Category Archives: Lift Up Your Hearts

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).


Hymns about Jesus’ Teaching and Miracles

My new Sunday school class with Andrew Friend, “Exploring our Hymnals,” kicked off earlier this month with a look at Lift Up Your Heart’s section on Teaching and Miracles.

Lift Up Your Hearts is organized into two divisions: The Story of Creation and Redemption and Worshipping the Trinune God. The latter has sections of hymns running through an order of worship: Opening of Worship, Called to Be Holy, Hearing the Word, Confessing Our Faith, Receiving the Sacraments, Living Our Baptism and Sent Out (each with subsections). The Story of Creation and Redemption division wraps the liturgical calendar into the larger story of God and his people. The sections are: Old Testament Life and Witness, Advent Expectation, Christ’s Life, Christ’s Passion and Exaltation, Joining in the Spirit’s Work, Trusting in the Triune God, and Hope for Things to Come.

The Christ’s Life section has six sub-sections: Christmas, Epiphany, Baptism of Our Lord, Teaching and Miracles, and Transfiguration and Lenten Journey. We chose Teaching and Miracles as our starting point because it is one of just four subsections we haven’t sung from at all since adopting the hymnal last year.

Of the 14 hymns in Teaching and Miracles, five can be found in Sing! A New Creation and eight are in Singing the New Testament, a Faith Alive hymnal of songs derived directly from specific New Testament passages. Of its 260 hymns, only nine (!) were included in Lift Up Your Hearts (according to this great spreadsheet). Among our discussion topics Sunday were why these sort of hymns are so unpopular and how to use them during a worship service (other than the obvious use as response to one of the source passages).

Jesus Calling Disciples and their Response

“Tú has venido a la orilla/You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore” (LUYH #116/SNC #269) was composed by Cesáreo Gabarain, a Spanish priest involved in post-Vatican II liturgical renewal, following a visit to the Sea of Galilee. We used to sing it regularly from Sing! A New Creation, usually as a closing hymn. The song is from the perspective of a fisherman being called to be Jesus’ disciple. Here’s the refrain:

O Lord, you have looked down into my eyes;
kindly smiling, you‘ve called out my name.
On the sand I have abandoned my small boat;
now with you I will seek other seas.

In my view (which was not held by everyone in the class) the tune (sample here) is extremely boring.

“Jesus Calls Us, O‘er the Tumult” (LUYH #121/PH87 #553/PH57 #459/PH34 #443), a better song about Jesus calling disciples, is one of the 70-some perennial  hymns to appear in all four main CRC hymnals. It was written by Cecil Alexander for St. Andrew‘s Day (1852). [Alexander also wrote “Once in David’s Royal City” (PH87 #346), but has no other hymns in LUYH.] The earlier hymnals had four stanzas, but LUYH adds a fifth (“Jesus calls us from the worship of the vain world’s golden store…”). The tune is GALILEE.

Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea,
day by day his voice is sounding,
saying, “Christian, follow me.”

“Come to Me, O Weary Traveler“ (LUYH #123/SNT #56) was written  in 1991 by Sylvia Dunstan, a prison chaplain, “on a commuter bus [in 1991] after a particularly bad day (visiting inmates) at the jail” and is based on Matthew  11:28-30 (“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…”). [Her other compositions include “You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd” (LUYH #225), “All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly” (LUYH #534) and “Go to the World” (LUYH #925).] The tune is AUSTIN.

“Somlandela”/“We Will Follow” (LUYH #129) is a traditional Zulu hymn that we agreed would make a lively closing song. It’s a response to Jesus’ call, promising to follow him “through the valleys,” “to the mountains,” “in the city,” “in our classroom,” and “in our calling.”

“I Heard the Voice of Jesus Calling” (LUYH #128) is an Iona Community hymn that reports various things Jesus said. Here is stanza 1:

I heard the voice of Jesus calling;
here’s what he said to me:
If you don’t let me wash your feet,
I can’t your Savior be; no, I can’t your Savior be.

Subsequent stanzas have Jesus saying “All that you do for the least of these—that’s what you do to me”; If you have ears to hear, then hear; if you have eyes, then see”; “This is my body, given for you—why don’t you taste and see?” et cetera (there are seven total stanzas). Why these particular sayings were chosen is unclear to me. The song could be used as an offertory or elsewhere depending on the choice of stanzas.

Jesus’ Parables

I’m going to write another post on parable hymns once I start posting Naomi’s artwork from our parables class. We sang parable songs in that class (usually with guitar); most were either from Singing the New Testament or Selah Publishing’s And Jesus Said, a collection of 55 parable songs. Only four parable songs made it into Lift Up Your Hearts.

