Thursday, February 22, 2018

240. Youth Hymn About the Church Year

To wile away the latest in a string of restless nights, I dreamed up this hymn for older children (or maybe adults) who want to learn about the church year. It might go down in history as the first Lutheran hymn to employ the word "slumming," if that term doesn't date it beyond usefulness. The tune I chose for it is called DEBENHAM, by Richard Redhead (1820-1901). I'll post an image of the tune when tech issues permit.
Thank You, Lord, for all the seasons
Making up Your church's year.
Help us think about the reasons
For the lessons that we hear.

Earth has autumn, springtime's swelling,
Summer's fullness, winter's rest;
So Your church has season's telling
Time as serves Your teaching best.

Christ, Your Advent, or your coming,
Teaches us to watch and wait,
Neither slumbering nor slumming,
Till we see You, soon or late.

Christmas is our time for marking
God with us, Immanuel's birth,
With the joyful shepherds harking
To the angels' "Peace on earth!"

Christ's Epiphany, revealing
Light to Gentile nations, glows
With His pow'r for feeding, healing,
Which God's love so richly shows.

Lent prepares us for the Passion -
Jesus' suffering and death -
So in meek, repentant fashion
We take in His dying breath.

Easter, from Christ's resurrection
Till He soared above all things,
Gives a glorious, glad direction
To the fate our future brings.

After Pentecost, the Spirit
Guides the church's daily walk
As the bride of Christ; His merit
Is her gown, and He her Rock.

None may judge our feast or fasting,
Since our Savior set us free.
God, whose grace is everlasting,
Leaves to us when each will be.

Freely, then, we use this order
For the lessons that we hear,
Trusting God, our faith's rewarder,
Every season of the year.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

239. Objective Justification Hymn

I've been brainstorming for quite a while over a hymn that I felt was needed to address, in a devotionally polemical way, some recent debates in U.S. Lutheranism about the doctrine of objective justification. A page in my gradually developing volume of "Edifying Hymns" has been marked for it. A list of speaking (or singing) points has been stewing in my writing journal. It's been in the back of my mind. Last night, I finally decided to undertake the actual writing of that hymn, as an outlet for some restless energy. I was thinking about writing it to fit the tune GOTT DER VATER WOHN UNS BEI, but I've already used that tune for two different original hymns. So, instead, I wrote an original tune in a somewhat different meter, titled JUSTIFICATION - which, unfortunately, tech issues prevent me from sharing right here and now. Take my word for it, a tune exists. Or, if you prefer, send me an alternate tune via Facebook instant messaging (along with your gracious permission to publish it in my next collection of hymns). I'm good to harmonize it, too, so don't worry about that.
The Lord has sworn in sooth:
He would see all men saved
And brought to know the truth.
So deeply this He craved,
His only Son, eternal Christ,
To sinful Adam's line was spliced
And, once for all, was sacrificed -
For which He, only He, sufficed.
No idle promise this, no lie;
Who would God's plighted word deny?

While we were helpless - nay:
While we were yet in sin
And under bondage lay,
God's foes, and dead within -
Then Christ for us was crucified;
Then Christ for all our trespass died;
Then He, when raised and glorified,
The unjust fully justified.
What merit dare we, then, inject
Twixt lost mankind and the elect?

When He was sacrificed,
Pierced through His hands and feet,
Our dying Lord and Christ
Declared the thing complete.
His off'ring - blameless, broken, brave -
An answer to all charges gave,
All flesh redeemed from hell and grave,
Accorded with God's will to save.
He pled, "Forgive them" as He died;
Who would God's counsel now divide?

What God declares is done,
Nor on man's pleasure waits.
His Word with Him is one
And what He speaks, creates.
For faith His words of promise sue
And, though such faith to them is due,
Need naught from us to make them true.
The faith He justifies us through,
His living, active word imparts
Unto our void and formless hearts.

