Hymns to Learn

I have a catechism which belonged to my great-great uncle, Fred Schindeldecker. He was confirmed in 1891. The catechism is an 1889 Dietrich Catechism. On the final pages of the catechism, there is a list of hymns and hymn verses which are important to learn. There is a list for lower grades, and one for middle and upper grades. The list for the lower grades lists a handful of hymns per season of the church year. The second list identifies a single hymn for each Sunday of the church year.

In the PDF file linked below, I have reproduced the list, noting the English title and the corresponding hymn numbers in various Lutheran hymnals. Some hymns are not found in any of these, while many are found in all of them.

Hymns to Learn (1889 Catechism)

Previously, I had created a similar list of hymns, also corresponding to the historic church year. A good number of the hymns were the same, and some even fell on the same Sunday. This list in the catechism includes more hymns that don’t necessarily tie to the Sunday, but includes more hymns for evening, trust, and death and dying. I would like to now go through both the lists and take the best of both.

The idea behind a list like this is having a hymn that can be sung and learned in the home. It may or may not specifically connect with the Sunday’s emphasis, but over the course of the year(s) tries to cover all the topics and themes of the Christian faith, much like the catechism itself.

Lord, Have Mercy

Our practice of home devotions has evolved over the last several years. Naturally, as the children have grown, our devotions have grown as well. The tricky thing, I suppose, with a family that spans several ages, is to find something that engages the older kids and that the little ones can also participate with. We’ve tried Bible story books (some have worked well) and devotional books (not as well, because they’re usually written for a specific age group).

We take time for this at bedtime, so nighttime prayers have always been included. “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and Luther’s evening prayer. Sometimes we have also sung hymns, at devotion time or after the kids were in bed. But I was seeking something more. Perhaps, I thought, we could follow something like Luther’s orders for morning and evening devotion in the Small Catechism (which I have written about here). Or, perhaps we could use elements of hymnal services like Vespers (Evening Prayer) or Compline (Prayer at the Close of Day).

So I compiled two brief orders of evening devotion, one based on Vespers and one on Compline. It’s quite abbreviated, so that each one fits on a half sheet of paper, front and back. It has actually worked rather well. The kids were already familiar with music for Compline, and the short responses for both of them.

I have long maintained that a strength of liturgical worship is how it allows even little children to participate through the rich repetition, especially with brief responses like, “Lord, have mercy, “Alleluia,” and “Amen.” I should not have been surprised to find that this same strength applies to worship around the family altar.

It seems that the kids’ favorite part of these devotions are the prayers in our “Evening Prayer” order. It is very similar to the Kyrie on p. 59 in Christian Worship, though I took some of the petitions from its counterpart in the Lutheran Service Book. The response is the same every time: “Lord, have mercy.” Isaiah (4) and Miriam (2) sing it the loudest. It’s simple enough for the youngest to participate fully, but these words are so far from being trite or trivial.

Agnus Dei Video

A couple years ago I posted an audio clip of the men of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary singing the Agnus Dei during Lent. This evening I added a few pictures to the audio and I post it here for your devotional use this holy week.

A couple notes about some of the photos in the video:

  • The stained glass image of Christ as priest and king used to be in the Seminary chapel, before it was remodeled my senior year. The window was in the front and center of the chancel, so it was a place students’ eyes naturally focused during songs like this.
  • The photos of the processional cross from the Seminary chapel were taken by Pr. Caleb Bassett.
  • The altar with the bound lamb is in the new chapel at Martin Luther College.
  • For more information about the Cranach painting of Christ, see Pr. Paul McCain’s blog.
  • The final photo is our Paschal Candle here at Trinity, taken at Easter last year.

In this and every place

In one of the orders we use for evening devotions at home, we pray this petition:

For those who work to bring peace, justice, health, and protection in this and every place, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

Today Auntie Liz (Sara’s sister), who has been living in El Paso for a year now as a nurse at the Army hospital here, left for a six month deployment to Iraq. It has been such a blessing for us to have her here, so we are going to miss her immensely.

We are already looking forward to when she will be back in this place. But until then we will continue to call on the Lord to be merciful to her and all those who serve—in every place they may be.

