Monthly Archives: October 2014

Psalm 100 & 134 Hymns

Psalm 100,  one of the best known and beloved psalms, is a call to worship addressed to “all the earth” and especially worshipers about to enter the temple courts. It affirms that the LORD is God, that he made us and we belong to him, that he is good, and that his love and faithfulness will endure “through all generations.”

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Although Psalm 100 is always suitable for use as a call to worship, the Revised Common Lectionary pays it little attention. It is assigned to Christ the King Sunday in Year A as a response to the Ezekiel (which shares with it the image of the Lord as Shepherd). (It shows up as an alternative stream reading in Year A and for Thanksgiving Day in Year C.)

Psalm 100 is connected to one of the most famous tunes in Christian hymnody (and the most famous tune in the 1551 Genevan Psalter), OLD HUNDREDTH (AKA GENEVAN 134), which was written by Louis Bourgeois for Psalm 134. Ten years later it was paired with William Kethe’s versification of Psalm 100 in the 1561 Anglo-Genevan Psalter. The Psalms for All Seasons performance notes claims that the tune is “probably the most sung church melody throughout the world” and that Kethe’s hymn is “perhaps the oldest English psalm versification that continues to be sung today.”

“All People on the Earth Do Dwell” (PFAS #100A/LUYH #1/PH87 #100/PH57 #195/PH34 #205/HFW #6), the marriage of Kethe’s hymn with OLD HUNDREDTH, gets special treatment in the CRC’s new hymnals, which provide the lyrics in 12 languages, including Chinese, Swahili, and Indonesian. Lift Up Your Hearts, which include no other Psalm 100 settings, places the hymn first.

Lift Up Your Hearts uses a modern version of the lyrics, which also appeared in the gray Psalter Hymnal. Psalms for All Seasons uses the older version of Kethe’s lyrics with OLD HUNDREDTH. The modern lyrics are used with another tune. Here is stanza 1 of the modern lyrics:

All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Serve him with joy, his praises tell,
come now before him and rejoice!

(The gray Psalter Hymnal sets the modern lyrics to GENEVAN 100, including an alternative harmonization with French lyrics. The red and blue Psalter Hymnals set them to another Bourgeois tune, ALL LANDS. The 1912 Psalter uses OLD HUNDREDTH, which is clearly the best of these tunes)

Many people are familiar with OLD HUNDREDTH for its use as a doxology (with lyrics by Thomas Ken). Lift Up Your Hearts includes that hymn, “Praise, God, from Whom All Blessings Flow” (LUYH #965/PH87 #638/PH57 #493/PH34 #468), which is placed last in LUYH in the same 12 languages. The tune also appears in a communion song, “Be Present at Our Table, Lord” (LUYH #843) and the Psalm 134 setting (see below).

The blue and gray Psalter Hymnals uses OLD HUNDREDTH for the doxology and their versifications of Psalm 134 (see below.) Sing! A New Creation has another hymn set to the tune, “For All the Saints Who Showed Your Love” (SNC #195).

An alternative version of “All People on the Earth Do Dwell” (LUYH #100B) pairs the modern version of Kethe’s lyrics with the traditional gospel tune NEW DOXOLOGY, which sounds like a hybrid of OLD HUNDREDTH and DUKE STREET (“Jesus Shall Reign”). The doxology is added as a fifth stanza. It’s a fun tune to sing.

“Let Every Voice on Earth Resound” (PFAS #100C) matches GENEVAN 100 (also by Bourgeois) with lyrics by Michael Morgan. GENEVAN 100 is a big step down from OLD HUNDREDTH and Morgan makes the odd choice of putting the first stanza in passive voice:

Let every voice on earth resound,
and joyful hearts hold God adored;
in gladness may God’s courts abound
with songs of praise unto the Lord.

OLD HUNDREDTH, NEW DOXOLOGY & GENEVAN 100 are all so they are interchangeable.

