Teaching the Truth in our Hymns

Joe Willmann Teaching the Faith at Home

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For a minute, let me engage in a little thought experiment with you. Complete the following phrases from some popular songs from yesteryear:

Don’t go chasing __________________.

I heard it through the __________________.

Bye, bye Miss _____________________.

And I would walk __________________, and I would walk ____________________.

I’ll give you a moment . . .

Are you done yet?

Now the point of this experiment wasn’t to see if you would know the words waterfalls, grapevine, American Pie, 500 miles, or 500 more. No, the point of the experiment was to show you the power that music has on our memory, and they way it helps us to internalize words. You know those phrases by heart, and if you didn’t immediately remember them, now that you see the words, you can immediately hear the song in your head as you read the phrase. And how long have these songs stuck with you? Here is when they first came out:

Waterfalls – 1995 (22 years old)

I Heard it through the Grapevine 1968 (49 years old)

American Pie – 1971 (46 years old)

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – 1988 (29 years old)

Think about how long those words above have stuck with you and you’ll see that pop music has a lot of power to stick something in our memories. Our hymns have that same power. They teach the truths of Scripture in song and word. Consider some of the stanzas from two of our timeless classics: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded and Salvation unto Us Has Come.

LSB 555: Salvation unto Us Has Come

1. Salvation unto us has come

By God’s free grace and favor;

Good works cannot avert our doom,

They help and save us never.

Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,

Who did for all the world atone;

He is our one Redeemer.

How much teaching just happened in that one stanza? The doctrine of Justification? The Gospel? It’s all there, and we rejoice over the truth that it proclaims.

Let’s look at another one:

LSB 450: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

4. My Shepherd now receive me;

My Guardian, own me Thine.

Great blessings Thou didst give me,

O Source of gifts divine.

Thy lips have often fed me

With words of truth and love;

They Spirit oft hath led me

To heav’nly joys above.

Think of how this stanza can teach us in prayer:

Lord please now receive us and keep our hearts and minds guarded in the one true faith;

You have given us your means, O Lord, through water, word, body and blood;

Allow the Holy Spirit to keep us in these truths unto life everlasting. Amen.

LSB 450: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

7. Be Thou my consolation,

My shield, when I must die;

Remind me of Thy passion

When my last hour draws nigh.

Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,

Upon Thy cross shall dwell,

My heart by faith enfold Thee,

Who dieth thus dies well.

These words give us comfort and hope in our most desperate hour.

Teaching these words to your children will help them commit to memory the truths of Scripture. Below you will find some helpful tips on how to begin teaching the words of our hymnody to your children.

  • Pick a hymn of the week for your devotional time.
    • Sing the same hymn every day at home for an entire week. This daily repetition will help your kids begin to internalize the words.
  • YouTube, YouTube, YouTube
    • Unless you are a talented pianist (or guitar player), it will be challenging to accompany your family as they sing. Use YouTube as your friend! Type the name of your hymn and see if there is some accompaniment available. You can also check out CPH Music for a new LSB hymn every week!
  • Use the footnotes in your hymnal.
    • If you look at the bottom of each hymn in Lutheran Service Book, you will notice Scripture references. You can use these passages during the week to tie into the hymn text you are learning.

I hope you will consider adding hymns to your family’s devotional life. God’s blessings as you teach the faith once for all, delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3 ESV)

Text: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded © 1941 Concordia Publishing House. Used by Permission.


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About the Author

Joe Willmann


Joe Willmann is the Senior Instructional Designer for Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, MO. A former teacher and administrator, Joe has a passion for education and learning theory. He earned his Bachelor's Degree from Ball State University and his Master's Degree from Concordia University - Ann Arbor. He lives with his wife, Nicole, his daughter Ava, and his son Carter. You can read his latest posts here.

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