The Sign of the Cross

One month ago, Pastor Dan Walters wrote a great post on his blog about the practice of making “The Sign of the Holy Cross.” He wrote about how Dr. Martin Luther encouraged the practice in these instructions in his Small Catechism:

In the morning when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Pastor Walters and I both grew up watching Kirby Puckett make the sign of the cross before he went to bat. We both grew up in the same town, went to the same Lutheran schools (a year apart), and studied from the same catechism with the same teachers. But we didn’t read these words in those catechisms, because our catechisms didn’t have these words.

Luther’s original Small Catechism of 1529 did. The Small Catechism included in the 1580 Book of Concord did. The version of the Dresden Catechism, published in 1881 by Northwestern Publishing House, had these words. But sometime before the WELS’ Gausewitz Catechism was revised and published in 1956, someone made the decision that it would be better to remove these instructional words from this book of instruction. (Someone who has access to a copy of the original 1917 Gausewitz catechism will have to confirm whether the change was made in the 1917 or 1956 version.) When the synod again revised the language of the Catechism in the early 80s and again in the 90s (to reflect language in the new hymnal), they continued to leave these words for those who read the Small Catechism in German, in the Book of Concord, or in a catechism published by another Lutheran body.

I can probably guess why they did it. It probably had something to do with the fact that this practice had become exclusively associated with Roman Catholicism. Of course, it’s not as though they had removed a major doctrinal point from the Catechism. It’s a pious practice which had probably become neglected and even associated with superstition and the false teaching and practice of the Roman church.

So our catechism simply introduced Luther’s morning and evening prayers with the Trinitarian invocation. I always thought that was odd. It didn’t make sense to me. It would have made sense if I had known that Luther was suggesting that we begin and end each day with the very same words and the very same sign used at our baptism, a constant reminder that each and every day we rise and we rest in the name of the Triune God and marked with the cross of Christ.It would also have been useful to know that Luther continued to say:

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

That would explain why morning devotions after breakfast at my Grandpa’s always concluded with the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and Luther’s Morning Prayer. Every morning. Again, Luther continues:

Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn…

Oh, it looks like Grandpa learned that from his catechism, too.

Whether or not someone actually makes the sign of the cross is not a big deal. The point is that these are some important words. They direct us to our baptism and the core of our Christian faith at the beginning and end of every day. I wish they had been left alone. I wish I had learned them earlier. I am glad to see that our new hymnal supplement quotes these words in a footnote to Luther’s prayers in a few of the devotions. I’m glad to see that some attention has been given to them in various articles and blog posts, such as the one mentioned above and those below. And I hope that someday Luther’s instructional words will be re-inserted back into a future edition of a synodical catechism.

Below is an excerpt from an article from the March 2010 issue of Worship the Lord newsletter, entitled Accuracy: Urban Legends in our Churches by Pastor Jon Buchholz, President of the Arizona-California District of the WELS.

Myth: Making the sign of the cross is a Catholic superstition.
Reality: The sign of the cross is a way for Christians to remember their baptism.

We worship in the name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit. The rubric calls for the pastor to make the sign of the cross over the people. Some in the congregation make the sign of the cross over themselves at the same time, and people think, “Hmm, Catholic visitors today?”

The sign of the cross itself, the proper way to hold one’s hand when making it, whether to go from right to left or left to right, and all the different times to make it are subjects for deeper exploration elsewhere. (Luther’s morning and evening prayers in the Small Catechism include an enjoinder to bless oneself with the holy cross. In corporate worship, appropriate times to make the sign of the cross include at the invocation, the Incarnatus (in the Nicene Creed, when we say, “And became fully human”), after receiving the Sacrament of the Altar, and at the benediction.) Suffice to say that making the sign of the cross is an ancient practice that serves a very simple purpose: It is a memory device to help Christians find comfort and strength in their baptism.

Did you think about your baptism today? Would it be helpful if you had a simple tool to help you recall each day that your old self was drowned and put to death in the waters of Baptism and that now you have been resurrected as a new creation, clothed with Christ, forgiven, and given a new identity as a child of God? Recalling our baptism gives us strength in the face of temptation, comfort in affliction, and joy in all of God’s promises sealed to us in his covenant of grace.

