Good Shepherd Instituted 2019

 Good Shepherd Institute (GSI) drew to a close yesterday, though a few of the attendees stayed behind for a hymn writing workshop that took place in the afternoon following the official end of the conference. If you’ve been keeping an eye on the CTSFW Facebook page for the past couple of days, you’ll have noted the extra choral services as well as the special music featured in daily chapel on Monday and Tuesday. GSI is a learning conference with very strong ties to music; participants include pastors, church musicians, worship planners, and laypeople with a love for the hymnody of the Church.

This year’s conference was focused on the music of the Church as both a living tradition and something new, with the first main presentation on Monday morning focused on Heinrich Schütz, as this year is the 400th anniversary of his Psalms of David. Dr. Daniel Zager of the Eastman School of Music presented on Schütz’s psalm settings, with the Concordia Lutheran High School Chamber Choir singing samples of his setting for Psalm 98 to demonstrate the techniques used to capture the text-rich psalm.

Schütz lived from 1585-1672, and wrote music for multiple choirs to sing (you’ll notice in this presentation there are essentially two choirs singing back and forth, interweaving and echoing one another) as well as smaller pieces of sacred music, written when the church was struggling and he had only a few musicians at hand to sing or play. His settings were intended to help listeners understand the text, without the music sounding either perfunctory or overly long. For example, you can hear in parts where the voices themselves are used to indicate sounds, like the trumpets referred to in the text and the sound of rushing water with notes cascading down.

In this clip, Dr. Zager is explaining some of the musical techniques at work in verse 4 of Psalm 98. It’s hard to hear exactly what he’s saying, but essentially he’s explaining how Schütz used two full-part choirs to go back and forth, essentially imitating the text repetition as well as to capture the feeling of shouting for joy referred to in the text. You’ll notice that about half of the Concordia Chamber Choir is sitting in the audience, as they were unable to all fit on stage, with some singing along and others taking a break. The full choir sang the entire Psalm 98 setting in chapel less than an hour later, which you can watch here:

“Never have I presented a paper with singers present,” Dr. Zager said at the end of his presentation, as the choir filed out to prepare for chapel. “This is extraordinary.” He also answered a few questions at the end, one of which was from a church musician wondering if it would be possible to adapt the music as needed to different settings; for example, she wondered if she could have a small choir sing one of the choir parts and replace another with a brass part. Dr. Zager’s response: absolutely. This music was designed to be flexible, able to be tailored to any church setting. It’s one of the great blessings of Schütz’s work.

After chapel, Dr. Samuel Eatherton, a minister of music at Zion Lutheran Church and School in Dallas, Texas, where he teaches music to 3rd–8th graders, spoke on “Church Music for Children”; specifically, how hymns and liturgy form children spiritually. Music helps people connect emotionally with the truth of God’s Word and a child’s faith often develops through music. In fact, neuroscience has found that music binds movement, thoughts, emotions, and memory together in the brain. Regular patterns of bodily rituals ingrain neural pathways.

Children will be formed, whether you will it or not. So we ask ourselves: how are they formed? Liturgy is an excellent tool in the church. Children sing before they learn how to read, and music itself assists with memory (think of the many knowledge songs you learned and still know from elementary school). Liturgy’s predictable elements and repetition help children to internalize information. Though they may not understand all the words they sing, singing helps them carry these concepts in their mind until they are old enough to understand. This is the power of tacit knowledge: knowledge experienced by a child becomes a part of that child.

Monday afternoon then gave participants eight sectionals to choose from, with time for each person to attend three. Sectionals tend to fall on two lines: informational and practical. The library offered tours of the new art exhibit on display (“With Angels and Archangels”) and later participants had the opportunity to attend a class with Dr. Charles Gieschen leading a biblical study of the angels. Rev. Stephen Starke of St. John Lutheran Church Amelith in Bay City, Michigan, presented on another musician’s anniversary (Jaroslav Vajda, a fellow pastor and hymn writer born 100 years ago). Professor Robert Rhein of Bethel University, Mishawaka, Indiana, spoke on faithful hymn translation while his wife, Sandra Rhein, a hymnal consultant for LCMS international missions, held a class directly above him in the second floor of Wyneken Hall on the three new Lutheran hymnals recently published in Kenya, China, and Ethiopia.

