Hymns and Lessons for Reformation Sunday (Cycle ABC) — Luther’s Deutsche Messe

This Sunday is Reformation Sunday. And even though we love the “regular Liturgy”, this week we will be using the (German) chorales from Luther’s Deutsche Messe. These chorales will be sung in English by the choir and congregation. The choir and guest instrumentalists will enrich the service with additional Reformation-era Lutheran chorale-based music.

(As usual, if you are a subscriber to my blog and the videos have been lost “in transit” just click on the title of this blog (Deutsche Messe…) and you will be taken right to the website where you can view them.)

The Processional Hymn this week is “A Mighty Fortress”:

The words we will be singing are: 1) A mighty fortress is our God, a sword and shield victorious; He breaks the cruel oppressor’s rod and wins salvation glorious. The old satanic foe has sworn to work us woe! With craft and dreadful might he arms himself to fight. On earth he has no equal. 2) No strength of ours can match his might! We would be lost, rejected. But now a champion comes to fight, Whom God Himself elected. You ask who this may be? The Lord of Hosts is He! Christ Jesus, mighty Lord, God’s only son adored. He holds the field victorious. 3) Though hordes of devils fill the land all threat’ning to devour us, we tremble not, unmoved we stand; they cannot overpow’r us. This world’s prince may rage, in fierce war engage. He is doomed to fail; God’s judgment must prevail! One little word subdues him. 4) God’s Word forever shall abide, no thanks to foes, who fear it; For God Himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit. Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day. The kingdom’s ours forever!

The GLoria is “All Glory Be to God on High”:

I was delighted to find this version! It gives you a wonderful idea of how this marvelous chorale would have sounded to it’s first hearers! You can hear the music skipping and dancing. And best of all, on Sunday you can join with “the great cloud of witnesses” of your ancestors in the faith as together you praise your Creator! (There are little interludes between each verse, which makes this version even more delightful!!) The words are: 1)All glory be to God on high, who has the world befriended; to us no harm shall now come nigh, the strife at last is ended. God shows goodwill to one and all, and peace when troubled sinners call. Thank God for grace and mercy! 2) O Father, for Your lordship true we give You praise and honor; we worship You; we trust in You; we give You thanks forever. Your will is perfect, and your might relentlessly confirms the right; Your lordship is our blessing. 3) Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, creation’s author, Redeemer of Your wand’ring ones, and source of all true pleasure; O Lamb of God, O Lord divine, confirm our lives to Your design, and on us all have mercy. 4) O Holy Spirit, perfect gift, who brings us consolation: to men and women saved by Christ assure Your inspiration. Through sickness, need, and bitter death, grant us Your warm, life-giving breath; our lives are in Your keeping. A – men.

In the Prayer of the Day, we pray that God would keep us steadfast in the faith, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to His Church His saving peace. If we didn’t know already, the Prayer of the Day lets us know that today must be Reformation Sunday!

The Scriptures for Reformation Sunday are so great! The First Reading is Revelation 14:6-7 in which an angel proclaims “Fear God and give Him glory because the hour of His judgment has come. Worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” The Epistle is Romans 3:19-28 in which we are reminded that “one is justified by faith in Jesus Christ apart from works of the law.”

We Respond to the Epistle with “Now To The Holy Spirit Let Us Pray.” The first stanza to this hymn (which is all we will be singing as the Response) is by Martin Luther himself:

I couldn’t believe I found such a great version of this hymn on YouTube. David Horn is singing the entire hymn, but we will only be singing the first verse: To God the Holy Spirit let us pray most of all for faith upon our way, that He may defend us when life is ending and from exile home we are wending. Lord have mercy!

After we respond to the Epistle, we hear today’s Gospel. In this Gospel for Reformation Sunday, John 8:31-36, we hear Jesus say, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

After listening to the Gospel, we sing the Hymn of the Day: “Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word.” Lutherans used to sing the Hymn of the Day before we heard the sermon, and so we’re following that liturgical order today.

