Praise & Honor – Book Review

Book: Praise & Honor (Hymn-Inspired Devotions)
Author: Timothy J. Shoup
Concordia Publishing House 2019
Paperback, 272 pages

Pastor Shoup starts this book with an anecdote: “One Sunday morning, a member of our congregation said to me, ‘Pastor, pick good hymns; no one ever leaves church humming the sermon!’” Ouch! As a preacher, that is a bitter pill to swallow, in spite of the fact that it is true. I am absolutely positive that far more hymns have been memorized by believers than sermons. Martin Luther himself was a big believer in the value of good hymns, having once said, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through Music.” It has been said that, with a good hymn, we sing the Word of God into our hearts. I have also heard it said that a good hymn is like a good sermon, set to music. (I guess it is obvious that bad hymns/songs have the exact opposite effect, singing the words of the corrupted world into our hearts.) It is no small wonder, then, that pastors pay special attention to the selection of hymns for their worship services. Hymnals have sometimes been called the “Bible of the laity” as the hymns come to be great expressions of our faith. With hymns holding such an important place in the life of believers, I have some underserved pride in the fact that the first hymnal for common use by the laity in worship was a Lutheran hymnal.

In his introduction Shoup writes, “The fourteen hymns chosen for this volume can be said to mark milestones in the life of every Christian—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Christmas and Easter, for instance. Some will be familiar to every reader, while others will be new. The hymns here, to me, are what my parishioners would call “good hymns” that inspire, inform, and encourage.” Each hymn serves as the foundation for numerous devotions in Shoup’s book. The first devotion is always a general one, encompassing the entire hymn. In it Shoup includes any information he might wish to share about the writer (words and/or music), time and conditions when the hymn was written, as well as drawing out themes that are developed in upcoming devotions inspired by the hymn. The subsequent devotions are inspired by the individual verses. Typically there is one devotion for each verse, but occasionally he groups some of the verses together.

I found the book to be a blessing. Not only did Shoup introduce me to some hymns I didn’t know, but helped me to dig deeper into some old favorites. For those who never given hymns much more thought than how easy or difficult they are to sing, this book will certainly open your eyes to a richness that you have not appreciated up to now. The hymns covered are:

God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say it
Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus
Jesus Has Come and Brings Pleasure Eternal
Gracious Savior, Grant Your Blessing
Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
O Christ, Who Shared Our Mortal Life
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Where Shepherds Lately Knelt
Give, Ear, O Zion, to God’s Call
Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
If Christ Had Not Been Raised from Death
The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want
We Praise You and Acknowledge You, O God

I will be posting quotes from the book on our church’s facebook page in the coming days. I will omit quotes from the meditation that begins on page 167 because I would want to quote the entire devotion. Shoup’s thoughts on the line “I Come in half-belief, a pilgrim strangely stirred” (LSB 369:1) are powerful, indeed.

Blessings in Christ
Pastor John Rickert