When you were baptized, the pastor said, “Receive the sign of the holy cross, both upon the head and upon the heart, to mark you as a redeemed child of Christ.” Then he baptized you into the name of the Triune God. The sign of the cross at the invocation can tangibly recall the name into which we were baptized and in which we worship. At the Incarnatus we remember Jesus, our brother, sharing our humanity to fulfill all righteousness. As the pastor dismisses us from the Lord’s Table, we remember that through Baptism are we worthy to receive the precious gifts of Jesus’ true body and blood. As we are dismissed with the blessing, we go in the power of Baptism, to bear Christ’s name in the world.

Certainly the sign of the cross can become a superstitious device, like an amulet or a charm; anything good can be perverted. But the simple sign of the cross can be a powerful reminder of something that we want to remember often.

Bless yourself with the holy cross, and as you do so, recall all the gifts of God’s grace!

Here are a few other articles on the same subject:

Love and Marriage

The fact that we can fall in love is a gift from God, but it has to be handled according to God’s will. The natural avenue to a marriage is through falling in love deeply and seriously.

Love is more than falling in love, however. Falling in love can be very powerful and overcome many obstacles. As long as it lasts all one can see is the good points of the one he loves. However, that’s not a tenable basis for marriage. Falling in love seeks its own objectives. It expects happiness by owning the object of its love. It naturally expects that happiness exists when you own each other. Then the problems come, however. The romance cools down. That’s when true love shows its worth. You see a lasting marriage isn’t built on infatuation but on love. God’s intention isn’t that you should be happy by getting something for nothing, by and through another person. God’s intention is that you experience happiness by making somebody else happy. Marriage contains the greatest mission in life: to be useful, a blessing, to be supportive and helpful to someone else, with whom God Himself united you to be able to fulfill just that mission. The idea is that we two, who now are one, should grow together in a devotion to each other that doesn’t seek its own objectives, but instead finds its happiness in being able to give and to share troubles, obligations, responsibilities, and decisions.

To Live with Christ: Daily Devotions by Bo Giertz, devotion for the Monday after the 20th Sunday after Trinity. CPH, 2008.

Daily Prayers

I just love beginning the day with:

O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us safely to this new day. Defend us with your mighty power and grant that this day we neither fall into sin nor run into any kind of danger; and in all we do direct us to what is right in your sight, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.

[Prayer for Grace, in Morning Praise which we sing for school chapel on Fridays.]

And ending the day with:

I thank you, my heaveny Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day. Forgive me all my sins, and graciously keep me this night. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me.

[Luther’s Evening Prayer, with the kids at bedtime.]

It certainly makes me think differently about everything that happens in between.

Let the Children Come

As I was getting ready for bed this evening, I turned to today’s selection from the book of devotions I am reading this year, called To Live with Christ by Bo Giertz. The devotions are arranged by the church year, not the calendar year. But it seems like it could have been written specifically for today, the 37th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision.

Friday after the Second Sunday in Epiphany
“Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them.” Mark 10:14

This was a severe reprimand to the disciples. They thought children should wait until they were able to understand what the sermon was all about. That would be soon enough. But the parents wanted the right thing for their children.

Being a parent is one of the greatest gifts God can give. It’s also one of the greatest tasks you could ever undertake. Having a child together allows parents to share in God’s creative work. We couldn’t live here on earth or be God’s children eternally if the parents of countless generations before us had not labored with their own children and even given their lives for their children. Now it may be our turn to bring life into the world. We cannot take this task lightly.

God put us here in an immense generational context. Of course, not everyone is called to be a parent. Not everyone gets married and is gifted with children. But if you get the chance, you can’t deny children their right to live. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? You can’t exchange the life of one child as payment for the luxuries you want to provide another. Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me.” It’s awe-inspiring. The first condition for being able to be a child of God and share all the joy that is the meaning of life, now and in eternity, is that there are people on earth who are willing to take upon themselves the task of parenting.”

One wonders just how many little children have been hindered, not just those who have been killed by abortion, but those who have never had the chance to “come to Jesus” because of a negative attitude toward God’s gift of life, marriage, sex, and children, which pervades our culture and society, of which Roe v. Wade is just one part. Kyrie eleison.

[Quote from: Bo Giertz, To Live with Christ. Concordia Publishing House: St. Louis, 2008. pp. 121,122.]