Friday, April 28, 2017

"What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals"

Some of you might find this article interesting. It speaks TO me and FOR me!

"Peace is there that knows no measure."

Hymn: “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” – John Bowring (1792-1872)
Typical Tune: RATHBUN

In this seven-word phrase, the prolific poet/hymn writer John Browning captures the essence of the disposition of those who have found their place in the shadow of the cross of Christ. Not only is the peace immeasurable, it is also beyond explanation.

Those of us who have lived the faith-life for most of our days have trouble explaining our REAL reaction to the cross-event. While to us it may “go without saying,” sometimes it needs to be said – to be expressed. The great hymns of the church give us that opportunity.

I’ve also spoken the language of music for most of my life. I’m the kind who when bowling (yes, I bowl occasionally... have my own ball and shoes!) invariably asks what measure we are in. I know full well they are called frames, but I group my downed pins into measures. My favorite bowling meter is 10/4 by the way… as it is with my CB radio talk.

Those of us who use another language all the time sometimes forget that everyone around us doesn’t speak that language or understand it. That’s why sometimes we need to explain ourselves… even with spiritual things. When another is struggling without any sense of direction or stability in their lives, we can speak a word of peace – and if appropriate, carry that description to the cross where we achieve that peace that surpasses understanding or carnal comprehension.

Lost that peaceful easy feeling that once you overwhelmingly sensed at the cross? Maybe it’s time to go back for a refresher course in how a tragic death can instill in us such concord.

Call a ceasefire with your raging self.

This text set to Bach “Jesu, Joy of Our Desiring”

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Fills my ev'ry longing (and) keeps me singing as I go."

Hymn: “There’s within my Heart a Melody” – Words and Music by Luther Bridgers (1884-1948)

Some of us know this hymn as “He Keeps Me Singing,” but more hymnals nowadays are using the first line of the first stanza as the title. Either way, this is one most of us evangelicals know pretty well!

The line I chose today is from the end of the refrain:
    Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Sweetest name I know
    Fills my ev’ry longing, keeps me singing as I go.

With all due respect to Mr. Bridgers, I’m not sure about the use of “every” in that last line. I’ve sung that phrase since I was knee-high to nothin’, but am a little quizzical about that concept. In the first place, I’m not sure it is a biblical teaching; in the second place, if Jesus filled my EVERY longing, I’d be in some deep trouble, wouldn’t you? Spiritually speaking, my Savior fills most of my sacred longings; but I have longed for some gifts, talents… even opportunities… that have not yet been achieved.

I’m okay singing that line because the second half is so very true for me. Though not a great singer (one of those unfulfilled longings!), I always have a song going in my head… and sometimes on my lips. To quote a couple of other hymns: “How can I keep from singing?” and “I sing for I cannot be silent.” It’s just part of my nature to be swimming in some melody or adrift in a great hymn text. Like some of you, many times it is a song – and not a scripture or a prayer - that pulls me out of the doldrums and invigorates my spirit.

With a few unfulfilled longings, we can still maintain a singing habit. It’s one habit worth nurturing!

Listen to a Group-Singing of This “Homecoming Style”!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"While all that borrows life from thee is ever in thy care."

Hymn: “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” – Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Generally speaking, we Christians have to be reminded often that our very existence is on loan to us. Our minutes, our days, our years – our lifetime – are not truly ours; these are borrowed from the eternal timeline of the mighty, powerful God who made the mountains rise, spread the flowing seas, and built the lofty skies.

Time has become one of our most precious commodities. In some ways, we are more protective of our calendars than we are our bank accounts. Unlike my bank, I do not get an alert from heaven’s Timekeeper to let me know that my account is under 500 hours… that I’m running out of time.

From secular marketing, I picked up a lot of personal rules for my ministry. One guiding force was the hook from a Cadillac print ad I saw in the early 80’s: “We respect your time almost as much as you do.” That’s one I followed religiously… so to speak!

We DO value our time, especially our free time – our time away from our income-producing hours. If we’re not careful, we’ll begin to hoard those free moments… forgetting that ALL our time is on loan from the Time Bank. Unlike Joshua, we may not be able to make the sun sit still or stop the fast-ticking clocks while we conquer our time-consuming enemies. We CAN, however, be reminded by hymnlines like this one that we are truly on “borrowed time.”

