Category Archives: Hymns

“And Take They Our Life” – More Thoughts on “A Mighty Fortress”

The short phrase “and take they our life” is the fifth line of the fourth and final stanza of one of the greatest Christian hymns in all of sacred music, “A Mighty Fortress” (EIN FESTE BURG) by Martin Luther (1483-1546). This phrase consists of five words in English and only four in the original German, “nehmen sie den Leib,” but behind it lies Luther’s entire Theology of Martyrdom which points… Read More »

A New Hymn Text – “The Emmaus Road”

There is a great fear of death here in Papua New Guinea as there was for many hundreds of years of Christianity, even after Jesus rose from the dead. Even today, some Christians fear death. One of the great gifts of the Reformation and the Lutheran theology that followed is the emphasis their songs placed on the victory that Christians have over death and that it is therefore nothing to… Read More »

A Virtual Hymn Sing Pandemic Style

Sacred music and the singing of Christian hymns is a corporate activity that all came to a halt a few weeks ago when this pandemic began. To address this problem, Kloria Publishing (www.kloria.com) began a program called “Sing Hymns with Me.” Every week they are posting a hymn appropriate for the Bible readings of the upcoming Sunday of the liturgical year and inviting people to sing along. They then make… Read More »

More Settings of “Now Thank We All Our God”

It is quite remarkable that a faithful Christian pastor wrote a hymn of thanksgiving in the middle of war, pestilence, and famine (see “Pestilence and ‘Now Thank We All Our God.’”). It is equally remarkable that this hymn transcended time and place and has become so popular. The hymn is still performed throughout the world by many different ensembles in many different ways. My post several weeks ago on the… Read More »

Pestilence and “Now Thank We All Our God”

What does pestilence have to do with the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”? Quite a bit, actually. Watching the news of the dangers, growth, and spread of the Coronavirus gives new meaning to the petition in the special Litany prayer in our hymnal asking God to protect us from “pestilence and famine.” Pestilence was nothing new hundreds of years ago. 1637 was a particularly difficult year for the… Read More »

Praise and Honor: Hymn-Inspired Devotions

Those of you familiar with this blog know that it offers reflections and insights into sacred music and Christian hymns. This week I would like to share with you a new book that does the same. The author is Timothy Shoup, a parish pastor from Bonduel, Wisconsin and a former classmate of mine. With his book Praise and Honor: Hymn-Inspired Devotions he provides deep insights into fourteen hymns, both old… Read More »

Thoughts on “A Mighty Fortress”

In many cases, key thoughts and insights are lost in translation. This is especially true when translating poetry while at the same time trying to maintain the original poem’s meter and rhyme scheme. A case in point is Martin Luther’s popular Reformation hymn “A Mighty Fortress,” of which there are numerous English translations. The first line is fairly easy to translate into English: “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” literally… Read More »

Thoughts on “Hope of the World”

The thoughts below were prepared for the “Devotions on the Hymn of the Day” project of the Center for Church Music at Concordia University, Chicago. This devotion is on “Hope of the World,” the Hymn of the Day for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24B) on Sunday, October 18, 2015. For additional devotions, click here. For a downloadable PDF version of this devotion, click here. “Hope” is an optimistic word… Read More »

Thoughts on “My Song is Love Unknown”

The hymn “My Song is Love Unknown” features a text from the 1600s coupled with a melody composed in the early 1900s by the English composer and church musician John Ireland (1879-1962). This haunting and beautiful melody was apparently composed casually one day over lunch at the suggestion of fellow church musician and composer Geoffrey Shaw (1879-1943). The poet of this hymn, Samuel Crossman (c. 1624-1683), was a pastor who… Read More »

Thoughts on “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright”

For the Twelfth and last Day of Christmas and for the Feast of Epiphany let us examine the “Queen of Chorales,” “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” (“Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern”). Composed by the Reverend Philip Nicolai (1556-1608), it is often sung as an Epiphany hymn although it can be sung on other occasions as well. For this post, I simply wish to share two settings of this hymn by… Read More »