Psalms for All Season includes four other Psalm 100 hymn settings.

“With Shouts of Joy Come Praise the Lord” (PFAS #100D) is a Punjabi hymn. The score includes only a melody, but parts are given for finger cymbals and bells/Orff instruments.

“Lán tioh kèng-pài Chú Siōg-tè/Let Us Come to Worship God” (PFAS #100E) is a Taiwanese hymn with a traditional tribal melody. Again PFAS provides just the melody and some percussion parts (drum and bass xylophone). The song has one short stanza:

Let us come to worship God,
let us come to worship God,
bless the holy name;
enter God’s house with thanks and reverence,
for the LORD is good, God’s love endures forever.

“Jubilate Deo omnis terra/Raise a Song of Gladness” (PFAS #100G) is a catchy Taizé song by Jacques Berthier with lyrics in Latin and English. The tune is here. The Latin is from Psalm 100 (“Jubilate Deo omnis terra, servite Domino in laetitia.”). The English translation adds a Christian interpretation (“Raise a shout of gladness, peoples of the earth. Christ has come, bringing peace, joy to every heart.”).

“All the Earth, Proclaim the LORD” (PFAS #100H/PH87 #176) is by Lucien Deiss, who was part of the post-Vatican II worship renewal movement. The refrain (“All the earth proclaim the LORD, sing your praise to God”), based on verse 1, is intended to be sung by a cantor. The five stanzas are based on vv. 2-5. The sixth stanza is a trinitarian doxology. The tune is DEISS 100. This song was in the gray Psalter Hymnal but I don’t recall singing it.

The responsorial setting is “Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord” (PFAS #100F).

Psalm 134

Psalm 134 is the conclusion of the songs of ascents sung during the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In my mind, I picture a group of pilgrims arriving after sunset and rushing to the temple, where they find that the worship of the Lord is ongoing throughout the night. They raise their hands and join in worship with the other servants of the Lord.

Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion.

All the CRC hymnals have kept the traditional association between Psalm 134 and OLD HUNDREDTH, but have used different versifications of the lyrics.

The red and blue Psalter Hymnals use a three-stanza versification titled “O Bless Our God with One Accord” (PH57 #281/PH34 #295) by Lambertus Lamberts. [The red Psalter Hymnal also includes the versification from the 1912 Psalter, “Come, All Ye Servants of the Lord” (PH34 #296).]

The gray Psalter Hymnal substituted a new two-stanza versification by Calvin Seerveld, “You Servants of the LORD Our God” (PH87 #134). Seerveld makes explicit the psalm’s suggestion that worship is going on “both day and night”:

You servants of the LORD our God
who work and pray both day and night,
in God‘s own house lift up your hands
and praise the LORD with all your might.

Lift Up Your Hearts uses a two-stanza versification by Arlo Duba, “Come, All You Servants of the Lord” (PFAS #134A/LUYH #924). The arranagement of OLD HUNDREDTH includes a instrumental introduction/interlude/ending the performance notes claims should be played “as a slow rock ballad

Come, all you servants of the lord,
who work and pray by night, by day.
Come, bless the Lord within this place;
with lifted hands your homage pay.

Psalms for All Seasons includes two other Psalm 134 hymns, “Come Bless the Lord” (PFAS #134B), which is uses only vv. 1-2, and “We Will Rest in You” (PFAS #134C), which uses the refrain “Silently, peacefully, we will rest in you.” The verses of “We Will Rest in You” is a chant, which is not something we would use for congregational singing.

This  is part of a series of posts on the psalm hymns in the CRC hymnals related to one of the Sunday school classes I’ve co-taught with Andrew Friend—Psalms for All Seasons and Exploring Our Hymnals—or from my worship planning notes. We have now covered 40 psalms. The list of psalms can be found here.

Psalm 19 Hymns

Psalm 19 is a brilliant composition that connects God’s glory in creation to the perfection of His Law, both calling forth a response of humility from the worshiper.

