Doubting like Luther, and trying to test like a Berean, this is where I think aloud about Christian belief and practice. It is also where I share resources of interest to other struggling believers.

Baptized and confirmed in the American Lutheran Church, I explored New Age spirituality for a time but have since worshiped the Trinitarian God of Christianity in many different churches, my denominational preference being Lutheran. I believe in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. My greatest struggle is prayer. My greatest annoyance is legalism and the notion that blind obedience to the Law will bring sanctification. My greatest fear is that I don't believe correctly. Yet, my greatest hope is that as I grow in my understanding of the grace that God extends to me daily, I will grow in my ability to walk in and demonstrate that grace to others.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Earth and All Stars

...and a bit of a rant.

Last week in church, the closing hymn was "Earth and All Stars," one of my favorites and one that my daughter recently informed me was written in 1964 for the ninetieth anniversary of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.  The hymn was initially published in 1968 as part of a folksong collection and finally made it into a Lutheran hymnal in 1969.  That means it was a new hymn when I was in elementary school!  I can remember singing it a lot as a child, not surprising seeing as a Lutheran pastor, Herbert Brokering, wrote it.  Apparently, until recently, the hymn was virtually unknown outside the Lutheran Church.

According to, the text of the hymn was taken from, or inspired by, Psalms 96, 98, and 150.  Psalm 96:1 is recalled in each stanza, while Psalm 98:1 is restated in the refrain.  Psalm 150 alludes to the musical instruments that are listed in the third verse.  Pastor Brokering himself described the writing of the words, thus:
I tried to gather into a hymn of praise the many facets of life which emerge in the life of community.  So there are the references to building, nature, learning, family, war, festivity.  Seasons, emotions, death and resurrection, bread, wine, water, wind, sun, spirit...have made great impressions on my imagination.
The verses in my LCMS Hymnal read as follows:

Earth and all stars!
Loud rushing planets!
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Oh, victory!
Loud shouting army!
Sing to the Lord a new song!

He has done marvelous things.  I too will praise Him with a new song!

Hail, wind, and rain!
Loud blowing snowstorm!
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Flowers and trees!
Loud rustling dry leaves!
Sing to the Lord a new song!


Trumpet and pipes!
Loud clashing cymbals!
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Harp, lute, and lyre!
Loud humming cellos!
Sing to the Lord a new song!


Engines and steel!
Loud pounding hammers!
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Limestone and beams!
Loud building workers!
Sing to the Lord a new song!


Classrooms and labs!
Loud boiling test tubes!
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Athlete and band!
Loud cheering people!
Sing to the Lord a new song!


Knowledge and truth!
Loud sounding wisdom!
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Daughter and son!
Loud praying members!
Sing to the Lord a new song!


Children of God,
Dying and rising,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Heaven and earth,
Hosts everlasting,
Sing to the Lord a new song!


Even cooler:  there is an Easter version, "Alleluia!  Jesus is Risen."  Here are those lyrics from the ELCA Hymnal:

Alleluia!  Jesus is risen!
Trumpets resounding in glorious light!
Splendor, the Lamb, heaven forever!
Oh, what a miracle God has in sight!
Jesus is risen and we shall arise.
Give God the glory!  Alleluia!

Walking the way, Christ in the center
telling the story to open our eyes;
Breaking our bread, giving us glory;
Jesus our blessing, our constant surprise.
Jesus is risen and we shall arise.
Give God the glory!  Alleluia!

Weeping, be gone;  sorrow, be silent;
death put asunder, and Easter is bright.
Cherubim sing:  O grave, be open!  Clothe us with wonder, adorn us in light.
Jesus is risen and we shall arise.
Give God the glory!

Ok, now for the rant:

I tried to find a good video of this hymn being sung by a choir or a praise band, but all I could find were travesties perpetrated on believers who, I can only surmise, are ignorant of the beauty and teaching inherent in a hymn they may never have heard before.  Here are two examples:

First was this nonsense that, to be fair, succeeded on the pace and the rousing energy but, in doing so, obliterated any Gospel message by eliminating the phrase, "Oh, victory!  Loud shouting army!"  This gentleman also left out the ENTIRE seventh verse, the one that very pointedly states that, as believers, we are children of God who will live forever in heaven.

Second was this version from Cross Point Community Church in Katy, Texas, which is an LCMS Lutheran Church (believe it or not).  These guys, praise Jesus, left in all the salvific phrasing but eliminated everything that we are praising God for --- His creation, His power over that creation, His very role in our lives through the use of our God-given gifts applied to our work.  The fact that these musicians are Lutheran is even more irritating since the part they omitted from the hymn imparts an important teaching of Scripture, as understood by Luther, and a concept more believers would do well to practice:  vocation (calling).  The band also reduced the "praising" done in this hymn to a ho-hum, sway-gently-to-the-music yawner when almost every line ends with an exclamation point.

Why, why, why, can my fellow believers in the body of Christ not let the worship work of other believers, in this case Pastor Herbert Brokering, speak as it was intended to speak?!!!  Please, for the love of Jesus and the church as the body of believers, sing this hymn in its entirety as it was meant to be sung.  Allow it to praise the Triune God of Christianity, recall the victory that was secured for us in Christ, comfort us in and through that recollection, and remind us that God walks with us and comforts us and fulfills His promises to us every day even as we work at the work He has given us, work that is the embodiment and use of our God-given gifts and talents.

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.  Go in peace, serve the Lord.  Thanks be to God.

1 comment:

  1. Thank You for this post. I found it while looking up "Earth and All Stars," a favorite hymn of mine. All I can say is I share your frustration of the tendency to drive the Creator away from His creation. I remember once trying to find a good online video for "How Great Thou Art," only to be flustered with the number of musicians who omit much of the creation language included in it. If a hymn was written with both the transcendence and immanence of God in its lyrical content then musicians and choirs do little service to the believer in emphasizing only one or the other.