We have chosen LSB 589, Speak, O Lord, Your Servant Listens, as our hymn for the AD 2022 Johntide cycle of the long Trinity season. Johntide begins with the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptizer (June 24), and continues until the Commemoration of Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (August 10). The specific focus during Johntide is on the right division of Law and Gospel in God’s Word, which our hymn beautifully lays out.1
God calls us each day specifically through His external Word, publicly proclaimed and preached by our Pastor, and privately read in our devotions at home.2 The first stanza of the hymn begins with our response to His call. We echo the words of Samuel, as taught to him by Eli the priest, when he was first called by God, as we invoke, or call upon Him, saying, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.”3 Furthermore, we call upon Him knowing that He has promised to be near to all who do so in truth.4 God’s Word is lifegiving, causing us daily to return to our Baptisms to remember that we are newly born from above, and asking His grace that we might, “emerge and rise to live before (Him) in righteousness and purity forever.”5 His Word calms our fears.6 Although the forces of evil constantly battle against God’s lifegiving Word, through that very same Word, He has equipped us with the tools to stand firm in Him.7
The second stanza of the hymn continues with a brilliant and concise description of the contrast between the response of the hardened, unrepentant sinner toward God’s Word, and that of the one who has been redeemed through our Lord’s blood shed on Calvary, and has been moved to repentance. The hardened sinner flees in terror, driven to despair by God’s Law. We who are redeemed sinners, whose consciences have been terrified By God’s Law and granted peace through His Gospel, are richly blessed, and continually yearn to hear His words of peace and pardon.8 The third stanza continues with our confession that it is through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit gives life that sustains us through this vale of tears.9 The hymn concludes with our prayer that, as we have listened to our Lord’s Word, He in turn hears us and continues to send His Spirit on us. We further pray that His Word takes root in us and that we bear abundant fruit, thus remaining His disciples, glorifying the Father, until we reach eternal joy in His presence on the last day. This prayer is that which our Lord, in His, “Farewell Discourse,” asks us to pray.10 Thus, we are free to pray with bold confidence, knowing that He has promised to grant our petition.
Speak, O Lord, Your Servant Listens was written in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War by Anna Sophia von Hessen Darmstadt (1638-1683), prioress (head of a group of nuns), and eventual abbess (the prioress’ superior) of the Lutheran convent at Quedlinburg, Germany.11 Stanzas 1-3 in LSB are a paraphrase of the German text by Pastor George A. T. Rygh (1860-1942) of the United Lutheran Church of America.12
We are thankful that you have joined with us today. We pray God’s richest blessings on you as you boldly pray as He has taught, and receive His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation in His Word and Sacrament, as He has promised.
- 2 Corinthians 3:7-9; 2 Timothy 2:15; FC SD V 1, 27
- Romans 10:14-17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17
- 1 Samuel 3:9-10; note that this connection was added in the translation paraphrase, the original German text reads simply, “Speak, dearest Jesus, speak” (Rede, liebster Jesus, rede), see Joseph Herl, “Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens,” (text commentary) in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske, Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns, Volume 1 (St. Louis: CPH, 2019) p. 663.
- Psalm 145:18
- Matthew 28:19; John 3:5; Romans 6:4; 1 Peter 1:23-25; SC Baptism Fourth; Divine Service Confession and Absolution; Dr. Luther’s Morning Prayer
- John 14:27
- Revelation 12:17; 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57; Ephesians 6:10-18
- 2 Corinthians 3:13-16, 7:10; John 20:19, 26
- John 6:63; Psalm 84:5-7, 119:105
- John 15:7-8
- Paul Heiser, “Anna Sophia von Hessen-Darmstadt,” in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske, Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns, Volume 2 (St. Louis: CPH, 2019) p. 190. For more on Lutheran convents, see David Zersen, Discovering Living Lutheran Convents in Germany, at https://www.academia.edu/26064846/DISCOVERING_LIVING_LUTHERAN_CONVENTS_IN_GERMANY (accessed 2 June, AD 2022).
- Todd Peperkorn, “Rygh, George A.T.,” in Companion, Volume 2, pp. 625-626. Through various mergers over the years, the United Lutheran Church of America is now a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).