This is a lovely version by “Lutheran Warbler” … and she has all the words!

The Creed, this week, is a creedal hymn by Martin Luther: “We All Believe in One True God” It’s not easy, but it’s beautiful and (more importantly) it is powerful theologically! It may be that you have the Nicene and Apostles Creeds memorized so thoroughly that you don’t even have to think about the words anymore — and that’s a good thing. That means the words have become a part of your inmost being. But singing this hymn will make you notice the words afresh. And if you read music, sing at the top of your lungs! As my confirmation pastor always said, “When you are affirming the Creed, don’t fold your hands and bow your heads! Stand up straight! Lift your head! Fix your eyes on the cross and belt it out at the top of your lungs. This is the faith of the Church. It’s the faith we would die to preserve! It’s what our lives are built on.” I think of him every time we “affirm the faith we share in the words of the Apostles or Nicene Creed.”

In the Great Thanksgiving, we are transported into the throneroom of God. The Sanctus is the “highpoint” of the service every week, of course. But this week, we join in singing The Sanctus with the choir on earth and the angels of Heaven as we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” with Isaiah who had that marvelous vision. The Sanctus this week is “Isaiah in a Vision Did of Old”, and Martin Luther wrote both the tune and the words:

(The only version I could find was in German … but I thought that was kind of fun.)
The English words are: (The choir sings:) Isaiah in a vision did of old the Lord of hosts enthrones on high behold: His splendid train was wide out-spread until its streaming glory did the temple fill. Above His throne the shining seraphim with six-fold wings did reverence unto Him: with two each seraph his his glorious face, and two about his feet did interlace, and with the other two he soared on high and one unto another thus did cry: (Then the entire congregation joins the choir and the seraphim in singing:) “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! His glory filleth all the earth!” The beams and lintels at their crying shook, and all the house was filled with billowing smoke. Then comes the Eucharistic Prayer.

After the Eucharistic Prayer we sing “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God”. The only version of this one I could find was also in German, but you know it.
The much-beloved words are: O Christ, Thou Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us! O Christ, Thou Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us! O Christ, Thou Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace. A-men. (Those of us who are old-as-dirt — like me — know this from the Common Service of 1917. Those of us who are still old, but not AS old as me, know this from the Second Setting from “The Old Red Book” — the Service Book and Hymnal of 1958. Those of us who grew up under the Lutheran Book of Worship know it from Hymn 103 which many congregations sang as the Agnus Dei during Advent and Lent. But this tune ACTUALLY is first found in the Kirchenordnung, Braunschweig of 1528. All of which is to say Lutherans have been singing THIS “Lamb of God” to THIS tune for a long, long, long time!

The Distribution Hymn is “O Lord We Praise You”, the first stanza of which is by Martin Luther:

This one is difficult to sing (unless you read music) but the theology is gorgeous! So, if you find the music too difficult to sing, don’t frustrate yourself. Instead, just silently pray the words as the choir and cantors sing them. They are such beautiful words of praise and gratitude!

Then the Recessional Hymn is the much loved “Dear Christians One and All Rejoice” by (you guessed it) Martin Luther. We will be singing only four verses, but here is the whole thing which I thought you would enjoy because it is so beautiful!

The four verses we will be singing are: 1) Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice, with exultation spring, and with united heart and voice and holy rapture singing, proclaim the wonders God has done, proclaim the vict’ry God has won, how precious was our ransom! 2) Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay, death brooded fiercely o’er me, sin was my torment night and day; in sin my mother bore me. My own good works all came to naught, free will against God’s judgment fought, so firmly sin possessed me. 3) O God, You saw my deepdistress before the world’s foundation, and with Your mercy measureless, You planned for my salvation. You turned to me a father’s heart; you did not choose the easy part, but gave Your dearest treasure. 4) You said to Your beloved Son: “‘Tis time to have compassion. Then go, bright jewel of my crown, and bring to all salvation; from sin and sorrow set them free; slay bitter death for them that they may live with you forever.”

See you at worship. And don’t forget … wear red, red, red!

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