Friday, January 22, 2016

Of Angels and Dreamers

I have been planning both of the hymns below for about a year. For the one I prepared an extensive outline of biblical appearances by angels. To prepare for the other, I had no less than an entire VBS program that I wrote in A.D. 2000 for an outline. Yet it took me until last evening to gather the nerve to write either of them. I wrote one between supper and bedtime, then got out of bed after a sleepless night and wrote the other between 3 and 5 a.m. After all that preparation all it took, I guess, was having nothing better to do.

176. Angels of the Lord Hymn
Full disclosure, I think any distinction between the Biblical designations "the angel of the Lord" and "the angel of God" is ridiculous. As for how many times the word "Angel" should be capitalized, which is to say, interpreted as a name for God, I choose not to commit myself. The tune for this hymn is QUARE DATA EST, which I wrote in 2014 for a "scratched and dented" hymn on Job 3:20-26. Here it is, harmony and all.
Lord, what visions You have granted
To the saints of days far gone:
Six-winged seraphim who chanted,
“Holy!” round Your smoke-filled throne;
Heralds garbed in blazing white;
Hosts encamped with deadly might;
Men whose faces shone!

Such angelic visitations
Brought Your will and word to bear,
Lord, upon the ancient nations:
Men half died of holy fear,
Thought it death to see Your face,
Or built altars at what place
You chose to appear.

Of such sights we are unworthy;
Keep them far from us, O Lord!
Since we are of earth and earthy,
Plant in us Your living word!
When false turns confuse our path,
Spare us the destroyer’s wrath
And the flaming sword!

School us not to lay up treasure
In the visions we desire;
Rather form in us a pleasure
In Your word, nor let it tire!
You who hide Yourself so well,
Free us from deception’s spell
And its author’s fire!

Tax us not, dear Lord, with turning
Toward a creature made of eyes;
Nor through lightning, smoke, and burning
Send a voice that terrifies!
Rather, help our unbelief;
Pardon sins and comfort grief;
Lead us to our prize!

Help us view your servants rightly
As the stewards of Your word!
Though of flesh, perhaps unsightly,
By them good news we have heard.
If no other angels come
In our time, then lead us home
Through such men, dear Lord!

Till then lead us, Lord, in keeping
Angels in their proper place,
Trusting, both awake and sleeping,
That they guard us by Your grace.
While they watch with vision keen,
Yet to us remain unseen,
Bless that honored race!

177. Joseph Hymn
My outline for this hymn is based on the lessons for a vacation Bible school program I wrote for my former vicarage church, Immanuel Ev. Lutheran in Terre Haute, Ind., during my final year at seminary. The program was titled "Joseph the Dream Teller," and it had five lessons based on the latter chapters of Genesis. For the hymn I swapped the order of Lessons 4 and 5. The tune for this hymn is HOLY NAME, which I wrote in 2014 for a hymn on the Second Commandment (Lutheran numbering).
God, who once by Joseph’s brothers
Sent deep woe along with dreams,
Teach us too, when hurt by others,
Not to judge as sorrow seems!
What we feel as degradation
You may use to cause salvation;
So our meanest, merest station
Bright with holy purpose gleams.

Joseph stood the test, refusing
When his master’s wife enticed,
Both the right and hard road choosing:
Give us faith like his, dear Christ!
Even You were sorely tested,
Yet by sin were never bested;
When our fortress is invested,
Help us, Savior sacrificed!

When in bondage he had risen,
Though devoid of guile or art,
Joseph spoke in darkest prison
Words that soothed the butler’s heart.
Help us, too, proclaim Your graces
From the roughest, humble places
Even to our rulers’ faces,
Your good tidings to impart!

In his brothers’ direst hour
Joseph freely set them free;
When our foes are in our power,
As he pardoned, so may we!
For the debts which You forgave us,
Suffering indeed to save us,
Keep us mindful that You crave us
Willing pardoners to be!

Lord, when Joseph You befriended,
You were pleased His faith to try;
Men meant ill, but You intended
Many lives to save thereby.
Send Your word, our hope assuring;
Wash us, our pollution curing;
Feed us, that we may, enduring,
Number with the saints on high!

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