Holy Week 2023 at Trinity, Boulder Junction…

Palm Sunday – regular Sunday Divine Service time at 9:00 AM

Maundy Thursday Divine Service with Stripping of the Altar – 4:30 PM

Good Friday Service – 4:30 PM

Easter Divine Service at 9:00 AM

(Easter breakfast beforehand, starting at 8:00 AM)

A Lutheran Understanding of Sound Christ-Centered Hymnody in the Divine Service Context

The Lutheran Church was historically known as “the singing church.”   The Lutheran Church is the church of such composers as Johann Sebastian Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude, Johann Pachelbel, Michael Praetorius, Hans Leo Hassler, and many others.   There is a particular form of hymn that is uniquely identified with the heritage of the Lutheran Church, known as the “chorale.”   Pre-Reformation hymns that Lutherans carried over were often known as “plainsong” based upon more melodic version of ancient chants.   Many of these canticles and chorales were turned into beautiful cantatas and other works by these classic Lutheran composers and joined to rich hymn texts which preached the Word of God. 

However, in America, many of the hymns some think of as “old Lutheran” hymns are really those associated not with our Lutheran heritage but with American tent-meeting revivalism and those of “gospel” radio programs from the early twentieth century.  These hymns reflect not Lutheran understandings of the Bible but primarily Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal or Presbyterian –- modern practices likewise.


The Latin phrase “Lex orandi, lex credendi” means the principle of prayer or worship is the principle of what is believed.   Or put more smoothly, how you worship and what you say shapes what you believe (and we would say, vice versa).   What you believe should shape how you worship.   Being a Christian is learning that fact for a lifetime.

Another way to say this in straightforward Lutheran terms is: doctrine determines practice.   Your confession of the faith determines what you sing, how you worship, and the proper administration of the Word and Sacraments.   Sound biblical doctrine is how the content of hymns and liturgy are evaluated.   The Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions (the Book of Concord) are how we evaluate our practices.   Faith bears fruit in life.   Because of this Lutherans want hymns that preach the Word of God accurately and faithfully and are Christ-centered and not “me-centered.”   They are to teach not just express the sentiment of the one singing or composing the hymn.   For this reason old Lutheran hymnals often provided biblical citations to show the Scriptural basis for the hymn applications.   For Lutherans a hymn is a “sung sermon” delivered among the congregation members to one another and the pastor.   Other churches do not necessarily see them this way.

This means that for Lutherans there is a specific relationship between the hymns and the Scripture readings for the day in the Church Year.   In fact in the long tradition of the Lutheran Church there are specific hymns provided for the “Hymn of the Day” before the sermon.   A good hymn applies a biblical text properly to you.  A good hymn isn’t about your self-expression but comforting you with the good news of salvation in Christ.  A good hymn recognizes the continuity of Christians through the centuries.   And being a Christian is life-long learning.   Faith needs rich hymn texts that teach rightly.  Weak hymns undermine the faith.


Music is powerful but this power can be both negative and positive, and not simply from the perspective of taste or preference.   Music can manipulate the emotions and senses greatly regardless of context or purpose.   But in the Divine Service music cannot simply be a matter of choice or personal preference.   Neither is it a matter of a tune just being “easy” to sing.   Some of the most sturdy and lasting tunes often take some practice to learn at first.   (Repetition is very valuable in that regard).   Be patient when learning a new hymn rather than rejecting the hymn outright immediately because it is “too hard.”   Some of the best tunes take some repetition to learn.  Be diligent to learn patiently.

Our old sinful nature (“the old Adam”) does not worship God but himself.  Music for the specific context of a church service (the Divine Service) needs to fit that purpose but also be in agreement with our Lutheran confession of the faith.   Sometimes we are exposed to things when we are growing up that are inconsistent with our confession of the faith.  Sometimes we learn there are treasures in the attic we were not shown in our childhood.  It is like seeing the fine china used at your grandparents house for the first time.   The fitting response is not to object to it, but to rejoice in it – though it is new to you, but not new.

The music is there in much the same way that the pastor is there for the liturgy.   It is there for the sake and purpose of the Word and Sacraments.   The music vests the voices of pastor, congregation, and choir.   Music in this way serves as John the Baptist did in relation to Jesus – preparing the way, pointing the way to Jesus.   And this also is important as pointers or symbols are not the thing themselves.   But they have importance in directing us to what is most important and real.   The Word is greater than the music.  Music humbly submits to be a John the Baptist of sorts.   The music reflects that we are in the world but not of the world.  The music and text should reflect our confession of faith.


