We looked at 34 psalms during this past year’s Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class. I’ve blogged about 28 of them so far. I hope to cover the remaining six before our next class starts this fall. I’m teaming up with Andrew Friend again to explore music in CRC hymnals. This time we plan on using some classes to look at psalms (as we did last year) and some to look at sections of Lift Up Your Hearts.
We covered Psalm 104 in class on April 27. Psalm 104 is song of praise for God’s creation and sustenance of the natural world. The lectionary assigns the second half of the psalm to Pentecost Sunday all three years.
Psalms for All Seasons includes five hymns based on Psalm 104, four of them using traditional hymn tunes.
“O Worship the King” (PFAS #104F/LUYH #2/PH87 #428/PH57 #315), by far the most well-known of the Psalm 104 hymns, is described by the Psalter Hymnal Handbook as “a meditation on the creation theme of Psalm 104. Stanzas 1-3, which allude to Psalm 104:1-6, focus on God’s creation as a testimony to his ‘measureless Might.’ More personal in tone, stanzas 4 and 5 confess the compassion of God toward his creatures and affirm with apocalyptic vision that the ‘ransomed creation, with glory ablaze’ will join with angels to hymn its praise to God.” The song, which is one of the perennial hymns that appear in all four main CRC hymnals, is set to LYONS.
“My Soul, Praise the LORD!” (PFAS #104E/PH87 #104/PH57 #206), set to the similar (to LYONS) sounding HANOVER, is a versification of the entire psalm that appeared (in some form) in three Psalter Hymnals but is not in Lift Up Your Hearts. [HANOVER is the tune of “You Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim” (LYUH #582/PH87 #477) and also an alternative tune for “O Worship the King.”]
The lyrics—twelve stanzas and a refrain—are derived from three songs in the 1912 Psalter: “My Soul, Bless the Lord” (#285), “He Waters the Hills” (#286) and “Thy Spirit, O Lord” (#287), each versifying part of the psalm for a total of 13 stanzas. The 1934 & 1957 Psalter Hymnals turned these 13 stanzas into two hymns of eight and seven stanzas (two stanzas are repeated). These hymns are “My Soul, Bless the Lord!” (which is set to HOUGHTON) (PH57 #206) and “The Seasons are Fixed by Wisdom Divine” (PH57 #207).
The gray Psalter Hymnal combines these two hymns into “Your Spirit, O Lord, Makes Life to Abound” (PH87 #104) (also set to HOUGHTON), moving the stanza based on vv. 30-31 to the beginning of the hymn (and suggesting it be repeated three times) but putting the others in order.
Psalms for All Seasons turns the “Your Spirit, O Lord…” stanza into the refrain of the song. According to the performance notes: “This versification leaves nothing out. Groups of stanzas can be selected to create shorter hymns of praise for creation and God’s providential care. The optional refrain is inserted at several points to suggest stanza groupings. (When following the text of the psalm, the refrain text should come only after st. 10.) When preaching or teaching about creation, select stanzas that correspond to the particular facets of creation.”
Your Spirit, O LORD, makes life to abound.
The earth is renewed, and fruitful the ground.
To God be all glory and wisdom and might.
May God in his creatures forever delight.
“We Worship You, Whose Splendor Dwarfs the Cosmos” (PFAS #104C/LUYH #11) is set to TIDINGS with lyrics by Martin Leckebusch that, as the titles suggests, modernize some of the images from the psalm. Instead of setting the earth on its foundations, God “made the earth, determining its orbit.”
We worship you, whose splendor dwarfs the cosmos,
whose very clothes are robes of dazzling light;
on wind and cloud you ride across the heavens;
your word bids fiery angels soar in flight.
Lord, God, our voices gladly we raise,
joining creation’s unending hymn of praise.
[TIDINGS is also the tune for the perennial Psalm 103 setting, “O Come, My Soul, Sing Praise to God” (PFAS #103B/LUYH #672/PH87 #297/PH57 #204), but “O, Christians Haste” (PH87 #525), AKA “Publish Glad Tidings” is one of the notable mid-19th Century hymns not included in LUYH.]
“The Mountains Stand in Awe” (LUYH #104B) has lyrics by Ken Bible set to LEONI, tune of “The God of Abraham Praise” (LUYH #39/PH87 #621).
The mountains stand in awe.
The thunder speaks your name.
Creation waits to serve its God with wind and flame.
The heavens know your power.
None question what you do.
The oceans riot unrestrained but bow to you.
The fifth song in Psalms for All Seasons, “Send Forth Your Spirit, O Lord” (PFAS #104D), is a modern hymn with a short refrain based on verse 30 (“Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth” X 2) and three short stanzas based on vv. 1-2, v. 24 & vv. 27-28.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
wrapped in a garment of glory and might,
clothed in light as in a robe.
The responsorial settings in Psalms for All Seasons is “Lord, Send Out Your Spirit” (PFAS #104G), which is based on verse 30 and includes the text of vv. 1-9, 24-34 and 35b.
Psalms for All Seasons also includes “A Litany of Praise” (PFAS #104A) based on the psalm.
Although it isn’t designated as a Psalm 104 setting, David Haas’ hymn “Send Us Your Spirit” (LUYH #228/SNC #163) has a chorus derived from verse 30 (“Come, Lord Jesus, send us your Spirit; renew the face of the earth” X 2) with three stanzas that build on the theme of receiving God’s Spirit. The refrain is used in Sing! A New Creation as a responsorial setting (SNC #174). (We used this responsorial setting in our Pentecost service.)
The blue Psalter Hymnal includes three settings of Psalm 104, two of which were described above. The third is “O Lord, How Manifold the Works” (PH57 #208).
(This is the 26th post in my continuing series on the Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class I co-teach with Andrew Friend. Each week we sing psalm settings from Psalms for All Seasons, Lift Up Your Hearts, and other CRC hymnals. Previous posts is the series focused on Psalm 121, Psalm 122, Psalms 2/99, Psalm 72, Psalm 95, Psalm 147, Psalm 112, Psalm 29, Psalm 40, Psalm 23, Psalm 27, Psalm 130, Psalm 15, Psalm 51, Psalm 6, Psalm 32, Psalm 143, Psalms 38/102, Psalm 31, Psalm 116, Psalm 16, Psalm 22, Psalm 118, Psalms 47/93, Psalm 66, and Psalm 45.)