Danish: Gud er her til stede!
German: Gott ist gegenwärtig
Norwegian: Gud er her til stede!
Swedish: Gud är mitt ibland oss
Isaiah 6:3: John 16:12-16
Text: Gerhard Terstegen (1697-1769). Joachim Neander (1650-1680)
1. God Himself is present: Let us now adore Him, And with awe appear before Him. God is in His temple-- All within keep silence, Prostrate lie with deepest reverence; Him alone, God we own, Him, our God and Saviour; Praise His Name forever. 2. God Himself is present: Hear the harps resounding! See the crowds the throne surrounding! "Holy, holy, holy," Hear the hymn ascending, Angels, saints, their voices blending! Bow thine ear To us here: Hear, O Christ, the praises That Thy Church now raises.
3. Light of light eternal,
All things penetrating,
For your rays our soul is waiting.
As the tender flowers,
To the sun their faces holding:
Would we do,
Light from you obtaining,
Strength to serve you gaining. 4. O Thou Fount of blessing, Purify my spirit; Trusting only in Thy merit. Like the holy angels Who behold Thy glory, May I ceaselessly adore Thee. Let Thy will Ever still Rule Thy Church terrestrial, As the hosts celestial.
Tr. Fredrick Foster (1760-1835)
Midsummer 2000. We are in Rostock, Germany, visiting members of the Choral Concert Jazz group that played at the Seminary Reformation Festival in 1995.
Karl Scharnweber, the organist in the group, and his wife, have hosted my nephew and me for a couple of days, taking us around to the churches and places of interest in town, feeding us well and giving us a short cruise on the Baltic in their boat. The sun is brilliant on the water, causing a bit of haze that is blinding. It is like looking through a bridal veil.
Rostock was a member of the Hanseatic League and its University dates back to 1419, one of the very oldest in Europe. The city suffered bombardment through World War II given its importance as a manufacturing center with a large port. Then, after the war, when the Russians came, it suffered more. The churches were still in a bad state of repair, but since have been beautifully restored.
Choral Concert, a jazz trio with organ, woodwinds, and guitars of one kind or another, had specialized in doing jazz improvisations and meditations on German hymnody, especially the Reformation treasury, known in German hymnology as the Kernlieder/core songs. I found their work intriguing and was happy that on their tour of the US they could be with us.
Rostock had been the city where Scandinavian parents would send their boys during the 17th and 18th centuries to get an orthodox Lutheran theological education. It was considered a safer place than other universities, so there was a strong connection with the clergy in Norway, especially from Bergen, another Hanseatic city. Dorothe Engelsbretsdatter, whose bas relief is on my front page, married her childhood sweetheart, Ambrosius Hardenbeck, from Bergen who had studied in Rostock. He had some professors, like Heinrich Müller, (1631-1675), whose works Dorothe would use in her own hymn writing. Müller's reflections on Matthew were used by J. S. Bach in his St Matthew Passion. Müller served the Marienkirche as pastor after leaving the university in 1650.
Now we were on the water. I, with Karl’s wife, and my sixteen-year old nephew, with Karl, speaking his high school German, with him at the helm. It was a moment. Although the hymn speaks about the presence of God being in his temple, the last stanza, not translated, asks God's Spirit to come and dwell in us, and "make the dwelling friendly, happy and peaceful so that wherever I walk, stand or sit, I will have you in my sight and worship you." The Spirit was with us, we were filled with joy. The memory fills me with a deep and satisfying sense that God was present in that hour. Warm conversations about work, our families, our love of the hymnody of the church, filled us all with light.
Tersteegen, the poet, grew up in what at the time was the Netherlands. A fine student, he received a good grammar school education, but his mother could not afford to send him to university so he became a weaver, all the time reading his Bible. After a time of soul searching and doubt, he experienced a dramatic conversion. He left his work and became a lay preacher for some small groups in his acquaintance. As a pietist, he basked in the presence of God. In stanza three he asks God to shine a light into his soul like the sun so it will open him like a flower bud. That is a description I might use for that afternoon. Almost blinded by sunlight, glad for the place, the time, the fellowship—life blossomed in our midst. it was easy to praise God, thankful that one could pray to be like the angels basking in God's light, eternally beholding him and each other with pleasure.
Tersteegen published this hymn in his Geistliches Blumengärtlein inniger Seelen in 1729. The hymn has eight stanzas in the original, but while Lutherans use the hymn, its mysticism does not attract them so only three or four stanzas are included in most current hymnals. And the translation could be much better. The tune by Joachim Neander who wrote "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of Creation" is well known. The meter is a special kind of verse that when justified down the middle makes a form like a chalice. The Choral Concert version takes me back to that day.
German contemporary/Feiert Jesus!/SCM Hännsler
Piano version by Gretchen Ratke/English text
Organ reflection by Michael Burckhardt
Choral Concert/Karl Scharnweber, Thomas Klemm, Wolfgang Schmiedt