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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






15 May 2013

Pentecost Hymn: Upon the Plain of Shinar


Babel Genesis 11:1-9 is the appointed reading for Pentecost in the One Year Lectionary and Year C of the Three Year cycle of readings. It tells of the confusion of tongues at Babel. Pentecost shows God undoing the curse of Babel as He brought the Gospel to disparate tongues through the Apostles’ preaching.

This hymn tells the story of Genesis 11 and continues it into the New Testament. Human disunity — a sign of our lack of oneness with God Himself — is undone by Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. As we are made one with God, so now God also works to unite the world’s disparate tongues into a united voice of faith and praise.

I wrote Upon the Plain of Shinar in the LM (88 88) meter but it also works as an LMD hymn. Therefore, I’ve provided versification and suggested tunes for each form and a link to a copier-ready PDF with both LM and LMD included.

LM (88 88) suggested tunes include Gottlob, es geht nunmehr zu Ende, Herr Jesu Christ, O Heilige Dreifaltigkeit, Winchester New, and Wo Gott zum Haus.

  1. Upon the plain of Shinar stood
    The sinful heirs of Adam’s fall.
    They formed and fired bricks of mud
    To raise a town with tower tall.
  2. They said, “This tow’r and city bold
    Shall serve as beacons for our race.
    Their majesty our hearts shall hold,
    To cease our straying from this place.”
  3. Their wicked, vain, and prideful hearts
    The Lord condemned: “It shall not be.
    Your evil minds pervert fair arts —
    You think yourselves to be like Me.
  4. “This unity of sinful pride
    Has led you to deep shame and woes.
    Your evil efforts I’ve denied —
    Now turn, O neighbors, into foes.
  5. “Your tongues,” He said, “Shall speak no more
    What each the other comprehends.
    Your pridefulness I do abhor;
    Be banished to the earth’s far ends.”
  6. This curse upon our fathers’ pride
    Its full and fell intent achieved.
    Mankind was scattered far and wide
    And foreign tongues were ill-received.
  7. To join the scattered tribes again
    The Son of God took human frame.
    By bloody death, through bitter pain,
    He reconciled us in His name.
  8. Then came the time for Christ’s ascent
    To God’s right hand, His heav’nly home.
    The Holy Spirit Jesus sent,
    To grow and counsel Christendom.
  9. The Holy Spirit testifies,
    “Believe in Christ; be whole again.
    Forsake fore’er satanic lies
    And live as one with God and men.”
  10. Come, join in faith, each race and tribe;
    Sing praise to God, the Father wise,
    The Spirit, and the crucified
    And resurrected Jesus Christ.
LMD (88 88 D) suggested tunes include O Grosser Gott and Tallis' Lamentation.

  1. Upon the plain of Shinar stood
    The sinful heirs of Adam’s fall.
    They formed and fired bricks of mud
    To raise a town with tower tall.
    They said, “This tow’r and city bold
    Shall serve as beacons for our race.
    Their majesty our hearts shall hold,
    To cease our straying from this place.”
  2. Their wicked, vain, and prideful hearts
    The Lord condemned: “It shall not be.
    Your evil minds pervert fair arts —
    You think yourselves to be like Me.
    “This unity of sinful pride
    Has led you to deep shame and woes.
    Your evil efforts I’ve denied —
    Now turn, O neighbors, into foes.
  3. “Your tongues,” He said, “Shall speak no more
    What each the other comprehends.
    Your pridefulness I do abhor;
    Be banished to the earth’s far ends.”
    This curse upon our fathers’ pride
    Its full and fell intent achieved.
    Mankind was scattered far and wide
    And foreign tongues were ill-received.
  4. To join the scattered tribes again
    The Son of God took human frame.
    By bloody death, through bitter pain,
    He reconciled us in His name.
    Then came the time for Christ’s ascent
    To God’s right hand, His heav’nly home.
    The Holy Spirit Jesus sent,
    To grow and counsel Christendom.
  5. The Holy Spirit testifies,
    “Believe in Christ; be whole again.
    Forsake fore’er satanic lies
    And live as one with God and men.”
    Come, join in faith, each race and tribe;
    Sing praise to God, the Father wise,
    The Spirit, and the crucified
    And resurrected Jesus Christ.
 — W. P. Snyder © 2007, 2013
May not be used or reproduced without permission

Click for a copier-ready PDF in LM and LMD.

Cross Posted: The hymn in this form, together with the suggested tunes, originally appeared on my Happenings blog.

Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.

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