“The Kingdom of Our God Is Like” (LUYH #118/SNT #34) is based on the five parables from Matthew 13: the Hidden Treasure, Mustard Seed, Yeast, Pearl of Great Price and Net. The lyrics are by Christopher Webber. The tune (DOVE OF PEACE) is from Southern Harmony (1835).

“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” (LUYH #119/SNT #47) is a great African American spiritual based on an image from the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. I’m skeptical that our congregation could sing it in the style it should be.

“Far from Home We Run, Rebellious” (LUYH #122/SNT #40) is one of only two songs from And Jesus Said to be included in Lift Up Your Hearts, but with a different tune. The lyrics, by Herman Stuempfle, put the singer in the position of the prodigal son.

Far from home we run rebellious,
seeking cities bright with dreams
casting loose from love that claims us,
craving life that glitters, gleams.

And Jesus Said sets the song to RESTORATION. Singing the New Testament and Lift Up Your Hearts uses GOTT WILL’S MACHEN by Johann Ludwig Steiner (1723). Steiner’s minor mode melody is used for the first three stanzas, about the experience of the prodigal in rebellion. Norma de Waal Malefyt wrote a major alternative for the final three stanzas, about the father’s greeting. The final stanza (about “bread and wine for celebration” make this a fine communion song . It could also be used for our confession/assurance of pardon section.

“A Sower’s Seed Fell on a Path” (LUYH #124/SNT #33), also by Herman Stuempfle, has four stanzas for each of the four places the seed falls in the Parable of the Sower. It is set to MORNING SONG, the mostly commonly used tune (five times) in Lift Up Your Hearts. It would be good song for illumination before the message because of its refrain: “Lord, give us ears to hear your Word and hearts where seed can grow.”

Sermon on the Mount/Jesus’ “I Am” Statements

“Blest Are They” (LUYH #117/SNC #122/SNT #19) is David Haas’ versification of the beatitudes, which we were were familiar with from Sing! A New Creation. [Eight hymns by Haas are in Lift Up Your Hearts, including the short Psalm 27 song “The LORD Is My Light and My Salvation” (PFAS #885/PFAS #27H/SNC #206)]. A sample is here. This excellent humn could be used as a response to our confession/assurance section, among other place in the liturgy.

“Look and Learn” (LUYH #120/SNC #186/SNT #24/SWM #110), based on Matthew 6:23-24, is a Korean hymn by Nah Young-Soo, translated and adopted by John Bell for the Iona Community. A sample is here. This is another good song that could work as a response to our confession/pardon section. Here is the first stanza:

Look and learn from the birds of the air,
flying high above worry and fear;
neither sowing nor harvesting seed,
yet they’re given whatever they need.
If the God of earth and heaven
cares for birds as much as this,
won’t he care much more for you,
when you put your trust in him?

“Jesus the Lord Said, “I Am the Bread” (LUYH #125/SNC #121/SNT #27) is an Urdu hymn versifying Jesus’ seven “I am” statements in John. Giving a verse to each statements, it’s very repetitive. The tune is here.

Jesus’ Miracles

“Jesus Heard with Deep Compassion” (LUYH #127/SNC #124) has modern lyrics by Joy Patterson set to PLEADING SAVIOR from J. Leavitt’s Christian Lyre (1830) [the tune used for “As We Gather at Your Table” (SNC #245) in Sing! A New Creation]. Despite  the section’s title “Teaching and Miracles,” I believe this is the only one to focus on Jesus’ miracles. The first two stanzas address Jesus’ treatment of “outcasts, weak or sinful, scornful or poor.” The third calls for us to do the same. Here is the first stanza:

Jesus heard with deep compassion pleas for
healing, cries of pain;
cured the lame and cleansed the leper, gave the
blind their sight again.
At his voice, tormenting spirits fled a madman’s
tortured mind;
clothed and healed, he went rejoicing, home and
family to find.

Singing the New Testament includes 15 hymns in its Christ’s Miracles section, none of which I’ve heard of.

 Psalm 49

“Come, One and All” (LUYH #126/PFAS #49B)) is a Psalm 49 setting that is in this section of Lift Up Your Hearts for some reason. Because the title sounds like something Jesus would say? The tune, KIÚ-JĪ-IT, is a very catchy Asian melody; the performance notes recommend that it “should not be sung forcefully, but gently, as a wise bard sharing ancient proverbs.” The lyrics, by Martin Leckebusch, capture the main ideas of the psalm, which addresses the folly of those who put their trust in wealth, which can’t save them from death. Here is the first stanza:

Come, one and all, from near and far,
to share the insights I have found:
a heart which has been taught by faith
informs the wisdom I expound.

