (Oslo) during the Johnsonian era of orthodoxy and confessionalism, where they learned the proper emphasis of the means of grace, justification, and the work of Christ. Their hymns attest to that very clearly. 
Our Synod's heritage of worship is a phenomenal treasure. The more we learn it, the more we appreciate it. By learning the "old" songs, the hymns of the Church before our time, we learn to sing them anew, to sing to the Lord a new song, a song that is "new" in its freshness, vibrance and vitality, a song from people who are renewed and refreshed by the Gospel. As we learn good and true Christian hymnody, new songs and new hymns also will arise to teach the people and to praise the God of all grace and glory.
O come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us make a joyful noise to Him with psalms.
O Come, Let Us Worship!
SOLI DEO GLORIA - TO GOD ALONE ALL GLORY
Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary
Bibliography and discography