“Thy strong word did cleave the darkness; At Thy speaking it was done!” The brass instruments played and the people sang. A crowd was gathered in the Main Quadrangle for the beautiful outdoor Commencement ceremony. The faculty and graduates solemnly processed in academic regalia. This took place just a couple of weeks ago here at Concordia Seminary, May 20, 2022. But the same scene has been playing out on our campus — with the same hymn playing — most every spring since the 1950s.
Professor Martin Franzmann taught New Testament at Concordia Seminary from 1946 to 1969. The author of a number of hymns, he wrote “Thy Strong Word” in 1954 specifically for use at Seminary Commencement, reflecting our motto: Anōthen to Phōs (Greek for “Light from Above”). The Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns notes that this Franzmann hymn was “sung as a processional hymn at Concordia Seminary commencement exercises every year from 1955 to 1997 and several times thereafter.” It has also been sung frequently during the fall at the Opening Service of the Seminary’s academic year. And, of course, it has become a beloved hymn not just here at the Seminary but throughout our entire church.
A strong word, indeed! God’s Word is powerful! In the beginning, God’s Word pierced the darkness and set the whole world in place, with its ordered seasons. God’s Word shines with the powerful light of Christ’s Gospel, bringing us life and declaring us righteous in God’s sight! As the mighty Word and saving Cross of Christ shine upon us, our lips are opened in praise and our songs are filled with glad alleluias — without end.
What a joy it is to serve together and share together in the work of Christ’s Gospel, in the mission of our Lord. Even now, a new class of Seminary graduates is loading up and moving away from campus. They go forth to speak the strong Word of our God. They go forth in the strength that God’s Word will give them. There is so much darkness and weakness in this world, around us and within us. But Christ is strong; His Word is strong. He will carry us, even as He calls us to carry His Word to others.
Give us lips to sing Thy glory,
Tongues Thy mercy to proclaim.
Throats that shout the hope that fills us,
Mouths to speak Thy holy name.
May the light which Thou dost send
Fill our songs with alleluias,
Alleluias without end! [Lutheran Service Book 578, verse 5]
Every blessing in Christ,
Dr. Thomas J. Egger