Danish: Behold os, Herre, ved dit ord
German: Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort
Norwegian: Gud, hold oss oppe ved ditt ord
Text: Martin Luther (1483-1546). Tune: Josef Klug (1490-1552) Geistliche Lieder 1543
1. Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word; Curb those who by deceit or sword Would wrest the kingdom from your Son And bring to naught all he has done.
2. Lord Jesus Christ, your pow'r make known, For you are Lord of lords alone; Defend your holy church, that we May sing your praise triumphantly.
3. O Comforter of priceless worth, Send peace and unity on earth; Support us in our final strife, And lead us out of death to life. Tr. Catherine Winkworth
MEDITATION Of late, I have been reading—or listening—to books about the 1918 flu pandemic. There is much more research available today. One of the mysteries to all the scholars is why it received so little public notice over time, like memorials, statues, etc. since many estimate it may have taken more victims than the World Wars combined. There are estimates that from 50 to 100 million people died. The more people study it, the higher the estimates go. They say the flu came in three waves, early 1918, later, the most virulent when, in really twelve weeks, the largest number of people died, and then a rebound in 1919, going into 1920 as the virus mutated. It tended to take those in their twenties, the healthiest, especially pregnant women. Healthy young men could be standing beside you, cough, and ten hours later be dead with almost ebola like symptoms: bleeding from the mouth, eyes, ears, nose. Nor did it help that at this time hundreds of thousands of troops were being transported hither and yon in cramped conditions. This spread the virus with unbelievable efficiency.
People lost faith in their leadership and the media for inaccurately evaluating or reporting on the situation. The medical community was baffled and although there were heroic efforts to stop it, nothing seemed to help. Most gathering places, theaters, sports venues, schools, churches were closed, briefly. People panicked as they tried to find out what to do to protect themselves and their families. I have often wondered what the pandemic did to people of faith? In my own family histories, I don’t detect a weakening of faith. I think they took it, as did most people, as something they had to live through or die with. Untimely deaths were more common then. Whether they lived or died, they knew that they were the Lord’s.
This hymn may have been the right prayer at that time. And for now. It prays that we can be kept steadfast in the faith in such a time. To be sure the prayer does ask God to bring peace and defend his people, but what caught my attention was the prayer for us to keep steadfast. Maybe we should be praying that prayer more. Luther knew that in such a time it would be easy to lose faith. While we rightly have a list of things we are asking God to do for us, and Jesus tells us to do so, the emphasis here seems slightly different and necessary. It is easy to lose heart and slip away from clinging closely to the Word as we think of our own needs and worries. Luther helps us pray that we remain steadfast to the Word which never fails. Amen.
HYMN INFO It was 1541 and Vienna was under threat from the Turkish armies. If they made it through Vienna, all of Christendom was under threat. The civil authorities of the German states asked the people to pray for them. Luther prepared this hymn for that moment--many think it was intended for children to sing. The second line of the first stanza specifically named the “murderous Pope and Turk.” As these threats disappeared, the language was changed to what it is now. The song was closely associated with the Protestant cause and understandably forbidden in Catholic lands.
Josef Klug was a printer at the time of Luther and printed many of his works, especially the first editions of the Old Testament and then his hymnals. The tune appeared in the Lutheran hymnal Geistliche Lieder he printed in 1543. Klug also printed Luther's last hymnal, the Bapst Hymnal,, 1545. This hymn is based on a Gregorian chant, Te lucis ante terminum. It is probably the most well known of Luther's hymns after "A Mighty Fortress is our God." Bach used it in his Cantata 126 and in several other settings. Many other composers used it as well. See below. Enjoy them during your Sunday contemplations.
LINKS Concordia Publishing House version https://youtu.be/S8ViZi7M5p4
Bach Cantata BWV 126 Erhalt uns, Herr https://youtu.be/cYC-wOelb08
Buxtehude, Erhalt uns, Herr https://youtu.be/sPOEglIyjVw
Praetorius, Erhalt uns, Herr https://youtu.be/u_31Cex-zQU
Choral Concert Jazz Erhalt uns, Herr https://youtu.be/yomHZ9ixknk