Defend Thy truth, O God The ENTRANCE HYMN, “O Lord, Look Down from Heaven, Behold” (TLH 260) is Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) hymn on Psalm 12. Written in 1523, it is one of his earliest. In daily prayer in the monastery, Luther learned the psalms by heart, so they served as the basis for a number of his hymns. Luther also wrote hymns on Psalms 14, 46, 67, 128, and 130.
Though many things have changed since Luther’s time, his hymn is just as timely today as when it was written. Christians and the Church face relentless attacks from the devil and the world. “For them My saving Word shall fight.” In all times, Christ is our only hope: “The wicked everywhere abound, And would Thy little flock confound; But Thou art our Salvation.”
I Trust When Dark My Road The HYMN OF THE DAY, “In God, My Faithful God” (745) proclaims the reality of suffering in the Christian life. The Christian knows that life will not go smoothly all the time. At times, it might even seem unbearable. Rather than despair when challenges, difficulties, and temptations arise, we know that Our Lord is with us in every trial and that He has conquered death and hell: “I build on Christ, who loves me; from this rock nothing moves me.”
Stanzas 2 and 4 are sung in a setting by Helmut Barbe (b. 1927). He served as cantor of St. Nikolai Church in Berlin and professor of Berlin University of the Arts.
The PRELUDE is a setting of “In God, My Faithful God” (BWV 694) by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), from a collection of chorale preludes known as the Kirnberger chorales (BWV 690-713). They are named after a student of Bach, Johann Philipp Kirnberger (1721-1783) because of his work in publishing Bach’s chorale settings after Bach’s death. Today’s Prelude features the melody played by the feet on the pedals on the 4’ reed, while the hands play separate motifs: left hand on 8’ and 2’ flutes on the Swell; right hand on 8’ and 4’ flutes on the Great.
My soul longeth for Thee, O God The CHORAL VOLUNTARY is Sicut cervus by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594). The text is Psalm 42.1: Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum: ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus. (Latin: “Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks, so my soul longeth for Thee, O God.”) Palestrina was influenced by northern European polyphony through composers like Guillaume Dufay and Josquin des Prez. Palestrina served as the musician at a number of churches in Rome. His music represents the high point of Renaissance polyphony, such as the example we hear today.