When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory
— I Peter 5:4
The liturgical context for Cantata 104, “Thou Shepherd of Israel, Hear Us” is Misericordias Domini Sunday, informally called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Most modern readers probably associated the Good Shepherd theme with the Fourth Sunday of Easter, placing the theme of Christ the Good Shepherd at the very center of the seven Sundays of the Easter season. But the flock in Bach’s day, and almost universally from Medieval days to the 1960s, expected the portrait Jesus as the Good Shepherd on the second Sunday after Easter. The Introit declares that the “earth is full of the goodness of the Lord; by the word of the Lord were the heavens made,” declaring from the start of the service that every good gift in this world is under the auspices of the risen Shepherd. The Epistle (I Peter 2:21–25) reminds the faithful of their true calling and their identity as Christ’s sheep: “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (v. 25). The Verse (St. Luke 24:35b; St. John 10:14) and the Gospel (St. John 10:11–16) draw from John 10, declaring the good news that the Shepherd knows, loves, and even dies for His sheep. His sheep (i.e., the elect), in turn, know their Shepherd, hear His voice, and follow Him. Psalm 23 is curiously absent from the historic propers for this Sunday, but church musicians can easily incorporate it as a choral response or attendant music, as J. S. Bach (1685–1750) did with the Good Shepherd theme in Cantata 104.
Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered,
so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.
22222“There is one thing to preach, the wisdom of the cross.” These oft-quoted words of Luther come from a sermon fragment from 1515, wherein Luther was answering the question, “What shall I preach?” Hermann Sasse (1895–1976) summarizes what this means for the church, especially as she prepares yet again to ponder on Jesus’ Holy Passion: “The wisdom of the cross, the word of the cross, a great stumbling block to the world, is the proper content of Christian preaching, is the Gospel itself. So thinks Luther and the Lutheran Church with him.” To be sure, the centrality of the cross does “does not mean that for the theologian the whole church year shrinks to Good Friday.” Rather, Sasse says, it means that “one cannot understand Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost without Good Friday” (Letters to Lutheran Pastors, 1:387).
Anniversaries in Sacred Music: One Hundred Years of Singing the Kyrie with Frank Martin and Ralph Vaughan Williams
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
—St. Luke 17:13
Among the significant anniversaries in sacred music in the year 2022 are two musical settings of the Mass, both with origins in the year 1922. Frank Martin (1890–1974) began writing his Mass in 1922. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1974) wrote his Mass in G minor in 1922. Both are scored for double choir, are similar in scope and sequence, and have risen to the top of choral gems of the twentieth century. Please join me this year to explore each movement of both settings, beginning with the Kyrie, with four more issues to follow, arranged according to the seasons and readings of the church year.
On Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs:
Welcome to Around the Word
Around the Word paints a Biblical and joyful picture of teaching and life. We have our Bibles open, and we believe with simplicity what the Lord speaks there. We endeavor to have a thoughtful and generous, historical and current approach to the Lord’s word, understanding that theological integrity is the best way that we can serve the church at large.
We are Lutheran, that is, we let the Law and the Gospel echo in the full voice with which God speaks it, and we are on the lookout for error because we love to hear the truth, the life-giving voice of Jesus. So we care about their families and their neighbors and the world, both in this life and in the life to come.
We are working to recover the joy and delight of doctrine, of the Gospel.