More on LSB Hymnody (Revised, 8/17)

Warning: Possible inflammatory post.

Those who have the hymnal, have you noticed first of all that Steven Starke has more hymns in LSB than Luther? Didn’t Luther write a few hundred hymns? I like Steven Starke’s texts, but I wish they were set to more familiar tunes.

Secondly, have you noticed the severe lack of hymns dealing with staunch Reformation themes, such as the one by Luther: “O, Lord look down from heaven behold” (TLH 260). Look, I know many will say, “Don’t criticize the hymnal, it is great!” “Get over it! Deal with it!” Well, sorry to disappoint you. I don’t just “get over it.” Every hymnal has its weakness, and every hymnal has its strengths. This hymnal’s strengths are in its almost over-abundance of daily prayer options, its lay-out, and the Divine Services. Its weakness is definitely the hymnody. I’m not a staunch TLH Devotee either. I learned to love many of the LW hymns through seminary chapel and Kantorei, as well as Kantor Reuning’s Lutheran Worship class. It was LW that taught me my first lessons in Matins and Vespers. But this hymnal’s weakness is its hymnody, I’m sorry to say. I know not every hymn can be included that has ever been written. But when you consider some of the hymns that are in it, and some of the ones that didn’t make the cut…

For example, I don’t remember seeing the absolutely HORRIBLE hymn “Were you there when they crucified my Lord” in LW or TLH. This is an addition that weakens the hymnody of this service book. There is not one word of Gospel in this hymn. Not even Law, really. Same thing with that deplorable hymn, “Now the Silence” (LSB 910). A bunch of images, and that’s it. “Now the pow’r, Now the vessel brimmed for pouring, Now the Body Now the blood” does not proclaim or teach anything at all, whatsoever, even in the least bit. It’s not even as good as some of the “praise music” I’ve heard. And that’s not saying a lot.

Anyway, as I said, there are strong points in this hymnal. I love the options for daily prayer, the nice selection of collects and prayers, the expanded Psalter, the addition of some good hymns, the Divine Services. But that hymnody is the Church’s song, and take away from the Church’s lips good, solid hymns about the Holy Ministry, and add hymns that should never be sung, and that’s unfortunate. Lord help us ever to retain, the Catechism’s doctrine plain, as Luther taught the Word of Truth, in simple style to tender youth.”

By the way, in the last post I mentioned the small section on Ordination/Installation. How many hymns do you think fall under the “Mission/Witness” section? Eighteen! “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi” my friends.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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33 Responses to More on LSB Hymnody (Revised, 8/17)

  1. Lincoln - BoW says:

    You wrote :

    But this hymnal’s weakness is its hymnody.


    Umm, isn’t the purpose of a hymnal the… hymns?

    It sounds as if it woudld make a fine supplemental hymnal (How I plan to use it.) But as THE hymnal, it sounds like maybe something else is needed.

    My prediction (Made when still in Seminary ten years ago) is that in 10 years LW will be gone, replaced by this one. In 25 years, when the next hymnal comes out, it will still have TLH to contend with. Not that TLH doesn’t have weaknesses. (Almost no Lutheran baptismal theology in the baptism section) But I see it lasting 100 years, while these other hymnals will always be considered new, and likely disposable.



  2. organshoes says:

    FYI, Were You There is in LW–in spiritual songs section.
    Probably a section you wisely steer clear of, Pastor B.
    I wonder at CPH, issuing all these great Luther hymns via the 4 CD set last year, then *not* having these great Luther hymns in the new hymnal.
    But then, who knows what they were up against in compiling it…

  3. sam says:

    I don’t know how much influence CPH has over the content of LSB. Rather, I believe the CoW has the main say in what is in the hymnal. Pastor Biesel, is this correct?

    I will say that there are a few Starke hymns that I truly love, especially Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying.

    My .02

  4. Pastor Beisel says:

    In defense of the hymnal committee, I’m sure that those who were in charge of hymnody were stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, you have people who tell you they will absolutely not get the hymnal unless it has some of that “Old Time Religion” in there that they are used to seeing on TBN. On the other hand, you have people who insisted on including some of those “fresh expressions of the Gospel” that in many ways just don’t compare to much of the Reformation hymnody. My opinion? I think that a Church does not need 600 hymns in its repertoire. It needs probably about fifty that they can learn well. There is about 60% of that hymn section that I will probably never use. But my point is, it’s not all the fault of the preparers. I’m sure that there were some people on that committee that were contending for more meaty stuff, and lost out.

