INSIGHT FROM THE GOD’S WORD
The Significance of the Sermon Hymn
Did you know that every single Sunday of the church year has a hymn assigned to it? This hymn more often than not is right before the Sermon. It is known as the “Hymn of the Day”. This hymn will have been sung in probably 60% of Lutheran congregations on that particular weekend.
This practice of having a hymn of the day began during the time of the Reformation. Prior to the Reformation, the singing of hymns wasn’t all that common. And the hymns that were sung, were sung only by the choir. Martin Luther began the practice of singing hymns.
The purpose of these hymns were to elevate God’s name, yes. But above all, their intent was to teach. Luther understood that music was an extremely valuable tool in teaching. Think about the alphabet for example. How did you learn it? It was most likely by song. There are a great many things that we learn through song.
It is for this reason that Martin Luther focused on the practice of a hymn of the day. This hymn would serve sort of as a children’s sermon for the Gospel lesson for each Sunday. By singing the same hymn on the same Sunday of the church year, every year, children and adults alike would gradually have the theology of the church engrained into their minds. This would be a valuable tool in an age when Biblical and theological ignorance was widespread.
In our day and age, this is still a greatly valuable tool. In the Congregation at Prayer folders, each week there is a hymn of the week. The hymn of the week is usually the hymn of the day for that Sunday. The singing, reading, or praying of this hymn each day of the week will instill deep Christian truths in your heart and mind.
Take for example the hymn of the day for Reformation Day. Contrary to what one may think, the hymn of the day is not “A Mighty Fortress”. That actually is reserved for the 1st Sunday in Lent, when the reading focuses on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. For Reformation, the hymn of the day is “Salvation Unto Us Has Come”.
This hymn is most certainly a lengthy hymn, but it truly embodies the heart of what he Reformation was all about. Just read the words of the first verse:
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. (LSB 555 v. 1)
This is indeed the heart of the Reformation. The Reformation was about reinforcing that according to Scripture Alone, man is saved by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, on account of Christ Alone. This is done apart from works. “They can help and save us never”, as the hymn so eloquently states.
Martin Luther has a wonderful hymn entitled “Dear Christians One and All Rejoice” which wonderfully reflects a similar theology. The reason why “Salvation Unto Us Has Come” is such a fitting choice is because it isn’t written by Martin Luther. This serves to remind us that Reformation isn’t about Martin Luther, it is ultimately about Jesus and what he has done for us.
This is the job of the Hymn of the Day. This is why it is such a wonderful tool for the church to use. It strongly teaches to us the scriptures, the theme of the day, and builds within us the foundational truths of the Christian faith.
My encouragement to you is that before or after church each Sunday, read, pray, and meditate upon the hymn of the day for that week. Even if you are at the contemporary service. Read it with your children even. You may find it enriches your worship experience, and deepens your faith.
For your Reference, Hymns of the Day in October (Disclaimer: sometimes the hymn of the day is somewhere else in the service, or it may not be used because while theologically rich, it may be difficult to sing.):
October 7: 863 “Our Father, by Whose Name”
October 14: 694 “Thee will I Love, My Strength, My Tower”
October 21: 690 “Hope of the World, Thou Christ of Great Compassion”
October 28: 555 “Salvation Unto Us Has Come” (Reformation Day Observed)
Last Updated: 10/1/2018