Sunday, September 11, 2022

336. Transfiguration Hymn (Series A)

For an explanation of Transfiguration as most Lutherans celebrate it (basically, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday), please see this post, where I also presented a Transfiguration hymn for the historic one-year lectionary (where it's actually three Sundays before Ash Wednesday). Although I'm now working on a hymn series for the Lutheran Service Book three-year cycle, Series A happens to have the same Epistle and Gospel (1 Peter 1:16-21 and Matthew 17:1-9) as the one-year has for Transfiguration. If the lessons were the same all three years, I'd probably cop out and put a blurb in my next book saying, "See hymn 36 in Useful Hymns," but I looked ahead at Series B and C and saw that they mixed things up with different Old Testament, Epistle and Gospels lessons (an instance where all three Synoptics cover the same event). So, I'm going to have to go the complete route, which means eventually, four Transfiguration hymns. Woo-hoo! Right?

I admit that it makes sense to keep the 1 Peter and Matthew lessons together, since Peter quotes the Voice from the cloud verbatim according to Matthew's version; one of my seminary profs actually cited this as evidence that 1 Peter was written as a preface to Matthew's gospel, and so his remark about having a more sure prophetic word is directed at Matthew's book. Anyway, the O.T. lesson in Series A is Exodus 24:8-18. And if my hymn strays a bit into the synoptic material, excuse me; I'm trying to do the subject justice without repeating what I wrote before.

Do you know Whose blood is sprinkled,
Saints, on all who follow Christ?
His whose face not merely twinkled
As it turned toward sacrifice,
Blazing forth on mountain height,
Full in three apostles' sight!

Such a vision, rarely granted,
Moses saw on Sinai's peak.
Of three shelters Peter ranted,
Till he heard the Father speak:
"Hear My Son, who pleases Me!"
Terror then threw down the three.

This is He whose sapphire pavement
Soared above the prophet's head—
Who freed Israel from enslavement,
Feeding them on desert bread—
Saying, "Listen to My Son!"
Yes, and know what He has done!

Could we hear the deposition
Of those three, their witness pure,
Still, by Peter's own admission,
We have Scripture, yet more sure:
Bearing record, breathed by God,
To our Savior's sprinkled blood.

Follow, then, no clever fable,
Nor give way to them that mock;
Rather by Christ's font and table
Be you anchored to the Rock,
Thus assured that sprinkled blood
Binds you to the Son of God!

The tune, GOTT DES HIMMELS by Heinrich Albert (1644), was widely distributed among anglophone Lutheran hymnals of the 20th century, especially with Albert's hymn "God, who madest earth and heaven" (plus a couple one-off pairings), though it suddenly dropped out of circulation after Lutheran Book of Worship and Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (no LW, CWALH, LSB, ELW or CWH). I think it's a shameful omission. But it's also, maybe, an opportunity to reintroduce the tune as something that may be new to a lot of folks, even though it isn't new at all.

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