Friday, March 06, 2009

Certain Hymns

When Lutheran Service Book was put together, there were two sections of TLH that were nearly entirely left out of the new hymnal. One was the section on the ministry, with prayers for our pastors and missionaries and that God would send out faithful pastors to do His work. And the other section was the "death and burial" part. I realize that those parts were seldom used because too many people saw them as useful only for ordinations/installations and funerals. And honestly, if that's all we use those sections for, there's plenty of great stuff in LSB that will do nicely. But there is a lot in those sections to guide us in our prayers for our pastors, and in our prayers that God would keep us faithful unto death.

I think we don't realize what a gift our pastors are to us, and we don't realize the assaults of Satan upon them and their ministries, and take it for granted that we will always have our pastors. They need our prayers. I mean, look at some of these:

The servants Thou hast called
and to Thy Church art giving
preserve in doctrine pure
and holiness of living.
Thy Spirit fill their hearts,
endue their tongues with power;
what they should boldly speak,
oh, give them in that hour!
Yea, bless Thy Word alway,
our souls forever freeding;
and may we never lack
a faithful shepherd's leading! (TLH 485)

Oh, may Thy pastors faithful be,
not laboring for themselves, but Thee!
Give grace to feed with wholesome food
the sheep and lambs bought by Thy blood,
to tend Thy flock, and thus to prove
how dearly they the Shepherd love. (TLH 493)

And then there's the section on death that barely got touched in TLH. After all, how many of us face death? It's not often. We sequester death away in the hospitals and the nursing homes. We have modern medicine that cures many things --and quickly-- so that we seldom must endure illnesses as happened in the past. And when we must face our own death or the death of those we care for, how many of us spend our time singing to them things like:

With peace and joy I now depart.
God's child I am with all my heart.
I thank thee, Death, thou leadest me
to that true life where I would be.
So cleansed by Christ, I fear not death.
Lord Jesus, strengthen Thou my faith. (TLH 585)

God's Son to our graves then takes His way,
His voice hear all tribes and nations;
the portals are rent that guard our clay,
and moved are the sea's foundations.
He calls out aloud, "Ye dead, come forth!"
In glory we rise to meet Him.

O Jesus, draw near my dying bed
and take me into Thy keeping
and say when my spirit hence is fled,
"This child is not dead, but sleeping."
And leave me not, Savior, till I rise
to praise Thee in life eternal. (TLH 592)

My sins, dear Lord, disturb me sore,
my conscience cannot slumber;
but though as sands upon the shore
my sins may be in number,
I will not quail, but think of Thee;
Thy death, Thy sorrow, borne for me,
Thy sufferings, shall uphold me. (TLH 594)

Do we yearn for people to be singing us such things upon our deathbeds? I think we are often too worried about causing the dying person to fret about dying, and so we avoid the providing comfort that can be found in such hymns.

But what started all my ruminations on this is current events. I think the day is coming in LSB's lifetime where our country will have changed so drastically that we will be facing death in a pervasive way that we're not used to: hunger and homelessness and war and devastation. And certain legislation is brewing that will threaten our pastors if they are to continue to preach God's word instead of the politically-correct word, and so they will need our prayers even more. These two sections of TLH are reason enough to hang onto that old book alongside my new hymnal, because the days are coming when those hymns will have the words we need to pray.


  1. Thank you. and Amen.


    I just found this online, which is neat if you don't have a piano or someone who can play a keyboard... it will play the song for you and you have the lyrics here too.

  3. I'm sympathetic with your several basic points, Susan, as you know. On the death and burial hymns, however, a number of those from TLH are in LSB, only categorized elsewhere (to encourage use). "In Peace and Joy I Now Depart," which you cite above, is in LSB. And TLH 594 survives, in part, as LSB 594; shortened considerably, to be sure, but perhaps more likely to be used as it now stands.

  4. Rick, are you thinking of Luther's Nunc Dimittis, "In Peace and Joy I Now Depart"? That's different than Eber's, where the first stanza starts "I Fall Asleep in Jesus' Wounds." And I think the other one you're thinking of is 598, which went from 11 stanzas in TLH to 3 in LSB. And I really do like it as it is in the baptism section of LSB, but it's very different. Both of them definitely have their places.

  5. Sure enough. I stand corrected. That's what I get for working from memory and not checking. My bad.