I like the song, but I’m not sure when we’d sing it. The Revised Common Lectionary assigns Psalm 49 only once, as part of the alternate stream in Year C. I suppose it could be a response to a message related to Jesus’ teaching on money.

Since it’s unlikely we’ll ever have full a class on Psalm 49, I’m going to use this occasion to do a brief overview of the other Psalm 49 settings in CRC hymnals.

“Let Not the Wise” (PFAS #49C) is the other hymn setting in Psalms for All Seasons. It consists of a short stanza (“Let not the wise glory in their wisdom. Let not the mighty glory in their might. Let not the rich glory in their riches, let those who glory, glory in the LORD.”) and two spoken parts, based on vv. 1-3 and vv. 10-12.

The PFAS responsorial is “Teach Us, Lord, the Measure of Our Days” (PFAS #49A).

The gray Psalter Hymnal’s Psalm 49 setting is “Listen, All People Who Live in This World” (PH87 #49), another original (non-rhyming) versification by Helen Otte. It is set to JULIUS. The earlier Psalter Hymnals have two settings from the 1912 Psalter: “Hear This, All Ye People, Hear” (PH57 #90/PH34 #96), set to FISK, and “Dust to Dust, the Mortal Dies” (PH57 #91/PH34 #97), set to WATCHMAN.

Perennial Hymns, Part 2 (Lent & Easter)

Following up on yesterday’s post on Easter hymns in Lift Up Your Hearts, here’s my second post on perennial CRC hymns—those that appeared in each of the four main Christian Reformed hymnals—the 1943 (red) Psalter Hymnal, the 1957 (blue) Psalter Hymnal, the 1987 (gray) Psalter Hymnal and Lift Up Your Hearts with the same tune. (The first post was on the 18 psalm settings in this category.) This post is a list of the nine Lenten and Easter hymns that appear in all four hymnals.

Lent (5)

“Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed” (PH34 #355/PH57 #352/PH87 #385/LUYH #173)—AVON/MARTYRDOM

“All Glory, Laud, and Honor” (PH34 #353/PH57 #348/PH87 #376/LUYH #146/HFW #35)—ST. THEODULPH

“Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts to Heaven” (PH34 #363/PH57 #360/PH87 #387/LUYH #179)—TON-Y-BOTEL/EBENEZER

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (PH34 #358/PH57 #355/PH87 #383/LUYH #168/HFW #39)—PASSION CHORALE/HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (PH34 #354/PH57 #350/PH87 #384/LUYH #175/HFW #74)—HAMBURG

Easter (4)

“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (PH34 #359/PH57 #356/PH87 #388/LUYH #182/HFW #81/SWM #132)—EASTER HYMN

“Low in the Grave He Lay” (PH34 #360/PH #357/PH87 #396/LUYH #186/HFW #187)—CHRIST AROSE

“Praise the Savior, Now and Ever” (PH34 #356/PH57 #361/PH87 #400/LUYH #191/HFW #29)—UPP. MIN TUNGA

“The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done” (PH34 #361/PH57 #358/LUYH #185/HFW #71)—PALESTRINIA/VICTORY

Easter Hymns in Lift Up Your Hearts

After our Easter services yesterday, we got into a discussion comparing  the Easter hymns in Lift Up Your Hearts  to those in the gray Psalter Hymnal. Here’s the upshot:

The gray Psalter Hymnal contained 19 hymns in its Easter section. Of these 10 can be found in the Easter section of Lift Up Your Hearts:

“Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts to Heaven” (LUYH #197/PH87 #387/PH57 #360)

“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (LUYH #182/PH87 #388/PH57 #356/SWM #132/HFW #81)

“Good Christians All, Rejoice and Sing” (LUYH #184/PH87 #397/HFW #208)

“The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done” (LUYH #185/PH87 #391/PH57 #358/HFW #71)

“Low in the Grave Christ Lay” (LUYH #186/PH87 #396/PH57 #357/HWF #187)

“O Sons and Daughters” (LUYH #190/PH87 #393/SNT #107)

“Praise the Savior Now and Ever” (LUYH #191/PH87 #400/PH57 #361/HFW #29)

“Oh, Qué Bueno Es Jesús/O, How Good Is Christ the Lord” (LUYH #192/PH87 #401)

“Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain” (LUYH #199/PH87 #389/PH57 #362/HFW #34)

“This Joyful Eastertide” (LUYH #202/PH87 #402/HWF #163)

“I Serve a Risen Savior” (LUYH #365/PH87 #404/HFW #214) is found in Lift Up Your Hearts in the  Trusting the Triune God in Grateful Living section.

These strike me as good choices. Today we sang “I Serve a Risen Savior” at our sunrise service and “Low in the Grave Christ Lay” and “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” at our regular service. I expect we’ll sing several more of these during Easter season. (The only one with which I am unfamiliar is “O Sons and Daughters.”)

