What a joyous, happy event a birthday is! When a child is born, the family rejoices, and celebrates that day in a special way every year. This weekend the Church celebrates Pentecost, the 50th day after Easter and the birthday of the Christian Church. The disciples and a small group of other believers had gathered in a room in Jerusalem. There they heard a sound like a mighty rushing wind and saw something like tongues of fire above each other’s heads, and received the gift of languages. These were the outward signs that the Holy Spirit had come as Jesus had promised. On that unforgettable day 3,000 persons were baptized and added to the church. From that beginning, the gospel of Jesus has been carried to all parts of the world. The Holy Spirit has continued to work in the hearts and minds of believers today through the “means of grace”, God’s Word and Sacraments. Consequently, at Holy Trinity this Sunday we will celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, by confirming young people who have received instruction in the faith.
The Processional Hymn for Pentecost is “O Day Full of Grace”: (And subscribers to my blog will need to click on the Title in order to see these YouTube videos)
The grace of God is the theme of the Danish folk hymn for Pentecost: “O Day Full of Grace.” The word “grace” means favor given to us by God even though we have done nothing to deserve it. God’s gifts of love and mercy and kindness are given to us freely because Christ has paid the price for them by His perfect life and innocent death. Versions of this hymn were sung throughout Scandinavia well prior to the Reformation, at least as early as 1450. In 1826, as part of the commemoration of the thousandth anniversary of Christianity being brought to Denmark, Nikolai Grundtvig recast the hymn to DEN SIGNEDE DAG, one of the grandest tunes to come out of Scandinavia.The words are wonderful! Please pay attention to them.
The first two verses focus on Christ’s incarnation and birth in language of “light” coming into a dark place, imagery common to the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany Season: 1) O Day full of grace that now we see appearing on earth’s horizon, bring light from our God that we may be replete in His joy this season. God, shine for us now in this dark place; Your name on our hearts emblazon. 2) O day full of grace, O blessed time, our Lord on the earth arriving; then came to the world that light sublime, great joy for us all retrieving. For Jesus all mortals did embrace, all darkness and shame removing.
The third verse brings us to Lent and Easter, the cross and empty tomb: 3) For Christ bore our sins, and not His own, when He on the cross was hanging; and then He arose and moved the stone, that we, unto Him belonging, might join with angelic hosts to raise our voices in endless singing.
The fourth verse is the only one to mention Pentecost and the Holy Spirit explicitly: 4) God came to us then at Pentecost, His Spirit new life revealing, that we might no more from Him be lost, all darkness for us dispelling. His flame will the mark of sin efface and bring to us all His healing.
The fifth stanza brings us to the end of our lives and into eternity, reminding us that the goal of the Holy Spirit’s work is to “strengthen and keep us steadfast in His Word and in faith until our end” (Small Catechism, Third Petition).5) When we on that final journey go that Christ is for us preparing, we’ll gather in song, our hearts aglow, all joy of the heavens sharing, and walk in the light of God’s own place, with angels His name adoring.
Of special note here at Holy Trinity is that the Confirmands process into worship during the interlude that Kile Smith composed especially for this wonderful hymn.
The Scriptures for today are Ezekiel 37:1-14 (The Valley of the Dry Bones), Psalm 139: 1-16 (Where can I go from Your Spirit of flee from Your presence?), Acts 2:1-21 (The First Pentecost), and John 15:27-27; 16:4b-15 (Jesus promises to send The Helper Spirit to us from The Father). Marvelous lessons!
The Sequence Hymn: “Come Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire”:
A “sequence hymn” is a hymn sung before the Proclamation of the Gospel. By 1563, there were special “sequences” for many festivals of the Church year. This particular hymn (Veni Creator Spiritus) was written by Rabanus Maurus who lived from 780 – 856 AD. He was a Benedictine monk, the archbishop of Mainz in Germany and a theologian. He was one of the most prominent teachers and writers of the Carolingian age and was called the “Teacher of Germany”. Since the English Reformation in the 16th century, there have been more that fifty (50) English translations and paraphrases of this important Christian hymn. The version we are singing was written by Bishop John Cosin for the coronation of King Charles I of Great Britain in 1625. The same words have been used at every coronation since. How appropriate that we should be singing it as “Sons and daughters of the King of Kings” are confirmed. As you sing this ancient hymn, remember the “great cloud of Christian witnesses” with whom you are singing.
