Plaintive Is the Song I Sing

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Our songs and prayers include honesty before God in which we express the pain we experience over our own sins and failures, the difficulties in both our lives and others’ lives, and our laments at the suffering and brokenness that marks our world and our lives. We have assurance, says Belgic Confession, Article 26, that Christ, our intercessor, will hear us, “since he suffered, being tempted, he is also able to help those who are tempted.”


We are encouraged to approach the throne with boldness so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Belgic Confession, Article 26, based on Hebrews 4). “We grieve that the church…has become a broken communion in a broken world” (Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 40).

We also “lament that our abuse of creation has brought lasting damage to the world we have been given...” (Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 51). And we cry to God for those who suffer in our world, knowing “that God…is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged...” (Belhar Confession, Section 4).


Plaintive Is the Song I Sing

Additional Prayers

Optional prayer of lament in circumstances of injustice
Loving God,
we pray these ancient words
in the middle of our own despair…
We long for the justice and peace,
righteousness and mercy
that only you can provide.
Free us from revenge,
and teach us to trust in you,
through Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
— Lift Up Your Hearts (http://www.liftupyourheartshymnal.org)

Optional prayer of lament in solidarity
with others who experience injustice
Almighty and loving God,
We pray these ancient words
in solidarity with those in our world
who suffer from injustice…
Encourage us in our ministry
of prayer on their behalf,
and strengthen them with courage and patience.
Send your Spirit to bring about
the fullness of your coming kingdom,
in which justice and peace will embrace.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
— Lift Up Your Hearts (http://www.liftupyourheartshymnal.org)

Optional prayer for use with Psalm 7
in conjunction with biblical narratives
about injustice (e.g. 2 Sam. 16)
Almighty God,
as we open your Word today
and sense the struggles and foibles
of your ancient people,
teach us by your Spirit what it means
to walk in the way of righteousness.
As we pray these ancient words
help us be faithful and honor you even as
we face our own struggles and challenges.
May your kingdom come
in all its fullness,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
— Lift Up Your Hearts (http://www.liftupyourheartshymnal.org)

O righteous God, remove from our lives all duplicity.
Help us to disentangle guilt from grief so that we may truly confess our sins
and then walk in paths of righteousness, peace, and joy,
following the way of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

Plaintive Is the Song I Sing

Tune Information

g minor



Plaintive Is the Song I Sing

Hymn Story/Background

NUN KOMM DER HEIDEN HEILAND is a chorale derived from a chant. Among the simplest of the Lutheran repertoire, it is framed by identical lines–1 and 4. Sing the entire hymn with antiphonal groups (the practice its original Latin author, Ambrose, strongly promoted). Play this music in two long lines to match the couplet structure of the textual lines.
The tune dates from a twelfth- or thirteenth-century Einsiedeln manuscript. Presumably by Johann Walther, the adaptation of the tune was published in the 1524 Erfurt Enchiridia. Johann S. Bach used the tune for preludes in the Clavierübung and Orgelbüchlein and in his cantatas 36 and 62.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Norman J. Goreham (b. 1931) is a presbyter in the Methodist Church of New Zealand. Born and educated in England, he developed a love of Christian hymns as a boy during the Second World War, when, his mother, a devout woman, would sing hymns to her family during air raids to keep everyone’s spirits up. However he did not start writing hymn texts himself until he retired.
Ordained in 1958, he served in England, West Africa and the United States of America before taking up residence in New Zealand in 1976. He holds honors degrees in theology from two British universities, is married and has two adult children and two adult grandchildren.
He was the winner of the 1977 contest for a hymn to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators and a co-winner in the 2011 Macalester Plymouth Hymn Contest.
Other hymns and psalm settings of his have appeared in Hymns for the Journey (Gemini Press International), Singing the New Testament (Faith Alive Christian Resources), Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship (Faith Alive Christian Resources) and Gifts in Open Hands: More Worship Resources for the Global Community (The Pilgrim Press).
— Norman Goreman

Composer Information

The harmonization comes from Seth Calvisius's Hymni Sacri (1594). Originally named Seth Kalwitz, Calvisius (b. Gorsleben, Thuringia, Germany, 1556; d. Leipzig, Germany, 1615) became known as the leading music theoretician of his time. He was educated at the universities of Helmstedt and Leipzig and spent much of his life teaching and writing about music history and theory. He taught at the Fürstenschule in Schulpforta from 1582 to 1594 and at the University of Leipzig from 1594 until his death. He also served as cantor at several churches. In addition to his theoretical work, Calvisius wrote psalm and hymn tunes and anthems, and he edited the first hymn book published in Leipzig, Harmonia cantionum ecclesiasticarum (1597).
— Bert Polman
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