Not Lost in Translation

I will speak of your testimonies before kings, / [O Lord,]* 

and shall not be / put to shame 

(Ps. 119:46, Reformation Day Introit)


With these words of the Reformation Day Introit, we join with Lutherans around the world in remembering and proclaiming how God accomplished wondrous things for his Church in the Lutheran Reformation. During the decades and centuries that followed, the printed proclamation and teaching of God’s Word in the people’s language has spread from the city of Wittenberg throughout all Germany, all of Europe, and now even to the distant corners of Asia. 


My role as Asia Lutheran Resource Coordinator continues this proclamation and teaching throughout the world in exciting ways. For example, one of my co-workers is a Japanese Lutheran pastor who lived and breathed Lutheran liturgical worship for many years during his study of Lutheran theology in the States. After he returned to Japan, he committed himself to making that rich liturgical heritage available in the Japanese language. The challenge of translating is one thing—the same challenge that Luther himself faced during the Reformation. But the challenge of tailoring liturgical melody and notes into suitable dress for newly translated words is also the same additional challenge Luther faced. In Luther’s words: “I hate to see the Latin notes set over the German words” (emphasis added). What he meant was that the notes and melody used for the Latin text needed tailoring to be suitable for the new syllables of the German translation.


Indeed, something must be done when, by way of an extreme example, the meaning of one English word “Praise” with one syllable requires six syllables in the Japanese translation “ho-me-ta-ta-e-yo.” For the English text, one note is sufficient for the one syllable “Praise.” But for the Japanese text of six syllables “ho-me-ta-ta-e-yo,” something must be done! The new Japanese text must have a new “musical dress” arranged “as syllabically as possible” in order to adapt a suitable number of notes to the new text. It is the text after all, that carries the theological-faith power within the beautiful dress of worshipful melody. If the text and its meaning is sacrificed to the overly-tight, old, prior, language-note arrangement, the liturgy in Japanese translation will lose some of its theological power. If however, the newly translated words retain the original meaning faithfully and are well dressed with beautiful notes appropriate to the new words, worship will continue to flourish in full theological power to proclaim and teach God’s mighty Word for generations to come.



Certainly, these are among the precious building blocks of the Church and her theology and worship that your partnership makes possible for Japan. To carry out this work we continue to rely in faith on your supporting contributions and prayers. They rise up in the presence of God as fragrant offerings of incense. Thank you for working together with us and praying according to our Reformation Day Collect for worship that God would continue to “Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth. . . .”

~Dan Jastram


Thanks, Praise and Prayers

This month we would like to give  special thanks to: 

  • You, our supporters who make this work possible, especially those who have joined during the pandemic. 
  • God, who provides network support sufficient for each day.


We Praise God for:

  • God’s  blessings of His clear teaching as witnessed in our Catechism.
  • Concord in doctrine and practice as we work with various partner church bodies.
  • Good health for our missionaries


And ask prayers for: 

  • The continuing diligent work of St. Louis Executive Director Daniel McMiller and his staff in LCMS Missionary Support, and Asia Regional Director Charles Ferry.
  • Patience and strength for accomplishing long-term goals for Asia Lutheran resources.


With God’s love and grace,
Dan and Joan

Thank you for your prayers and financial support that makes this work possible!



More than ever, the world needs the saving Word of Jesus Christ.  With your partnership we can continue this work. We encourage you to support, continue, or increase your financial support  online through our secure LCMS website:

As a congregation, you can also support us by adding us to your congregation’s mission budget as a Together in Mission partner. (Call 888-930-4438 for details.) 


 Tax-deductible gifts can also be mailed to:

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
P.O. Box 66861
St. Louis, MO 63166-6861

Make checks payable to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod or LCMS. Include “Jastram–Asia” in the memo line.

Connect with us


Rev. Dr. Daniel Jastram


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