The Hymn of the Day: “O Spirit of Life”:
This wonderful hymn has been an important part of Lutheran Hymnody for many centuries. It was written by the German Johann Niedling (1602-1668) and translated into English for the 1917 Common Service Book and Hymnal, which was the hymnal of (ULC) Lutherans in the United States until the formation of the LCA in 1962. The man who translated it into English was The Rev. John C. Mattes (1876 – 1948). He was born right here in Easton, Pa and went to the Theological Seminary at Mount Airy, Philadelphia, PA (now known as LTSP). He was the pastor of several parished, finishing his ministerial career as a professor of theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa (1939-48). Another hymn he translated is “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” The verses are: 1) O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God, in every need you bring us aid, proceeding forth from God’s great throne, from God, the Father and the Son, O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God. 2) O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God, increase our faith in our dear Lord; unless Your grace the power should give, none can believe in Christ and live; O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God. 3) O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God, make us to love Your sacred Word; the holy flame of love impart, that charity may warm each heart; O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God. 4) O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God, enlighten us by that same Word; teach us to know God’s radiant love, lead us to Christ Who reigns above; O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God.
Distribution Hymn #1 is “O Helper Spirit”: Alas, this wonderful hymn cannot be found on YouTube because my husband Michael wrote the lyrics and Kile Smith liked the lyrics so much that he composed special, beautiful music to accompany Michael’s words. So it’s not on YouTube. HOWEVER, the meter to Kile’s wonderful tune is 8 7 8 7 8 8 7, and so Michael’s words can be sung in your imagination to the tune of LOBT GOTT DEN HERREN, IHR … which IS on YouTube.
The lyrics to the hymn Michael wrote are: 1) O Helper Spirit, You are here among the people Christ befriends. The Father through the Son so dear from heav’n above Your presence sends. From fearful hearts keep us away. Bestow Your peace from day to day. O Veni Sancte Spiritus. 2) O Helper Spirit, ‘biding dove, at Jordan’s flood John testified, when You came down from heav’n above, “Behold the Lamb of God” who died. Preserve us in baptismal grace, by which our sin is now effaced. O Veni Sancte Spiritus. 3) O Helper Spirit, constant guide, You lead us to the truthful Word. In God’s own house right praise resides, sound doctrine from the Christ, our Lord. Remind us what the Son has taught and the salvation He has wrought. O Veni Sancte Spiritus. 4) O Helper Spirit, stream of life, Christ sends the Church to all the earth to speak Good News amid the strife of human sin and dreadful death. Be with us on our mission way. Teach us what things to do and say. O Veni Sancte Spiritus. 5) O Helper Spirit, You we trust; we are the branches, Christ the vine. We live in Him and He in us. His own bear fruit, true foll’wer’s sign. Keep us in Jesus’ love replete and give the Church such joy complete. O Veni sancte Spiritus.
Distribution Hymn #2 is “Breathe on Me Breath of God”: Alas, this is all over YouTube to the tune “Trentham”. Unfortunately, the wonderful tune Lutherans use is “Durham”, which I cannot find anywhere on You Tube. (So I put it on to “Trentham” even though I like ours better — and so will you.
Distribution Hymn #3 is “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine”:
The Recessional is “Fire of God, Undying Flame”:
1) Fire of God, undying flame. Spirit who in splendor came, let Your heat my soul refine, till it glows with love divine. 2) Breath of God, that swept in power in the Pentecostal hour, Holy breath, be now in me source of vital energy. 3) Strength of God, Your might within conquers sorrow, pain and sin; firtify from evil art all the gateways of my heart. 4) Truth of God, your piercing rays penetrate my secret ways, may the light that shames my sin guide me holier paths to win. 5) Love of God, your grace profound knows not either age or bound; Come, my heart’s own guest to be, dwell forevermore in me.
With the conclusion of the Pentecost worship service, the Church concludes the first half of the Church Year. This first half of the Church Year was spent walking through the chronology of Christ’s earthly life from the First Sunday in Advent through His Ascension and gift of the HOly Spirit at Pentecost. In Lutheran Worship the First Sunday of Advent ALWAYS includes “Savior of the Nations Come” as one of the hymns. It is deliberate that “Fire of God, Undying Flame”, the Recessional Hymn for this Pentecost Service, should be to the same hymntune: NUN KOMM DER HEIDEN HEILAND:
(Makes all the little hairs on your arm stand up, doesn’t it? But that’s how Liturgy works! See you at worship. 🙂