It's after Valentine's Day and we can still sing Alleluia in church, because Lent is still weeks away. Hard to believe, isn't it? The weather this week has only made it harder yet, because the only snow drifts left in my neighborhood are the remnants of snow piles next to driveways. Maybe that groundhog knew what he was talking about? (Or maybe it'll be back to reality next week, but we can still enjoy it for now!)
This week we get to open and close the service with two of my favorite hymns. The opening hymn will be "O Holy Spirit Enter In" (ELW 786), a text that seems like such a perfect opening prayer that it will also be the meditative prelude. The composer of this great tune is Phillip Nicolai. He was born a decade after Martin Luther had died, and he served as a Lutheran pastor in Germany in the late 16th century. His tunes have inspired composers ever since, particularly the chorale tune we're singing this week, which is sometimes referred to as "the queen of chorales."
Our closing hymn will be "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" (ELW 631). The Welsh hymn tune by Rowland Prichard will be well known, and the particular text here is by the prolific Charles Wesley. I think the strong 3/4 meter has a great lilting, lusty quality that makes it a joy to sing.
That upbeat 3/4 tempo will be echoed in the postlude as well, when I play an arrangement of the Easter tune "O Sons and Daughters of the Lord" by Deshayes. Despite being an Easter text, the hymn is in a minor key which may be part of why it no longer appears in our hymnal. But it's a beautiful chorale, and the setting has plenty of fun flourishes for the organ and a big ending, if you stick around for it.