Watts points out that however much time we are appropriated, the Time Giver does not lose track of us – we are ever in his care. He is constantly securing his loan! (Don’t try to turn that into a good banking analogy.)

This hymnline runs parallel to Psalm 31:15: “My time, O Lord, is in your hand.” The One whose hand provides us with life also holds us. The Time Loaner is also our Caretaker.

Thank you, Isaac Watts, for the aide memoire!

Hear This Hymn to the ELLACOMBE Tune

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"O may my love to thee pure, warm and changeless be."

Hymn: “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” - Ray Palmer (1808-1887)

This is one of my favorite hymns. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have several! This one would definitely make the top ten… most days! Rich in language and deep in theology, Ray Palmer has expressed his faith in ways with which I identify and resonate. This is definitely one of those texts that works as a devotional hymn as well as it does as a congregational expression.

The line of this prayer-hymn that I’ve selected for today helps us understand what it means to love in general… and in this case how our love for Christ is exhibited.

All of us express love in different ways. [If you’ve never read Gary Chapman’s THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES, get a copy. It’s NOT just a marriage-help book!] Whatever our way of expressing love, these three are foundational:

- Pure: not motivated by self-gain, without mixed motive, unpolluted.
- Warm: engaging, affectionate, expressive.
- Changeless: consistent, never in doubt, unswerving, dependable, constant, stable.

These define a loving relationship of any kind; these set the standard. They describe God’s love for us and kindle within us the longing to reciprocate.

This hymnline is the prayer of my heart. I hope you share that desire.

Mahalia Jackson Sings This Hymn

Footnote: Ray Palmer was a pastor in the Congregational church. He wrote several books and published his hymn/poem collections. His two hymns that are still widely used are this one and “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts” – another of my favorites, of course!

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Everywhere that we may be, Thou, God, art present there."

Hymn: “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” – Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

We’ve all played hide-and-seek. When we were very young, we hid in plain sight… and still our older cousins pretended we were difficult to find. As we matured as hiders, our task was to become so well concealed that even the most-experienced seeker would be hard-pressed to discern our undiscoverable lair.

God is everywhere, according to this hymnline; we call it his omnipresent nature. He is at all places at all times – not one of the easiest attributes to truly comprehend. We need not think of God as “it” in a children’s covert game. While he may be in all places at once, he is not lurking about to tag us and send us running for another secretive location.

True, God IS everywhere; but my concept of his constant-presence is that he is also constantly available… to protect, guide, enlighten… to extract if necessary. He is also continuously accessible to listen – and perhaps speak.

If we have a predatory concept of the ever-present One, fearing his over-looking of our every move, we might check our legalism quotient. The scales of our lives might well be tilted away from grace.

“O LORD, you have searched for me and you know where to find me. You know where I sit and when I stand up. You are aware when I come into a room and when I exit; you even know when I lie down. Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I retreat to a high place or low place – even if I try to settle somewhere far away from home, even there you will be to guide me and hold me close.”  (from Psalm 139:1-3, 7-10 RgV)

Accept the reality that God is wherever you are, and take advantage of his presence. Don’t retreat to your hidey-hole and pretend he is absent. Lean on him; talk to him. Listen, learn, be safe. Enjoy the everywhere-ness of God.

The Ball Brothers Sing This Hymn

Friday, April 21, 2017

"None other is so loving, so good and kind."

Hymn: “He Lives” – Words and Music by Alfred Ackley (1887-1960)

The level of love, goodness and kindness present in Christ Jesus is like no other. If you stack these qualities found in anybody else, his stack is always taller.

These are three of the nine fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23: LOVE, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.* Each of these is also a great descriptor of Jesus himself. I guess if Ackley had included a few more measures in this hymn, he could have included all nine… because none other is so-any-of-them!

When we look for role models, we need to look first to the One who is in a category all by himself – that being perfection. Then we look for humans whose lives stack up highest in these areas. Ultimately, we set out to measure up personally… not to perfection but to high achievement!

Look for Jesus in others today. Be Jesus to others today.

Not a bad epitaph to leave behind: He/She was loving, good and kind.

NOTE: This ends our week-long post-Easter guided tour through this great gospel song. I hope you've enjoyed the journey! Next week we'll be onto more hymns that speak to us one line at a time.

* - An easy way to remember these nine fruit of the Spirit is that the first three are one syllable, the second three are two syllables, and the third group is three syllables.

Sing-along Version

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Just the time I need him, he's always near."

