In 2006, the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod and Concordia Publishing House released a new hymnal: Lutheran Service Book ("LSB" from here on). I'm sure Paul McCain will correct me if my numbers are outdated, but last I'd heard, 70% of the congregations of the LCMS have purchased LSB, and over 1,000,000 (one-million, yes, that's the right number of 0s) copies of the hymnal have been purchased. Those are incredible numbers, numbers which reflect the possibility of an increase in liturgical uniformity across the Synod.
This is the fourth major hymnal the LCMS (officially or unofficially) has utilized in my lifetime. I've used all four for significant periods of time. The Lutheran Hymnal ("TLH") from 1941 is the hymnal I've used most. My home church used TLH until I was 8, and all of my congregations previous to this one used TLH nearly exclusively. My home congregation adoped Lutheran Worship ("LW") right away in 1982, and it was the main hymnal I used until I reached seminary. The sem had LW, and my field work congregation for the first two years of sem had and used both TLH and Lutheran Book of Worship ("LBW"), the hymnal released in 1978, which the LCMS worked on with what is now the ELCA but then did not adopt. (Many congregations in the LCMS, however, anticipating that adoption, pre-ordered LBW and used it.) Using four different hymnals has certainly broadened my horizons, and it has given me a strange perspective on each.
For much of these first five years since the release of LSB, I was not a parish pastor. Though most of the congregations for which I was a guest preacher made the move to LSB during my time in Louisiana, it takes a period of constant use to get a real feel for a hymnal. Last year, Pastor Will Weedon made a post on his excellent blog (a blog I highly recommend, by the way) in praise of one of the hymns they had used in the divine service that day. We'd used the same hymn that day, and I'd made a comment about how angry I was that the text of the hymn had changed from the hymnals I was used to. As you can read in the comments on that post, Pastor Weedon, the liturgist at my Installation here at St. Peter, Campbell Hill, allowed me "ONE YEAR of grousing". He then told me that I must cease and desist at the one-year anniversary of my Installation.
I've been pretty busy the past month since right before that anniversary, so I hadn't had the time yet to formulate my one last grouse. But since that discussion on Pastor Weedon's blog took place in July of last year, I'm between the anniversary of my Installation and the anniversary of that blog post. And I promise not to grouse--at least on my blog, anyway--about LSB after this post is . . . well, posted.
That's the background of this post. All that being said, here's the beef.
General Comments, good and bad
- Unlike its immediate predecessors, TLH and LW, LSB does not include the Collects for each Sunday. I'm sure that space was a consideration in that decision, but it makes LSB into a 3-resource book (hymnal, Bible, agenda/lectionary/Propers book) for devotional use instead of a two-resource book (hymnal, Bible).
- The Psalter, while more complete than those contained in either TLH or LW, is still incomplete. This was not the decision of the committee.
- The Psalter comes before the orders of worship. Having grown up with both TLH and LW (and also LBW for a time), I've seen it both ways. My personal preference is for the orders of worship to come first, but it's not a deal breaker. Having the Psalter first makes it easier to find the psalm you're looking for . . . as long as that particular psalm is in the hymnal, of course.
- Again, this is a nit-picky point, but Divine Service Setting 3 in LSB should probably be Divine Service (DS) Setting 1. This is the service that was p.15 in TLH and was DS1 in LW, so it would have made sense to keep it as DS1 in LSB. It's an easy enough adjustment to make, but for the first month or so, it was a distraction.
- The music of the Litany should be in the Pew Edition of LSB. It was in the hymn section of TLH and it was its own order in LW. Not having it in the pew edition of LSB weakens the hymnal, even if it's included in the Lutheran Service Builder software. On a happier note, the musical setting of the Litany was made available online for free, so it's available even to those who don't have the software, but it would have been better to have it in the hymnal itself.
- Instead of burying the Small Catechism in the middle of the hymnal (p.321), it could have been placed in the very back or very near the front, making the hymnal more friendly for catechesis.
- Though space was already at a premium, it would have been nice to have the Augsburg Confession in the hymnal. But that's just a personal dream. I liked seeing it in Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary used by the Evanelical Lutheran Synod. (Of course, that hymnal has its own problems, but that's another matter entirely.)