Though not a hymn translator, Prof. Rhein translates opera pieces from Italian into English, and has experience preserving a text’s original meaning while making sure it still fits rhyme and meter. In music translation, you rarely (if ever) can use formal equivalence translation, which means word-for-word translation, and instead generally operate on dynamic equivalence, meaning translation that captures the original meaning and feel, though the words may not be an exact translation.

In the Missouri Synod, we prioritize the stricter formal equivalence for biblical translation. Hymns, however, are an appropriate place for the dynamic style, as it is necessary to retain the poetic nature of the form. Words don’t necessarily exist across languages, or sometimes they do but they don’t fit the rhyme or meter scheme. Take, for example, the solas: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and Sola Gratia. Grace is easy to rhyme, but what about “Scripture” or even “faith”? Thus “Word” is a popular replacement. You can also try inverting the word order. There are also opposing strengths and weaknesses in different language. English uses powerful and simple monosyllabic phrases, which is rare in most European languages. On the other hand, English also has highly variable stress patterns, which is difficult for poetry since a good rhyme rhymes on the stressed syllable. Italian and Spanish don’t have many monosyllables, but everything rhymes easily within the language; we pray, we eat, we sing all rhyme in Italian and Spanish.

Up the stairs from her husband, Mrs. Rhein was speaking on the international hymnal projects. These countries desire a stronger Lutheran identity, and when they see the treasures that hymnals hold, they desire it for themselves. In Africa, Pentecostalism has swept into the country bringing with it its soloist-style, damaging both doctrine and congregational singing. Interestingly, the grass roots movement demanding stronger hymnals comes from their young people. “They were tired of the overpowering volume of Pentecostal style singing,” she explained.

When the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM) commits to a hymnal project, they appoint a committee; Mrs. Rhein serves that committee as an advisor and a liaison between them and the OIM. She has found that generally most of the work from these committees ends up with one or two people—those who have the most passion, skill, and vision. Usually pastors but sometimes church musicians. These projects are driven by the people in their home countries.

The other four sectionals were more practical in nature. Mark Knickelbein is an editor of Music/Worship at CPH (as well as composer and church musician), so he led a class on the Lutheran Service Builder and how to use this internet-based software as a tool to encourage hymnal use in congregations. Associate Kantor of CTSFW, Matt Machemer, led a class in the balcony of Kramer Chapel, sight-reading several Lent and Easter choral pieces with the church musicians and worship planners in attendance. This was the first class that primarily featured singing, but not the only one in which the audience broke out into song: the audience sang at least one hymn stanza in nearly every presentation. GSI participants tend to be musically trained, either through profession or simply through church attendance, and more than eager to accommodate a request from any presenter who asks for a congregational demonstration of a piece.

CTSFW Kantor Kevin Hildebrand also presented a sectional on singing, though his was focused in a more general sense on characteristics of good hymn tunes—essentially, what makes a tune easy for a congregation to pick up. Finally, Katie Schuermann, the soprano soloist featured at the choral vespers service the night before, who studied vocal pedagogy and earned a graduate degree in Choral Conducting, held a class on vocal health for amateur singers. She taught her class from the perspective of a conductor, stressing the importance of not only the voice but the whole body as a tool for singing. Dancers practice in front of mirrors, she pointed out, but who is the mirror for the singer? “The conductor,” she answered. “They’re likely going to use you as a model. Model the posture and expressions you want.” Conducting is a role that demands patience; successful conducting is communication between conductor and singers. “We discipline ourselves and teach our singers,” she explained.

