My good friend and colleague, Pastor Curtis, recently asked me to provide hymn suggestions for the Historic Lectionary, as I have been doing for the Three-Year Series. He probably thinks I've been ignoring him, but actually I've been working on it. That, among other reasons, is why I haven't been blogging much lately. I'm sure Pastor Curtis has no idea the amount of time and energy it takes to approach this whole hymnody thing in the way that I do; but that's my own fault, not his (and I'm not complaining, just to clarify that point). Or, it may be that he's simply trying to trick me into using the Historic Lectionary, but I'm doing what he asked in any case.
It's painstaking and time consuming work, because there are so many factors to be taken into account. Leastwise, that's how I perceive it. There's the Lectionary itself to consider, by which I mean the particular Readings of the Holy Scripture that ultimately define each Sunday and Feast. Then there are the seasonal contours of the Church Year, which are broader than the specific Readings but no less scriptural in their content and character. There are the different ways in which hymns function within the order of the Divine Service, which also has to be taken into account to some extent. There are also catechetical concerns to consider, in both a broad and narrow sense. Certain hymns lend themselves to catechetical usage, and these I aim to incorporate throughout the year in a way that facilitates learning them by heart. Among these are a core group of the most essential and definitive hymns (a Lutheran Kernlieder), which I use with deliberate regularity over the course of each year. Fitting all of these factors together is a challenge, which is why it takes awhile to manage. But I'm getting close.
I'm going to start posting hymn suggestions for the Historic Lectionary, probably within the next few days (God-willing). Presumably Pastor Curtis will find this interesting and benificial, and maybe others will, too. Obviously, everyone is free to take it or leave it, or ignore it altogether. I welcome feedback, but I don't expect it. The most rewarding thing for me is when I witness others singing, enjoying, learning and benefitting from good hymnody. One of my young friends recently responded to some frustrations in her life by quoting a number of pertinent hymns, and I was struck by what a beautiful way that was to both confess and strengthen faith. Nicely done, Truth Questioner! It is for the sake of such comfort of the Gospel that I do what I do with hymns; it is well worth any expenditure of effort.
One final comment or two should be noted. The distribution of the Kernlieder assumes and depends upon a regular observance of the festivals that occur throughout the year. Otherwise, some of the more distinctively seasonal hymns (such as "Savior of the Nations, Come," for example) would simply not be used as often as they deserve. For similar reasons, some of the more general and comprehensive catechetical hymns (such as Luther's hymns on the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Our Father) are used at times when the connections may not be quite so obvious. This is not to overlook the importance of following the appointed Lections and Propers of the Day, but rather with a view toward the catechetical context within which the Holy Scriptures are heard and received.