We live by God's own act;
His righteous verdict flows
From the objective fact
The heart thus opened knows.
Salvation comes from God's own heart,
The course His changeless will did chart,
The Lamb for slaughter set apart,
The gifts His means of grace impart.
Through faith, not unto faith, we raise,
But unto Christ, pure hearts in praise.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lair of Dreams

Lair of Dreams
by Libba Bray
Recommended Ages: 14+

+++REVIEW IN PROGRESS+++

The Moon Is Down

The Moon Is Down
by John Steinbeck
Recommended Ages: 12+

+++REVIEW IN PROGRESS+++

Shadows of Self

Shadows of Self
by Brandon Sanderson
Recommended Ages: 14+

+++REVIEW IN PROGRESS+++

Black Panther

Yes, of course, I saw the Marvel Studios movie Black Panther last weekend. It was partly a working weekend, partly a weekend in which my recreational plans were scotched by bad weather and road conditions. I needed something to do besides pace up and down in my apartment and finish reading three books(!). So, I went to the local theater, where my choices were this, Shades of Grey: Freed (the third installment in a trilogy of R-rated BDSM smut), or Forever My Girl (a Harlequin Romance novel in moving pictures). Of course I went to see the blockbuster action film. I say all this lest you start to think I'm becoming a fan of comic-book movies. On the other hand, if movies like this keep coming out, that could happen.

The movie features Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman (a.k.a. "Bilbo Baggins," a.k.a. "Watson"), and Andy Serkis (a.k.a. "Gollum," a.k.a. "King Kong") in supporting roles and the physically impressive Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan as, respectively, the newly crowned king of the invisible African nation of Wakanda who moonlights as its super-powered protector, and the American mercenary who, thanks to the royal family's dirtiest secret, has an equal claim to the throne. T'Challa, the good guy, wants to protect his country's secret technological advancement, to keep it from falling into the hands of warlords, despots, and terrorists. Bad guy N'Jadaka, a.k.a. Erik Stevens, a.k.a. Killmonger, wants to start a global jihad to avenge all the injustices ever suffered by black people by using Wakanda's rich supply of MacGuffin (seriously, I'm not looking up how to spell what it's really called). The two super-dudes proceed to kill the daylights out of each other, and the long peaceful nation breaks down into civil war. The action is terrific.

Three scenes that made it for me: (1) The chase through the streets of a South Korean city (the movie's release was nicely timed to coincide with the PyongChang Olympics) in which T'Challa and two female sidekicks, aided remotely by his techie sister, pursue Serkis and his goons with lots of car-flipping, crash-and-bang acrobatics. (2) The reunion of the hero with his mom, sister, and main squeeze, in which their not-very-original dialogue is interrupted by a yawn from the brusque leader of the mountain clan. (3) The scene in which Killmonger has a vision of his dead father, an unusually powerful instance of a supervillain being portrayed as a sympathetic character. I suppose I should also mention that people who sit through the credits will be rewarded by a bonus scene (which is hardly news any more, when it comes to comic-book movies), a cute cameo by Stan Lee (which is hardly news any more, etc.), and the fact that a girl in the row behind me squealed when the hero finally kissed the woman he loves. But if you weren't there when I saw the movie, you might miss that part.

238. Hymn for Hungry Young Saints

Here is yet another entry in my recent series of (hopefully) edifying hymn's for young people. Its working title was "Hymn for Hungry Little Tummies," but in the end it reminded me guiltily of Dorothy Parker's response to A.A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner: "Tonstant weader fwowed up." Besides, it really isn't a hymn aimed specifically at little kids - it could apply to children of any age who hunger and thirst for the Lord's body and blood. The tune, of which I'm afraid I can't provide an illustration at the moment, is VOLLER WUNDER by Johann G. Ebeling, 1666; some may know it as the tune to the hymns "Every morning mercies new," "Safely through another week," and "Blessed are the sons of God" (with the memorable refrain "With them numbered may we be, now and through eternity").
Give, O gracious, glorious Lord,
Give the pure milk of Your word.
Nourish us with heav’nly food.
Fill us full of what is good.
Feed us lively, living bread.
Save the children You have fed.

Help! We hunger so to grow!
Help! We thirst Your truth to know!
Oh, Your cup of joy to sip!
Oh, Your feast of fellowship!
Oh, the Lamb unseen but real!
Oh, the myst’ry of that meal!

Till we take that bread and cup,
Father, guide our growing-up.
Make Your word our daily food,
Baptism a refreshing flood.
Work our faith, like rising yeast,
Toward the fullness of Your feast.