Some basic tips included teaching singers where tension belongs—not in the shoulders, arms, or hands where they naturally want to hold it (singing is a very vulnerable act, so the tension is an act of protection), but in the abdomen and stomach. She doesn’t worry about the diaphragm, but focuses rather on the intercostal muscles around the ribs. Warmups are about making sure the body is active and ready, for singing is the act of breathing, supporting, and projecting and takes the whole body’s participation. She had the whole class go through practice exercises and stretches. It’s very hard to sing incorrectly when you have correct posture.

She also took a few minutes to talk about the aging voice. “As we age, something called presbyphonia happens,” she said. “What happens is collagen sets in the vocal folds. You can imagine what that does. You want those vocal folds to be moist and loose and agile, right? When collagen sets in the vocal folds it stiffens them. And that’s part of what you’re experiencing when that tone just is not as vibrant as it used to be, you’re not able to make as smooth of a sound. It’s not your fault, it’s just part of aging, okay? Another thing that happens with presbyphonia, the surrounding elastin fibers, you know that are around your vocal folds, those atrophy. They decay. Isn’t that terrible? I’m sorry. But our life in Christ is eternal; there are songs for us to sing in heaven.”

“It’s all normal but frustrating, I know,” she added. “You are just going to reach times where your voice just doesn’t do what it used to, but that doesn’t mean you stop singing. There is beauty in that change and sound as well.”

Two final main presentations finished up GSI the next day: Dr. Paul Grime, CTSFW Dean of the Chapel, on “An Embarrassment of Riches: Choosing What to Sing,” and Prof. Joseph Herl of Concordia University, Nebraska, and Peter Reske, Senior Editor of Music/Worship at CPH, spoke jointly on the LSB Companion to the Hymns, set to be released this December 5.

“We should know nothing to sing or say, save Jesus Christ our Savior,” Martin Luther wrote in a preface to the Wittenberg Hymnal in 1524. Dr. Grime pointed out that, while some of the later reformers like Calvin limited church music to that provided by the Bible (meaning the psalm hymns), Luther translated Latin hymns into German, improved medieval German hymns, and wrote his own. Though he only wrote about three dozen hymns, by not limiting church music to the psalms, he opened up the church to new music by hymn writers for centuries.

The breadth and depth of our hymnal reflects that. We have hymns from many continents and ages, from Europe to Africa and from the past age to the present. We don’t stop writing hymns or books of theology just because excellent hymns and books have already been written. “The Spirit continues to give gifts to the Church,” Dr. Grime said.

He went on to explain the gift of a wide variety of hymns: like the love languages (that each of us has a specific way in which we show and receive love), Dr. Grime suggests that people also have different faith languages. The analogy isn’t perfect and shouldn’t be taken too far, he added, but you can see this play out in our different dispositions and tastes. Matter-of-fact vs. poetic; complex vs. simple; cerebral vs. emotive. For example, LSB 655 “Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” is a textually dense hymn written by Martin Luther whereas LSB 543 “What Wondrous Love Is This” is a far more modern and repetitious piece: yet both are theologically sound, centered on what Christ has done for us. You need not pit these against each other, but instead recognize that they will appeal to different people, perhaps even in the same congregation.

The most important consideration when choosing hymns: the people who are doing the singing. And by drawing hymns from across countries, ages, and eras, you serve your whole congregation. “And,” he added, “you may learn something not natural to your faith language.”

As to the less theologically-meaty or even sound hymns, Dr. Grime suggests that you slowly introduce stronger hymns as substitutes. This is not a fast process; it can take five, ten, fifty years. When you serve a congregation, you take every member’s past and experiences into consideration. You are also not called to be pressured by other churches or congregations and what they do. “You serve your people,” he said. In every case, we trust God to bless the proclamation of the Gospel through the church’s singing.

Finally, Professor Herl opened the last presentation with the almost-published LSB Companion to the Hymns. It’s a 2,000+ page scholarly piece written with the assistance of 150 authors (about 10 of whom were in the audience), in which CPH went back to the primary sources for every hymn to better track who wrote the text, tune, and setting, and to track biographical information, historical contexts, and the Scripture upon which each hymn was originally based. Because of the work done for the Companion, CPH made over 500 changes to the attributions in the LSB.

