Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wonderful Love – Edmund Simon Lorenz

He often chose to name himself E.D. Mund, John D. Cresswell, or L.S. Edwards when he wrote songs, so you might be a little confused if you hunt for this fellow’s biography. He may have randomly decided to use E. D. Mund when he wrote “Wonderful Love” in 1883, but his feelings expressed in the song were anything but accidental. He may have had some conflicting emotions, if the words he wrote accurately presented how he felt, but he wasn’t afraid to expose his weaknesses. He had a wealth of knowledge and practical experience in making music, yet he seemed to recognize where he ranked when it came to saying something to God.

Edmund Lorenz’ family background no doubt played some role in his development as a hymnist, publisher, and minister, including in the thoughts he wrote in 1883. Their Russian heritage and Adventist faith were transported to western Ohio in America, where Edmund was born in 1854. After a varied higher education at two universities and two seminaries, Lorenz was soon publishing hymnals while in his 20’s, including four before he wrote his “Wonderful Love” lyrics. He was a 29-year old, who’d lived within a family of immigrants from another continent and culture, while he himself had studied and traveled in various places (including in Leipzig in Europe). So what could he be thinking as he pondered his life in 1883, and what God was to him? When he writes of God’s love, it seems as though ‘wonderful’ equals ‘supernatural’.  His lyrics’ first few words convey a sense of inadequacy, despite all his preparation for this life of musical expression to the Divine One. He describes his efforts as ‘vain’, and asks ‘who can sing…?’ in his first verse. Does that sound like a confident musician?  It must have struck a chord with his hearers though, for the hymn has also been commonly known as “In Vain, in High and Holy Lays”.  His other words in the song also show he felt God’s supernatural intervention in many ways, ways that upended his human shortcomings. Whatever these episodes were, Lorenz writes with a broad sweep that allows all of us to acknowledge the song’s truth. Our days are filled with challenges that defy our capacity to manage them. But, Lorenz didn’t dwell on the negative. Instead, he marveled over the intercession of God’s love. It says something about how to propel oneself beyond his 29th year.

Edmund Lorenz apparently was propelled forward – or rather, upward -- for the rest of his 88 years. He published another 15 hymnals through his own Lorenz Publishing Company or through collaborative efforts with several others up until 1937. Some might note that he wrote lyrics for only a handful of songs, and the music for just a few dozen others. But, he must have seen and appreciated hundreds and even thousands of others in all those hymnals that he helped bring to fruition across seven different decades of his life. How much can one know of God’s nature? Edmund must have been asked this, or thought about it as he sang, heard, and produced music for those many years. He grew old, but maybe he’d found the way to think and behave like a youngster. Sound like a plan worth trying?    

See the following link for one of the composer’s books on music in the church:  

See following for some biographic material on composer:

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