Eight of the songs were dropped from LUYH. Two of these appeared on my list of notable hymns omitted from the new hymnal:

“Sing, Choirs of New Jerusalem” (PH87 #403)

“Hail, O Once-Despised Jesus” (PH87 #395/PH57 #369)

The only other two I recall singing at Trinity are:

“A Shout Rings Out, a Joyful Voice/Daar juicht een toon” (PH87 #392).

“Alleluia, Alleluia! Give Thanks” (PH87 #402/HFW #229/SWM #129)

The other four are:

“The Day of Resurrection” (PH87 #390/PH57 #364)

 “These Things Did Thomas Count as Real” (PH87 #394)

“Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bonds” (PH87 #398/HFW #47)

“Jesus Lives, and So Do We” (PH87 #399)

So what’s new to the Lift Up Your Hearts Easter section?

Three songs were moved there from other sections in the gray Psalter Hymnal.

“Christ Is Alive! Let Christians Sing” (LUYH #206/PH87 #413) was in the Ascension and Reign section of the gray Psalter Hymnal. The lyrics have been revised by the composer, Brian Wren. Stanza 1 (“Christ is alive! Let Christians sing…”) is the same. Stanza 2 (“Christ is alive! No longer bound…”) has been altered, e.g., “conquer every place and time” becomes “touching every place and time.” The third stanza in the Psalter Hymnal (“Not decked with gold, remotely high…”) is now gone. The next stanza (“In every insult, rift and war…”) is revised. LUYH’s fourth stanza (“Women and men, in age and youth…”)  is new. The final stanza (“Christ is alive, and come to bring…) is almost entirely rewritten. We sang this hymn during our Easter service.

“Alleluia” (LUYH #189/PH87 #639) is a Taizé alleluia by Jacques Berthier.

“Give Thanks to God for All His Goodness” (PFAS #118H/LUYH #196/PH87 #118) is a setting of Psalm 118.

Five of LUYH’s Easter songs appeared in Sing! A New Creation: Two of these we sang during our Easter service:

“Christ Is Risen! Shout Hosanna” (LUYH #204/SNC #147) has lyrics by Brian Wren set to Beethoven’s ODE TO JOY. The version of the hymn in Sing! A New Creation sets the same lyrics to W ZLOBIE LEZY (“Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”).

Christ is risen! Shout hosanna!
Celebrate this day of days!
Christ is risen! Hush in wonder; all creation is amazed.
In the desert all surrounding,
see, a spreading tree has grown.
Healing leaves of grace abounding
bring a taste of love unknown.

“Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen” (LUYH #205/SNC #150) is set to EARTH AND ALL STARS with lyrics by “Earth and All Stars” lyricist Herbert Brokering.

Alleluia! Jesus is risen!
Trumpets resounding in glorious light!
Splendor, the Lamb, heaven forever!
Oh, what a miracle God has in sight!

Jesus has risen and we shall arise;
give God the glory! Alleluia!

The three other songs from Sing! A New Creation are:

“Come to Us, Beloved Stranger” (LUYH #207/SNC #) is based on the Road to Emmaus story and set to BEACH SPRING. I expect we’ll sing it during the Third Sunday of Easter when that story is the gospel lesson.

“Aleluya/Alleluia” (LUYH #183/SNC #149) is a Honduran alleluia arranged by John Bell for the Iona Community.

“Celtic Alleluia” (LUYH #198) is just the chorus of the “Celtic Alleluia” (SNC #148) in Sing! A New Creation. 

Eight songs in Lift Up Your Hearts Easter section appeared in neither the gray Psalter Hymnal nor Sing! A New Creation. Two of these are Psalm settings:

“Refuge and Rock” (LUYH #194/PFAS #18A) is a setting of Psalm 18 set to EARTH AND ALL STARS. Here is sample.

“Praise the Lord, the Day Is Won” (LUYH #200/PFAS #105C) is a setting of Psalm 105 (lyrics by Michael Morgan) sung to the tune of “Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain.” (It is set to a different tune in Psalms for All Seasons.)

The other six new songs are:

“I Know that My Redeemer Lives” (LUYH #193/HFW #108) is set to DUKE STREET (“Jesus Shall Reign”). Here is a sample.

“Thine is the Glory” (LUYH #187/HFW #161) is set to Handel’s JUDAS MACCABAEUS, which was used in the Psalter Hymnal for “Praised Be the Father” (PH87 #582).

“See, What a Morning” (LUYH #181) is a modern hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. I’m planning on using this in an upcoming service.

“Mfurahini, haleluya/Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia” (LUYH #188) is a Tanzanian song that appeared in Global Songs for Worship. (It is one of 28 song from that book to appear in LUYH.) We’ve sung it at Trinity. Here is a sample.

