A couple weeks ago now we started going through a study on Lutheran music called Singing the Faith in our Sunday Bible Hour. It’s a video presentation that discusses the history and background and theology of Lutheran music. It is very well done.
The first Sunday we covered the first part, on the hymns of Martin Luther and the first Lutheran hymnals of 1524. One point that didn’t actually make it into the video (it was in the intro video) was that the first hymnals were not primarily church books, but household books. That is so different than today, when hymnals aren’t always even used in church, much less in the home. But it wasn’t just the Lutheran hymnals of the 16th century that were intended to be used in the home. This picture is from an old WELS hymnal. It doesn’t have a date on it. But notice that the intention is spelled out clearly: "Songbook for church, school, and house" (This might also remind us of the importance of Lutheran elementary schools in teaching music.)
I think that if we are to carry on the rich heritage of music that sings the faith, the music must extend beyond a weekly worship service. Whether that comes from a hymnal in the home or not, at the very least, our own exposure to this music must be more than the 3 or 4 hymns we sing on a Sunday.
This idea is not new to me. We always did a lot of singing at home. And that is something I’m sure they learned from their parents. Singing was a part of everyday life. Grandpa sang hymns while he milked the cows. Mom sang hymns to wake us up in the morning and to put us to sleep at night.
My point here is that if we are to pass on our musical heritage, I think that our hymnals—or at least the hymns—need to be used as those early hymnals were intended: for church, school, and home.