- I appreciate the inclusion of the wedding and funeral liturgies in LSB, as they were in LW. That was a strike against TLH. Also a great addition over TLH is the inclusion of the Rite of Individual Confession and Forgiveness!
- I know this was not the fault of the hymnal committee, but the response in the Salutation should never be "And also with you"; instead it should always be, "And with your/thy spirit".
- Though I will list some specific instances (though not all), let me say here that some of the textual changes from TLH and LW to LSB were quite unnecessary. I've been reading, singing, and worshiping with the old versions for over 30 years and teaching the old versions for over 10. Many of my members had used TLH most or all of their lives before switching to LSB. The changes in hymns and liturgies that have been memorized for 50 or more years can be a huge distraction, and I have members who will just stop singing altogether when the hymn isn't how they remember it. What Luther said in the Preface to the Small Catechism about Bible translations should also stand for translations of the Catechism and the hymnal: pick one and stick with it! (I won't list all the unnecessary changes made in LSB, as I don't want to be here until my second anniversary here.)
- LSB 333--Once He Came in Blessing: vv.2-3 are original to LSB. v.4 is an alteration of Winkworth's translation. The old version (TLH/LW) deals more with justification, conversion, repentance; LSB is more Sacrament of the Altar. The LSB version is good, but this was an unnecessary change.
- LSB 343--Prepare the Royal Highway: "O blest is He that came/ in God the Father's name" flows better than "Hosanna to the Lord/ For He fulfills God's Word". (Yes, I talk about flow. No, I'm not a "New Age hippie".)
- LSB 362--O Sing of Christ: The text and tune are not well-matched. It fits the meter, but it's forced. I have the same problem with a number of the many Starke-penned hymns. As a text-writer myself, I know this is a struggle.
- LSB 372--O Jesus Christ, Thy Manger Is: This new tune to a hymn found in TLH does not have the accompaniment with it in the pew edition. Though the tune was introduced in Hymnal Supplement 98, a new tune to an old hymn should have the accompaniment, especially when it doesn't take up that much more space.
- LSB 383--A Great and Mighty Wonder: This is one of my favorite hymns, and it is a classic. The unnecessary changes are exacerbated by the fact that it had already been changed between TLH and LW. If you can't teach what "for aye" means, at least settle on a substitute! And the refrain is just horrible. Since the text is in the public domain, this will always be sung from a bulletin insert.
- LSB 394--Songs of Thankfulness and Praise: I appreciate the re-introduction of TLH's v.4, which were not included in LW. (And you thought this was going to be all bad, eh?)
- LSB 455--The Royal Banners Forward Go: TLH offers the tune Vexilla Regis. LW offers both Vexilla Regis and Herr Jesu Christ, Wahr Mensch Und Gott. (I REALLY liked using those two tunes antiphonally!) LSB gives Vexilla Regis Nova, a debasing of Vexilla Regis.
- LSB 615--When in the Hour of Deepest Need: A classic that should not have been changed. Oh, and in v.5 of LSB/v.6 of TLH, should the Lord hide His face or not?
- LSB 672--Jerusalem the Golden: Nit-picky changes that should never have been made to a classic.
- LSB 685--Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus: same as above.
- LSB 700--Love Divine, All Love(s) Excelling: Title change from TLH and LW, but I do like that the tune Hyfrydol is given instead of TLH's O du Liebe.
- LSB 708--Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart: The changes in Herzlich Lieb actually make it easier to sing this hymn than it was in TLH. Kudos!
- LSB 766--Our Father, Who from Heaven Above: Why is this further altered? As a catechetical hymn, it's so hard to use it for catechesis when it changes from one generation to the next.
- LSB 837--Lift High the Cross: I'm probably the only person in the world who thought this hymn was too long at 5 verses, and LSB adds a sixth. But that's just me.
- LSB 851--Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us: The removal of TLH's v.4 is a shame.
- LSB 878--Abide with Me: I will miss the 4 extra verses from TLH, but they chose the best 6.
- LSB 940--Holy God, We Praise Thy Name: Though all seven verses appear neither in TLH or LW, I would have loved to have seen all seven appear in LSB to make the Te Deum Laudamus complete.
