Hymn for Easter Sunday

–posted on Easter Monday, of course, as I was busy yesterday.

Christ the Lord Is Risen TodayChrist the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once he all doth save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise, Alleluia!Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!Words: Charles Wesley
Music: from
Lyra Davidica, London, 1708
EASTER HYMN, with Alleluias

Hymn for Good Friday

I did think of more modern songs for this day, but the one that really came to mind (“The Killing,” by The Violet Burning) depends as much on the music as on the lyrics; and in the end, what else for Good Friday but the other greatest hymn ever written? (The first being “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” of course.)

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns Thine only crown:
How pale Thou art with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn;
How does that visage languish,
Which once was bright as morn!What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior;
‘Tis I deserve Thy place.
Look on me with Thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever,
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to Thee.Words: Paul Gerhardt, based on a Medieval Latin poem ascribed to Bernard of Clairvaux; translated by James W. Alexander
Music: Hans Leo Hassler; harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach

“In my end is my beginning. . . .”

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood–
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

–T. S. Eliot, from Four Quartets, “East Coker,” IV.

Song for Maundy Thursday

Come to the TableCome to the table and savor the sight,
The wine and the bread that was broken.
And all have been welcomed to come if they might,
And accept as their own these two tokens.
The bread is His body, the wine is the blood,
And the One who provides them is true.
He freely offers, we freely receive;
To accept and believe Him is all we must do.Come to the table
And taste of the glory,
And savor the sorrow—
He’s dying tomorrow;
The hand that is breaking the bread
Soon will be broken.
And here at the table
Sit those who have loved Him;
One is a traitor and one will deny,
Though he’s lived his life for them all
And for all be crucified.
Come to the table:
He’s prepared for you
The bread of forgiveness, the wine of release.
Come to the table and sit down beside him;
The Savior wants you to join in the feast.
Come to the table and see in His eyes
The love that the Father has spoken,
And know you are welcome whatever your crime,
Though every commandment you’ve broken.
For He’s come to love you and not to condemn,
And He offers a pardon of peace.
If you’ll come to the table, you’ll feel in your heart
The greatest forgiveness, the greatest release.ChorusWords and music: Michael Card
© 1984 Whole Armour Publishing
From the album
Known By the Scars, by Michael Card

Hymn for Palm Sunday (late)

It’s been a crazy couple weeks. But this is an ancient and honorable hymn, and shouldn’t be neglected just because I’m behind.

All Glory, Laud and Honor
All glory, laud and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring:
Thou art the king of Israel, Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s name comest, the King and blessed One!The company of angels are praising Thee on high,
And mortal men and all things created make reply:
The people of the Hebrews with palms before Thee went;
Our praise and prayer and anthems before Thee we present.To Thee, before Thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise:
Thou didst accept their praises–Accept the praise we bring,
Who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious King!Words: Theodulph of Orléans, translated by John M. Neale
Music: Melchior Teschner

Presumption, my dear sir; pure presumption

It’s one of the interesting (and annoying) things about scientists these days—well, to be precise, about the high-profile ones who write heavily-publicized books attacking Christianity—that they refuse to hear of anyone without a Ph.D. in science writing anything at all bearing in any way on science, and treat anyone who tries with utter contempt, but don’t hesitate to wade into the fields of the humanities, of which they know nothing at all, with the serene assurance that since they’re scientists, they must be experts here, too. Watching the likes of Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg dress up as philosophers, theologians and historians would be hysterically funny were it not so embarrassingly cringe-inducing, at least for those who actually know something about practicing the disciplines of philosophy, theology and history; it’s amateur hour to the nth power, rather as if someone stepped out of America’s Funniest Home Videos and into the finals of American Idol. Watching the noted philosopher Alvin Plantinga dismantle Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, however, is a very different experience, one in which Dawkins’ work plays the role of carrot to Plantinga’s Cuisinart; for his part, Weinberg’s smug, self-satisfied theory of historical development doesn’t fare much better against Barton Swaim.

I’ll concede, it would be unreasonable to expect these folks to stop trying to refute Christianity; but I would appreciate it if they would at least set aside their disciplinary arrogance and treat the humanities with the same academic respect they demand for the sciences.

Edit: as noted in the comments, including Daniel Dennett with Dawkins and Weinberg was inappropriate in more than one respect; he has therefore been removed. Mea culpa; mea maxima culpa. That said, I would still appreciate it if he would “treat the humanities with the same academic respect [he] demands for the sciences,” even if he’s formally a philosopher himself, as he treats even his own ostensible discipline with public disdain.

Song for St. Patrick’s Day

According to Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, in New York City, Lenten disciplines are suspended by special dispensation on St. Patrick’s Day; so I thought I’d put a song up in honor of that great (and much-misappreciated) saint. He probably didn’t write the caim (encircling prayer) that’s often called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” but I don’t know that it matters much–I expect he would have approved. This is the Kuno Meyer translation, which has its own title.