“Christo Vive/Christ Is Risen” (LUYH #197) is by Ar­gen­ti­nian composer Nicolás Martínez.

“Now the Green Blade Rises” (LUYH #203) is a traditional French carol.

Perennial Hymns, Part 1 (Psalms)

What hymns have appeared in each of the four main Christian Reformed hymnals—the 1943 (red) Psalter Hymnal, the 1957 (blue) Psalter Hymnal, the 1987 (gray) Psalter Hymnal and Lift Up Your Hearts?

I got thinking about this after stumbling upon the collection of worship resources put together for the 150th anniversary of the CRC in 2007. It lists 80 hymns that appeared in all three Psalter Hymnals with the same tune. Eleven of these hymns aren’t in Lift Up Your Hearts so I concluded that there are 69 hymns that have been in all four hymnals. However, I’ve since found some mistakes in this list.

I’m not sure what the correct number is yet, but there are 20 psalm settings that have appeared in all four hymnals with the same tune. All but one of these appeared first in the 1912 Psalter—although some had their tunes changed for the red Psalter Hymnal. (The exceptions that weren’t in the 1912 Psalter are “The Heavens Declare Your Glory” and “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah [Psalm 148].) All of these also appear in Psalms for All Seasons with the same tune with the exception of “God, Be Merciful to Me.” (An explanation of the different versions of that song is in my post on Psalm 51.)

Here are those 20 psalm settings (some with changed titles):

Psalm 8: “Lord, Our Lord, Thy Glorious Name” (PH34 #14/PH57 #13)/“Lord, Our Lord, Your Glorious Name” (PH87 #8/LUYH #500/PFAS #8B)—EVENING PRAISE

“The Heavens Declare Your Glory” (PH34 #31/PH57 #31/PH87 #429/LUYH #3/PFAS #19D)—FAITHFUL

Psalm 22: “Amid the Thronging Worshipers” (PH34 #40/PH57 #37/PH87 #239/LUYH #511/PFAS #22E)—BOVINA

Psalm 22: “The Ends of All the Earth Shall Hear” (PH34 #38/PH57 #36/PH87 #542/LUYH #594/PFAS #22G)—VISION**

Psalm 32: “How Blest is he Whose Trespass” (PH34 #61/PH57 #55)/How Blest Are They Whose Trespass (PH87 #32/LUYH #669/PFAS #32A)—RUTHERFORD

Psalm 51: “God, Be Merciful To Me” (PH34 #100/PH57 #94/PH87 #255/LUYH #623)—REDHEAD

Psalm 66: “Come All Ye People, Bless Our God” (PH34 #127/PH57 #120)/“Come, All You People, Praise Our God” (PH87 #242/LUYH #495/PFAS #66C)—ADOWA

Psalm 79: “Remember Not, O God” (PH34 #162/PH57 #152/PH87 #254/LUYH #632/PFAS #79B)—GORTON

Psalm 84: “O Lord of Hosts, How Lovely” (PH34 #169/PH57 #159)/“How Lovely Is Your Dwelling” (PH87 #234/LUYH #507/PFAS #84A)—ST. EDITH

Psalm 86: “Lord, My Petition Heed” (PH34 #174/PH57 #164/PH87 #243/LUYH #507/PFAS #84A)—MASON

Psalm 92: “It Is Good to Sing Your Praises” (PH34 #189/PH57 #180/PH87 #171/LUYH #513/PFAS #92A)—ELLESDIE

Psalm 95: “Now with Joyful Exultation” (PH34 #194/PH57 #184/PH87 #95/LUYH #512/PFAS #95D)—BEECHER

Psalm 103: “O Come, My Soul, Bless Thou the Lord” (PH34 #215/PH57 #204)/“O Come, My Soul, Sing Praise to God” (PH87 #6297/LUYH #672/PFAS #103B)

Psalm 108: “My Heart is Fixed, O God” (PH34 #232/PH57 #219)/“My Heart is Firmly Fixed” (PH87 #108/LUYH #734/PFAS #108A)—ST. THOMAS

Psalm 111: “O Give the Lord Whole-Hearted Praise” (PH34  #236/PH57 #222/PH87 #111/LUYH #502/PFAS #111A)—GERMANY

Psalm 112: “How Blessed the Man Who Fears the Lord” (PH34 #237/PH57 #223)/“How Blest Are Those Who Fear the LORD” (PH87 #112/LUYH #301/PFAS #112A/HFW #8)—MELCOMBE

Psalm 130: “From Out the Depths I Cry, O Lord, to Thee” (PH34 #287/PH57 #273)/“Out of the Depths I Cry to You on High” (PH87 #256/LUYH #655/PFAS #130C—SANDON

