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14 August 2009

Hymn of the Year for St. Paul High School

Saint Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia, Missouri has been using a specially written hymn to complement each academic year’s featured Bible passage and theological theme. The 2009 – 2010 theme, drawn from Acts 19:20, is “The Word of the Lord Grows.” Pastor Bill Heine, SPLHS Dean of Chapel, allowed me the opportunity to write this year’s hymn and also invited me to preach the opening worship service this Sunday 16 August AD 2009 at 2:00 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Concordia.

I usually write hymns with a particular tune in mind. Since the Saint Paul student body includes a number of international students, many of whom are unchurched, I wanted something not overly difficult to follow. With chapel three times each week, I decided that I needed to choose a meter that offered multiple tunes. I also wanted more than four short lines, so I could have a chance to fully develop each month’s special emphasis. For these reasons, I chose 8787 D — the meter used by a number of familiar and easily sung hymns.

SPLHS Opening Service 2009-2010 School YearAs for the stanzas, the first sets the tone for the entire hymn — and for the year’s Scriptures. It shows the connection between each Person of the Trinity and the Word. It concludes with a prayer that the Lord would bless and strengthen each of us through this word.

The next ten stanzas focus on the monthly emphases. The thematic development over the year follows the Word’s work in our lives and our response to it. In choosing these themes, Pastor Heine was mindful of our secular, academic, and liturgical calendars. Therefore we seen Thankfulness as November’s emphasis, December’s Advent – Christmas theme is Hope, and in March, Repentance covers much of Lent. For April and Easter, we have Conviction, in the sense of strengthened trust and May places the Word — and the students — In the World.

Sword of the SpiritStanza 12 was written for the beginning of the academic year and will be sung during the opening service. I tied the school name and some of the campus symbolism involving Ephesians 6 to our theme, encouraging students and faculty to wield the mighty weapon of God’s pure Word throughout the year.

The year closes with Stanza 13, a prayer that we would remain united in faith through the power of the Word. By this time, life-long friendships have taken root and grown. More importantly, the Word of the Lord has been increasing in each of the students and faculty. This growth will continue mightily, not only in them but also through them, as their paths lead away from campus throughout the days ahead.

God willing, many of the students will be return next year. A number of others, including some two dozen Norwegian juniors and other international students, will leave not only school but also this country, perhaps never returning to the States, let alone Concordia. Meanwhile, the graduates scatter across the country and the globe. The celebration of graduation and the sadness of not knowing if they’ll see each other again in this life lead to a prayer not only for earthly unity of hearts and minds but also an abiding unity in the Faith that leads to eternal life.

The song concludes with a simple doxology offering praise to the Triune God and eternal alleluias for His Word.

Father, Author of Creation
Saint Paul Lutheran High School
2009-2010 Hymn of the Year

8 7 8 7 D
Text by Walter P. Snyder, 1957–

  1. Introduction: The Word of the Lord Grows

    Father, Author of Creation;
    At Your Word the world was made.
    Jesus Christ, God’s Word Incarnate,
    By Your death our ransom paid.
    Through the Gospel Word, O Spirit,
    You work faith and guide our way.
    Bless us with Your Word of power,
    Set it as our strength and stay.

    Acts 19:20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

  2. August: In Us

    In Christ’s Church we hear the message
    Of salvation from above;
    Into ears the Spirit opens,
    Flows Christ’s mighty Word of love.
    In our hearts and minds it prospers,
    From sin’s bondage grants release.
    In its increase we find healing
    Of the guilt that robs our peace.

    Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

  3. September: Faith

    Abram heard Your Word and answered,
    Sojourned in a far-off land.
    Firm in faith, he offered Isaac;
    In response You stayed his hand.
    Princes, peasants, priests, and prophets,
    All the myriad saints of old —
    Lord, their witness may we follow,
    And Your Word with like faith hold.

    Romans 4:16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring — not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

  4. October: Wisdom

    Fear of You, O Lord, brings wisdom
    As we heed Your Word of might.
    Keen perception increase in us,
    Turn our paths from wrong to right.
    Knowledge, wisdom, and discernment —
    For this wealth lead us to yearn,
    That, while on this earth we wander,
    Evermore Your will we learn.

    Romans 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

  5. November: Thankfulness

    Thankful e’en while chained in prison,
    Your apostles sang and prayed.
    Strengthened by Your Word of power,
    They were not by death dismayed.
    Give us increase of Your Spirit
    As we hear Your Word proclaimed,
    That for all things we would thank You,
    Praise You, and adore Your name.

    Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

  6. December: Hope

    Oft since mankind fell in darkness
    Into sinning foul, perverse,
    Through the prophets’ words You promised
    Hope of ending sin’s dread curse.
    Hope’s fulfillment, born of Mary —
    Your own Son, the King of Kings —
    To us wretched heirs of Adam
    Light and life eternal brings.

    2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

  7. January: Humility

    Lord, our pride of self bears fruits of
    Wicked thoughts and words and deeds;
    Too oft on ourselves we focus
    And ignore each other’s needs.
    Send Your Word to cleanse vainglory
    From our hearts, that we may be
    Servants of the poor and helpless,
    Free from shameful vanity.

    2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

  8. February: Compassion

    Openhearted, Jesus pitied
    Sheep who wandered shepherd-less:
    Healed, forgave them, fed the hungry,
    And their children did He bless.
    His compassion grow within us —
    Hearts of mercy, lives of love —
    That the needy whom we comfort
    Know through us their God above.

    2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open.

  9. March: Repentance

    Holy God, our sins oft grieve us,
    Guilt and consequence bring strife;
    Yet no earthly sorrow leads to
    Change of heart, forgiveness, life.
    Lord, Your Word brings true repentance,
    Hearts renewed, and straightened path.
    Grant us faith in Christ’s forgiving
    Sacrifice that stills Your wrath.

    2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

  10. April: Conviction

    “Did God truly ban your eating?”
    Satan asked in Eden fair.
    Mourning Jesus’ crucifixion,
    Faithless Thomas learned despair.
    Oft, like Adam, Eve, and Thomas,
    We forsake and doubt Your Word.
    When conviction wanes and wavers,
    Lord of life, grant faith restored.

    2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

  11. May: In the World

    As into the world You send us,
    Set Your Word as our sure guide.
    Through its might increase and strengthen
    Faith in Christ the Crucified.
    Lord, You prosper earthly learning;
    Even more our spirits bless.
    Grant that we, Your Word possessing,
    In all things Your name confess.

    2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

  12. Beginning of School Year: Sword of the Spirit

    Saint Paul wrote by inspiration
    That we bear the Spirit’s sword
    When we hold by faith the weapon
    Of Your mighty, holy Word.
    Grant its increase, Lord almighty,
    Shower grace upon this year.
    Bless our teaching and our learning,
    Keep our words and actions pure.

    Ephesians 6:17 Take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

  13. Baccalaureate and Graduation: The Guiding Word

    In Your name the school year closes,
    Hear the prayers we offer You.
    In Your Word may we be guided
    Throughout all we say and do.
    As, with joy and sorrow mingled,
    We, Your children part our ways,
    Let our path remain united
    By Your Word throughout our days.

  14. Doxology: Praise and Thanks for the Word

    Alleluia, holy Father,
    Throned in pow’r and might above —
    Crucified and risen Savior,
    Jesus Christ, You reign in love —
    Holy Spirit, faith’s Creator,
    Comforter and Counselor —
    For Your saving Word we offer
    Alleluias evermore.

Hymn text © 2009 Walter P. Snyder. May not be used or reproduced without permission.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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