Luther on Catechism and Singing in Relation to Missions

Church-comes-from-all-nations-LutherSpeaking (and writing) of Martin Luther today, this afternoon I cataloged a book published by Concordia Academic Press with the title The Church Comes From All Nations: Luther Texts on Missions (2003, edited by Volker Stolle).

Online I found this brief summary of this work:

This book originally published as Kirche aus allen Volkern: Luther-Texte zur Mission, is a collection of key excerpts from the writings of Martin Luther on Christian missions. Drawing from the reformer’s lectures, sermons, treatises, hymns, and devotional writings, the author presents the excerpts according to themes and provides commentary on the reformer’s understanding of mission in the world.

On the back of the book the publisher has this description:

In Luther’s understanding of the Gospel, every believer is anointed and sent ‘to confess, to teach, and to spread God’s Word’ (1523). Thus participation in God’s mission becomes the task of every Christian. This collection of texts on mission have been selected from Luther’s writings by Volker Stolle, a mission director in Germany, to demonstrate the breadth of Luther’s thinking on the subject. For the reformer,  mission is not something that ‘plays itself out on the outer edges of Christianity, but instead as a lifestyle for every Christian congregation within its particular surrounding.” In this way, Luther contributes toward the reformation of our church today, a Christianity that has often become introverted.

As I quickly thumbed the book to get an idea of the type of quotes the editor had selected, I found these two striking passages side by side on opposing pages. I include the headings the editor has added, so that you will know something of the content.

I believe you will find these quotes as significant as I did, for we also place a strong emphasis on catechism training and on singing/music.

Catechetical instruction as preparation for missionary witness

And finally, I strongly urge that the children be taught the catechism. Should they be taken captive in the invasion [The quote is taken from Luther’s “Admonition to Prayer against the Turks.”], they will at least take something of the Christian faith with them. Who knows what God might be able to accomplish through them. Joseph as a seventeen-year-old youth was sold into slavery into Egypt, but he had God’s word and knew what he believed. And he converted all Egypt. The same is true of Daniel and his companions. (p.46).

The singing of Christian songs as Gospel witness

God has made our heart and spirit happy through his dear Son, whom he gave for our salvation from sin, death and the devil. Whoever honestly believes this, cannot leave it alone, but he must sing cheerfully and with joy and speak about it in order that others might listen and draw near. If, however, one does not want to sing and speak about it, it is a sign that he does not believe and is not in the new, cheerful testament but belongs under the old, rotten, unhappy testament. Therefore, the printers do very well when they diligently print good songs and make them pleasant for the people, with all kinds of ornamentation so that they are stimulated to this joy of the faith and gladly sing [Preface to Babst’s Hymnal, 1545] (p.47).

Have you thought of catechism and singing in this light before? Worth our while to ponder what Luther says, even if we may not agree on everything he says here.

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