Teaching the Faith with Catechism Hymns

Music is a wonderfully underrated teaching tool. Think back to your childhood. Can you remember singing your ABCs? What about the catchy tunes from Schoolhouse Rock!, which covered history, math, science, and grammar? It’s not surprising that many educators use music to help their students learn and memorize curriculum.

Martin Luther was extremely familiar with the concept of music as a teaching tool. In fact, Luther wrote six catechism hymns, one for each of the Six Chief Parts of the Small Catechism. He knew that by putting the words of Christian doctrine next to a hymn tune, it would help the people to remember the words and their meaning more easily.

One and All Rejoice, the brand-new children’s hymnal from Concordia Publishing House, includes all six of Luther’s original catechism hymns. But it also features several new catechism hymns written by gifted, modern hymnwriters. Additionally, many of the tunes for these new catechism hymns were created by present-day composers. The new catechism hymns are not meant to replace Luther’s hymns. Rather, they are meant to enhance and enrich the breadth of Lutheran hymnody to teach the Christian faith. Use of the hymns is encouraged not only in classrooms but in chapel services and the Divine Service too. Teachers may also choose from the catechism hymns for Sundays when the children’s choir is scheduled to sing for services.

Hymns to Study the Ten Commandments  

“These Are the Holy Ten Commands”—Luther wrote this hymn in 1524 to help the people learn and understand the importance of the Ten Commandments. This hymn has twelve stanzas and covers each of the commandments. It is helpful for study of the Ten Commandments.

“On Budding Hearts, God Wrote the Law”—This new catechism hymn features text by Stephen Starke and music by John Behnke. It is also useful for teaching the purpose of the commandments. Stanza six offers an explanation of God’s Law which can be useful in classrooms:

God’s Law—a curb, our guard from sin;

God’s Law—a mirror, shines within,

So that from sin we turn away;

God’s Law—our guide from day to day.

Hymns to Study the Creed

“We All Believe in One True God”—Luther’s original hymn is based on a medieval hymn that speaks of the Nicene Creed in a single German stanza. Luther expanded the text to include three stanzas of the Creed: one for God the Father, one for God the Son, and one for the Holy Spirit. It was, and remains, an imperative hymn for teaching the Holy Trinity.

“I Believe”—This newer hymn includes text from Kelly Klages and music by David von Kampen. The catechism hymn devotes one stanza to each member of the Trinity, and the final stanza gives glory to the Triune God. This hymn can be used in place of speaking the Creed during chapel or Divine Service as well as for basic study of the Creed.

Hymns to Study The Lord’s Prayer

“Our Father, Who from Heaven Above”—This beautiful hymn is Luther’s breakdown of the Lord’s Prayer. He follows a petition and explanation pattern for almost all of the nine stanzas. The hymn is excellent to help students who are studying specific petitions of the Lord’s Prayer or the prayer in its entirety.

“Father in Heaven”—The text for this catechism hymn comes from Stephen Starke. It can be sung instead of speaking the Lord’s Prayer during chapel or even by a children’s choir as part of the Divine Service.

Hymns to Study the Sacrament of Holy Baptism

“To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord”—Luther wrote this hymn in 1541. It explores both Jesus’ Baptism and God’s saving work for Christians through the sacrament of Holy Baptism. It can be used for the celebration of Christ’s Baptism or the study of Holy Baptism.

“Go and Baptize All the Nations”—This new hymn has text by Lisa Clark and music composed by Kevin Hildebrand. Although it is appropriate for use during Baptisms, it can also accompany the Baptismal Remembrance liturgy, the study of Holy Baptism, and lessons about the Great Commission.

Hymns to Study Confession

“From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee”—Luther’s catechism hymn paraphrases Psalm 130, which speaks about deep remorse for sin and the affirmation of forgiveness through Christ. It is useful for the Reconciliation liturgy or Ash Wednesday.

“When the Heart by Sin Is Broken”—The simple, powerful text by David Rogner is another honest confession to God. The hymn can be used for Ash Wednesday or the study of Confession.

Hymns to Study the Sacrament of the Altar

“Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior”—Luther examines the Lord’s Supper in this ten-stanza hymn. It is useful for Holy Thursday or any celebration of Holy Communion, as well as the study of the Sacrament of the Altar.

“A Blessed Feast of Highest Good”—This modern catechism hymn uses text by David Rogner and music composed by Jeffrey Blersch. It is suitable for classroom or confirmation studies on Holy Communion, for Holy Thursday services, or any other time that Holy Communion is observed.

Want to bring all of these hymns to your home or classroom? Order the new children’s hymnal below. 

Order One and All Rejoice

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Written by

Jacob Weber

Jacob Weber is the associate editor of music/worship at Concordia Publishing House. A prolific composer, Jacob holds degrees in church music (organ) from Bethany Lutheran College and Concordia University Wisconsin. Previously, he served as kantor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Dearborn, Michigan.

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