“My favorite part is the index,” Prof. Herl said, then, to laughter: “Actually, I’m serious.” They indexed each hymn according to an enormous number of attributes; i.e. which of the European Lutheran hymns were written by pietists? Was this Anglican hymn writer an Anglo-Catholic or only slightly Anglican? What was going on the world politically and theologically at the time this hymn was created?

Why do this? Because it tells you the original intention of the author. For example, LSB 663 (“Rise, My Soul, to Watch and Pray”) is about watching lest you fall into sin; lo and behold: written by a pietist, a religious movement in which adherents strive for a sinless life as proof of their faith. The emphasis of the hymn is on Christian obedience. Christian obedience is not a bad subject for a hymn, but its pietistic origin is a reminder that you must remember the Christian in the congregation struggling and failing to live a sinless life. There is no Gospel promise here to comfort him. So what do you do? Sing the hymn, and then follow it up later in the service with another: LSB 594 “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It.” Here is comfort: it points the struggling Christian to his baptism. “Both hymns are useful in pastoral care,” Prof Herl said, “but in differing circumstances.”

Mr. Reske then took a turn to talk about what wasn’t in the LSB Companion. While their research was thorough, there is still much lost to time. He told stories of the information they could find, the circuitous routes through which they could find some information but never found others, and explained that of the 104 still-living hymn writers who have attributions in the LSB, CPH heard back from 95 of them to confirm the facts presented in their biographies. By researching each hymns origins, you can find original sources and stories.

The 95th still-living hymn writer contacted CPH this summer. Bernard Kyamanywa was born in 1938 and wrote the Tanzanian hymn “Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia” (LSB 466) in the 1960s. Currently in the LSB, the music is simply attributed as “Tanzanian.” They can now update that: his son took a video of Rev. Kyamanywa singing the hymn he wrote, and he was able to confirm that he was not only the author of the text but the composer of the tune as well. It was one of many stories told that day.

GSI closed with the Litany for Travelers: ending with a service of prayer for safe travels, God’s blessings on the participants, and, of course, with singing.


To learn more about GSI (or to register for next year if you already know you’d like to come), go to www.ctsfw.edu/GSI. Email [email protected] for any questions.

Commemoration: Samuel

In remembrance of today’s commemoration of Samuel, here is a hymn and a handful of chapters from the first book of Samuel. One of the words that sticks out in chapter 7 (copied and pasted below) is “Ebenezer,” which immediately brought to mind the hymn we’ve shared here: LSB 686 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Verse 2 begins with “Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’ve come;” which is a reference to the stone of remembrance that Samuel raised to God’s glory. He called the stone Ebenezer, meaning: “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”


1 SAMUEL 1

There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”

The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.” Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”

And he worshiped the Lord there.


1 SAMUEL 3

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.

Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.

And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”

And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.


1 SAMUEL 7:3-17

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.

Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.

Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.

Convocation: Organ Music for Lent

Seminarian Silas Hasselbrook takes a seat at the organ for the first piece (“Excerpt from Organ Sonata No. 3”) with his fellow seminarian, Emmett Bartens, standing at his side to assist with page turns, as Kantor Hildebrand finishes his opening explanation of the themes and other techniques at work in the piece.

It’s been a particularly music-rich week at CTSFW. This Wednesday’s unique convocation in Kramer Chapel used a variety of organ music on Lenten hymns to teach various concepts about music, its role, and how to listen to it, especially in church and chapel. The Kantors have taken to calling this learning session “Convocation: Special Organ Edition.”

The organists for today’s convocation, from left to right: Kantor Matthew Machemer, Dean of Chapel Dr. Grime, Seminarian Emmett Bartens, Kantor Kevin Hildebrand, and Seminarian Silas Hasselbrook.

