by Dcs. Carolyn Brinkley
Our hymnal is a treasury of devotions. Although we mainly think of hymns in the context of corporate worship, they are also perfectly suited for devotional use in the home for both family and private daily worship. Hymns are prepackaged succinct poetic meditations that can be sung, spoken, and prayed. These hymns/devotions have been and continue to be composed by the Church’s great theologians, from Ambrose of Milan, Luther, and Gerhardt to Franzmann and Starke.
What makes hymns suitable for meditation? In essence hymns and devotions are the same. Both are based on the truth of Holy Scripture. Both proclaim Law and Gospel. Both teach an aspect of God’s plan of salvation. Both teach who God is and who we are. Both center on Word and Sacraments. Both point to the cross and the forgiveness of sins. Both make application to our lives today and express faith’s response to God’s mercy.
Hymns are excellent devotions for the Church Year. They entwine our lives with the life of Christ. They enable us to savor the various seasons on a daily basis from our Lord’s incarnation, birth, baptism, ministry, transfiguration, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension to His return on Judgment Day. In hymn devotions our lives are encompassed in the full circle of Christ’s redemptive work.
Hymn devotions teach doctrine. If you want to know what we confess as Lutherans, check out hymns. We sing what we believe and we believe what we sing. All of the teaching of Holy Scripture can be found in our hymnody. The Lutheran Service Book provides a great resource by listing Scriptural references foundational for each hymn.
Using hymns as devotions helps to review the previous week’s divine service and/or prepare hearts for the upcoming Sunday. This is especially important for little children. It gives them opportunity to participate in worship as they hear familiar refrains of alleluias sung around the supper table or as part of bedtime rubrics and rituals.
Hymns are devotions that engrave themselves in our hearts and minds. The rhyme and rhythm of poetry wedded to music makes words memorable. Hymns are devotions that we carry with us. They become part of the fiber of our very being providing the comfort of Christ in all of life’s challenging and brilliant moments. Hymns are devotions that nestle in our hearts ready to spring to the tip of our tongues at a moment’s notice.
During times of uncertainty — “What God Ordains is Always Good” LSB 760
Comforting a child during the night–“I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb” LSB 740
A gathering of family–“Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” LSB 805
At the bedside of the dying–“Abide With Me” LSB 878
Joyful occasions–“Now Thank We All Our God” LSB 895
Oppressed by Satan–“God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It” LSB 594
Confession and Absolution–“Chief of Sinners Though I Be” LSB 611
Stress and anxiety–“A Mighty Fortress is Our God” LSB 656
Deaconess Carolyn S. Brinkley is the Military Project Coordinator at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN.