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HYMN 49 Out of the Depths I Cry To You

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

German: Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir

Norwegian: Av dypest Nød

Psalm 130

1. Out of the depths I cry to you: O Father, hear me calling,

Incline your ear to my distress

In spite of my rebelling.

Do not regard my sinful deeds,

Send me the grace my spirit needs,

Without it I am nothing.

Martin Luther in 1520

2. All things you send are full of grace; You crown our lives with favor. All our good works are done in vain Without our Lord and Savior. We praise the God who gives us faith And saves us from the grip of death: Our lives are in his keeping.

3. It is in God that we shall hope, And not in our own merit. We rest our fears in his good Word And trust his Holy Spirit. His promise keeps us strong and sure; We trust the holy signature Inscribe upon our temples.

4. My soul is waiting for the Lord As one who waits for morning: No watcher waits with greater hope Than I for his returning. I hope as Israel in the Lord; He sends redemption through his Word. We praise him for his mercy. Tr. Gracia Grindal 1975

MEDITATION One of Luther’s first hymns, this speaks for many of us just now as we wonder when we will be freed from the quarantine. Beginning with a very close paraphrase of Psalm 130, Out of the depths, Luther meditates on our desperations, and then our failings, not far from the Psalm. From there he moves to his sermon—we can wait on God with hope and then resolve to live in that hope.

Hope requires patience, it is a fruit of the spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22

All of these can be in short supply during these times as we try to live in close quarters with others or even with ourselves. This is one reason we tell stories to each other about bad times in the past. We need to remind ourselves of times when things that seemed irredeemably hopeless did work out for good. We need hope.

While we do sing about waiting in hope, we rarely sing specifically about patience in our hymns. When my father was recovering from a terrible head injury he sustained in a car accident, we did not know how long it would take for him to recover, if at all. By the third week in the ICU, we were beginning to lose hope. There was nothing we could do but wait.

One day, while he was trying to figure out how the fork in his hand could get to his mouth, I came to him with an old hymn he learned as a boy. “Talmodighed behøves,/Naar troe og haabet skal/Ved megen trængsel prøves/I denne jammerdal”—"patience is needed when faith and hope are tried by many troubles in this vale of tears.” It was a Dano-Norwegian version of a neglected Paul Gerhardt hymn, "Gedult ist euch von nöhten."

He looked at me intently, his grey-green eyes flashing. Then he said, in English, “Patience is a virtue, my dear.” I knew then that he would recover, and he did rather well for some years before he died. The long healing process required patience.

Virtues are not much talked about these days, but we are being forced to practice them now, patience, especially. It is not a virtue we have honored much in these days of instant gratification. Now we are being forced to revive our practice of patience as we hope for the ending of our sheltering in place.

Our late April garden

Many of you are now sitting at home feeling time drag, taking walks, maybe going into the garden, preparing the soil for new growth, fruit and vegetables to eat. Gerhardt has medicine for our impatience. In the eighth stanza of his hymn, he recommends that "when time seems to drag we take a walk in the herb garden of the Word where with songs and deep sighs we can pluck the herbs that will heal our wounds." Today take a leisurely walk through God’s garden, his Word, singing and sighing. Find healing there. As Luther says, “He sends redemption through his Word/We praise him for his mercy.”

HYMN INFO When Luther began writing hymns, he wanted to make the language of the faith speak

Aus tiefer not from the first hymnal by Luther 1524

directly to the people in their language. This hymn appeared in what could be called the first Lutheran hymnal, Etlich christliche lieder Lobgesang und Psalm/Eight Christian Songs of Praise and Psalms, 1523. It served as a kind of example, or teaching tool, to show other writers how to write evangelical hymns. Luther used this hymn for his Singing Catechism, in the Confession and Forgiveness section. It was sung at Luther's funeral becoming the funeral hymn for Lutherans for many years. Luther is credited with the tune as well. J. S. Bach used it as the basis for one of his very first Cantatas and his better known Cantata BWV 38, "Aus Tiefer Not."


English version

A lovely singing of the hymn in German by Vox Luminus

Stuttgart Bach Choir First number in Bach's cantata "Aus Tiefer Not"

The entire Bach cantata "Aus Tiefer Not"

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