Martin Luther described music as a treasure and a gift of God.
On Sunday, Sinai Lutheran Church will share this gift with the community during a Hymn Festival.
Area residents are invited to the musical celebration, which starts at 3 p.m. in the church at 950 E. Eighth St.
The event, which celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, will feature music by organist and nationally recognized composer David Schack of Elkhorn, church choirs and the Palladium Brass Quintet.
Theologian and author Paul Westermeyer will provide commentary in between hymns. Westermeyer is professor emeritus of church music at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., where he also was cantor and director of the master of sacred music program with St. Olaf College.
Westermeyer taught at Elmhurst College and Yale University.
Schack taught organ and piano at what’s now Concordia University in Seward. He was organist and choirmaster at First Lutheran Church in Omaha for 36 years.
He has played organ recitals throughout the country and is past dean of the Omaha chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
Schack composed the musical arrangements of all the hymns. He also composed the tune and the setting for a hymn, “Morning Mercy,” commissioned for Sinai’s 125th anniversary in 2016.
“The program is entirely made up of hymns,” said Sinai organist Claire Bushong of Sunday’s event. “The theme is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, but it’s not all Reformation-era hymnody. It covers a wide range of hymns expressing the themes of the Reformation.”
Cindi Lamprecht will direct the Sinai Adult Choir, which has about 30 members, and the bell choir. The youth choir will perform as will the Palladium Brass Quintet of which Steve Steager is a member. Steager, the tuba player, is director of bands at Fremont Middle School.
While certain arrangements specifically will be performed by these groups, those attending the event will have an opportunity to sing, Bushong said.
The entire event will be an occasion during which participants can celebrate the music of the church.
“It will be a chance to hear a wide variety of hymns on different themes,” Bushong said. “It will be a chance to learn some church history through music.”
Martin Luther is credited with starting the Reformation in October 1517.
Westermeyer, who will provide commentary at the festival, said the fundamental issue of the Reformation is that people are justified by the grace of God through faith.
“One gets into the presence of God not by anything he or she does, but that God graciously accepts you and you receive this grace through faith,” he said.
Westermeyer will talk about the song of the church.
“The song is about grace and mercy,” he said. “It’s about God’s grace and mercy toward us human beings. You can’t do anything to get it. God just gives it. You can’t earn it and now we are called to do the same thing for our neighbor (give them grace and mercy).”
He noted something else:
“The song of the church is invariably about two things: glorifying God and serving the neighbor,” Westermeyer said, adding that music “has helped the church understand faith and live it out.”
Besides learning about song and the church, those who attend Sunday’s event will be able “to hear our glorious new organ played well with the support of the choirs, instruments and everyone else’s voices,” Bushong said.
The church had the new pipe organ installed in 2016. Juget-Sinclair of Montreal, Canada, built the mechanical action organ, which was especially designed for Sinai.
Builder Stephen Sinclair said no other organ is exactly like the one at Sinai and that more than 7,000 hours went into building it.
Installation of the organ, which has more than 700 pipes, was the fulfillment of a longtime dream for the church.
The church scheduled four events in 2016-17 to dedicate the organ.
Sunday’s event is part of that series.
Another event is set for 3 p.m. May 7. Michael Bauer, who has taught at the University of Kansas in Lawrence since 1987, will play a recital on that day. Bauer has performed organ concerts in the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Russia. This will be the final concert of the season.