19 June 2008

Calling "Dr. Hymn," Or Whatever You Call Me

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.


ToddPeperkorn said...


I'm delighted to hear you working on this, and I would invite you to cross post these suggestions at:


It would be a great resource! Let me know and I'll set you up as a user.

Pr. Peperkorn

Christopher Gillespie said...

Thank you for this work. I look forward to it!

chaplain7904 said...

When the did idea of the "hymn of the day" come into being? Who/where does it come from?

I like the idea very much.

Regarding how hymns function within the Mass I've isolated the following. Hymns
1) proclaim the Gospel, 2)teach the faith, 3)help us to pray, 4)help us to praise 5) help us to give thanks, 6)confess the faith, 7)comfort us in our distress. (I too sing hymns as a balm in daily sorrow. I've walked through many ugly scenes of bloody death and destruction singing "Jesus lives the victory's won, death no longer can appal me...brighter scenes will then commence, this shall be my confidence.)

Angie B. said...

Sounds great! Thanks so much for doing this. As church pianist I help select hymns, so I'll look forward to using your resource as a guide.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thanks for the kind words and helpful, encouraging comments.

Pastor Peperkorn, you're welcome to make use of my work; I'd be glad to share it. So, go ahead and set me up as a user, if you like.

Chaplain, you've offered a good comprehensive list of ways in which hymnody serves the Christian faith and life. Well done.

As far as the hymn of the day is concerned, this is something that Lutherans began to identify and use already in the sixteenth century. A number of the church orders in the decades following the Reformation identified a hymn for each Sunday of the Church Year. These lists were not identical from place to place, and some of them were far more completed and filled out than others, but there was this trend from early on to incorporate specific hymnody among the propers of the day. These "de tempore" hymns usually tied in closely to the Gospel of the day, or in some cases more generally to strong seasonal themes.

It was especially with J. S. Bach (and other Lutheran church musicians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) who developed and established a more or less standard yearly cycle of "de tempore" hymns. Dr. Reuning and others over the past forty years have helped to restore this salutary Lutheran practice.

In the work that I've done, I've used the LSB Hymn Selection Guide as a foundational starting point. In the vast majority of cases, I've retained the Hymn of the Day appointed in that LSB Guide. There are a small percentage of cases where I've made a substitution, but even in most of those cases, I've suggested the LSB Guide's Hymn of the Day at some other point in the Service.

Pr. H. R. said...

Multa gratias tibi ago, Dr. Hymnus!

See, it took you 500 words just to explain how hard it is to pick the hymns - is it any wonder it causes me such stress?

So many, many thanks. And you were missed at CCA this year - especially this year, given the topic.

However, I'm a forgiving guy. Ego te absolvo. And here's a light-as-a-feather penance: see you in Kewanee in October. . .


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thank you, and you're welcome, Father Curtis. I would have loved to be there in Sussex with all of you dear folks who were there. I don't know about Kewanee, but we'll see. I'm sure it'd be great.

I'm happy to provide hymns for the Historic Lectionary, even if it is a lot of work ;-) It's something that I was intending to do, anyway. I'm glad if it's helpful.