Hymn: “He Lives” – Words & Music by Alfred H. Ackley (1887-1960)

Although we attach this hymn to Easter, it truly is a “sing anytime you want to” kind of text because it highlights the truth that Christ is a living, active force in the world… even today. When I was growing up, this was one of our standard congregational songs throughout the year – whenever Carl Whaley got the urge to include it!

We have to admit that for the most part, we are ‘needy’ people. Hopefully, we are not the archetypical sad-eyed caricature of the one who always needs attention or one who considers himself/herself entitled. On the other hand, we do find ourselves lacking – some days more than others. We are, after all, “sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore.”

A common theme in this kind of gospel song is the nearness of Christ anytime we call on him… whenever we find ourselves in need. Usually when we sing past a hymnline like this, we grin a little, and a light flickers in our eye because we believe this to be true.

Looking back over my prayer life, I have to admit that I turned to Christ for assistance in situations that seemed to be a need at the moment, but which later seemed pretty insignificant. However, I have the feeling he responded as if my need were as major as I thought it was at the time – and his response was lovingly kind. It is possible that his intervention may have been why that perceived-need didn’t become the kind of dilemma into which it might have evolved!

I hope this hymnline will remind us all of the Savior’s nearness: never far away, right at my elbow - ready to listen, show concern, and act according to my best interest in light of his plan. It’s one of the truths of my faith-walk I hold dear.

Hear Alan Jackson Sing This Hymn

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"I see his hand of mercy. I hear his voice of cheer."

Hymn: “He Lives” – Words and Music by Alfred Ackley (1887-1960)

This is another one of those lively little gospel songs whose texts sometimes get glided over. 6/8 is wonderful time signature for skating rink songs, but not always for church songs!

Tucked into the second half of the first stanza of this hymn, we are reminded what the hand of Jesus does for us… and what the sound of his voice can accomplish.

The hand of mercy: Similar to “I was sinking deep in sin” (another 6/8 hymn by the way!), this merciful hand of Jesus reaches down and pulls us up out of the quagmire of sin… the quicksand that wants to suck us further into itself. We’ve all been there – some of us up to our knees… others up to their eyeballs. It’s that merciful, undeserved rescue that matters most to those of us who have been there. “I cannot get myself out of this mess,” is the last sentence out of our mouth when suddenly we are freed from the clutches of that which would be our undoing.

The voice of cheer: Another hymn asks, “Who can cheer the heart like Jesus?” The answer, of course, is nobody! And on our way up from the sinking sand… the hell-hole we may have dug for ourselves… not only do we feel his hand of mercy, but we also hear his familiar, welcoming voice. As his sheep, we are keenly aware of the sound of his voice (John 10:27), and it is not a voice of condemnation [as in “How did you get yourself into this mess anyhow?”]; rather it is a cheering-on voice saying, “You can do better than this. I know who you really can be.” As a parent in the bleachers, he shouts, “You can do it, kid.”

A hand reaching out in mercy – a voice cheering us on. What more could we want?

Joel Raney’s arrangement of this hymn

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Rejoice! Rejoice, O Christian. Lift up your voice and sing!"

Hymn: “He Lives” – Words and Music by Alfred Ackley (1887-1960)

This hymnline  echoes Paul’s admonition to the church at Philippi: “’Rejoice in the Lord always.’ Again I say, ‘Rejoice’.” (4:4) I’ve always appreciated the way that even Paul had to repeat himself to get people to delight in the Lord as they worshiped!

In this hymnline, we Christ-followers who have recently celebrated his resurrection are called upon to make some noise in response to this miraculous event by singing continuous hallelujahs.

There is something about our sung praise that seems to go on forever, ricocheting through time and space… never ending. A hearty hallelujah from our mouths to God’s ears is ceaseless as it reverberates.

The very word “hallelujah” (or some form of it) is common to every language. I’ve always thought that is so when we gather on heaven’s shore, we’ll all be language-linked by that one word if nothing else. THEN we will literally join those eternal hallelujahs.

“Rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King.” And again I say, “Rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King.”

A cappella Singing of This Hymn

Monday, April 17, 2017

"I serve a risen Savior!"

Hymn: “He Lives” – Words and Music by Alfred Ackley (1887-1960)

This hymnline speaks for itself. I have nothing to add.

Alan Jackson sings “He Lives”

Friday, April 14, 2017

"Days of darkness still come o'er me, sorrows path I often tread."

