By Kathy Strauch
As the church, we corporately gather each week. We are active in worship. We sit, stand, kneel, confess, pray, and sing. However, it is not our verbs that give life to the Divine Service—the heart of the Divine Service is in God’s verbs, Christ’s work given to us.
As we enter into the Divine Service, we do so in song. We join our voices to sing and in our singing, confess what God in Christ has done for us.
Martin Luther describes our inclination to sing in this way, “For God has cheered our hearts and minds through his dear Son, whom he gave for us to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil. He who believes this earnestly cannot be quiet about it.”
As baptized and redeemed children of God, we cannot help but sing. Our mouths overflow with song in thanksgiving of Christ’s work for us.
Our hymns are an expression of this faith the Holy Spirit has created in us. Faith clings to Christ and trusts in Him alone, therefore, our songs and hymns reflect this confession.
Author, Chad Bird describes the function of a hymn in this way, “Their aim is to plant the Chosen Seed, Jesus Christ in the ear and in the heart. They bear the resemblance of a sermon, shrunk in length, rhymed, and set to music. Many a hymn preaches more in four stanzas than a pastor struggles to say in six pages of sermon text. And in the preaching of the hymn, the Spirit is at work through the Word to rebuke and console, to pierce and heal through the law and the Gospel.”
In the singing of Christ, the Holy Spirit is at work in us through the Word. The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Through hymnody, Christ is delivered to us through the mouths of our neighbors. Wherever Christ is proclaimed, there the Holy Spirit is at active in creating, sustaining, and strengthening faith.
The apostle Paul encourages us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).
Through song, we confess our faith together; We confess our sinful condition,
“I lay my sins on Jesus, The spotless Lamb of God;
He bears them all and frees us From the accursed load
I bring my guilt to Jesus To wash my crimson stains
Clean in His blood most precious Til not a spot remains”. (I Lay My Sins on Jesus, LSB 606)
and we sing boldly as we comfort each other with the works and promises of Christ,
“God’s own child, I gladly say it;
I am baptized into Christ!
He because I could not pay it,
Gave my full redemption price
Do I need earth’s treasures many
I have one worthy more than any
That brought me salvation free,
lasting to eternity!” (God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It, LSB 594)
We not only confess with our local congregation, but with the whole Christian church. Hymnody gives a voice to the church, a united confession of faith that echoes throughout generations. We sing with the saints and join their voices in proclaiming what our God in Christ has accomplished for us. Sing loudly, sing boldly, confessing who your Savior is and what He has done for you!
Kathy Strauch is a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Troy, Michigan and is a graphic designer.