Since most (if not all) of the music featured in today’s convocation is in the public domain, we’ll be able to share much longer videos of the performances than usual (recorded in the balcony using a cell phone). We’ve posted these below, pairing each with an explanation from the organists on what you can listen for to help your understanding and appreciation of each piece. There’s no time in chapel to pause the service for teachable moments as the organ plays, so the Dean of the Chapel and the Kantors wrote and presented these explanations to help member of the audience better understand and listen to what is happening in an organ piece—and in so doing increase one’s love and appreciation for this gift of God.

VIDEO LINK PENDING: Excerpt from Organ Sonata No.3 (Op.65)

First piece: Excerpt from Organ Sonata No. 3 (Op. 65)
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
Organist: Seminarian Silas Hasselbrook

Listen for:

1. The fugue theme, which is a short melody or phrase introduced by one part and successively taken up by others as it becomes interwoven into the piece. In this excerpt, it’s the four entrances before the hymn tune begins, and you’ll hear it again (very loud) once more after the hymn tune.

2. The hymn tune you can occasionally hear is “From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee” (LSB 607), played with the pedal.

3. The dynamic contrast in this piece is accomplished through the opening and closing of the swell box. While the exposed pipes you can see in the chapel organ have no way to be played louder or softer, there are pipes inside what’s called the swell box; as any child with a sibling knows, if you slam the door of your brother or sister’s bedroom when they’re annoying you from inside, you can’t hear them nearly as well.

4. A descending pedal scale near the end of the piece changes the music from a minor key (E minor) to end on a major key (A major).

VIDEO LINK PENDING: A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth

Second piece: “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” (BWV 653b)
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Organist: Kantor Kevin Hildebrand

Listen for:

1. Most familiarly, hymns have a four-voice texture: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. However, in this piece the hymn tune (LSB 438) uses five voices: the right hand plays the melody (using a different sound to bring it out), the left hand plays two notes simultaneously, and two pedals (“A keyboard you play with your feet,” Kantor explained) are played simultaneously. It’s a challenging technique.

2. Ornamentation is used to dress up a tune, in here played on a solo stop to draw attention to the melody. In this piece the embellishments are mild; you will hear more major ornamentation in the next piece.

VIDEO LINK PENDING: O Sinner, Come Thy Sin to Mourn

Third piece: “O Sinner, Come Thy Sin to Mourn”
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Organist: Seminarian Emmett Bartens

Listen for:

1. Elaborate ornamentation of the melody. Kantor Hildebrand sang the first portion of the tune before seminarian Emmett Bartens began—the choral had been printed on the back of the handout to serve as a kind of road map—so that the audience could get a handle on the tune before it threatened to disappear among the trills and other ornamentation dressing up this hymn.

2. The colorful chord changes right before the end of the piece. Another clue to the incoming end of the music is when you hear it slow down—and when you see the page-turning assistant take a seat.

VIDEO LINK PENDING: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

Fourth piece: Prelude and Chorale “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (LSB 450)
Composer: Ernst Pepping
Organist: Kantor Matthew Machemer

Listen for:

1. The use of a canon (also known as a “round”—Kantor had the audience sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in a short round as an example) in both the manual (hands) and pedal (feet) parts. However, in this piece, unlike the typical “Row, row, row your boat” round, the melody repeats in different keys.

2. The prelude begins with three voices (two in the hands and one in the feet), which swell to six as voices are added in (with four in the hands and two in the feet).

3. The use of modern harmonic language illustrates the intensity of our Lord’s suffering.

4. You know the piece has switched over to the chorale when you can hear the hymn tune stated clearly in the music.

VIDEO LINK PENDING: O Darkest Woe

Fifth (and final) piece: Prelude and Fugue on “O Darkest Woe” (LSB 448)
Composer: Johannes Brahms
Organist: Rev. Dr. Paul Grime (Dean of the Chapel)

Listen for:

1. The extreme contrast between the gentle prelude and the serious—even severe—fugue. The melody of the hymn is played as the highest notes in the prelude, but then as the lowest (heard as extremely long notes on the pedals) in the fugue.

