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Music for the Third-Last Sunday in the Church Year

False, evil world, farewell.   Christians must constantly confess that our home is not on this earth.  The HYMN OF THE DAY, “Farewell I Gladly Bid Thee” (The Lutheran Hymnal 407; insert) was written with this in mind by Pastor Valerius Herberger (1562-1627), who described the hymn:

“A devout prayer with which the Evangelical citizens of Frawenstadt in the autumn of the year 1613 moved the heart of God the Lord so that He mercifully laid down His sharp rod of wrath under which nearly two thousand fell on sleep.  And also a hymn of consolation in which a pious heart bids farewell to this world.”

Concerning himself in the writing of the hymn, Pastor Herberger wrote:

“The farewell of Valerius Herberger that he gave to this world in the autumn of the year 1613, when he every hour saw death before his eyes, but mercifully and also as wonderfully as the three men in the furnace at Babylon was nevertheless spared.”

In addition to this hymn, he published many collections of sermons to help Christians remember the troubles of this earthly life are not comparable to the eternal life of heaven. (quotations from “Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal”)

The tune was written for Herberger’s text by his kantor, Melchior Teschner (1584-1635).

The PRELUDE is a setting of “Farewell I Gladly Bid Thee” by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) (BWV 736).  The melody is played by the pedal, while the hands play the repetitive motif tying the phrases of the hymn together.

So help us, Jesus, ground of faith   The DISTRIBUTION HYMN, “This Body in the Grave We Lay” (759), was written for the committal of the body into the grave in Christian burial.  It is fitting to sing as we enter the end of the church year and focus on the end times, the end of life, and hope in the Second Coming of Christ.

This hymn is by Michael Weisse (1480-1534) and was first published in Ein New Geseng buchlen in 1531, a hymnal of the Bohemian Brethren, the followers of Jan Hus.  It is based on an earlier Czech hymn.  It was first printed in a Lutheran hymnal in Magdeburg in 1540, Geistliche leider und Psalmen.  It was attributed to Luther in subsequent hymnals, although Luther correctly attributed the hymn to Weisse in his preface for the Babst hymnal Geystliche Lieder in 1545.  It is likely that Luther did edit the hymn and add an additional stanza, and so various hymnals continued to attribute the hymn to Luther.  The English translation is by William M. Czamanske (1873-1964).

“On at least two occasions, Martin Luther commended this hymn, and righty so, for it proclaims the Christian hope in the face of death.  The setting for the hymn is the graveside committal of a believer’s body.  This looks like a final farewell, but Christians believe in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” as we proclaim in the Apostle’s Creed.  So in the first two stanzas, the poet reminds the faithful that these blessings are integrally tied to the great reversal at the end of time.  In the wake of Adam’s sin, God had decreed, ‘You are dust and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 3.19); but on the Last Day, God will summon the body back to life: ‘And from the dust [it] shall rise that day in glorious triumph over decay.’” (Cameron MacKenzie, Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, 1106)

The lessons are Exodus 32.1-20; 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18; and St. Matthew 24.15-28.
The hymns are: 659 Lord of Our Life
TLH 407 Farewell I Gladly Bid Thee
674 Jerusalem, O City Fair and High
759 This Body in the Grave We Lay
713 From God Can Nothing Move Me
726 Evening and Morning
Voluntary: In the Very Midst of Life -Walter Hennig/Caspar Othmayr

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