Pastor Larson’s Corner: Music that lifts the spirit

Pastor Larsons Corner

I am a person who doesn’t like a lot of drama in his movies. When choosing a movie to watch, I look for those that are fun and uplifting. Lately I have noticed that you can tell a great deal about a movie by the music chosen for the opening credits. If the music seems happy and light, you can count on the movie being the same. Music has the ability to set the mood for movies of all different kinds.

In a similar way, music in the church has the ability to set the mood in a worship service. The difference lies in the fact that church music, almost without exception, lifts our spirits. Even during the current season of Lent, church musicians will be hard pressed to find music that doesn’t lift spirits. Martin Luther knew the power of music to lift one’s spirits. Sometimes Luther would take a particularly uplifting tune from popular culture and give it powerful words. Before Luther, there was little or no congregational singing in worship. He introduced singing into worship, and it has lifted the hearts of countless worshipers ever since.

The Lenten hymn, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” exemplifies a hymn that has lifted the hearts of worshipers for over a hundred years. Here are the first two verses of that great hymn:

Beneath the cross of Jesus,
I long to take my stand.
The shadow of a mighty rock, within a weary land.
A home within a wilderness,
a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat and the burdens of the day.

Upon the cross of Jesus
my eye at times can see,
The very dying form of one
who suffered there for me.
And from my contrite heart, with tears, two wonders I confess.
The wonder of his glorious love and my unworthiness.

Pastor Larson’s Corner is written by Jerry Larson and appears weekly in the Norwegian American Weekly.

Pastor Jerry Larson retired to his cabin in Zimmerman, Minn., after 39 years in parish ministry for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In 2011 he published a book entitled “Speaking the Word Freely: Writing with purpose, preaching with power.” Contact him at

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 19, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.