By Monica Berndt
I remember the first Higher Things conference I went to in 2015- Te Deum in Las Vegas. The first time we sat in the opening Divine Service and began to sing the first hymn, I choked up and could barely sing. It wasn’t because the hymn itself was emotional, or because the music itself was moving. It was because there, singing altogether, were over 500 high school youth, college students, youth leaders, and pastors all confessing the very same thing at the same time through the words and music of the liturgy and hymns. I still get a little choked up during the many services we have over the course of a Higher Things conference, but it is because these services are lasting, grounded in Scripture, and one of the greatest blessings of the church.
Martin Luther once said that next to the Word of God, music was the greatest treasure in the world. In all our services - the Divine Services, Matins, Vespers, Evening Prayer, and Compline - we combine these two great treasures into one. At Here I Stand in Mars Hill, NC there were 300 people boldly singing the words of Scripture that have withstood all the attacks of the Devil and the world since Creation. We confessed our sins before each other and before God and received the same forgiveness that He has bestowed on all since that first promise of the Savior in the garden of Eden. We sang the Gloria, the hymn of praise and thanksgiving, and before communion we confessed Christ’s saving work as the Lamb of God through the singing of the Agnus Dei. We heard the pastors chant the Words of Institution which takes the exact words of Jesus and sets them to music. How amazing is that, that we as the church of Christ here on earth can still proclaim these words together?
When you sing the hymns and liturgy at Higher Things, you are not just singing with your youth group friends or with the other conference attendees, but you are singing with the entire church of God just like you do every Sunday morning. Not only are these services a way for us to remain steadfast and unified in Christ’s words, but they connect us to all those who have sung these words, believed them, and who now rest with Christ in heaven. There we stand both three times a day at Higher Things and every single Sunday morning with all the saints who have gone before us, and sing the Scriptures- the promises of God to us and for us! We continue to use the liturgy and sing hymns not because they are inherently Lutheran, or because we want to be “traditional,” but because they contain the words of Jesus and they remind us of His salvation. As we begin to remember the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, let us boldly stand and sing with our congregations, pastors, and all the saints for we know that these words will remain until Jesus comes again in glory.
“The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it. He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit. And take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife, though these all be gone they yet have nothing won. The Kingdom ours remaineth.” --A Mighty Fortress (LSB 656) v.4
Monica Berndt is a member at Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle, WA and served as a CCV in Mars Hill, NC. She is studying music and history at the University of Washington and loves to talk about Medieval History and why she loves hymnals.