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HYMN 250 My Soul, Now Praise Your Maker

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Danish: Min sjæl, du Herren love

German: Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren

Norwegian: Min sjel, min sjel, lov Herren

Swedish: Min själ skal lova Herran

Psalm 103

John Eck and Martin Luther at the Leipzig debate 1519, Gramann is Eck's secretary to the left

Text: Johann Gramann (1487-1541) Tune: Johann "Hans" Kugelmann (1495-1542)

1. My soul, now praise your Maker! Let all within me bless His name Who makes you full partaker Of mercies more than you dare claim. Forget Him not whose meekness Still bears with all your sin, Who heals your ev'ry weakness, Renews your life within; Whose grace and care are endless And saved you through the past; Who leaves no suff'rer friendless But rights the wronged at last.

2. He offers all His treasure Of justice, truth, and righteousness, His love beyond all measure, His yearning pity o'er distress, Nor treats us as we merit But sets His anger by. The poor and contrite spirit Finds His compassion nigh; And high as heav'n above us, As dawn from close of day, So far, since He has loved us, He puts our sins away.

3. For as a tender father Has pity on His children here, God in His arms will gather All who are His in childlike fear. He knows how frail our powers, Who but from dust are made. We flourish like the flowers, And even so we fade; The wind but through them passes, And all their bloom is o'er. We wither like the grasses; Our place knows us no more.

4. His grace remains forever, And children's children yet shall prove That God forsakes them never Who in true fear shall seek His love. In heav'n is fixed His dwelling, His rule is over all; O hosts with might excelling, With praise before Him fall. Praise Him forever reigning, All you who hear His Word-- Our life and all sustaining. My soul, O praise the Lord! Tr. Catherine Winkworth

MEDITATION Every Thanksgiving, before the meal, our mother would recite the King James Version of Psalm 103 in its entirety--by heart. It was her Thanksgiving devotional discipline. Simply hearing the first words “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name" brings back her mellow voice beginning the psalm and I am transported to those days. (Our hymn today is a close paraphrase of that psalm.)

We don’t do much memorizing of Scripture these days—we can google what we need—but we have lost the way those phrases make grooves in our brains and give us words to express our thoughts and feelings when we need words that are bigger and more powerful than what we could dredge up on our own. That in some ways limits the expanse of our feelings and thoughts. Not all of us have the kind of eloquence of the Psalmist, especially the King James Version translated by English scholars and poets. They understood how words could be put together to move us to higher thought and emotion than our own words could. And when they do, we come to peace, for the words of this great psalm teach us what we believe. "He healeth all thy diseases…and satisfieth thee with good things so that thy youth is renewed like the eagles.”

John Calvin thought the only song in the church should be the psalms paraphrased exactly in the vernacular because in the Psalms God teaches us how to praise him. So Calvinist hymnals were called psalters of which there were a great number. The Pilgrims, 400 years ago this fall, left England with the Ainsworth Psalter, their preferred version.

The Embarkation of the Pilgrims from Holland November 11, 1620 by Robert Walter Weir 1857

Henry Ainsworth, a Hebrew scholar, printed his psalter in 1612 with both a fine prose translation and one in verse so it could be sung. The Separatists preferred it. In James Fenimore Coopers’ The Last of the Mohicans, Natty Bumpo argues for the superiority of the Ainsworth psalter.

Psalm 1 in the Ainsworth Psalter

When Luther began his hymn writing, he encouraged writers to use Scripture, but did not insist the new texts be closely paraphrased Scripture as Calvin would later. He wanted the hymns to be more like sermons or reflections on the text. At the same time, he wrote several hymns that began as close paraphrases, but then went on to proclamation, such as "Out of the Depths," (Psalm 130) or later, "A Mighty Fortress," a sermon on Psalm 46.

This hymn is a fairly close paraphrase of Psalm 103. Written just as the Reformation was taking root among Germans, it did what Luther wanted most: made the Bible available to the masses in their own language. It is one of the finest of the hymns from the time of the Reformation and has pride of place in Lutheran hymnals of almost any nationality for its beauty and close attention to one of the most beloved psalms of all, entirely appropriate for our Thanksgiving time and all times. Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Altstadt Church in Königsberg where Gramann served

HYMN INFO Gramann attended the Leipzig debate in 1519 between Luther and John Eck, serving as Eck's secretary and strongly opposed Luther. As the debate wore on, however, he noted that Luther never made a point without referring to Scripture. Not long after he became a Lutheran. At the time he had been serving at the Thomas church where Bach would later serve, but left it in 1522 for Wittenberg to be with Luther and Melanchthon. He was a powerful preacher and stood up against the Anabaptists during the Peasant’s War at great risk to his own person. That same year, he was called to serve the Altstadt Church in Königsberg by the Margrave Albrecht V.

The music by Kugelmann is an adaptation of a folk song, "Weiss mir ein Blümlein blaue." The hymn was first sung around 1530 and appeared in Kugelmann's book Concentus Novi in 1540. Kurgelmann served the Margrave Albrecht V of Brandenburg as musician, playing trumpet, directing the musical groups and composing. He was a well regarded musician during Reformation times and worked for the Margrave at the same time as Gramann.

Copenhagen University Choir

Bach BWV 490 Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren, Vocal consort, Berlin

Heinrich Schütz’ arrangement of the hymn

Information on the Ainsworth Psalter

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