Hymn: “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” – Francis H. Rowley (1854-1952)

Lenten days are by nature dark days. There is less joy wound into our worship; we are focused more on the suffering Christ than on the living/healing/teaching Lord. And we’re supposed to refrain from singing ‘hallelujah’ during the Sundays that link together these forty days. So this hymnline seems appropriate, don’t you think?

Growing up, singing this text at a breakneck speed to the WONDROUS STORY tune, the words didn’t seem to match the rollicking, dotted-rhythm melody. All the talk of lostness, being bruised and faint, blindness and possession by fear: those seemed to be ‘downers’ to me!

In spite of my faith walk, days of darkness still come o’er me and sorrow’s path I often tread. Following after Christ does not grant immunity from the common struggles of life… despite what you may have heard from a television preacher recently. In fact, sometimes the darknesses seem even darker, and the sorrows feel deeper. But like this hymnline, we face those with a profound sense of hope that joy will come in the morning! The line continues with “but the Savior still is with me, by his hand I’m safely led.”

In our days of darkness and sorrow, we are not alone! No, never alone.

Let’s not let these cross-anticipating days to drag us down. Let’s focus on the sacrifice made at Calvary, but let us not lose sight of the hope that lies just three days beyond Lent. And may our dark days – whether in Lent or any other season – be survivable because we are not alone: the Savior still is with us, by his hand we’re safely led.

Hear Sandi Patty sing this text to a fresh tune

Thursday, April 13, 2017

“My guilty conscience seeks no sacrifice beside (his powerful blood).”

Hymn: “Join All the Glorious Names” – Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Typical Tune: DARWALL

In my education process, we learned that Isaac Watts is the “Father of English Hymnody.” While this hymn is not nearly as popular as his “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” there are some similarities, especially with THIS line. Here is the full stanza:

Jesus, my great High Priest, offered his blood and died;
My guilty conscience seeks no sacrifice beside.
His powerful blood did once atone,
And now it pleads before the throne.

Many of us have a tendency to carry our guilty conscience with us everywhere we go. We seem to drag it behind us as if we need something else to free us from the weight of our past. It’s almost as if we are not sure that the cross-sacrifice is adequate “for such a worm as I.” We know better; we verbalize the fact that “nothing but the blood of Jesus” can for sin atone. But we can’t seem to erase the guilt from our consciousness… to release it.

I’m sure you’re about as tired of the FROZEN song “Let It Go” as I am. It is a great song… at least it was the first forty-three times I heard children singing it on YouTube! However, it might do us well to make it our theme song when it comes to dealing with our past indiscretions… our sins. Couldn’t we just stand and sing those first two phrases after we speak our confessions in public worship? Makes sense to me. I’m sure the lawyers at Disney would be all over THAT!

The forgiveness process needs no further sacrifice than the one already made. So let’s stop going through life looking for a supplement. To quote another of my favorite hymns, “It is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me.”  Enough is enough. Period.

An Organ Postlude on This Tune

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"O cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to hide from thee."

Hymn: “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” – George Matheson (1842-1906)
Typical Tune: ST. MARGARET

I have a running joke with Cynthia Clawson and Ragan Courtney about this hymn because, while singing for our wedding, she forgot the words. It’s a long story… but she cannot deny it: I have it on video!

This is great poem… hymn. I will return to it again in these posts, but this last stanza speaks to us particularly during the Lenten season when possibly too often we go about with downcast eyes… too concerned with our return-to-ashes state. It may be time to “Lift thine eyes, O lift thine eyes” to see the ever-present symbol of the crucifixion just ahead.

It is almost an oxymoron that an event which calls us to turn our face away in horror or bow in grave reverence and appreciation might also be a time in which our heads are lifted to remind us of what happened there. It is as if a kind, gentle, nail-scarred hand touches the chin and raises the lowered visage to once again come face to face with the realities of suffering and shame.

This is not one of those easily-comprehended hymnlines. We could spend some time here pulling the possibilities from the few words given. For me, every time I sing or hear this stanza, I am reminded that I should not be ashamed to be connected to the One who died there. At the same time, it calls me not to shirk my commitment to the One whose love will not release me from its grasp.

With my face lifted by the realities of the cross, I wouldn’t dare request “a pass” on the suffering which might come my way; there is no way I would stand around the corner and peek at the anguish, distress or humiliation which might be my lot after having taken up the cross and following the Savior of humankind.

