TLH, LSB, and Ministry Hymns

The Lutheran Hymnal was/is not perfect. It has some very unfortunate hymns, no doubt about it. It has its weaknesses. One of its strengths, I believe, is its section on Ministry hymns. Lutheran Service Book has two hymns in the Ordination/Installation section (and countless hymns in the mission and witness section). Granted, there are a couple of good ones in the Word of God section, but there is just no comparison to TLH, which has a total of 12 Ministry hymns.

Not all of these are strong, but many of them are. They directly address the Office of the Ministry, i.e. the Pastoral Ministry. They enjoin the church to pray for their ministers, for example, in this robust hymn: “Lord of the Church, We Humbly Pray.” I really love this one: “Thou Who the Night in Prayer Didst Spend.” Here are a couple of the stanzas:

1. Thou who the night in prayer didst spend and then didst thine apostles send. / And bidd’st us pray the harvest’s Lord To send forth sowers of Thy Word, / Hear and Thy chosen servants bless With sev’nfold gifts of holiness.

2. Oh, may Thy pastors faithful be, / Not lab’ring for themselves, but Thee! / Give grace to feed with wholesome food / The sheep and lambs bought by Thy blood, / To tend Thy flock, and thus to prove / How dearly they the Shepherd love.

3. Oh, may Thy people faithful be / And in Thy pastors honor Thee / And with them work and for them pray / And gladly Thee in them obey, / Receive the prophet of the Lord / And gain the prophet’s own reward.

The fact is, we (i.e. our Church body) do not believe in the Ministry anymore, or that it has any essential part to play in the Church. This is reflected in the significant decrease in hymns from 1941 to 2006 (when LSB was published). Ministry and Ordination hymns in LSB are an afterthought at best. To a large extent in the Missouri Synod, pastors are seen as just one group among many “essential” categories of ‘ministry’ rather than being the only essential servants of the Church.

All I can say is that I pray that the Ministry hymns of TLH will never be completely forgotten, and that someday, some of them may find their way into the hymnal again.

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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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2 Responses to TLH, LSB, and Ministry Hymns

  1. Rev. Mike Grieve says:

    Lord of the Church, We Humbly Pray is a great hymn, and I don’t just say that because we’re singing it this Sunday for the Feast of the Holy Trinity. It actually connects the holy Word to those who preach it. Amazing how God works, isn’t it?

  2. I don’t know that hymn. Who wrote it?

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