The first part (vv. 1-6) describe how “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Although the heavenly bodies use no words, “their voice goes out into all the earth.” The second part (vv. 7-11) describes the perfection of the law, using a series of synonyms (“statutes,” “precepts,” commands,” etc.) and images (“making wise the simple,” “giving light to the eyes,” etc.). The final part (vv. 12-14) describes the psalmist’s reaction:

But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth
and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

The last verse is commonly used as a prayer before  preaching.

According to the Word Commentary (vol. 19 by Craigie & Tate), “each of the characteristics of the Torah listed [in the psalm] contains an allusion to the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2-3), and that by means of these allusions the psalmist is expressing the superiority of the Torah to the tree of knowledge.” I wouldn’t have noticed that myself.

Also from the Word Commentary: “Just as the sun dominates the daytime sky, so too does the Torah dominate human life. And as the sun can be both welcome, in giving warmth, and terrifying in its unrelenting heat, so too the Torah can be both life-imparting, but also scorching, testing, and purifying.”

Our Exploring Our Hymnals class took up Psalm 19 on Sept. 21. The Revised Common Lectionary assigns the psalm on eight occasions (putting it in among the five most used psalms), including the Easter vigil for all three years. On Oct. 4 (Oct. 2-8, Year A), it’s assigned as a response to the Ten Commandments.

“The Heavens Declare Your Glory” (PFAS #19D/LUYH #3/PH87 #429/PH57 #31/PH34 #31) is one of just 19 Psalm settings to appear in all four of the CRC’s main hymnals. (I believe it is the only one of these  that isn’t also in the 1912 Psalter.) Lyrics are by 19th Century British minister Thomas Birks. The version in the first two Psalter Hymnals is “The Heavens Declare Thy Glory”; the lyrics were updated for the gray Psalter Hymnal. All versions are set to FAITHFUL, “an adaptation of a tune from Johann S. Bach’s well-known aria ‘Mein gläubiges Herze’ (‘My heart ever faithful’), found in his Cantata 68” (Psalter Hymnal Handbook).

The first two stanzas cover the heavens portion of the psalm (vv. 1-6). (The first stanza can be heard here.) The third and final stanza is a loose versification of v. 14:

All heaven on high rejoices
to do its Maker’s will;
the stars with solemn voices
resound your praises still.
So let my whole behavior,
each thought, each deed I do,
be, Lord, my strength, my Savior,
a ceaseless song to you.

Since the section on the law is skipped, this doesn’t make a good response to the Ten Commandments.

The other Psalm 19 setting in Lift Up Your Hearts is “God’s Glory Fills the Heavens” (PFAS #19B/LUYH #719/SNC #88), with modern lyrics by Carl Daw set to Franz Haydn’s CREATION. We were familiar with it from Sing! A New Creation. The three stanzas are about God’s glory filling the heavens, God’s perfect law reviving the soul, and God’s servant praying to be faithful. (A sample of the first stanza is here.)

God’s glory fills the heavens with hymns;
the domed sky bears the Maker’s mark.
New praises sound from day to day
and echo through the knowing dark.
Without a word their songs roll on;
into all lands their voices run.
And with a champion’s strength and grace
from farthest heaven comes forth the sun.

This is my favorite of the Psalm 19 hymns and the one we’re using Sunday. I’ve paired it with a Ten Commandments litany (LUYH #722) in the “We Are Renewed in God’s Grace” section of our liturgy.

Psalms for All Seasons includes three additional Psalm 19 settings. “The Stars Declare His Glory” (PFAS #19A) follows pattern of the heavens declaring God’s glory (stanzas 1-2), the glory of God’s law (stanza 3), and a response from the psalmist (stanza 4). Lyrics are by Timothy Dudley-Smith; the tune is David Haas’ DEERFIELD. (A sample of stanza 1 is here.)