Need a face-lift? Allow the cross the privilege of giving you one!

Hear All Four Stanzas Sung in This Setting

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"O Lamb of God, my sacrifice, I must remember thee."

Hymn: “According to Thy Gracious Word” – James Montgomery (1771-1854)
Common Tune: AVON

Being a person fascinated with words, my ears and mind were piqued recently when I was came across a new insight into an old word: anamnesis. This is a term theologians toss around that means the act of remembering, especially related to the Eucharist. This hymn as a matter of fact is a communion hymn whose final words in each stanza are “remember thee.”

Anamnesis is the opposite of amnesia – the state of not being able to remember anything. More than just remembering, amamnesis is best described as “not being able not to remember.” You have to chew on that for a minute because its emphasis is based in the double negative.

For those of us who are bound for the Kingdom through the life, death, burial, resurrection and reign of Christ, we suffer from anamnesia because no matter how hard we might try, we simply cannot forget the magnificent significance of all that. I’ve never tried to forget, of course – because I have no desire to erase that from my mind.

My adherence to the doctrine of the security of the believer is probably related to this. My inability to forget keeps me securely tethered to the hem of his sacred, seamless dress. “My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock” partly because I can’t help remembering.

With James Montgomery, I agree: “I MUST remember thee.”

A contemporary Scottish setting of this text

Monday, April 10, 2017

"Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."

Hymn: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” – Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

This final phrase from one of the best-loved Christian hymns – especially during Lent – pulls together all the previous stanzas to state the proper response to our giving attention to the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died.

We have been called upon to count our richest gain as loss – or to consider all that we’ve amassed in this life as nothing. Instructed to have contempt for – to hate – our prideful nature, we’ve promised God that we would never boast in anything except the death of his Son. We have committed to turn instruments of vanity into a sacrifice for our blood-bought redemption.

We have looked with reverence upon the head, hands and feet of the Crucified One from whom sorrow and love become a confluence flowing slowly downward. Have ever love and sorrow intertwined in such a way? Has ever a rich crown been formed from bramble-bush thorns?

Then we come to the end of the hymn, admitting that nothing created could possibly be gift enough for all this suffering. Instead, our total surveillance of the wondrous cross demands total commitment… a sacrifice of soul, life, and all that we are.

Thank you, Isaac Watts, for walking us through the crucifixion event with such beautiful language… language to sing together as a great congregation of those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb... language which at once communicates our sorrow and our love.

Hear Gilbert Martin’s Setting of This Hymn

Friday, April 7, 2017

"Our praise and prayer and anthems before thee we present."

Hymn: “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”
Theodulph of Orleans (760-821)

"Triumphantes" - Byzantine Period

From one of the oldest texts in most any hymnal, today’s hymnline is from the Palm Sunday hymn that will be represented in more worship services this week than any other hosanna-related song. There are lots of allusions to the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the weekend prior to his death: the children form “hosanna” on their lips; the Hebrew folk welcome him with palms; he is called “David’s royal Son” and “the King and blessed One.” It’s one of those hymns that paints a pretty clear picture of a biblical event.

I am one of those who still believes in the return of Christ – the parousia. For years, I’ve said that I hope he will make his second entrance on Palm Sunday, because congregations all over the world are primed and ready to welcome him with “praise and prayer and anthems” geared toward the arrival of a triumphant king – THE triumphant King. The hymns will be “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna,” “The King of Glory Comes,” and “Ride On, Ride On in Majesty.” Choirs will sing settings of “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates” and variations on the hosanna theme. Some mature soloist will dust off “The Holy City” to sing one more time.

In other words, if ever during the church year we are poised to greet the returning Redeemer, it is on Palm Sunday!

May we come to our various places of worship this Sunday with a real sense of anticipation. Let’s raise our hands in worship, grasping palm branches or fern fronds, waving them with more vigor than in past years. Let’s sing louder than usual so as not to be under-heard as the King of Glory approaches from the distance.

Christ promised he would return at a time when we least expected him. Just in case it’s this Sunday, let’s be ready… because one way or the other, he will be present with us and will accept the praise and prayer and anthems we present before him.

Maranatha! Even so, King Jesus, come!

A lengthy processional of choirs from Edenton Street Methodist Church in Raleigh, NC

A simpler version for singing along

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"In the cross of Christ I glory, tow'ring o'er the wrecks of time."

