You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
Recently I was asked if I could share with everybody again some notes I made a few years ago regarding the services and hymns we use in worship. I made these notes originally because there was some confusion about why we use hymnals vs. locally printed worship orders, and the use of hymns not in The Lutheran Hymnal. So here are the rationales again for your knowledge and reading pleasure:
- At St. Paul we use both The Lutheran Hymnal and The Lutheran Service Book (LSB) for our worship and hymns at the 8:30 service. There’s a span of sixty-five years between the two hymnals. There was a hymnal created in 1982 called Lutheran Worship, but our congregation chose to skip over that one. We use the electronic version of the LSB, which is why we print the services out in bulletin form on the first two Sundays of the month. The LSB has most of the hymns and the old “page 15” Holy Communion service from the TLH. The editors of the LSB however didn’t carry everything over, and so we continue to use TLH. What’s nice about this is we have at our fingertips a treasure trove of Divine Services (seven in all!), daily prayer services and hymns spanning almost half a millennia of Protestant worship in the Christian Church. In actuality we only use about half of it; but over the past few years I’ve been using a few of the newer worship services with you and you’ve been very gracious to try them out.
- There may be a perception however that we’re singing contemporary hymns at an increasing rate. Nearly all the hymns we sing on Sunday mornings are from TLH – 1941. I select them very carefully based on the readings of the day from the lectionary. The words in the hymns help reinforce the scripture lessons for the day, with the hope that the sermon would be more edifying to you the hearer, and that the different parts of the liturgy would be more connected in theme. I also take into consideration whether or not we’ve sung the hymn the previous Sunday, and if it’s one of our favorites at St. Paul. Sometimes we sing a hymn from TLH that’s not often sung; but if the lyrics illuminate the message, then its well worth it I think.
Every now and then I pick a hymn from the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) – 2006. The majority of the hymns in this book are found in TLH, however there are some newer hymns and spirituals in it which were composed in the last Century. An example is “At the Lamb’s High Feast” hymn 633 from LSB. The text dates to the fifth century A.D., and was translated in 1849 by Robert Campbell. The tune is German, from the time of Luther. In Lutheran circles, the hymn came into use right on the heels of TLH, too late to be included. But it was added in Lutheran Worship (1982) and carried over into the LSB. The lyrics are splendid, especially stanza 5: Mighty Victim from the sky, Hell’s fierce pow’rs beneath you lie; You have conquered in the fight, You have brought us life and light. Alleluia! I think you’ll agree this hymn and others like it have a meet, right and salutary place in our Lutheran worship.
For those who attend the 10:45 service, we use an abbreviated Divine Service with hymns sometimes from the TLH or LSB, and worship songs from Christian Congregation Licensing International (CCLI.) I‘ve heard comments have been made our 10:45 service is not “Lutheran.” I understand God sets limits for us. But we also have much freedom as Christians. If you were to visit other LCMS churches across the globe you would find a surprising variety of music used in worship. It might also be helpful to know not all the hymns in the TLH are Lutheran in origin. Some are Catholic, while others come from Methodist and Baptist heritage. Yet they became beloved Lutheran hymns. Much is the same with songs and music written by Christians of different denominational backgrounds since 1941. A lot of it has been adopted into Lutheran circles. Lutherans however continue to write excellent hymns and music which glorify God and comfort His people.
Speaking for myself as an adopted son into the Lutheran family of believers, I find the wide range of worships services, hymns and music in our denomination reflects the diversity our God shows in His creation. After all, there are many kinds of animals, plants, and so forth. Let’s thank our Lord for the blessing of much, not just a little, music and divine worship in our church.
In Jesus’ name,