Psalm 145: “I Will Extol Thee, O My God” (PH34 #314/PH57 #298)/“I Will Extol You, O My God” (PH87 #185/LUYH #561/PFAS #145E)—NOEL

Psalm 146: “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” (PH34 #318/PH57 #301)/ “Praise the LORD, Sing Hallelujah” (PH87 #146/LUYH #518/PFAS #146D)—RIPLEY

Psalm 148: “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” (PH34 #321/PH57 #304)/“Praise, the LORD, Sing Hallelujah” (PH87 #188/LUYH #6/PFAS #148C)


Two psalm settings were in all three Psalter Hymnals, but appear in Lift Up Your Hearts with new tunes:

Psalm 76: “God Is Known Among His People” (PH34 #152/PH57 #144/PH87 #76)—TEMPLE BORO/“God Is Known Among His People” (LUYH #284/PFAS #76A)—LAUDA ANIMA

Psalm 149: “O Praise Ye the Lord” (PH34 #323/PH57 #306)/“Sing Praise to the Lord” (PH87 #149)—HANOVER/““Sing Praise to the Lord” (LUYH #566/PFAS #149B)—LAUDATE DOMINUM

Six psalm settings were in all three Psalter Hymnals but aren’t in Lift Up Your Hearts. Four of these appear in Psalms for All Seasons:

Psalm 104: “My Soul, Bless the Lord!” (PH34 #218/PH57 #206)/“You Spirit, O LORD, Makes Life to Abound” (PH87 #104)/“My Soul, Praise the LORD!” (PFAS #104E)—HOUGHTON (PFAS uses HANOVER)

Psalm 118: “The Glorious Gates of RIghteousness” (PH34 #248/PH57 #234/PH87 #179/PFAS #118)—ZERAH

Psalm 135: “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim” (PH34 #298/PH57 #282/PH87 #181/PFAS #135A)—CREATION

Psalm 136: “Give Thanks to God, For Good Is He” (PH34 #300/PH57 #284/PH87 #182/PFAS #136E—CONSTANCE

The other two don’t appear in either of the new hymnals:

Psalm 73: “God Loveth the Righteous” (PH34 #145/PH57 #136)/“God Loves All the Righteous” (PH87 #73)—SANKEY

Psalm 133: “How Good and Pleasant Is the Sight” (PH34 #293/PH57 #278/PH87 #514)

Psalm 143

(Here’s the 17th 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 122Psalms 2/99Psalm 72Psalm 95Psalm 147,  Psalm 112,  Psalm 29,  Psalm 40Psalm 23Psalm 27Psalm 130Psalm 15Psalm 51,  Psalm 6, and Psalm 32.)

Our class looked at Psalm 143 (along with Psalms 38 & 102) during our fourth and final Sunday (Feb. 16) on the seven penitential psalms. The psalm has apparently been used by Christians as a prayer anticipating the Last Judgement.

Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.

Psalm 143 is a cry for help from someone is great distress—crushed to the ground by an enemy, “dwell[ing] in darkness like those long dead.” Throughout the psalm he calls for help from the Lord, trusting in God’s covenant faithfulness and “unfailing love”—not on the psalmist’s own righteousness. The psalmist has faith in God because of his past deeds and meditates upon them.

I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.

The psalmist asks not only for rescue from enemies, but also instruction and guidance:

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;
may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

In a collect written for the psalm, Eugene Peterson captures the connection between God’s past deeds and learning the right way to go: “I will go over again what I know of your ways and reorder my ways by what I learn in Jesus Christ.”

Members of our class were struck by a couple of themes in the psalm. First, troubles of the psalmist are spiritual ones—“ So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.…  Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails.” So the psalmist’s spirit requires help from God’s “good Spirit.” (A look at an online concordance shows that “spirit” is rare in the psalms—just 15 include it—and only Psalm 51 has more references to it than Psalm 143.)

Second, the psalm uses military imagery that is still applicable in modern warfare, e.g., in Afghanistan: being pursued by an enemy in a “parched land”; the desire to be on level ground and to find a safe way to go, e.g, a road without IEDs.

Psalm 143 is one of several psalms in which the psalmist waits for an answer in the morning, suggesting a night of prayer in the Temple. Presumably for this reason, the Revised Common Lectionary assigns the psalm to the Easter Vigil (during all three years).

The Psalm 143 hymn in Psalms for All Seasons and Lift Up Your Hearts is “Hear My Prayer, O God” (PFAS #143A/LUYH #895) with modern lyrics by Carl Daw set to Hal Hopson’s HYMN CHANT. Fortunately—since it’s the only Psalm 143 in either book—it’s a good one.

