hymns

Teaching the Truth in our Hymns

Joe Willmann Teaching the Faith at Home 22 Comments

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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

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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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Geri Day
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Geri Day

“Morning Has Broken” comes to mind. Many people relate this hymn to a pop song by Cat Stevens and have no idea it is in the hymn book. #789
I think.

Linda Schaefer
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Linda Schaefer

Yes, Praise and Thanksgiving, Father we offer For all thing living, Created good: Harvest of sown fields, Fruits of the orchard, Hay from the mown fields, Blossom
and wood.

Words
Guest
Words

I didn’t know the songs BUT I did know the hymn verses! The words of our hymns are awe-inspiring!🎶 They are such a comfort when in the hour of need. I thank and praise the Lord for our rich heritage of beautiful hymns! SDG!

Linda Schaefer
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Linda Schaefer

Indeed. Same here.

Terri
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Terri

Thank you. My sister has brain cancer and it is a battle. Just this week, I took a hymn that addressed some of her doubts. I added a little bit of how those verses worked in our lives. I added where the song came from and I sent it off to her. My other sister will get to read it to her this week. As I did this; it was a comfort for me. I pray it will be a comfort for my sisters and their families.

Geri Day
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Geri Day

Another hymn that is a complete sermon in itself, is my favorite, “Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus” . Aside from being well written, it has an easy ‘swing ‘ that makes it so enjoyable to sing. What better thing for a Christian than to ‘walk with Jesus’?

Linda
Guest
Linda

I wish I had done more of this when my children were young . But it’s something I can share with my grandchildren when they visit or I visit them . I have taught them to pray and hope they will enjoy as well

Elizabeth Knaus
Guest

Another great searchable resource with lyrics, audio and information about the hymn’s author/composer is http://hymnary.org/hymnal/LSB2006

Julie Akers
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Julie Akers

“They Spirit oft hath led me” should be “Thy Spirit oft hath led me” in the
first stanza cited of “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”.

Thank you for your article

Guest
Guest
Guest

As a young child I memorized many, many hymns. As an organist for over 50 years, I have played and sung these wonderful hymns over and over. My only complaint is that the words have been changed (in LSB) to several of my favorites, including Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus.

Teresa
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Teresa

So many hymns bring me to tears with emotions of singing them with my family. Time is washed away with each verse. Such comfort and reassurance can be found in our hymns that the newer church’s don’t have in their music.

Kevin Arndt
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Kevin Arndt

Repetition is the mother of learning. But I don’t know how helpful a single week will be. Introduce a song and then every few weeks sing it again. Do that for several years and it will increase the odds of sticking with you. But listen to it and sing along several times a day for as long as it stays on the charts (like teens do) and then hear it again on the oldies station (like older folks do) and it will be with you for life. BTW. Repetition can also lead to a certain deadly over-familiarity. Sometimes NOVELTY is… Read more »

Andrea Hinrichs
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Andrea Hinrichs

We have so many people with emotional and mental health problems, I like to share with them a hymn that has been a comfort to me many many times.
What a Friend W e Have In Jesus!! Another one is , I Walk Through The Garden Alone :
Jesus is always with us He wants to share our good and bad days. AND HE WALKS WITH ME AND HE TALKS WITH ME AND HE TELLS ME I AM HIS OWN !

God is love ❤️!!!

Liz Hoham
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Liz Hoham

We have been working with our 2.5 year old son; during Lent we taught him the first verse of “Christ the Life of all the Living” (LSB 420) and he asks to sing that EVERY night. We didn’t mean to, but it was helpful to teach him a hymn with a refrain, so even though he only knows the first verse he can join in the refrain when we sang it in service a few weeks ago.

Darrell Magruder
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Darrell Magruder

Another Great Article, Mr. Joe Willmann! Thank you for inspiring parents to share the hymns which reflect our Lutheran Theology!

Leila Ruth Parks
Guest

This is so true. I came to the Lutheran Church partly due to Lutheran hymns and Bach settings. Being a vocal musician, I have always loved Lutheran hymns and I’m aware that Blessed Martin taught the Faith with musical settings. I also think it is important to look, as well as the Scripture reference, to the author of the text and the year he or she wrote it. Some of our hymns go back to the 6th Century or earlier. Some are contemporary. This adds depth to our understanding. We can see that we are singing the same Faith as… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

I am 64 and the old TLH hymns are a part of me. Sometimes they pop up in my mind when needed and I still derive great comfort from them.

scott
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scott

Good article! There is a site that has words and instrumental music. It also provides all of the verses for the hymns, which many hymnals leave out.
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGAo7kbQia1CDHp-Gomg1koBfHA8lYHV9

Bschillinger37@gmail.com
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Bschillinger37@gmail.com

I often enjoy singing or humming hymns I learned in my Luth. Elem school some 60 yrs ago, and when my mom was in a Luth. Nursing home with alzheimers, she could still smile and sing along with me on in her weekly chapel services, … till even that chapel changed to the new hymnal! In my own church I now find no comfort or enjoyment in worship…my choice is the “new song” service with folk songs and drums, or the “traditional”service with all (catholic type) chanting and new unsingable songs. Its no wonder our once 3 full sunday service… Read more »

Lisa
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Lisa

Hymn singing is all but extinct in the majority of Christian schools; replaced by pop-praise music. The lessons in hymns are timeless, but I can’t seem to get our school administrators to see the value. Frankly, most kids who pick up a hymnal today have no idea how to read the stanzas. On a similar note, why isn’t CPH publishing K-12 curriculum? We’re stuck with lousy, secularized curriculum that’s no better than what the public school kids are offered. I hope that changes in the future.

Elaine
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Elaine

I agree that the pop-praise music usually lacks any clear doctrinal content. In “olden days”, we memorized many solid, comforting hymns as Lutheran grade school “memory work”. (Then they revised the hymns!) I still like opening the hymnal & seeing the Biblical source, writers & sources of tunes.