  5. Pastor Beisel says:


    I agree with you on the Starke hymns–I think he has some fantastic texts. I tried to make that clear. I’m just saying that he should have set them to some of the more familiar tunes, so that way they would be more readily accessible to common people (who don’t know how to sing well).

  6. sam says:

    Gotcha Pastor Biesel! Thanks for the remarks on the new hymnal.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Luther did not write “hundreds” of hymns, and the vast majority of those he did write are in this hymnal.

    Your post sounds to me simply like somebody trying to find any excuse he can to hang on to TLH, a hymnal that suffers from any number of fatal flaws, most notably giving people the impression that Lutherans have Services of Holy Communion, without communion.

    Pastor B.

    Get a grip.
    Get over it.
    Get a clue.

  8. Pastor Beisel says:

    Did I not say that I am not a TLH Devotee? Maybe that was in another comment.

    Look, I am just telling it the way it is. I agree with you that TLH was flawed in many ways. But one thing it did have was more hymns in the “Ministry” section and more hymns of the “Reformation” theme.

    Pastor Beisel

  9. sam says:

    Pastor Beisel (sorry for mis-spelling your name earlier),
    I’m with you on your statements regarding TLH, it has its flaws as with other hymnals including LW and LSB. I’m sure that you, along with many pastors, will have all three hymnals (TLH, LW, and LSB) on your shelf for use. I’m sure some will even throw the ELHB into the mix as well.


  10. Rev. Jared C. Tucher says:

    “For example, I don’t remember seeing the absolutely HORRIBLE hymn “Were you there when they crucified my Lord” in LW or TLH.”

    LW 505. I can’t say that this hymn is a favorite of mine either.

  11. Lawrence says:

    This new hymnal has many improvements, but it also misses the mark on several points. It’s already being printed, so no point cussing the details here.

    I will say that I think there was a bit too much of an effort toward compromise. Probably with the idea that more people would actually buy it… which in this case is probably true.

    I’ve always liked the “Red” hymnal better than the “Blue” one anyway. I see this new hymnal as a significant improvement over the “Blue” one. I’m not yet convinced it is a marked improvement over the old “Red” one, but I reserve judgement for now.

  12. Petersen says:

    I have just begun looking at it, but criticisms of LSB are somewhat meaningless since the decisions were made long ago and minority opinions were dismissed back then as the minortity opinions they still are. There are some very nice features. They did add 2 Luther hymns not in LW. They could have added 10, but I suppose 2 is better than nothing. Franzmann kept his 6 from LW. I didn’t see the tranlsation “Rise Again Ye Lion-Hearted” from TLH, nor any of his other fine hymns that could have been added. They did, however, add the 5th stanza that was deleted in LW to Preach Ye the Word. That stanza is pivotal so this was a very good move. I am really disappointed that there is the pretense that this is a “prayer book” with needless multiplication of rites and hundreds of hymns but only 2/3 of the Psalter. I know it is not a prayer book. I know it is not used in the homes of more than 1% of our people. But the Psalter could be used on Sunday mornings and weekday services, whereas the daily prayer just won’t be.

    Overall I suppose it lands somewhere near LW for me. I am not saying it is heretical. I do not doubt that every single committee member that worked on this is among the most faithful and brightest of the LCMS. But ther reality is that the hymnody is weaker than before, and sadly, very accesssible. That will cost us. Ask anyone who uses LW DS II. You have to sing This is the Feast. You can’t sing the greater Gloria. That is the way the weakest hymns in LSB will be. The people love them from their exposure to them at Methodist funerals, weddings, Christian radio, etc. They will know they are in there and they will demand them. Since they are in the hymnal we will be stuck. Thus, even if LSB only added 15 additional weak hymns to the corpus of LW, we can expect a serious weakening of our hymn singing. The good hymns will not balance this out since they are not immediately accessible and will never be so popular. I am glad for the good hymns, don’t get me wrong. But this is the price we pay and the result of a committee produced hymnal driven by surveys.

    The liturgical section, despite its weaknesses, is the strongest the LCMS has ever seen. But this is a hymnal and it is with hymns that it will hurt us. Too bad. But this is the best the LCMS can officially produce and reflects who we are as a synod. It could be worse.

  13. Favorite Apron says:

    If the full body of Luther’s hymns cannot be published in a Lutheran hymnal, then where can they be published?
    I fear these songs will be lost. It’s a thought that causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Oh, give me a break. First, you would not want every hymn Luther wrote. Do you want to sing the 16 verse ode to the two martyrs killed in Brussels? I don’t think so.

    And, while I hate to let facts ruin a nice rhetorical rant, “Favorite Apron” when you check LSB you will see that the vast majority of Luther’s hymns ARE in the book, most every single one of them.

