As we approach Reformation Day on Monday, I wanted to offer a simple plan for families to use in homeschool morning time or family worship that focuses on remembering the Reformers and their stand for the truth of the gospel. This plan doesn’t require that you purchase any resources, though I’ve suggested an optional place for you to read a picture book or a chapter from an anthology about the Reformation. Included in the plan are a Reformation Doxology (with accompaniment), a Reformation Prayer of Confession, a Reformation Scripture Reading, two choices for a Reformation Hymn (both with accompaniment), a Reformation Prayer of Praise, and an optional Reformation hymn/composer study.
Although Lutheran hymns often get the most attention in relation to the Reformation, John Calvin’s Psalm tradition is also an important legacy of this period. William Kethe’s 1561 versification of Psalm 100, “All People That On Earth Do Dwell,” is likely the most well-known Reformation Psalm versification in English, and it is set to French composer Louis Bourgeois’s tune, originally composed for Psalm 134 in the 1551 Genevan Psalter.
Reformation Prayer of Confession
A Prayer by John Calvin, 1542:
“O Lord, with heartfelt sorrow we repent and deplore our offenses. We condemn ourselves and our evil ways, with true penitence, entreating that your grace may relieve our distress. Be pleased to have compassion on us, O most gracious God, Father of all mercies, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. And as you remove our guilt and our pollution, grant us the daily increase of the grace of your Holy Spirit, that acknowledging from our inmost hearts our own unrighteousness, we may be touched with sorrow that shall work true repentance, and that, mortifying all sins within us, your Spirit may produce the fruits of holiness and righteousness well-pleasing in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Reformation Scripture Reading
Romans 3:21-24 (ESV) (KJV linked here)
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
You almost can’t celebrate the Reformation without singing Martin Luther’s most well-known hymn. Luther wrote both the lyrics and the tune to this hymn in 1529. The lyrics are actually a paraphrase of Psalm 46, expressing confidence and comfort in the Lord’s protection of his people. The linked version uses a harmonization composed by J. S. Bach, whose church music rose as a direct result of Luther’s worship reforms.
A second generation Lutheran hymnwriter and theologian, Johann Schütz, wrote this hymn of praise in 1675. The hymn has an even deeper connection to the Reformation with its tune, which was included in the Bohemian Brethren’s Kirchengesänge (“Church songs”) in 1566. The Bohemian Brethren trace their theological lineage a hundred years prior to Martin Luther with John Huss’s reforms in Bohemia. These Christians would later become the Moravians, significant hymn writers themselves.
Reformation Prayer of Praise
A Prayer of Philip Melanchthon, 1559:
“Lord God, we give to you all praise and fitting thanksgiving, as do the angels hosts you created who surround your glorious throne. They shine with light and heavenly grace, beholding your face and heeding your voice. They never rest or sleep as we do, but their whole delight is but to be with you, Lord Jesus. That ancient Dragon is their foe; they know his envy and his wrath. It is always his aim and pride to cause division among your people and to deceive them as he did of old. He subtly lies in wait to ruin your people. But you guard your people who follow Christ wherever we go; you break the sinister plans of the adversary. We give praise to you, O God of holiness and truth, wisdom and goodness, justice and mercy, purity and lovingkindness, for with goodness and wisdom unmatched you revealed yourself to us, sending your Son into the world, destined to assume human nature and to become a sacrifice for us. And so for this, now and in days to be, our praise will rise to you, O Lord, whom all the angel hosts adore with everlasting grateful songs. Amen.”
Optional: Reformation Hymn/Composer Study
This is actually a 3-for-1 music appreciation study. The composition is by early 20th century English composer Ralph (pronounced “Rayf”) Vaughn Williams, but the melody throughout the fantasia is a tune by Reformation-era English composer Thomas Tallis (1505-1585). Tallis’s tune was also used in a lesser-known but beautiful hymn, “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” which weaves in the Reformation theme of Christ being “this dark world’s light.”
You could choose to listen to this 17-minute composition while you read a picture book about the Reformation (some suggestions below), color or do a quiet craft, watch the orchestra in the video, or look at the text of the hymn “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.” (Download the free sheet music here for the hymn.)
Optional: Reformation Books
I provided here a list of books about the Reformation for children and young people.