The Deer’s Cry
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of Doom.I arise today
Through the strength of the love of the Cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of the resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In prediction of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak to me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts body and soul.Christ to shield me today
Against poisoning, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding
So there come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye of everyone who sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

Lenten Song of the Week

Back to the hymns this week, and specifically to one of the greatest ever written, by one of the greatest hymnwriters ever. You might not know that Watts wrote five verses to this song, not four; the fourth verse was dropped during the period of the Wesleyan revival, and pretty much stayed buried.

When I Survey the Wondrous CrossWhen I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the cross of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most—
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er his body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. Words: Isaac Watts
Music based on a Gregorian chant, standard arr. Lowell Mason

Conversation on Calvinism

The question has come in, what does it mean to be Reformed? . . . OK, so it means to be Calvinist, but then, what’s that? So, to kick things off and provide a logical place for discussion, here’s a brief summary, cribbed straight from our membership class at church.

Central themes of Reformed doctrine

Total depravity (Romans 3:9-11, 8:7-8)

  • not “total corruption”—not that we’re as bad as we could possibly be, incapable of any good at all
  • but that there is nothing we do which is untainted by sin—our motives and desires are never pure, always mixed
  • also called “total inability”—in and of ourselves, we are not able to turn away from sin and toward God, because we are born in slavery to sin; left to our own devices, we would be without hope

Irresistible grace (John 6:43-44, Romans 9:14-18, Ephesians 2:1-10)

  • therefore it is only by God’s grace that we are saved, through his gift of faith to us
  • his grace breaks the shackles of sin on our lives
  • the Spirit can make himself irresistible—if he so chooses, we cannot resist his work any more than the prisoner can resist the key that unlocks his chains
Unconditional election (Romans 9:14-18, Ephesians 1:3-6, 2:1-10)
  • therefore our salvation cannot depend on our own effort and initiative, because those are not and cannot be sufficient
  • God chooses whom he will save
  • we do not know and will never know on what basis; all we know is that it is his free gift
    ––his choice and his love have no conditions and no strings attached

Limited atonement (Mark 10:45, John 10:14-15, Romans 8:31-32, Ephesians 5:25-27)

  • the death of Christ on the cross was immediately effective to save all those whom God chose (the elect)
  • it was sufficient to save all, but only efficient to save the elect
  • not made available for people to choose or not, but powerful in and of itself

Perseverance of the saints (Romans 8, Philippians 1:6, 1 John 2:1-6, Jude 24-25)

  • therefore, since our salvation is God’s work in our lives, and since it is a work of transformation, it is not something we can undo
  • we have been justified (our relationship with God has been restored—the penalty for our sin has been paid and his wrath at our sin has been satisfied), and we are being sanctified (made holy—we are being changed into the people God wants us to be, so that we live lives that are in accordance with his will)
  • this means we are in process; we are saints, because we are in right relationship with God, but we are also sinners, because we’re still being changed
    ––Lutheran language: simul iustus et peccator, “at once justified and a sinner”
  • the fact that we still sin doesn’t mean that we have fallen away from God, nor does it mean that we risk losing our salvation–it just means we aren’t perfected yet; our sin cannot be so big or awful that it undoes what God did

Note: the standard acronym for these five points (in slightly different order) is TULIP. It’s an effective mnemonic, especially since this particular summary of Calvinist doctrine was first developed in the Netherlands.Overarching theme: the sovereignty (lordship) of God

  • it’s all about what God does
  • this doesn’t mean it’s not about what we do; but it does mean that what we do is a response to what he has done, is doing and will do
  • we don’t carry the responsibility on our shoulders, whether for our own salvation or anything else—he does

Lenten Song of the Week

I like Michael Card’s explanation of how this song came to be (from his book Immanuel): “I had been playing with these questions for quite some time, trying to make them sound lyrical, which is to say, trying to make them sound pretty. But they aren’t pretty questions.

“The three questions which make up the verses of the song were all finished. I had planned to write one chorus, which would answer all three. That proved to be as impossible as the questions themselves. So I did the only thing a committed seeker of the Truth could do: I gave up and put them away in a drawer!

“Weeks later I was awakened in the night with the three separate choruses going through my mind, something that had never happened before–and has never happened since. To my trilogy of vain, cynical questions the Lord gave three unexpected answers . . .

“Each time I listen to the song, I hear two separate voices. My own pessimistic voice, asking the meaningless ‘why’ questions, and another gentler Voice, speaking the wonderful answers.”

Why did it have to be a friend who chose to betray the Lord?
And why did he use a kiss to show them? That’s not what a kiss is for.

Only a friend can betray a friend; a stranger has nothing to gain.
And only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain.

And why did there have to be a thorny crown pressed upon his head?
It should have been a royal one made of jewels and gold instead.

It had to be a crown of thorns because in this life that we live,
For all who would seek to love, a thorn is all the world has to give.

And why did it have to be a heavy cross he was made to bear?
And why did they nail his feet and hands? His love would have held him there.

It was a cross, for on a cross a thief was supposed to pay,
And Jesus had come into the world to steal every heart away.
Yes, Jesus had come into the world to steal every heart away.
Words and music: Michael Card
© 1984 Whole Armour Publishing
From the album
Known By the Scars, by Michael Card