We have chosen LSB 909, Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation, as our hymn for the 2021 Johntide cycle of the long Trinity season. During Trinitytide as a whole, we focus on the marks of the Church, and during Johntide specifically, on Law and Gospel. As explained in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, one of the confessional documents of the Book of Concord, the Church at its core is a “fellowship of faith and of the Holy Spirit in hearts,” recognized by the marks of the “pure Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. This Church alone is called Christ’s body, which Christ renews, sanctifies and governs by His Spirit.” (Ap VII and VIII, 5). Our chosen hymn beautifully expresses that which we believe, teach and confess about the Church. In the first stanza, we sing of Christ, chosen and precious, as our head, cornerstone, help and confidence, who “binds all” of us, the living stones of the Church, “in one.” In this sung confession, we echo the words of the psalmist (Psalm 118:22), Isaiah (28:16), Peter (1 Peter 2:4-10) and Paul (Ephesians 2:19-22, 4:15-16). In the second stanza, we echo King Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the first Temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 6:18-21), invoking God’s presence, His hearing our confessions and prayers and forgiving our sins. In the third stanza we continue the petition begun in the previous stanza, beseeching God to grant us His gifts of Word and Sacrament, through which He strengthens us in faith toward Him and fervent love to each other and our neighbors (c.f. Post-Communion Collect), and in the end bringing us to reign with Him in His glory (Revelation 21:1-4). We sing these stanzas boldly confident that God will provide, as He has so promised! We thus conclude with a stanza of doxology, namely praise, to our triune God, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.
The text of the hymn is a translation by the Anglican clergyman John Mason Neale (1818-1866) of the second half of an 8th century Latin hymn. Of note, LSB 912, Christ Is Our Cornerstone, is Anglican clergyman John Chandler’s (1806-1876) translation of the very same Latin hymn. The tune was written by Henry Purcell (1659-1695), who, in spite of his short life, is considered the most important English composer from before the 20th century. Purcell served as organist at London’s Westminster Abbey, hence the title of the tune.