The Cross of Christ

Velazque.jpgIn a recent post, David Hayward quoted from Martin Luther’s “pivotal book, The Bondage of the Will,” in which Luther writes:

In every creature St. Paul, with his sharp, discerning, apostolic eye, perceived the holy and beloved cross.*

This quote reminded me of one of my favorite hymns. Written by Isaac Watts, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross is such a beautiful blend of scriptural references, imagery and personal pietism (and in this case I mean this in a good way) that I don’t think there will ever be a hymn to surpass it’s portrayal of the crucified Christ and our needed response. The lyrics of the hymn are reprinted below.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Text: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748
Music: Lowell Mason, 1792-1872
Tune: HAMBURG, Meter: LM

When 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 death 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.

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.

Personally, I cannot read or sing the last verse of this hymn without becoming teary-eyed.  To consider the gift of Christ on the cross is something that I need to do more often in both my devotional and preaching lives. I feel the need to be more like Paul in this regard, who once wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified.”

Another hymn that I love with much the same theme is “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”

O Sacred Head Now Wounded
Text: Anonymous; trans. by Paul Gerhardt and James W. Alexander
Music: Hans L. Hassler, 1564-1612; harm. by J.S. Bach, 1685-1750
Tune: PASSION CHORALE, Meter: 76.76 D

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, has 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 for thee.

It seems to me that the sentiments expressed in these two hymns are the perfect antidote to the selfish and self-centered attitudes of many people in today’s world.  At least they are an antidote to these attitudes in me.  Spend a few minutes contemplating these hymns and their message.  And though I am no prosperity preacher, I am sure you will benefit greatly from such contemplation.

* Initial quote originally published on Sun, 28 Jan 2007 10:46:14 GMT by David Hayward.

The ‘Following Jesus’ Manifesto

I recently discovered a blog that has given me a great deal to think about.  It is called Today at the Mission: Daily Life in a Homeless Shelter and it, among other things “a record of an emotional and spiritual journey undertaken in the kitchen of an anonymous homeless shelter that could be anywhere, or everywhere.”  One recent post was especially thought-provoking.  Entitled “The ‘Following Jesus’ Manifesto, and written by blogger “rhymes with kerouac,” this post struck me as hitting on some essential truths about Christian discipleship.  I reprint it below and encourage you to visit the blog by clicking on either hyperlink above.

What do you think about these ideas?

  1. Stop talking about Jesus. Just stop. If we loved the people around us half as much as we say we love Jesus the rest of this manifesto would be entirely redundant.
  2. Live a secret life. Invest the time, effort and vulnerability necessary to delve deeply into the scripture and prayer. Spend long periods of time in stillness. There is no shortcut to this, there is no other way. Without a deep and secret life we soon find ourselves talking about Jesus instead of being like Jesus.
  3. Stop pretending. I’m a Christian, and I suck. So do you. Let’s get that out of the way, shall we?
  4. Give more than you get. There will always be more than enough.
  5. Be present for those around you. Following Jesus has nothing to do with your work, your resume or your income. In fact, nothing that matters does.
  6. Treasure broken-ness. Our broken places are sacred spaces in our heart. Honour them. Value them. In doing so you love the unlovely, publicly declaring the beauty of God’s image in everyone. Greet the broken with comfort and cool water.
  7. Throw a party.
  8. Know Jesus well enough to recognize him on the street. This is rather important, because he can always be found on the street – and he usually looks more like a pan-handler than a preacher.
  9. Accept ingratitude and abuse as a fixed cost. Embrace them, and then go the extra mile.
  10. If you follow Jesus, you will anger religious people. This is how you will know.

By the way, you can purchase a book by the same author entitled Today at the Mission by clicking here.

Source: The ‘Following Jesus’ Manifesto
Originally published on Mon, 08 Jan 2007 01:33:10 GMT by [rhymes with kerouac]