Tag Archives: Faith

“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 »

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 »

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 »

The Paradoxes of “This Little Babe”

Many of you may be familiar with the great choral work “This Little Babe” from Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. The driving rhythm, the compelling tune with its unique canonic treatment, and the dramatic shift at the very end from a minor key to its parallel major all make for a memorable and powerful setting of the text (click here for a video). The text explores the paradoxes that came with the birth of Christ, with God becoming… 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 »

“Now No Condemnation”

On July 28, 1750 the great man of faith and church musician Johann Sebastian Bach entered eternal glory. His music reveals to us that he was not afraid of death, but rather welcomed it because he knew it was the door to eternal life with his Savior, Jesus Christ. The Lutheran church pauses on July 28 to commemorate his life, music, and faith. In case you missed it, here is… Read More »

Fanfare, Fugue, and Chorale on CRUCIFER (Brass Choir)

The best sacred music is not “background” music, but rather music that proclaims the eternal truths of Scripture whether it is a simple song or one in which the message is written into the music. The hymn “Lift High the Cross” (CRUCIFER) has become an iconic one for many Christians because it highlights the centrality of the crucifixion of Jesus to the faith. Martin Luther speaks powerfully to this dogma in his Theology… Read More »

The Song of Habakkuk – A Song for Our Time

The Song of Habakkuk is a song for our time. On this, the Last Sunday of the Church Year, our thoughts are drawn to the end times and the prophecies regarding the Second Coming of Christ. Considering the events of the past weeks with terrorist attacks in Africa and France, threats of attacks in other parts of Europe and the United States, reports and arguments about “war,” “jihad,” “refugees,” the… Read More »

The Connection Between All Saints’ Day and the Reformation

This past Sunday, October 25th, Lutheran Christians celebrated the 498th anniversary of the Festival of the Reformation. However, the actual feast day is today, October 31st. Tomorrow, November 1st, we will celebrate All Saints’ Day. So if these two festivals are on consecutive days, are they connected in any way? The connections are quite interesting and valuable to consider. Let me explain. Frederick the Wise (1463-1525), the ruler of Saxony during the time… 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 »