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About Sunday’s Music – Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity

Lord, be my stay, And lead the way, Now and when life is ending.   The HYMN OF THE DAY, “I Trust, O Lord, Your Holy Name” (734) is by Adam Reusner (1496-1575), based on Psalm 31.1-5. Originally in seven stanzas (see “In Thee, Lord, Have I Put My Trust,” The Lutheran Hymnal 524), it was published in hymnals in 1533 and 1537, and gained notoriety in Lutheran circles because it was included in the last hymnal Martin Luther supervised—the Babst Geystliche Lieder in Leipzig in 1539.  The current tune, written for the text dates from the Himmlische Harfen of Augsburg in 1581.

   The choir sings stanza three in a setting by Seth Calvisius (1556-1615).  In addition to music, Calvisius studied astronomy and mathematics.  He directed the Leipzig Thomanerchor from 1594 until his death.

Take heart, have hope, my spirit!   “Entrust Your Days and Burdens” (754) is a shortened version of the original (also entitled “Commit Whatever Grieves Thee,” The Lutheran Hymnal 520) by Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676).

   Unfortunately, in English, it is not possible to capture the poetic mastery that Gerhardt exhibits here in German.  It is based on Psalm 37.5: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” In German, this verse reads “Befiehl dem Herrn deine wege, und hoffe auf ihn; er wird’s wohl machen.”  Gerhardt wrote his hymn as an acrostic of this Psalm verse, where the first stanza begins with the first word “Befiehl;” the second stanza with “dem Herrn;” the third with “deine” and so on, for all twelve stanzas.

   Gerhardt is especially known for the hostility he faced as a faithful Lutheran pastor in conflicts with the Calvinists; and the violence, plagues, and pestilence he and his parishioners endured during the Thirty Years’ War.  It is thought that this hymn was written at a time of one of the many great difficulties he faced, perhaps while serving in Mittenwalde or Berlin.

Because of the trying situations Gerhardt faced, our Lord used him as an instrument for beautiful, faithful hymns that connect the life and work of Christ with real-life sorrows and joys, challenges and opportunities of Christians of every time and place.

Gerhardt ranks among the greatest hymn writers of the Lutheran Church and authored 133 hymns.

The tune “Sufficientia” is newly composed by Stephen Johnson for Lutheran Service Book.

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