Now half a year into my steep learning curve of children’s ministry, I have rediscovered something significant (and obvious): songs help us remember scripture.
Growing up outside the church I missed learning all the ‘classic’ kids memory verse songs, so it took me a while to discover them as an adult. I’m getting familiar with them, and learning how to integrate them seamlessly into lessons. But it’s clear that I should be using them more.
Discovering them has made me remember just how important music is for memorising scripture. I may have missed out on Colin Buchannan and all the rest of it, but as an adult I have been exposed to some incredible ‘memory-verse’ music for grown ups. Here are 10 (well… eleven) of my favourite songs with lyrics taken straight from the bible, which have helped me to remember very important passages of scripture:
Honourable mention (#11): Wandering Star – Portishead (Jude 1:13)
I doubt that Portishead’s intention was to make a memory verse song, but their chorus is lifted straight from the book of Jude. Thanks to my enthusaistic high school friends who wanted to share their favourite dark, alternative songs with me, I had this part of the bible memorised even before I started going to church. Thank you Portishead.
#10: Turn! Turn! Turn! – The Byrds (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
Again, I’m not sure if The Byrds intended to write a memory verse song. Regardless, I have known this part of the bible for a long time thanks to my parents listening to the Forrest Gump soundtrack on most family road trips.
#9: Zadok the Priest – Handel (1 Kings 1:38-40)
OK, it’s a paraphrase of 1 Kings 1:38-40 but it’s effective for helping me remember what happened in that part of the bible.
#8: The Messiah – Handel (Lots of Isaiah, Psalms, Luke and 1 Corinthians)
The Messiah is a gold mine for bible memorisation: there are thirty pieces and all the words are lifted straight from the text, repeated many times over, and sung to some of the most beautiful music produced during the baroque/classical era. Recently I have had ABC Classic’s version of The Messiah playing in the car, and I especially love the pieces from 1 Corinthians 15. Teddy Tahu Rhodes singing 1 Corinthians 15:52-53 is my absolute favourite, and ABC have even put a video up of a shorter version (just verse 52) so you can see him sing live:
#7: But For You Who Fear My Name – The Welcome Wagon (Malachi 3:17 and 4:2)
Now we move into the music that was not introduced to me by my parents or my high school friends… Here is the first of a few featured tracks by the most excellent Welcome Wagon, with their incredible collection of old Presbyterian hymns and rewritten Psalms. First though, a rendition of the end of the book of Malachi.
#6: Luke 12:22-26 – Tim & Abby (Luke 12:22-26)
To help you remember Jesus’ promise that God is caring for us.
#5: The Transfiguration – Sufjan Stevens (Matthew 17:1-8, Luke 9:28-36)
Earlier this year I taught about the Transfiguration at Kids Church, and I was astounded that the kids didn’t know about what God said to Jesus and the disciples on the mountain!! How silly of me. Of course they didn’t know. The only reason I had that information embedded in my brain was because this song has remained on my top-play list for the last eight years.
#4: Unless the Lord the House Shall Build – The Welcome Wagon (Psalm 127)
To help you remember that it is God who works for our good.
#3: Comfort Ye My People – Lenny Smith (Isaiah 40:1-5,18)
To help you remember God’s promises to Israel.
#2: Magnificat (Holy Is Your Name) – Tim & Abby (Luke 1:46-55)
To help you remember the joyful song Mary sang when she celebrated the imminent birth of Jesus.
#1: My God, My God (Parts 1 & 2) – The Welcome Wagon (Psalm 22)
My favourite Psalm, and one of my favourite pieces of music. It is a metered version of Psalm 22, set to quiet and contemplative music. It’s simple enough to give space to dwell on the agony and hope of the Psalm, and structured enough to help you remember the words. Perfect.