Music for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Lo, God Is Here! Let Us Adore – Text: Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769); tr. John Wesley (1703-1791) / Music: J. H. Schein (1586-1630)
Our first hymn this morning, Lo, God is here! Let us adore, is the translation by John Wesley (1703-1791) of a poem by the German Reformed religious writer and hymnist Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769). A Pietist, Tersteegen was well known for his deeply spiritual sermons. People crowded into his home to hear him speak of the things of God. Along with collections of hymns, his works include translations of the writings of the French mystics and of Julian of Norwich. Wesley’s translation of this morning’s hymn was completed for his Hymns and Sacred Poems 1739 in six stanzas of eight lines, although in current hymnals it is generally found in centos of two or three stanzas of eight lines.
Although Wesley himself preferred the tune VATER UNSER for this hymn – found at 327 in Common Praise – the same hymnal also offers it set to ST CATHERINE (328), and the New English Hymnal uses yet another tune: MACHS MIT MIR, GOTT. The latter is the tune heard in the recording linked above. Its composer, Johann Hermann Schein was born in Leipzig, where he spent most of his life. Schein was one of the most distinguished musicians of his time, both as an original composer, and as a harmoniser of the works of others. As a hymnwriter he was not so prolific, or so noteworthy. Most of his hymns were written on the deaths of his children or friends, e.g. on seven of his children, and on his first wife. In 1616 he became a predecessor of Bach as cantor of St. Thomas’s Church, and music director at Leipzig, a position he held until his death.
Lo! God is here! let us adore
And own how dreadful is this place!
Let all within us feel his power,
And silent bow before his face,
Who know his power, his grace who prove,
Serve him with awe, with reverence love.
Lo! God is here! Him day and night
The united choirs of angels sing;
To him, enthroned above all height,
Heaven’s hosts their noblest praises bring;
To thee may all our thoughts arise
Ceaseless, accepted Sacrifice.