Here is my "third stab" at the burial hymn I have been asked to write for someone near and dear. Today my creative juices have been stimulated by the publicity over a new "Reformation Hymn" by Stephen Starke, which in my grade-book gets a solid C+. I'm not sure it's really a Reformation hymn.O Lord, in whose mysterious ways
Reformation Hymns, as I understand them, are lamentations by a church suffering under the hand of wicked leaders, pleading with God to deliver them and to safeguard the true faith. In other words, they're the very thing the Lutheran Church needs today. Concordia Publishing House's promotion of the new Starke hymn is a clue as to which side of the game they're batting for.
On a secondary level, proper Reformation hymns celebrate the key doctrine of the evangelical church: justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. Starke does hit this note, which is why I give his lyrics a passing grade. The style is a little wanting, however (and that goes also for Jeffrey Blersch's so-so tune). At times I wonder whether the terms with which he describes the Gospel are really Lutheran, or merely the kind of generic evangelical language that easygoing Lutherans are all too eager to accept at face value - even when it is possible that a different spirit hides behind it.
All this hoopla about the "enduring Word of God" smacks, to my senses, of a Protestantism stripped of the distinctive influences of Luther and the Lutheran Confessions. Sola Scriptura is not what the Reformation was essentially about. But that's the opinion of a fat, stupid jerk.
So, instead of correcting it with a Reformation hymn of my own (for now), I'm going to use the creative energy unleashed by my dissatisfaction with Starke's hymn to write the following funeral song.
You called our (brother/sister) to (his/her) rest,
We thank you for the many ways
(His/Her) time of life in You was blest.
Teach us by this to count our days,
To do and die as you think best.
O Christ, who in the form of man
Served all, and reigned but from the cross,
Now ris'n and raised to God's right hand:
We learn of You that life is loss,
Death gain, and in Your promised land
All earthly wealth and pomp are dross.
Then, Holy Ghost, renew our lives,
The more when death would stake its claim!
Relieve the grief of daughters, wives,
Sons, husbands, parents, by the Name
That out of fear and darkness drives
The light and hope for which You came!
Now, Holy Trinity, arise
And mend these hearts by sorrow torn;
By mercy, turn our inward eyes
To view that youngest morrow morn
When, at the rending of the skies,
All flesh shall rise renewed, reborn!