War and Peace

In the next episode of Sunday Cantata, we will hear BWV 126, Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, a chorale cantata on the hymn by Luther, known in English as 'Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word'. I won't say much here—listen to the episode on Lutheran Radio UK!—except this: The peculiar combination, usual in…

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A Musician of the Cross

The more I work on Bach's sacred cantatas for Sunday Cantata, the more impressed I become about Bach's calibre as a theologian. Now, sometimes Bach's theological profundity and acumen are mis-attributed when it's forgotten that Bach didn't write his own libretti. That was done by men such as Picander, Salomo Franck, Erdmann Neumeister and others,…

Stand to pray, sit to sing

The latest Liturgical Titbit: Lutherans, unlike everyone else it seems, stand to pray and sit to sing. Why? The reason for sitting for hymns is almost certainly entirely prosaic. Lutheran hymns were traditionally long, and often sung very slowly. If hymns last 20 minutes or more, sitting down is quite sensible. Since that’s rarely an…

Church as Community

Since ... salvation is given by Christ, it's certainty can only be further planted by Christ. They must therefore progress from the concept of community which is always a subjective thing and only the consequence of the planting done by Christ and the continued planting of the certainty of salvation intended by him to the…

Whole body worship

From time to time, I add a little section called 'Liturgical Titbits' to the service bulletin at Our Saviour Lutheran Church. The idea is that, over time, the congregation's knowledge and understanding of various aspects of the liturgy will grow—and bring about a growing appreciation thereof. These pieces are, as the name suggests, very brief,…

Jesus lost and found

Another preview of Sunday Cantata. Bach didn't write any cantatas for the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, so this Sunday's offering is for the First Sunday after the Epiphany. The libretto meditates on the Gospel selection from Luke 2:41–52, where Mary and Joseph lose the 12-year-old Jesus—and then find Him in the Temple,…

From shore to shore

… as in the Isaac Watts hymn, "Jesus Shall Reign", which we sang this morning at Our Saviour and in the evening at the Brighton Mission. His kingdom stretch from shore to shore Till moons shall wax and wane no more. Which was a poignant thing to sing at Brighton, where we also celebrated the…

Ritschl shall reign where’er the sun?

One of the joys of working on Sunday Cantata has been to delve into the texts of the chorales used in Bach's cantatas. My policy has been to quote the translation in the Lutheran Service Book whenever possible, for the benefit of listeners who are familiar with the hymns. Every now and then, however, I…

They shall all come from Sheba

This week's episode of Sunday Cantata presents another gem, BWV 65: Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen (They shall all come from Sheba), written for Epiphany 1724. The libretto focuses on Isaiah 60:6, from the historic Epistle (these days, the Old Testament) reading for Epiphany. To whet your appetite, here's the start of the first movement,…