The stars declare his glory;
the vault of heaven springs
mute witness of the Master’s hand
in all created things,
and through the silences of space
their soundless music sings.

“Silent Voices” (PFAS #19F) follows a similar pattern. Stanza 1 describes the “silent voices” of the sun and stars. Stanza 2 has “human voices” telling again “what they were told… Laws, decrees, precepts, commandments.” Stanza 3 asks that our “daily lives” will reflect this same glory. (A sample of stanza 1 is here.)

Silent voices, unheard voices,
day to day and night to night.
Sun in blue sky, stars in black sky:
singing, speaking, telling light.
Everything that God has made
tells his glory, tells his glory.

“May the Words of My Mouth” (PFAS #19E) uses v. 16 as a refrain. The five stanzas versify vv. 7-15. (The refrain is here.)

The responsorial setting is “Through the Witness of Creation” (PFAS #19C). The alternate setting is “Lord, You Have the Words” (PFAS #19C-alt).

The Psalter Hymnals include another four Psalm 18 songs.

“The Spacious Heavens Tell” (PH87 #19) was versified for the gray Psalter Hymnal by Helen Otte and set to GENEVAN 19.

The three additional settings in the red and blue Psalter Hymnals are: “The Spacious Heavens Declare” (PH57 #28/PH34 #29); “Jehovah’s Perfect Law” (PH57 #29/PH34 #30); and “The Spacious Heavens Laud” (PH57 #30/PH34 #32). The first two are from the 1912 Psalter.

This  is part of a series of posts on the psalm hymns in the CRC hymnals related to one of the Sunday school classes I’ve co-taught with Andrew Friend—Psalms for All Seasons and Exploring Our Hymnals—or from my worship planning notes. We have now covered 38 psalms. The list of psalms can be found here.

Hymns about Fall and the Human Condition

This past Sunday our class took up Lift Up Your Heart’s six hymns on Fall and the Human Condition, the shortest section in the hymnal. We weren’t familiar with most of them, but we were impressed by their compositional and theological sophistication. These are not hymns that allow verse skipping.

Since the first half of the hymnal is organized around the story of creation-fall-redemption, it needed some hymns about the fall. (Fall and the Human Condition is sandwiched between Creation and Providence and God’s Covenant Faithfulness in a larger section titled Old Testament Life and Witness that opens the hymnal.)

The section consists of three hymns that refer to the Fall and three imprecatory psalm settings (imprecatory psalms apparently saying something important about the human condition.)

Hymns about the Fall

“God Marked a Line and Told the Sea” (LUYH #28) is a hymn about lines and limits with definitely theological lyrics by Thomas Troeger. The first stanza is about the limit God put on the sea in the creation story. The second stanza is about the limit on eating the fruit in the garden. The third stanza informs us that:

The line, the limit, and the law
are patterns meant to help us draw
a bound between what life requires
and all the things our heart desires.

The fourth stanza describes our exceeding the limits, reaching “to take what is not ours.” The fifth is the conclusion:

We are not free when we’re confined
to every wish that sweeps the mind,
but free when freely we accept
the sacred bounds that must be kept.

Here is Bert Polman’s explanation of the hymn from “Thomas Troeger based this text on Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17 for the First Sunday in Lent, Year A, when the assigned Old Testment reading is from Genesis 2 and 3 in the Revised Common Lectionary. Stanza 4 also references Job 38:8-11. Many of his hymn texts were written in direct response to scripture and for devotional use as well as singing in public worship. His texts often follow a three-step pattern of 1) Memory: to recall the passage; 2) Understanding: to explore the meaning, and 3) Will: to commit to live God’s will in accordance with both the memory and the understanding.”

The tune is DEO GRACIAS, which is also used in LUYH for “O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High” (LUYH #111/PH87 #364) and “Ride On, Ride On in Majesty” (LUYH #149/PH87 #382).

We concluded that “God Marked a Line and Told the Sea” is a candidate for congregational singing at Trinity, possibly with confession or as a response to appropriate sermons.