    Stop your whining.

  15. Anonymous says:

    After reading Petersen’s remarks, I am moved to declare that LSB marks the end of The LCMS. It is a horrible, horrible hymnal. Why? Because it did not incorporate everything the chancel-prancing high-church sectarians among us wanted to see.

    Come to think of it, that is probably a good thing actually.

    Of course what Petersen is not telling you is that he and his little group of high-church pals don’t use the liturgy as provided in any hymnal to begin with, they pick and choose and make up their own “better” liturgies, so listening to the likes of Petersen whine about the new hymnal would be amusing, if it were not so terribly hypocritical.

    No hymnal will ever please the Petersens of the world.

  16. Pastor Beisel says:

    Anonymous–you are not a theologian of the cross, for you are not able to call a thing what it is. Truth offends you.

    Do you know what the difference is between us and the Lutheran church of the Reformation in regards to worship and hymns? The old Church Orders of Germany were done by theologians, not primarily musicians. A hymnal should primarily be a theological work, not a musical one. Ours is a hymnal by musicians who have some theological background. Their Church Orders (not hymnals since those weren’t around then) were done by theologians who had some musical expertise, who consulted musicians. That’s the difference.

    Petersen is right. All criticism is meaningless, since these things were decided long ago.

  17. ptmccain says:

    I just wanted to say that while I don’t agree with Pastor Beisel, there is no excuse for the uncharitable remarks offered in response by a certain anonymous commentator, both toward him and toward Pastor Petersen.

  18. Pastor Beisel says:

    Just curious, but what exactly do you not agree with? I did say that I thought the liturgy was done very well, and do think that there are some really good hymns. But do you not think it is an unfortunate thing that there are only two hymns dealing with the Holy Ministry (except of course Franzman’s hymn that is somewhere else)? Do you not think that it is a poor choice of hymnody to put in songs like “Were you there” and “Now the Silence,” songs that do not even come close to being Lutheran? I’m not sure what I have said is worthy of disagreement. I’m open to criticism here, but things like “get over it” and “you don’t have a clue” don’t really count as valid criticism.

  19. Peter says:

    One thing to think about when counting, for instance, Luther’s hymns . . . the psalter contains only a small number of David’s psalms . . . he is supposed to have written a thousand or so, I think. I’m sure many of his others were good, but what are you going to do? As for who compiled the psalter, probably the Asaphites: Musicians who were theologians. And the psalter, like our own hymnals, underwent any number of revisions, as books were added. Throw in the NT canticles, and then early Christian hymns, and we’re off to the races, and the process of editing and choosing begins.

  20. Pastor Beisel says:

    Did I say anywhere that the hymnal should include all Luther’s hymns? I don’t think so. You guys don’t read very well.

    I simply noted that I thought it was curious that STeven STarke had more hymns in the hymnal than Luther. Is there something wrong with making that observation?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Duh….could it be that Starke has written, literally, hundreds of hymns and Luther wrote only around 40???

  22. Rev. Shane Cota says:

    It seems like the LSB has now become another one of those things that can’t be discussed rationally. It seems there are two main camps, at least in most internet discussions I’ve read. You either dare not criticize it at all, as if it dropped out of heaven (lest you be smeared as a “TLH devotee” or some such thing) or you act as if it is some satanic tool of deception. Pastor Beisel seems to be making even-handed observations on the strengths and weaknesses. What’s so bad about that? It’s something you need to do if you want to evaluate whether or not you’re going to use it or stick with what you already have.

  23. Pastor Beisel says:

    I didn’t see Shane’s comment there, so just so you know Rev. Cota, my comments are directed toward “anonymous,” not you.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Once again, “anonymous” proves itself to be a gas-spewing ass.

    Chi Chi

  25. Petersen says:

    Anonymous wrote: “”Of course what Petersen is not telling you is that he and his little group of high-church pals don’t use the liturgy as provided in any hymnal to begin with, they pick and choose and make up their own “better” liturgies, so listening to the likes of Petersen whine about the new hymnal would be amusing, if it were not so terribly hypocritical.”

    Yeah. That was really tricky of me. I am really bummed that my conspiracty has been found out. Of course what anonymous is not telling you is his name. What a genius! His hypocrisies and conspiracies remain hidden. Good job, anonymous. Cling to your fear. It makes you the man that you are.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Ouch, I guess Peterson knows what I said about his eclecticism is true! Truth hurts, doesn’t it Petersen?

