Give thanks to the Lord and call upon God’s name; make known the deeds of the Lord among the peoples.
– Ps. 105:1
Significance of the Hymn of the Day
The song we sing near the sermon has a variety of names in a variety of worship settings: de tempore hymn, sermon hymn, and hymn of the day. Each term has a history of its own and here at St. Peter’s we typically choose the last option to describe what is going on at this point in worship. This hymn of the day, sung by all the gathered people of God, sums up the gospel message heard in the readings for the day.
As a worship staff, we often plan this hymn first for a given Sunday as it holds such a place of honor within the structure of the worship service. How might the choice to call this hymn a sermon hymn alter the way we choose this hymn? What are conclusions can we draw from our decision to call this the hymn of the day? For me, one of the most implications of using this term is that this is a place where the whole people of God proclaim the good news to the community. Rather than being an extension of the sermon, this hymn is the people’s chance to preach in word and song.
St. Peter’s Sings the Gospel in October
The gospel reading for October 7 (Mark 10:2-16) has Jesus delivering a difficult teaching on the relationship between divorce and remarriage and the old testament readings (Genesis 2:18-24, Psalm 8) remind us that we are meant to live in community. Trying to make sense of this, we sing the somewhat lesser known “Our Father, by Whose Name” where we sing of the relationships God blesses us with and remember that the family of God is much wider than may appear at first glance.
Jesus continues to disappoint (!) on October 14 with his direction to the rich man to sell all he possesses and give the money to the poor (Mark 10:17-31) and the old testament reading (Amos 5:6-7, 10-15) yields similar warnings. As a response and prayer to God, we choose to sing a peppy rendition of Take My Life, that I May Be. This peppy tune reflects the joy giving one’s life to God can generate, rather than the despair over the loss of what once was.
On October 21st we find Jesus paradoxically telling the disciples that to be great, they must become servants (Mark 10:35-45) and today’s reading from Isaiah 53:4-12 is part of the servant songs found in the prophetic book. We proclaim this posture of servanthood well when we sing in the third stanza of The Church of Christ, in Every Age:
Then let the servant church arise,
a caring church that longs to be
a partner in Christ’s sacrifice,
and clothed in Christ’s humanity.
Finally, on Reformation, our Lutheran rallying festival, Jesus tells us, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-36). Similarly, God says in Jeremiah 31:31-34, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” Our hymn of the day, Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in your Word, becomes a prayer to the Holy Trinity to keep this word in the forefront of our minds.
Summing it up
From lifting up the blessedness of living in community to asking God to keep us steadfast, we lift up love, self-sacrifice, service, and all those things God has written on our hearts for the sake of the larger community. As part of our public gathering, the words we sing and say form us and send us out to do the important work of loving all of God’s people. The hymn of the day is our way of sharing what God teaches us, both for the sake of our gathering and for the sake of the world. Proclaim it loudly!