2. The fugue theme is made up of descending notes, but can also be heard in inversion—upside down—so that the theme descends for long periods before rising then descending again. There is a sense of breathing to it, almost a looping, aching sense, like Christ trying to catch his breath as he hangs on the cross before he finally gives up His spirit.

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

As I looked,

thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍
“I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

You can see this reading from Daniel in LSB 802, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”:
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Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
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Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.
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To all life Thou givest–to both great and small–
In all life Thou livest, the true Life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree
And wither and perish–but naught changes Thee.
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Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render: O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendor of light that hides Thee.

What Child Is This?

In 1865, the manager of a maritime insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland, lay bedridden with a sudden, severe illness. Suffering from both physical and mental despair, William Chatterton Dix leaned on the promises of Christ during this period, penning the poem, “The Manger Throne.” The title probably isn’t familiar, but many of the words, phrases, and lyrics are; go to LSB 370, and you’ll find the very familiar Christmas hymn this poem eventually formed, one which asks a very well-known question:

“What Child Is This?”

The world of the 21st century wants to avoid this question. For many folks, Christmas becomes a time to reflect on the activities of the past year and to launch into the New Year. It has lost meaning even as a season to share a religious observance with family and friends. But with the stroke of a pen, Mr. Dix answered in song the most important question ever asked in the history of the world: what child is this?

In his hour of great need, the hymn writer found comfort in what This Child—the Word made flesh—does for him. One day nails and spear would pierce through This Child. One day This Child would bear the cross—for me, for you. That’s the way the King of kings pleads for sinners here and brings salvation.

Here at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, we form and equip servants to bring the Good News of Jesus, This Child of Bethlehem. We prepare these servants to answer the questions of a world desperately in need of a Savior.

In the third stanza, Mr. Dix reminds us that gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh are freely given. Such gifts—given out of love and reverence—become traveling money for the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, in their hour of great need.

Today we ask for your prayers and your financial support. Please consider a gift to the Seminary to prepare men and women to deliver the Good News of This Child. You can give today at https://my.ctsfw.edu/giving-tuesday.


As a point of interest, here is “The Manger Throne” by William Chatterton Dix in full:

LIKE silver lamps in a distant shrine,
The stars are sparkling bright
The bells of the city of God ring out,
For the Son of Mary is born to-night.
The gloom is past and the morn at last
Is coming with orient light.
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Never fell melodies half so sweet
As those which are filling the skies,
And never a palace shone half so fair
As the manger bed where our Saviour lies;
No night in the year is half so dear
As this which has ended our sighs.
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Now a new Power has come on the earth,
A match for the armies of Hell:
A Child is born who shall conquer the foe,
And all the spirits of wickedness quell:
For Mary’s Son is the Mighty One
Whom the prophets of God fortell.
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The stars of heaven still shine as at first
They gleamed on this wonderful night;
The bells of the city of God peal out
And the angels’ song still rings in the height;
And love still turns where the Godhead burns
Hid in flesh from fleshly sight.
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Faith sees no longer the stable floor,
The pavement of sapphire is there
The clear light of heaven streams out to the world
And the angels of God are crowding the air,
And heaven and earth, through the spotless birth
Are at peace on this night so fair.

Reformation Day 2018

PSALM 46: GOD IS OUR FORTRESS
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God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
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There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
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Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

[YouTube video of Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, arr. W. B. Olds, sung by the Wartburg Choir.]

Before You, Lord, We Bow

Before You, Lord, we bow,
Our God who reigns above
And rules the world below,
Boundless in pow’r and love.
Our thanks we bring
In joy and praise,
Our hearts we raise
To You, our King!
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The nation You have blest
May well Your love declare,
From foes and fears at rest,
Protected by Your care.
For this bright day,
For this fair land—
Gifts of Your hand-—
Our thanks we pay.
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May ev’ry mountain height,
Each vale and forest green,
Shine in Your Word’s pure light,
And its rich fruits be seen!
May ev’ry tongue
Be tuned to praise
And join to raise
A grateful song.
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Earth, hear your Maker’s voice;
Your great Redeemer own;
Believe, obey, rejoice,
And worship Him alone.
Cast down your pride,
Your sin deplore,
And bow before
The Crucified.
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And when in pow’r He comes,
Oh, may our native land
From all its rending tombs
Send forth a glorious band,
A countless throng,
With joy to sing
To heav’n’s high King
Salvation’s song!
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LSB 966

This version of the hymn (words by Francis Scott Key, best known for “The Star-Spangled Banner”) sung in harmony by Westminster Choir College members.

