In this “Back to School!” time of year, what are your routines? You may be back in school already or preparing for its arrival in the coming weeks. It is this time of year that—whether or not we are actively involved in a school as a student, teacher, parent, administrator, church worker, or volunteer—we tend to pay attention to a change in routines. Summer’s coming to a close and the rapidly approaching autumn signals a return to stricter schedules and more involved days.
How do we approach this return to routines in Lutheran education as Lutheran musicians? As I’ve written many times before, it is the routine of the liturgy that can, and should, guide our days. Lutheran Service Book provides excellent ways in which we can guide ourselves, our families, and our schools to learn and celebrate the saving work of Christ in the day-to-day.
The Divine Service, Matins, and Vespers
The weekly Sunday Divine Service is essential to the life of a Christian in order to receive Christ’s body and blood and to hear God’s Word granting us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. How do we bring a service full of God’s Word to a school community during the week, when time is of the essence and many school children are not confirmed Lutheran and thus not yet prepared to receive the Sacrament? We can turn to the other offices like Matins and Vespers.
Originally, Jewish Christians carried forward the ancient Jewish hours of prayer, transforming them to reflect Christ's completed work. These hours of prayer were expanded until nine hours, or services, were offered each day. During the time of the Reformation, leaders considered that nine hours of prayer was impractical for all but those people specifically dedicated to the religious life. Thus, several of these hours were merged and their components combined to give us one main morning service, Matins, and one main evening service, Vespers, for general use.
Using Matins and Lutheran Service Book as Regular Devotional Resources for Your Family
My school uses Matins for our chapel services on a regular basis to guide our children through the Church Year. We chant the Psalms, hear the readings, and sing hymns appropriate to the current season of the Church Year. At various times in the year, the general components of Matins change slightly to reflect our place in Advent, Lent, or Easter. Those changes from what the students are used to saying or chanting in the general service highlight the different seasons of the Church Year and spark conversations as to why those parts have changed. All of these things, along with our regular theology classes, serve to point our students to Christ and His saving work.
How can you as a teacher or a parent not in charge of an entire school of youngsters implement this same liturgy into your classroom or home? Start by reading God’s Word to your children. You can find the lectionary, both the 3-Year and the 1-Year, online. You can also sing hymns. Lutheran Service Book conveniently organizes its hymn selections by season of the Church Year first and then by topic. Pick a hymn each week or each month to learn and even memorize. Thanks to modern technology, we have a wealth of free recordings on hand for those hymns with which you may not be familiar. Remember, children will participate as enthusiastically as you do. If children only see adults whom they look up to apathetic about hymns and liturgy and not quick to learn, they themselves will not engage readily. On the other hand, if you are serious and dedicated to this work, your children will see and emulate that.
The liturgy of Matins and Vespers as well as the other services included in Lutheran Service Book can serve to guide your family’s (or your classroom’s) daily devotional life. We are blessed to be able to take advantage of the work of scholars, theologians, and musicians who have worked to share the ancient liturgy of the Church with us in the twenty-first century. As the new school year begins, what a wonderful opportunity we have to share these jewels with the children in our care. Thanks be to God that we are able to show the next generations the serious, solemn, and ultimately joyful traditions of the Church.
Start learning the seasons of the Church Year alongside prayers, illustrations of Christ's life, and 52 beautiful hymns in My First Hymnal.