- LSB 954--We All Believe in One True God: Like LSB 766, the modernization of a classic Luther catechetical hymn is frustrating.
Hymns Missing from LSB
Pastor Rick Stuckwisch on his excellent blog (another one I highly recommend) made a list of hymns that should be included. I don't agree with every decision, but markedly missing from LSB is a great deal of Paul Gerhardt. In addition to the Gerhardt, my not-fully-fleshed list includes:
- Day of Wrath, O Day of Mourning (TLH 607)
- O Jesus, King of Glory (TLH 130)
- O Perfect Love (TLH 623)
Notice that none of my hymns are on that list.
Hymns that SHOULD BE Missing from LSB
Pastor Rick Stuckwisch also made a list of hymns that should never have appeared in LSB. I agree with about 90% of his lists. My list (mostly matters of trite texts or contemporary Christian crap included for contemporary worship proponents who wouldn't be using the hymnal anyway) includes (but is not limited to):
- About 95% of Stephen Starke's hymns: Nothing personal, but the numerous bad marriages of text and tune are VERY distracting.
- Anything Taize: To quote Mark Schlamann, "Don't taize me, bro!"
- LSB 411--I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light: Me, me, me, I, I, I.
- LSB 456--Were You There: Trite, doesn't really say anything.
- LSB 474--Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen: Horrible marriage of text and tune.
- LSB 477--Alleluia, Alleluia! Hearts to Heaven: Enough with the Ode to Joy remakes!
- LSB 479--Christ is Risen, Christ Is Living: A good Spanish hymn that isn't quite as good in English.
- LSB 502--Holy Spirit, the Dove Sent from Heaven: Same thing.
- LSB 550--Lamb of God: Twila Paris? Really?
- LSB 595--O Blessed Spring: The mental associations with "The Water Is Wide" are too much for me.
- LSB 605--Father Welcomes: Trite.
- LSB 669--Come, We That Love the Lord: Watts has other, better stuff.
- LSB 721--Lead Me, Guide Me: Blah. (And yes, I say the same thing about stuff I write.)
- LSB 749--There Is a Balm in Gilead: I have no problem with African American Spirituals of themselves, but this one is . . . folksy.
- LSB 763--When Peace, Like a River: In the interest of full disclosure, I should say right now that I've re-written this with a text of my own. There's just not enough substance to the original.
- LSB 789--Praise and Thanksgiving: Cat Stevens associations are hard to overcome.
- LSB 799--Alabare: The English text (beautiful, by the way) just doesn't work with the tune.
- LSB 806--Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart: Trite.
- LSB 808--O Sing to the Lord: Another instance where an English translation doesn't work with the tune.
- LSB 817--Earth and All Stars: At the risk of angering my own dear father, it seems like an attempt at combining Psalm 150 with a hymn concerning vocation, and it doesn't quite work.
- LSB 827--Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling (take 2): Unnecessary.
- LSB 879--Stay with Us: The pietist in me likes this hymn very much.
- LSB 910--Now the Silence: Trainwreck-of-thought.
- LSB 911--Lord, This Day We've Come to Worship: Sounds like a bad re-write of "Angels We Have Heard on High; and a little too much about what we do and not quite enough about what He does.
- LSB 939--You Are God; We Praise You: If a liturgical Te Deum Laudamus was to be included in LSB, it should have been the Te Deum from LW's Matins (p.214), not the one from LBW.
- LSB 964--Lift Every Voice and Sing: Can we get any more musical cliches in one hymn? This is like singing the Edelweiss Benediction. In fact, it sounds a bit like someone trying to plagiarize Rodgers and Hammerstein.
All that being said, LSB is a treasure. Are there things I'd change? Obviously. Is it perfect? No. Is it a solid resource for corporate worship and personal/family devotions? Definitely. I do believe it's a step (or even two) forward from LW, though LW does have its advantages. I also believe it's a step forward from TLH, though that excellent hymnal has far outlived its intended lifespan. LSB is an excellent hymnal, and I thank God that we have it. I'll ignore or work around the warts, and I will thank God for this fine resource that will (I hope) last the rest of my life. I have no desire to learn a fifth hymnal!