Commemoration: King David

Today we commemorate and remember King David. David’s life is well documented in Scripture, from his great faith and loyalty to God to his great sins — in particular, his adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of Uriah. His cries of repentance and prayers for mercy in Psalm 51 are familiar words in the liturgy: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (verses 11 and 12).

There’s another pretty obvious reason we commemorate David, especially this close to Christmas. Christ is the Son of David, promised to us from of old. From “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” in the Holy Week section of the LSB, number 442, verse 1:

All glory, laud, and honor
To You, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

You are the King of Israel
And David’s royal Son,
Now in the Lord’s name coming,
Our King and Blessed One.

Commemoration: Aurelius Ambrosius

Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin’s Son, make here Your home!
Marvel now, O heav’n and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh—
Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

#332 in the LSB was written by Ambrose of Milan, born in Germany in 337 AD and died on Good Friday, April 4, 397 in Milan, Italy. We commemorate Aurelius Ambrosius as a pastor and hymnwriter, one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church alongside Augustine, Jerome and Gregory the Great.

Ambrose was chosen as pastor of Milan while still serving as a civil governor. History says that the Christians of Milan were divided into factions at the time, and when the 34-year-old catechumen addressed the crowd gathered to elect a new bishop (trying to seek peace between them), someone yelled, “Ambrose, bishop!” The entire crowd agreed, so after Ambrose was baptized on December 7, he was consecrated bishop of Milan. He was bold in his defense of the faith, and pivotal in the theological fight against Arianism (the heresy that inspired Santa Claus to supposedly slap Arius, as mentioned in yesterday’s post).

During this Advent, as at all times, we look to Scripture and Christ crucified as the defense against every false doctrine, and thank God for the servants He has given us across time and space to preserve His Church. If you are looking for materials that focus on Jesus during this holy season, check out the Advent devotional put out by Christ Academy. You can make it a part of your daily devotions by downloading it HERE or by clicking this picture of the cover:

Authors of the devotional include pastors and seminarians, many of them either former attendees or proctors at Christ Academy.

Commemoration: John of Damascus

The day of resurrection!
Earth, tell it out abroad,
The passover of gladness,
The passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
From sin’s dominion free,
Our Christ has brought us over
With hymns of victory.
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Let hearts be purged of evil
That we may see aright
The Lord in rays eternal
Of resurrection light
And, list’ning to His accents,
May hear, so calm and plain,
His own “All hail!” and, hearing,
May raise the victor strain.
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Now let the heav’ns be joyful,
Let earth its song begin,
Let all the world keep triumph
And all that is therein.
Let all things, seen and unseen,
Their notes of gladness blend;
For Christ the Lord has risen,
Our joy that has no end.
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All praise to God the Father,
All praise to God the Son,
All praise to God the Spirit,
Eternal Three in One!
Let all the ransomed number
Fall down before the throne
And honor, pow’r and glory
Ascribe to God alone!

Today we commemorate John of Damascus, theologian and hymnwriter. You can find two of his Easter hymns in the Lutheran Service Book, and this one (#478) happens to be my favorite. Anyone looking for some organ-heavy karaoke this afternoon can listen to the tune and sing along here:

Born in 675 AD and died 749, John of Damascus is known as the last great Greek theologian. Before he became a priest, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to Christianity. He argued against the prohibition of icons, wrote theological defenses against common heresies of the time, and summarized the orthodox faith and the writings of previous theologians in a book known as the Fount of Wisdom.