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Monday, February 16, 2009 

Angry Email Monday

Every now and again I get an email that chastises me for, well, just fill in the blank because it’s a long list. I’ve been accused of not being mission minded because I don’t want separate doctrine from the mission as if two could be separated. I’ve been called an antinomian because I’ve said I enjoy a glass of single malt scotch with a good horror movie. I’ve been called many things because not everybody understands my sarcastic sense of humor and just doesn’t get the joke. Fine and dandy I say, I can deal with it.

The last angry email I got regarding a post had two lines that caught my eye;

but one thing that concerns me is that I see so much reference in your writings to the hymnody, the liturgy, the creeds, the writings of the forefathers..I wish I saw more scripture.......

Let’s just deal with the hymnody issue in this post…

Really? You can’t see why I like the hymnody I do? I thought I was being clear why I like the hymns I do (hint, hint, it’s because of Scripture) but I guess my point is getting lost as I don’t always write in the vernacular and frequently interject my posts with what is perceived as nonsensical slang or “Frankisms”.

Let’s look at the last hymn I mentioned; "Sweet Flowerets of the Martyr Band"by Aurelius C. Prudentius (348-c. 413). In a post about a visit to a great congregation down in Texas I wrote the following:

The hymns were solid and tied to our pericope (for my newer readers a pericope is a Scripture reading. We get the word from the Greek word περικοπή, meaning "a cutting-out"). We even sang “Sweet Flowerets of the Martyr Band” a great old hymn…”

Now, the reason I enjoyed singing “Sweet Flowerets of the Martyr Band” is that the hymn tied into the pericope, that is to say our Gospel reading, for that first Sunday of Christmas which was from Matthew 2:16-16 which recounts Herod’s slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem in hopes of killing the Christ child:

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:

“ A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.”

Now, let’s take a look at the text of the hymn I extolled:

"Sweet Flowerets of the Martyr Band"

1. Sweet flowerets of the martyr band,
Plucked by the tyrant's ruthless hand
Upon the threshold of the morn,
Like rosebuds by a tempest torn;

2. First victims for the incarnate Lord,
A tender flock to feel the sword;
Beside the very altar gay,
With palm and crown,
ye seemed to play.

3. Ah, what availed King Herod's wrath?
He could not stop the Savior's path.
Alone, while others murdered lay,
In safety Christ is borne away.

4. 0 Lord, the Virgin-born, to Thee
Eternal praise and glory be,
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Ghost forevermore. Amen.

Hymn #273 The Lutheran Hymnal

I’ve said before that hymnody should be confessional in nature and what I’m saying is that the hymn should repeat back that Scripture gives us. This is precisely why I love the hymn “Sweet Flowerets of the Martyr Band”. All the hymn writer does is versify the Gospel account of Herod’s terrible deed. It sounds too simple to be true but this good hymn does confess our Gospel pericope and does it in spades.

The hymns that I’ve grown to love are filled with Scripture. Just because you may not be familiar with the hymn doesn’t make it a bad hymn that doesn’t confess God’s Holy Word. Just because the hymn isn’t getting airtime on the local Christian top 40 music station or wasn’t penned in the last five years since Rapturepalooza '04 doesn’t mean that the hymn is invalid and has nothing to offer the Church catholic.

I’m going to try and put the best possible construction on your email and presume you haven’t read this blog for very long. I’m hoping that you will go back and read what I’ve written concerning good historic hymnody. I’d also bet a paycheck that the hymnody which I’ve written about, and not all of the hymns I’ve written about are ancient, will outlast anything playing on the radio today. How can I say this? Aurelius C. Prudentius wrote hymns like "Sweet Flowerets of the Martyr Band" sixteen hundred years ago and it is still around and what was popular ten years ago in contemporary Christian circles is already being shoved out the door for the latest greatest newness. Time is a harsh mistress for the contemporary Christian music genre.

When I wrote that “The hymns were solid and tied to our pericope” in my previously mentioned post, it’s true that I didn’t include the pericope of day nor did I feel the need to have the text of the hymn printed either. I didn’t do this because I was giving an account of what was an enjoyable visit to a faithful parish and not giving an in depth class on hymnody. If you go back and look at all my posts on hymnody, particularly those sung during the seasons of Advent and Lent, you can get a better idea of what I mean when I refer to hymns as sung confessions.

Hopefully you will take the time, carefully read those posts, and see that Christ and Scripture are at the core of the hymns I love so much. If Christ and Scripture ain’t in a hymn, it’s just another song that will one day fade away.

Here’s a link to a few posts I’ve written tagged hymnody.

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Good post, Frank. Keep responding to the nastygrams.

Still chuckling about "rapturepalooza." Good one!

"If Christ and Scripture ain’t in a hymn, it’s just another song that will one day fade away."

You are right as rain!

I think that the writer just doesn't understand. Confessions are important because we confess that our teachings are in line with Scripture. Creeds are important to summarize the important teachings of Scripture. Hymnody and liturgy is important because it always places Scripture before our eyes and expounds upon it, like a sermon. Yet anti-creedal types will look at all these things and see no Bible verse, and deduce that no Scripture happened here. A lot of them probably think that creeds, confessions, and hymns were invented by RCs who as we all know have never cracked open a Bible in their lives and base all their beliefs on pure mythology! *cough*

Kelly, if you don’t stop saying in 112 words what takes me 1200, I’m gonna ban you from commenting ;^)

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
  • Confessional Lutheran
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