I recently read Mark Noll’s article “Singing the Word of God” in the recent issue of Christian History. The issue is devoted to Bach, who was a committed Lutheran. Noll gave a little background on Luther’s approach to music in the church. Luther who is known as the catalyst of the reformation believed strongly in the use of music and “good hymns” in the life of the church. Luther wrote, “the printers do well if they publish a lot of good hymns and make them attractive to the people with all sorts of ornamentation, so that they may move them to joy in faith and to gladly sing.” Luther desired good hymn s, good music packaged in an attractive way so that people would be moved to faith. Sounds like a lot of church leaders today (myself included) who desire culturally appropriate music that connects with people so that they can connect with God.
For Luther, church music was not entertainment, but was a prime source of communicating and celebrating faith in Christ. One researcher noted that the congregation singing in protestant churches led to the survival of reformed faith in Europe. Luther was a leader in the need for good hymns and musical instruments in congregational worship. Noll writes, “Luther thought it was biblical to use every form of God-honoring expression to praise the God of grace, just so long as that praise did not violate biblical truth.” Luther desired contemporary music that was biblically solid. Sounds familiar. Other protestant movements were a bit more restrictive in terms of the variety of instruments that could be used for worship; Luther was not.
Luther wrote hymns. The American edition of Luther’s Works contains 37 hymns, the most enduring of which is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Noll calls it a “Christ-centered paraphrase of Psalm 46.” For Luther, worship music was for the glory of God and the instruction of the saints. Hymns like “Mighty Fortress” boldly declares biblical truth. Some contemporary praise music today lacks the same theological substance. I am not anti-praise-song. I can sing “o God I love you” or “holy holy holy” a million times. I mean if the angels can sing it over and over, then why can’t I?
Sunday our worship leader introduced a new song, “In Christ Alone.” Not the Michael English song, but the Stuart Townend song. Our worship leader said that he searched his hymn books to find the song, but it wasn’t there. When I googled it, I found that it is a new hymn (isn’t that a paradox) written in 2001. ST is a British worship leader and he wanted to write a modern hymn, this one came as he was meditating on the power of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. When we did it in worship Sunday it was powerful. Our worship leader did a great job of having the a female lead the first stanza and a male vocalist lead the second and then the entire group of singers came in on the third stanza…the resurrection. It was moving and powerful. Here are the lyrics. I think Luther would be proud.
In Christ Alone
by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty
In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.
You can listen to it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8welVgKX8Qo&mode=related&search=
You can watch a video with Stuart Townend here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvV6oUajxAY
You can get the four guitar chords for the song here http://www.e-chords.com/guitartab.asp?idmusica=96380