I know I’m not alone when I say that during times of distress, I cling to music. I cling to melodies that I have come to love, especially melodies and lyrics that I can repeat as a source of strength. As Lutherans, hymns of comfort and strength have been passed down for generations. These hymns help each and every believer remember the Savior through music, singing praise to Him as one united body.
If you’re searching for a playlist of peaceful, comforting hymns to play during the coronavirus outbreak, look no further than the complete playlist here. Listed below are devotional commentaries for a handful of hymns, taken from Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns. Find strength, comfort, and hope through each of these in the upcoming weeks.
God Loves Me Dearly (LSB 392)
This well-loved children’s hymn offers a simple meditation on the writing of St. John, who says that “anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
In stanza one, listeners hear that salvation flows from the fact that “God is love” and that He “loves even me.” The author clearly wants to move audiences from a generalized “God so loved the world” to a personal realization of the incarnation, for every person desperately needs a Savior. The profound simplicity of the Good News comes in this line: “He sent forth Jesus and set me free.” How did Jesus accomplish this? He offered Himself and “paid all I owed.” [August] Rische echoes Luther’s Small Catechism in the final stanza, “For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” God is not simply love, but He is “Love eternal,” whose presence and blessings we will enjoy forever.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus (LSB 770)
Jesus says to His disciples, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Those words invite every believer to stand in awe and gratitude that He who reigns over all creation now treats His people, who were once His enemies, as His friends. He lays down His life for them (John 15:13), He reveals the gracious plans of God to them (John 15:15), and He promises to respond to their every prayer (John 14:13–14 and 15:7).
With rhetorical questions at the beginning of stanzas two and three, the hymnist reminds singers that tribulations fill life on earth: sometimes everyday difficulties, sometimes the kind of faith-challenging trials that [Joseph] Scriven himself endured, and sometimes the continuing struggles to live as a Christian in a temptation-filled world. No matter what the believer faces, the Savior’s concern (“Can we find a friend so faithful”) and promises (“In His arms He’ll take and shield thee”) are an invitation to pray. After all, as a human like those who pray to Him, “Jesus knows our every weakness.” In other words, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15), but one who always knows how best to answer prayer.
Go, My Children, with My Blessing (LSB 922)
The first stanza speaks to the kind of God that you and I have: a God who is at hand and not far off (Jeremiah 23:23). [Jaroslav] Vajda leaves no room for doubt on which basis the Lord claims every person as His own. It is through Baptism that the Lord places His name on His children and says to them, “You are My own.”
Beginning in stanza two, Vajda moves the singer through the Divine Service. Often, churches have the practice of “sharing the peace,” which is not a time for socializing, but a greeting in the Lord’s name and confession of the peace one has in Christ and therefore with one’s neighbor. This peace is rooted in Christ’s atoning work and in the forgiveness of sins that He won, the very peace that believers receive through faith and extend to one another.
The third stanza follows God’s worshipers as the Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacrament conclude, His people having been “fed and nourished” in both the hearing of the Word and the Lord’s Supper. Forgiven sinners are thereby set free to become “instruments for righteousness” in service to God and neighbor (Romans 6:13; 1 John 3). Christians are not left without God’s help and comfort as they go about their week. The Spirit’s activity is attendant not only throughout the Divine Service, but in the everyday life of Christians as Teacher, Comforter, and constant Intercessor for believers with “groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
Excerpts taken from Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, Vol. 1 © 2019 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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