I've certainly been aware of Johann Heermann for some time now, especially because he's commemorated in the very good company of Philipp Nicolai and Paul Gerhardt on the 26th of October. Since we already have our Nicholai and Gerhardt, I figure that, if we are blessed with another son, his name will need to include a nod to Heermann in some form or fashion.
For years now, Heermann's "O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken" (LSB 439) has been one of my favorite hymns. So I've been excited to discover, in my research of historic Lutheran hymnody in general, that Heermann contributed a good many other hymns. Regrettably, most of those are not readily available to the English-speaking Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Service Book, for example, includes only half a dozen Heermann hymns.
Recently, I've been particularly struck by one of those six LSB Heermann hymns, "O God, My Faithful God" (696). I chose to use it this morning for the Baccalaureate Matins that we prayed at Emmaus for my son Zachary's high school graduation. It worked well for that occasion - and I'll have more to say about the Baccalaureate and Zach's graduation momentarily - but it has occurred to me, over the past several weeks, that this hymn is a good one for me to pray in the wake of the synodical convention and as I engage in discussions within the Church at large. Specifically, I note the following words from the first four stanzas, which I have determined to take upon my lips and take to heart:
"O God, my faithful God . . . grant me the strength to do with ready heart and willing whatever You command, my calling here fulfilling; that I do what I should while trusting You to bless the outcome for my good, for You must give success.
"Keep me from saying words that later need recalling; guard me lest idle speech may from my lips be falling; but when within my place I must and ought to speak, then to my words give grace lest I offend the weak.
"Lord, let me win my foes with kindly words and actions, and let me find good friends for counsel and correction. Help me, as You have taught, to love both great and small and by Your Spirit's might to live in peace with all."
I've honestly found little else, anywhere, that better summarizes and expresses my prayer for the way that I would hope to participate in and contribute to the life of the Church. So I am especially grateful for this hymn, not only for these stanzas I have quoted, but in its entirety. It is a marvelous confession of faith and life in Christ, and of Christian vocation in the world, unto a peaceful death and the resurrection of the body to the life everlasting. Beautiful.
As I said, this hymn worked well for the Baccalaureate Matins this morning, which was a grand occasion all the way around. We were so grateful for the folks who were gathered together to pray, praise and give thanks with us. It was one of those times when we were privileged to be surrounded by lots of our favorite people in the world, including family, friends, and members of our Emmaus Church family. It meant a great deal to me and my wife, and I was very pleased for Zachary, too. For this one glorious weekend, we have all nine of our children together again, as well as our future son-in-law and, God-willing, a future daughter-in-law.
For the record, I put together the following propers for the Baccalaureate Matins (drawing to some extent on the resources provided in the Pastoral Care Companion):
Processional Hymn: "O Holy Spirit, Enter In" (LSB 913)
Psalmody: 111, and 119:33-40 (in addition to the Venite)
Office Hymn: "Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart" (LSB 708)
Proverbs 3:1-18; 1 Peter 3:8-18; 4:7-11; and St. Luke 6:27-45
Hymn of the Day: "O God, My Faithful God" (LSB 696)
Processional Out: "O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth" (LSB 834)
The reception following the Baccalaureate Matins was a lovely gathering, and I'm glad that so many of our guests enjoyed the chance to hang out with us and visit with one another. One of the highlights was the special Snitch cake that our young friend Anna made for the celebration. You can see a picture of it at Karin's Chickens (see the link at the left). Very cool. For those who don't get it, a "snitch" is the little flying ball that a seeker has to catch in the fictional game of Quidditch in the Harry Potter universe. Harry himself is the seeker on his Quidditch team. For Harry's seventeenth birthday (in The Deathly Hallows), Mrs. Weasely made him a cake in the shape of a snitch, which inspired young Miss Anna's creation of such a cake in real life. Lacking any magic, and not willing to call upon demonic powers, she had to rely upon her "cakousness" to do the job. It was brilliant. It tasted good, too!