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BWV 187: Es wartet alles auf dich

An abridged sermon on psalm 104: 27-28 and Matthew 6: 31-32 put to music by J.S. Bach

In a scheme
BWV 187 - Part I (on Psalm 104):
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings
1 Es wartet alles auf dich Psalms 104:27–28 Chorus SATB 2Ob 2Vl Va
2 Was Kreaturen hält, das große Rund der Welt anon. Recitative B
3 Du, Herr, du krönst allein das Jahr anon. Aria A Ob 2Vl Va
 BWV 187 - Part II (on Matthew 6): don't worry
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings
4 Darum sollt ihr nicht sorgen Matthew 6:31–32 Basso solo B 2Vl
5 Gott versorget alles Leben anon. Aria S Ob
6 Halt ich nur fest an ihm anon. Recitative S
7 Gott hat die Erde zugericht Vogel Chorale SATB 2Ob 2Vl Va

 

In prose

PART I. Lectio and meditation taken from the Old TestamentPsalm 104

Mvt 1. = Psalm 104: 27

Es wartet alles auf dich, daß du ihnen Speise gebest zu seiner Zeit.  28 Wenn du ihnen gibst, so sammeln sie; wenn du deine Hand auftust, so werden sie mit Gut gesättigt.  (Everything waits for You, so that You give them food at the proper time. When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, then are they satisfied with goodness.)

 Mvt 2. = a free paraphrase and elaboration (Durchführung) of other elements from psalm 104

The entire creation and in particular 'all creatures great and small’ are gathered together in this psalm to praise Gods glory in creation: The mountains ((8,13, 18,32) with the birds (12,17); the floods (6-9, 25,26) with the fish (25). Man is part of it, working on it, and depending on it for ‘food’ (23) The mentioning of the ‘monarch’ in the end is the only element that is free invention, but it also makes a nice ‘bridge’ to the next association: psalm 65, because this psalm is the psalm of ‘the king’ which ends with the connection between good regiment and food for all. So the next movement is already announced, because:

Mvt 3. = almost litteral quotation of psalm 65

11 Du krönst das Jahr mit deinem Gut, und deine Fußtapfen triefen von Fett. 12 Die Weiden in der Wüste sind auch fett, daß sie triefen, und die Hügel sind umher lustig. (Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.)

 

PART II. Lectio and sermon taken from the New testament: Matthew 6:25-34

Not the gospel of the Sunday (Marc 8:1-9), but a part of the gospel of Matthew that is often connected with it (Matthew 6:25-34): Jesus’ speech about the uselessness of worrying about the earthly goods and his call to ‘trust’ in the creator: Don’t worry, be happy.. by trusting in the Lord (compare the fourth prayer from the Lords prayer). God is the creator, and thus protector and maintainer. The ‘text’ of this sermon:

Mvt 4. = Matthew 6: 31-32:

Darum sollt ihr nicht sorgen noch sagen: Was werden wir essen, was werden wir trinken, womit werden wir uns kleiden? Nach solchem allen trachten die Heiden. Denn euer himmlischer Vater weiß, daß ihr dies alles bedürfet.  (Therefore do not be anxious, saying: "What will we eat, what will we drink, With what shall we clothe ourselves?"The Gentiles concern themselves with all this. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. )

Mvt 5 and 6 can be read as the elaboration (Durchführung) on this central text, with ‘Heranbeziehung’ of some other (and the same) Old Testament bibleplaces.

Mvt 5 f.i. refers to the Old Testament expression ‘all that has Breath’ (Alles was Odem hat/hegt), which is the Hebrew way of saying: every living creature. Psalm 104 (!): 29b du nimmst weg ihren Odem, so vergehen sie und werden wieder zu Staub. 30 Du lässest aus deinen Odem, so werden sie geschaffen. (Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created) Also the famous exhortation to praise God psalm 150: Alles was Odem hat, lobe den Herren (Everything that has breath, praise the Lord) can be named. Seine Treue wird mir täglich neue (His faithfulness is renewed for me daily) is associatively referring to the Lamentations 3: 22b,23a (one of the top 10 quotes from the Old Testament).
Mvt 6. gives the personal application, worded in the first person singular. Including oneself in the adhortation makes it more easy to the listener to ‘get along’. Here the text moves away most from the ‘bible-language, idiom’ and is more coloured by the ‘sermon-language’ of 18th century christianity: general providence preaching.

Mvt. 7 can be beautifully interpreted as the summary and conclusion of the whole sermon.

Tthe first verse of the hymn is completely in line with the first part of the cantata. Yes even more: The introduction of wine and bread also can be traced back to psalm 104 (verse 15), Yes even more: the whole verse can be understood of a rhymed version of Psalm 104: 13-15: 13 Du feuchtest die Berge von obenher; du machst das Land voll Früchte, die du schaffest;  14 du lässest Gras wachsen für das Vieh und Saat zu Nutz den Menschen, daß du Brot aus der Erde bringest,  15 und daß der Wein erfreue des Menschen Herz, daß seine Gestalt schön werde vom Öl und das Brot des Menschen Herz stärke;  ( He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;  And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.)

The (right) answer to conclude all this is suggested in verse 2:  We have to praise and thank God, by living according to his commandments and glorify his name. That is the ‘true gratias’.. I hear this twice: ‘Gratias sagen’ is: ‘say thank you’. But ‘Das Gratias’ in German also refers to the thanksgiving to God after every meal: ‘Das Gratias nach dem Essen’, which by Luther once was suggested and formulated with the words of…. Psalm 104: 27-28… ‘Aller Augen warten auf dich Herre, das du gibest ihnen ihre Speise etc… followed by the Lords Prayer. (very useful and not-difficult 4-part harmonisaton by H. Schütz). Now the circle is complete..., we have returned tot the place we started from.

 

 

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Dick Wursten (dick@wursten.be)