“How Sweet Was the Garden, Fertile and Fair” (LUYH #29) tells the story of the Fall: the garden was good (stanza 1); we ate the fruit (stanza 2); but God hasn’t given up on us (stanza 3). Here is the third stanza:

From dark, bitter fruit came forth a bright seed,
for God did not turn from us in our need;
the love that first formed us embraces us still
and woos us from wandering to follow God’s will.

The lyrics are by Carl Daw, who has ten songs in LUYH, including “Faith Begins by Letting Go” (LUYH #852/SNC #172) and “God of the Prophets” (LUYH #853/PH87 #521). The tune is LONG ISLAND SOUND by Rusty Edwards. Here is a sample.

Although I didn’t recognize it, our occasional choir apparently sang “How Sweet Was the Garden, Fertile and Fair” during last year’s Christmas Lessons & Carols service as a response to the Fall reading. It probably would work better with a choir or soloist than as a congregational hymn for us.

“What Adam’s Obedience Cost” (LUYH #34) tells the whole story of fall and redemption: Adam’s disobedience led to Eden lost (stanza 1); despite the Flood and “ark of mercy,” we “rebuilt… an unrepentant world” (stanza 2); through Jesus, “Eden is restored” (stanza 3) and “the kingdom is the Lord’s” (stanza 4); and we look ahead to New Jerusalem (stanza 5). The lyrics are by Fred Pratt Green. Here is a sample.

This hymn could be used as a Christmas song because the focus on Jesus is as “a little child” inspiring “joyful carols everywhere.” It would work at the end of a Lesson & Carols service.

Four Imprecatory(-ish) Psalms

Imprecatory psalms are those that pray for judgment or misfortune against enemies. Most lists of imprectory psalms don’t seem to include 52, 75 or 14/53, but they all celebrate God’s judgment and are treated by Lift Up Your Hearts and Psalms for All Seasons with special care for these elements. (LUYH specifically refers to 52 & 75 as “psalms of imprecation).

Three hymns in Lift Up Your Heart’s Fall and the Human Condition section are based on these psalms. For our class, we sang these three songs and additional songs for these psalms in Psalms for All Seasons. (We didn’t sing any of the psalm settings from the Psalter Hymnals, but I include those here.)

“God, Let Me Like a Spreading Tree” (LUYH #30/PFAS #52A) is a Psalm 52 setting by Doug Gray known in Psalms for All Seasons as “You Cunning Liar, Why Publicize.” The first seven verses of the psalm (stanzas 1-2) denounce the psalmist’s enemy and celebrate God’s coming judgment. In the final two verses (stanza 3), the psalmist declares “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God.” LUYH places the “God, let me like a spreading tree” stanza at the beginning and the end of the hymn, sandwiching (and de-emphasizing) the imprecatory part of the psalm. Here is that stanza:

God, let me like a spreading tree,
grow as I trust in your sure love.
Where loyal servants offer praise
within your house, I’ll add my voice
to glorify your holy name.

The tune is BACA.

“O God, Your Deeds Are Unsurpassed” (LUYH #32/PFAS #75A) is based on Psalm 75, which is about God as Judge. The lyrics, by Michael Morgan, place us in the position of the guilty (which the psalm doesn’t do) and asks God to “remove our pride” and “help us to know humility.” A sample is here.

According the Psalms for All Seasons performances notes: “It is dangerous to sing a psalm calling for God to judge the powerful or to pour a draught of bitter wine down the throats of the proud when the singers themselves may in fact be the powerful and the proud. Rather than representing the psalm as a call for judgment on others, this versification imagines that we may be the ones in danger of being judged as insolent. The psalm could first be read, after which the worship leader might ask, ‘Is it possible that some may be able to pray this psalm against us? Have we lifted ourselves up?’ After a moment of silence for contemplation, the congregation can sing this song with humility and contrition.”

