1 We praise you, O God, our Redeemer, Creator;
in grateful devotion our tribute we bring;
we lay it before you; we kneel and adore you;
we bless your holy name: glad praises we sing.
2 We worship you, God of our fathers and mothers;
through life's storm and tempest our guide you have been;
when perils o'ertake us, you never forsake us,
and with your help, O Lord, our battles we win.
3 With voices united our praises we offer,
our songs of thanksgiving to you we now raise;
your strong arm will guide us, our God is beside us,
to you, our great Redeemer, forever be praise!
Worship and Rejoice
|First Line:||We praise Thee, O God, our Redeemer, Creator|
|Title:||We Praise Thee, O God|
|Author:||Julia C. Cory (1902)|
What might be most interesting about this hymn is what it is not. It isn’t a song of praise and thanksgiving for the unending good gifts God gives us. It isn’t a naïve song about how beautiful life is all the time. On the flip side, it isn’t a hymn of appeasement, as if our song is the only thing that will keep God from smiting us. Rather, this is a hymn of thanksgiving that very honestly raises the question of suffering. In the second verse, we sing, “through life’s storm and tempest our guide you have been; when perils o’ertake us, you never forsake us, and with your help, O Lord, our battles we win.” We can’t say that life is all peaches and cream. We can’t gather together on a Sunday morning blissfully unaware of the sickness, death, sorrow, bullying, and famine that pervade our land. But we can gather together to praise the God who does not desert us in the midst of these heartaches. We can, and should, come with hearts and voices lifted up before the one who suffered much so that we could have, in the midst of our trials, the fullness of life.
In many situations, a tune is written to accompany an existing text. In this case, the words were written for a specific tune. Author Julia B. Cory was approached by an organist who thought the words of the hymn, “We Gather Together,” were “militaristic and unchristian” (Lutheran Hymnal Handbook, 613), but who loved the old Dutch tune, KREMSER. So Cory wrote a new text for a Thanksgiving service at her church, and her hymn quickly became popular. This hymn is found in three-stanza form in most modern hymnals. Every hymnal has slightly different phrasing from the next, but the overall theme of each verse is the same.
KREMSER was first published with the Dutch text, “Wilt heden nu treden,” or, “We Gather Together.” The tune comes from an old Dutch folk song, and was published with the aforementioned text in 1626. The tune is simple, and the melody quite beautiful, but there is a great risk for this hymn to become plodding and boring if the melody isn’t filled out, or if it’s sung in too grand a manner throughout the entire hymn. The simplicity of the tune shouldn’t be masked by a big, sturdy sound, but rather, play in a soft, reflective manner, and grow throughout. The Dale Warland Singers have a beautiful, tranquil rendition of “We Gather Together,” which shares the tune KREMSER. This is also particularly beautiful with violin/fiddle and piano. No matter what instrument you use for accompaniment, varied dynamics are key!
Jerry Jenkins claims that the tune itself makes one think of Thanksgiving, and indeed, the text was written specifically for a Thanksgiving service. It could also be sung during the offering, or as an opening hymn of worship.
Laura de Jong, Hymnary.org