 The first table of the law commands us to have no other gods and to not misuse the holy name of God.   In liturgical music, God’s Word, rightly divided, comes first as setting the priority and purpose of the Services of God’s House.   In other words, hymns aren’t religious entertainment but to reverently and joyfully teach the whole counsel of God throughout the seasons of the Church Year, in the holy presence of God in the Divine Service.   We come as sinners who live from the forgiveness purchased by our crucified, risen, and glorified Lord who is present there with us.   The hymns should reflect this truth.  Good church music recognizes the continuity of Christians and the church down through the centuries as well as the presence of the heavenly hosts among us, the communion of saints.  For Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.  We confess the unchanging faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Acts 2:42; Jude 3).   The church has a culture of its own that extends not only across the world but across time in centuries and millennia.  Our way of worship is received not created anew from a blank slate each week.   The eternal message of Christ is the most relevant thing there is.   Solid hymns teach us this if we are humble to learn more.

The church in this world is countercultural.   We don’t expect to blend in and should not try.   Our citizenship is in heaven and our way of worship will reflect that if we let the Word shape us..  Entertainment with a religious veneer doesn’t convert people Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 2:14). The text of a hymn for the Divine Service should be evaluated for more than whether it is easy, emotionally moving or vaguely “uplifting” and mentions God in a generic way.   It should be Christ-centered, rightly apply Law and Gospel, and express clear biblical truth for the congregation.   The text must be doctrinally sound as well as poetic.   It is about Gospel comfort not our mood.  The music or tune of a hymn should fit the text in a fitting way for its liturgical context before the presence of God for the delivery of the Word of God and sacraments.   We set the music to the text which is Scripturally sound and reflects a mindfulness of the church gathered before the Lord’s presence to be fed, instructed, forgiven, sanctified, with prayer and thankfulness.   It should say more about the Lord and what He has done rather than about me.   The tune should reflect the message of the text and setting of the Service rather than manipulate the emotions regardless of the text.   What a Christian might find helpful or uplifting outside of church might not yet be suitable for the Divine Service.  But all of this is so that we might be built up in faith in Christ and His Word.

Quote from Luther’s 1535 Galatians commentary

“God is the God of the humble, the miserable, the afflicted, the oppressed, the desperate, and of those who have been brought down to nothing at all. And it is the nature of God to exalt the humble, to feed the hungry, to enlighten the blind, to comfort the miserable and afflicted, to justify sinners, to give life to the dead, and to save those who are desperate and damned.”

[Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians (1553), American Edition LW, 26:314


It is important that we remain strong in Christ, depending upon the gifts Christ gives in the Divine Service, to be instructed, comforted, absolved, fed, and strengthened in the fellowship of the Church to remain strong amid the culture-political, as well as the dark spiritual enticements, pressures, and attacks the Church in the world increasingly endures in these latter days of the old creation. Ponder and pray upon these biblical passages as you consider how the Lord Himself is with you and bestows upon you all that you need in what He provides for body and soul. Christ has already won the victory over sin, death, and the devil!

Jude 3 —  Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

I Peter 3:13-17 — Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

James 5:7-11 – Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Hebrews 10:30-39  — For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

I Timothy 6:17-19 — As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 – As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Colossians 3:1-4 – If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Philippians 4:6-7 – …do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:27-30 – 27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Romans 1:16-17 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Acts 2:42 – And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers.

Quotation from First LCMS President, C.F.W. Walther:

The Book of Concord should be in every Lutheran home. If a person isn’t familiar with this book, he’ll think, ‘That old book is just for pastors. I don’t have to preach. After working all day, I can’t sit down and study in the evening. If I read my morning and evening devotions, that’s enough.’ No, that is not enough! The Lord doesn’t want us to remain children, blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine; instead of that, He wants us to grow in knowledge so that we can teach others.”

Walther, Essays for the Church vol. 2, 51

If you would like to order a copy of The Book of Concord for your study and growth go to CPH and order here (various sizes and cover types available at different price points).

2023 Midweek Lenten Schedule

This year at Trinity we are trying a different schedule for midweek services. We will be having morning services instead of evening services as we had in the past. Please note and join us:

Ash Wednesday Divine Service with voluntary imposition of ashes & the Lord’s Supper

February 22, 2023 at 11:00 AM

Midweek Lenten Matins Service – sermon series – “The Passion of the Christ According to St. Luke”

Wednesdays, March 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 at 11:00 AM.

Faith coming by continuing to hear…

Perhaps you say, I have listened to the Word enough. I have gone to church. But it seems all the more hopeless. I find so many omissions in precisely the questions about all this that I ought to do for all the multitudes who are in distress, sick, and old in my closest surroundings, isolated and forgotten and awkward family members—not to speak of the millions out there in the world who I have only bothered thinking about once. How many hundreds of times have I gone past my Lord Christ without seeing Him or once concerning myself to ask whether He was hiding in all this distress? Then the Word answers: Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. He knows all there is. This is why He died for you. You do not receive God’s forgiveness through frequent and large payments. You receive forgiveness for the sake of Jesus, completely and wholly. Believe in Him and you will be saved.”

[Bo Giertz, a sainted bishop of Lutheran Church in Sweden, “A Year of Grace, v. 2,” p. 176 (1517 Publishing)]