“O God, Your Deeds Are Unsurpassed” is paired with  “God, Let Me Like a Spreading Tree” since they both use BACA and they are thematically connected to “Prayers of the Oppressed and Oppressor” (LUYH #31), which “may be prayed with the readings or singing of Psalm 52 or Psalm 75 or other psalms of imprecation.” One of the two prayers “assumes the voice of the psalmist in praying for judgment against those who hurt and oppress.” The other “assumes the voice of a person who may be the oppressor, the one the psalmist is praying against.”

“All Have Sinned” (LUYH #33/PFAS #53A) by Bev Herrema has three stanzas based on Psalms 14 & 53 (which are nearly identical) and a refrain from Romans 3 that shifts the theme from condemnation to redemption:

All have sinned, all have turned aside,
and there’s no one righteous.
But redemption will one day come
from Zion, so rejoice!

Here are samples of the first and second stanzas. The hymn is called “Hear the Fool” in Psalms for All Seasons for the beginning of the first stanza (“Hear the fool saying loud and long, there’s no God, we’re all alone”). LUYH’s name change shifts emphasis to the refrain. This song is suitable for congregation singing, perhaps after the confession/pardon of assurance.

Psalms 52, 75 or 14/53 in PFAS & the Psalter Hymnals

“You Cunning Liar, Why Publicize” is the only Psalm 52 hymn setting in Psalms for All Seasons. The responsorial setting is “But I Am Like a Green Olive Tree” (PFAS #52B). (Psalm 52’s only appearance in the Revised Common Lectionary is during Year C as a response to Amos 8, about the basket of ripe fruit.)

Psalms for All Seasons makes an odd choice with its second hymn setting of Psalm 75. “Canticle: My Soul Cries Out” (PFAS #75B/LUYH #69) is a song based on the Magnificat. The song appears in Lift Up Your Hearts as “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” and is set to STAR OF COUNTY DOWN. (A sample is here.) It’s a great song, which we sang this past advent, but it isn’t Psalm 75. PFAS actually includes a canticle section that includes four settings of the Magnifcat; another is included as part of “A Service of Evening Prayer.” I don’t understand this choice.

“Hear the Fool” is the only song in the Psalm 53 section of  Psalms for All Seasons. The Psalm 14 section includes “Oh, That Your Salvation and Your Rescue” (PFAS #14A), which is in 5/8 time, making it unsuitable for congregational singing.

The responsorial setting is “Prone to Wander, Lord, I Feel It” (PFAS #14B), a line from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (LUYH #521/PH87 #486/PH57 #314/PH34 #330/HFW #104) set to BEACH SPRING. (Psalm 14 is used twice in the lectionary, including as a response to the story of David and Bathsheba.) PFAS also includes “A Prayer of Confession” (PFAS #14C).

All the settings for these four psalms in the gray Psalter Hymnal are original versifications by Marie Post (14/53) or Helen Otte (52/75): “The Foolish in their Hearts Deny” (PH87 #14) set to MAPLE AVENUE, “Mighty Mortal, Boasting Evil” (PH87 #52) set MADILL, “The Foolish in Their Hearts Exclaim” (PH87 #53) set to BRISTOL, and “We Give Our Thanks to You, O God” (PH87 #75) set to WEYMOUTH.

The earlier Psalter Hymnals include five settings of the four psalms, four of which (all those in the 1934 Psalter Hymnal) are from the 1912 Psalter. The Psalm 14 settings are “The God Who Sits Enthroned on High” (PH34 #20) and “How Long Wilt Thou Forget Me” (PH57 #18). The Psalm 52 setting is “O Mighty Man, Why Wilt Thou Boast” (PH57 #97/PH34 #104). The Psalm 53 setting is “Fools in Their Heart Have Said” (PH57 #98/PH34 #105). The Psalm 75 setting is “To Thee, O God, We Render Thanks” (PH57 #143/PH34 #151).