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Appreciating Our Lutheran Hymns

Oh, that I Had a Thousand Voices

Hymn of Praise to the Trinity

#243 in The Lutheran Hymnal

Our annual pilgrimage from Clarkston, Wash. to Eau Claire, Wis. takes us over Lolo Pass on the Idaho/Montana border. Lolo is a continental divide; to the west, rivers flow to the Pacific; to the east, they flow to the Gulf of Mexico.

Trinity Sunday serves as such a divide in the church year. It marks the end of the “festival” half and the beginning of the “non-festival” half of the calendar. It is a vantage point from which we can look back at what we have seen our Trinity God do for our salvation, and also look ahead to growing in that knowledge, producing God-pleasing fruits of faith.

This month’s hymn, written by Johann Mentzer in 1704, fits the bill quite nicely. In stanzas 2 through 4 Mentzer pens his praise to the three-in-one God for His work on our behalf: to the Father, Creator and “Guardian kind and tender,” who “freely for my use supplied” “all the noble joys I find”; to the Son “whose compassion Did bring Thee down to ransom me”; and to the Holy Spirit “Whose holy pow’r and faithful teaching Give me among Thy saints a place.”

In the verse chosen by The Lutheran Hymnal editors to end this part of the hymn (see TLH #30 for more stanzas), Mentzer looks ahead. He finds in God’s loving creation, redemption, and sanctification more than enough motivation to live a life of praise no matter what the future may bring: “Shall I not praise Thee evermore And triumph over fear and sadness, E’en when my cup of woe runs o’er?”

His words are given added depth when we consider that Mentzer might have been moved to pen these words when a nearby farmhouse was destroyed by lightning. How blessed it is for us and him to realize, as did Job, that “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!”

No matter what tomorrow may bring, still praises to our God we’ll sing; for His compassion of the past, will keep us long as earth shall last!

–Pastor Paul Krause