Hear my prayer, O God, and listen to my plea;
faithful, righteous One, give ear and answer me.
Judge me not, I pray; no merit dare I claim;
knowing my own faults, I trust in your just Name.

The responsorial setting is “I Lift My Soul to You; Hear My Prayer” (PFAS #143B), which is set to a fragment of “What Wondrous Love.”

A brief digression before discussing the Psalm 143 settings in the Psalter Hymnal: I started attending the CRC around 1993 when the gray Psalter Hymnal was just six years old, but because I never used a blue Psalter Hymnal, it seems like an older book to me. [By comparison, I can remember the Service Book and Hymnal (the red book) used by several Lutheran denominations before being replaced in the late 1970s by the Lutheran Book of Worship (the green book).] So prior to teaching this Sunday school class, I had little exposure to the blue Psalter Hymnal, a situation which may have continued if I hadn’t happened upon a copy in the piano bench in our house (I’m not sure how it got there) and began to look at its Psalm settings.

So while I wasn’t around to witness displeasure with the new (gray) Psalter Hynmnal in 1987, I am beginning to vicariously understand some of it by comparing the psalm settings in the two books. The psalm sections of the blue Psalter Hymnal (and the red Psalter Hymnal before it) were largely derived from the 1912 Psalter, created by Presbyterians but authorized for use in the CRC. The gray Psalter Hymnal replaced many of those with new lyrics set to psalm settings from the 16th Century Genevan Psalter, which was created under the supervision of John Calvin. As neat as this idea sounds, the problem is that many of those tunes aren’t as suitable for 20th Century congregational singing as the ones they replaced.

I mention this as background to the fact that our class liked the Psalm 143 settings in the blue Psalter Hymnal (both from the 1912 Psalter) more than the Genevan setting in the gray Psalter Hymnal. Those two blue PH settings are “Lord, Hear Me in Distress” (PH57 #294), a full versification set to DENBY, and “When Morning Lights the Eastern Skies” (PH57 #295), which is based on verses 8-12. 

The full versification in the gray Psalter Hymnal is “LORD, Hear My Prayer, My Supplication” (PH87 #143) is set to GENEVAN 143 with lyrics by James Vanden Bosch.

When I remember days of old, LORD,
I meditate on all your doings,
on all the works your hand have wrought.
I stretch my hands out to implore you;
my soul thirsts like a desert land.

The gray Psalter Hymnal also has a short response derived from verse 1: “Hear Our Prayer, O Lord” (PH87 #624).

Christian Prayers for Psalm 130

This post on using Christian psalm collects in our Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class (with Psalm 130 as an example) is a sequel my earlier post on Psalm 130 and the post on my Psalm 130 Lenten Litanies of Confession and Assurance.

My daily prayer book for the past 13 years has been Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer, which is an abridgement of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Book of Common Worship. Each psalm in the book is followed by a short prayer, or “collect,” that interprets the psalm in an explicitly Christian manner. These have spurred my imagination about the psalms and I went looking for more of them to share with our class. Each week we pray and discuss several of them.

I’ve found these psalm collects in four books: (1)  Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer; (2) Psalms for All Seasons; (3) Reading the Psalms with Luther (Concordia Publishing House, 2007), which contains a brief introduction to each psalm and one or more prayers by Martin Luther; and (4) Eugene Peterson’s Praying with the Psalms (Zondervan 1993), which contains a brief psalm-based devotion for each day of the year. (In my Minor Prophets class I used prayers by Calvin, which can be found in his commentaries. However, his Psalm commentaries have no prayers.)

By way of illustration, here are the five prayers on Psalm 130 we used in class:

The prayer from Psalm for All Seasons (p. 848) understands “the depths” as “the depths of our sin” and contrasts them with “the height of your mercy and the breadth of your forgiveness” that lead to “new life in Jesus”:

When we realize the depth of our sin, O God, we are driven into dark despair. It is only when we realize the height of your mercy and the breadth of your forgiveness, that we begin to see the dawning of new life in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to you, O Lord our Redeemer. Amen.

The Psalm 130 collect in Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer (p. 364) has God joining us “in the depths of our darkest despair, in the suffering of Jesus Christ”:

O God, you come to us in the depths of our darkest despair, in the suffering of Jesus Christ. By the rising your Son, give us new light to guide us, that we may always praise your holy name, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Luther’s psalm collects often address Reformation theological concerns and his own struggles. His Psalm 130 collect (p. 316) focuses on Jesus’ “sacrifice for our sins”:

God, our Father, who is rich in mercy and with whom is plenteous forgiveness, remember not the sins of our youth, nor our transgressions. Blot them out for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, who became the sacrifice for our sins. For the sake of His crimson blood let our sins be forgotten, and let them be imputed to us no more. Amen.