  27. Pastor Beisel says:

    Last I checked, Pastor Petersen has never tried to hide anything about himself. In fact, he is one of the most truthful people I have ever met. I kick the dust off my feet in your general direction…

  28. spstarke says:

    One of the decisions the Hymnody Committee had to make was where to place the hymns included in LSB. Some new categories were created (Baptismal Life, etc.) and some hymns that were in other categories in previous hymnals are elsewhere in LSB. Your citation of only two ordination/installation hymns is not correct when you consider this portion of a forthcoming index, which has some suggested hymns for ordination/installation.

    Study of other cross-referencing of hymns to other categories would be helpful before rushing to any immediate conclusion.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Ordination, Installation, 681–682

    Almighty God, Your Word is cast
    “As surely as I live,” God said
    Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest 498, 499
    Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord 497
    Herald, sound the note of judgment 511
    Lord, Thee I love with all my heart 708
    Not unto us, not unto us be glory, Lord 558
    O Holy Spirit, enter in 913
    Preach you the Word, and plant it home 586
    Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens 589
    The gifts Christ freely gives

  29. Pastor Beisel says:

    Thanks for the clarification. The more I have been perusing the hymnal, the more I am realizing that some of the hymns have just been placed elsewhere, as you have pointed out. Sorry if I have misled anyone. And just so you know, I meant nothing uncharitable against your hymns. As I mentioned in the original post, your texts are superb. You have a definite talent in that area which I lack. Perhaps when I get a chance to hear them set to your arrangements my opinion will change about the tunes.

  30. spstarke says:

    I took no offense and I thank you for your kind words. The tunes are largely new to many, but they are good hymn tunes and carefully chosen to undergird the text in some way.

    Blessings as you explore LSB!

  31. Anonymous says:

    Regarding the comment that the hymnbal was put together by musicians rather than theologians. FWIW, the head of the COW has a PhD in THEOLOGY, not music. So, the hymnal was overseen by someone who is a theological musician. Is that OK?

  32. Pastor Beisel says:

    There are several people on the hymnal committee that are very astute theologians. But my point is that our worship issues are driven so much by music and aesthetics that often what is right or good theologically gets second place. There is no such thing as a perfect hymnal. But there could be such thing as a hymnal that includes only the best of Lutheran hymnody and not chaff, if there were not always such a “marketing/poll/driven” method attached to it. I say, take four or five of your best theologians in the Church, have them consult musicians in their planning, but have them put together a hymnal, and forget about whether or not the folks that like “What a friend we have in Jesus” or “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” are offended or displeased by their omission.

  33. Stefan says:

    I’m a composer and a musical academic, so I have a bit of a different perspective here. Fact 1: the text of the hymns is extremely important. Fact 2: the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms applied to those texts set the spiritual tone of the service.

    For me, worship music exists on a continuum that spans from “Colloquial Joy” to “Cultivated Reverence.” I like mine locked to the latter. If someone likes “yee-haw!” tunes in a worship service, then that’s fine. I can think of a couple denominations that are into that. Actually, I like really exciting secular music — seriously, you have no idea. But when I think of a LCMS service, I don’t think “exciting” — that turns me off — I’m looking for reverence.

    Putting the text aside, the music of the new liturgy is just hokey. Come on, the first post-communion canticle is essentially an Irish jig. I’m not blasting Irish music here; I actually play in a celtic ensemble. But why are we trying to pep up the liturgy? Are we competing with the non-denoms now? My personal belief is that God gave us music to use in an artful and rich way; not in a cheesy simple-minded way. So TLH has some organizational problems. I don’t see why the music had to be changed. Look at the terrible rewriting of “Lord keep us steadfast…” in LW. It’s a hack job at best. Someone decided to take a beautiful 16th century hymn and turn it into a bad counterpoint project. Tweaking the music isn’t the problem in and of itself; it’s the quality and tone of the music that is changing for the worse. The newer liturgies don’t transport me to the same awesome and reverent worship space I found growing up with TLH.

    What we have here is a small body of folks who are consciously changing the tone of our service for the sparkier. They are tweaking the “knobs” with political intent. This sort of thing began with the purple book and it continues still.

    And as for you, Sparky J. Anonymous: get a haircut and move out of your parents’ basement. Traditions are important to peoples’ spiritual lives and they shouldn’t be dismissed on a whim. TLH represents the cultivation of over 500 years of quality musical scholarship that is being tossed out so the higher ups can make sure we don’t look like fuddy-duddies to the next generation of tithers. I guarantee you, offering statistics are involved somehow.

    I’m not advocating a stubborn lack of change. I’m suggesting that the LCMS has screwed up on picking a committee twice in a row which indicates that it may not be accidental.


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