"Cross of Rubble" - Ray Tapajna
 Hymn: “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” – John Bowring (1792-1872)

What does this word “glory” mean as it opens this hymn? At the time Bowring wrote these words, it meant “to boast.” Now, I know we are told since the Cradle Roll class that we should never boast or brag, but this bold statement has a precedent.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, he said, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me.” (6:14) Newer versions actually use the word “brag”!

Some grandparents carry with them what they refer to as their “brag book.” It’s nothing more than a photo album of their grandchildren looking all bright, clever and achieving! We’re fine with that… we’ve come to expect it! Most of my friends are doing this via their i-phones!

We have only one area of life in which we can boast without shame: the redeeming act of Christ on the cross. Outside that, we become braggarts or annoyingly self-centered!

The ravages of sin-filled time have left wreckage in their path. Dismantled lives, dysfunctional families, dismembered countries, disoriented cultures… and the dis-es go on! Yet, high above all this carnage stands the Old Rugged Cross. And in that cross, it’s okay to take some pride… to rejoice in the victory… even to boast or brag. So have at it!

Hear this hymn played at the piano

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"I know a fount..."

Hymn: “I Know a Fount” – Words & Music Oliver Cooke (1873-1945)

I bet I am doing a trifecta today as the hymnline, the hymn name, and the hymn tune are the same! I know nothing of horse-racing or betting thereon, but I like the word “trifecta”!

While only the refrain of this 1923 hymn appears in most hymnals and songbooks, the stanzas that precede ask questions like: Are you weary, heavy-laden? Burdened, weighted down with care? Are you doubting, in bondage? Do you want deliverance? To answer those questions, Cooke begins the refrain with “I know a fount…” – he implies, “Let me direct you to this source.”

This is such a simple, easily-sung tune, and the benefits available at the fount are also simply-stated, but profoundly relevant. Here are the appropriations he lists:
- Sins are washed away.
- Night is turned to day.
- Burdens are lifted.
- Blind eyes are made to see.

The brief chorus concludes with “There’s a wonder-working power in the blood of Calvary.”

I love this snippet of redemptive theology. Nothing draws me in quite like simple profundity… and this is a fine example. Yet every time I sing it, I am struck by that verb “know.” Does it mean I am merely aware of the fount, or do I KNOW that fount by experience? I grew up in the church; I’ve been in Sunday school since the first Sunday after my birth date. I know a whole lot about God/Jesus, the heroes of the faith, the gospel – even salvation. [I still remember Campus Crusade’s “Four Spiritual Laws”!] But unless I truly “get” the cross-experience, I will still be weary, heavy-laden, in bondage, etc.

During this Lenten season, I hope we can all get beyond the questions to the answer… and approach Easter with a new spirit of knowledge of the power of the blood of Calvary.

Listen to This Hymn
(Don’t watch the screen because the words are badly presented… grammatically and otherwise!)

Monday, April 3, 2017

"He bore the burden to Calv'ry and suffered and died alone."

Pen & Ink Drawing by Viv Walden
Hymn: “I Stand Amazed in the Presence of Jesus” – Words & Music: Charles Gabriel (1856-1932)

To get to the “burden” of this hymnline, we have to go back a line:
       “He took my sins and my sorrows; he made them his very own.”
My sins and my sorrows were taken upon himself as if they were originally his… he who was without sin – original or otherwise!

This is one of those theologically-charged concepts that we don’t necessarily fully grasp… yet we believe that our sin was embodied in the sinless body of Christ and carried to Calvary to be exchanged for an everlasting relationship with the Father of all life. It is sometimes called “The Great Exchange”: my sin for his righteousness.

I remember an old black-and-white Saturday morning cartoon based on the story of Aladdin in which a man is pushing a card, repeating the phrase, “New lamps for old. New lamps for old.” (I have no idea why I still remember that!) This notion of God through Christ exchanging tarnished lives for renewed ones resurrects that childhood memory. It is as if Christ walks among us, almost as a barker crying out “New lives for old.” Some of us believe his “sales pitch” and take him up on his offer.

In that process, we hand over the worst of us for the best of him. He takes our sins and our sorrows and makes them his very own, bears them to Calvary where he suffers and dies alone – the ultimate expression of his marvelous, wonderful love… that Savior’s love which shall ever by the subject of my song.

An intergenerational singing of this hymn – you’ll want to sing along for sure!

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)