Eugene Peterson has Psalm 130 spread over three days and includes original prayers for two of them. The prayer for vv. 5-6  connects the waiting for the Lord like watchmen waiting for the morning in the psalm to Jesus’ disciples’ failure to watch and pray in Gethsemane and our failure to “stay awake to your commands and alert to your presence”:

You, Lord, commanded disciples to watch and pray, and not long after, you found them sleeping. I have similarly failed to stay awake to your commands and alert to your presence. Forgive my sluggishness and help me to make the most of the time. Amen.

Peterson’s prayer for vv. 7-8 calls on God to “let down the rope of your redemption and pull me to the heights”:

Father, into the depths of my need—my sin, my loneliness, my guilt, my failure, my inadequacy—let down the rope of your redemption and pull me to the heights where I may live completed and whole in Jesus Christ. Amen.


Omitted from Your Hearts, part 6

Previous items in this series of posts about notable hymns from the gray Psalter Hymnal that were omitted from Lift Up Your Hearts focused on songs from the 1960s & ’70sPsalm settingsBible songs,  Christmas/Advent songs, and rousing mid-19th Century hymns. This post deals with the half a dozen miscellaneous hymns remaining on my list.

Five of these six hymns made their first appearance in a CRC hymnal with the gray Psalter Hymnal (“Hail, O Once-Despised Jesus” was also in the blue Psalter Hymnal) so they don’t have deep roots in the denomination. Still, I don’t have a very good idea about what deficiencies could have led to their being cut.

“Lord, I Want to be a Christian” (PH87 #264), a popular spiritual first published in Folk Songs of the American Negro (1907), was part of our repertoire at Trinity. It seems like a strange omission.

“Sing, Choirs of New Jerusalem” (PH87 #404) has lyrics (originally in Latin) from the 11th Century by Bishop Fulbert of Chartres set to LYNGHAM, which the Psalter Hymnal Handbook calls a “fuguing tune” (I would say it ends with a two-part round that is fun to sing). (According to the hymn’s page, the more popular tune for the hymn is actually ST. FULBERT.) It was also part of our Trinity repertoire.

Sing, choirs of new Jerusalem,
your sweetest notes employ,
your sweetest notes employ
the paschal victory to hymn in songs of holy joy,
in songs of holy joy, in songs of holy joy!

“We Plow the Fields and Scatter” (PH87 #456), “originally a poem in seventeen stanzas” from the 18th Century (says the Psalter Hymnal Handbook), is a nice song of harvest thanksgiving.

We plough the fields, and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft refreshing rain.

“Hail, O Once-Despised Jesus” (PH87 #395/PH57 #369) is a theologically rich Lenten/Easter hymn from the 18th Century set to ARFON.

Hail, O once-despised Jesus! Hail, O Galilean King!
You have suffered to release us,
hope and joy and peace to bring.
Hail, O agonizing Savior, bearer of our sin and shame;
by your merits we find favor;
life is given through your name.

“Living for Jesus” (PH87 #292), an early 20th Century hymn, is, Justin Struik informed me, the theme song of the Calvin Calvinist Cadet Corps, a group that, given my boyhood as a Lutheran, I never had the pleasure of joining. (If you’re reading this Justin, feel free to reminisce in the coments about singing “Living for Jesus.”) According to the Psalter Hymnal Handbook, “This is a hymn of total consecration and dedication in which we commit to ‘living for Jesus’ in all that we do (st. 1) and wherever we are (st. 3) in response to Christ’s sacrifice (st. 2; refrain).”

O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to you,
for you in your atonement did give yourself for me.
I own no other master, my heart shall be your throne:
my life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for you alone.

“We Come, O Christ, To You” (PH87 #238), another 20th Century song, is “a hymn of praise to Christ, who is the source of our life (st. 1), the Way (st. 2), the Truth (st. 3), the Life (st. 4), and the one we worship as Savior and King (st. 5)” (Psalter Hymnal Handbook). It is usually set to DARWALL (“Rejoice the Lord Is King”), but the Psalter Hymnal sets it to EASTVIEW. We sang this at Trinity.

We come, O Christ, to you, true Son of God and man,
by whom all things consist,  in whom all life began.
In you alone we live and move
and have our being in your love.

This post exhausts my list of 30 notable hymns that appeared in the gray Psalter Hymnal but not in Lift Up Your Hearts. I originally put this list together for our worship committee and included every hymn we had used in the past year and other hymns that were missed by me or brought to my attention by someone else on the committee. That’s under a tenth of 300+ hymns that got dropped, which seems like a positive reflection on LUYH’s selection process. (The roughly 300 hymns that did make the cut are listed here.)