What Wondrous Love Is This? — Lenten Hymns

Scripture Focus: John 12.12-13
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

Reflection: What Wondrous Love Is This? — Lenten Hymns
By Jon Polk

While the anonymous author of the hymn text “What Wondrous Love is This” may be lost to history, its lyrical beauty and simplicity are timeless.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

The hymn originates from the Appalachian region of the United States in the early 1800s. While hymnals were not commonplace at the time, the lyrics were first published in two different camp meeting songbooks in 1811, one in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the other in Lexington, Kentucky.

Because hymn books were rare, authors would often write lyrics that were simple and repetitive to aid congregations in learning the songs. This was not indicative of a poor writer, rather the repetition served to increase retention of the words and message.

The tune of the hymn was similar to a 1701 English song, “The Ballad of Captain Kidd,” which recounted the exploits of a sailor who had been executed for piracy. Many other popular songs had also been set to the same melody. In this way, the tune was memorable and easy to learn, much like singing “Amazing Grace” to the tune of The Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” or the old Gilligan’s Island TV show theme.

Furthermore, the song was discovered by composer William Walker during his travels in Appalachia and published in 1835 in his collection of shape note hymns, The Southern Harmony. Shape note singing was a popular form of musical notation using shapes to denote different pitches. Since most people in that day could not read music, shape notes made it possible for everyone to sing.

The season of Lent provides an opportunity for us as Christians to consider what messages we repeat over and over with our voices, actions, and attitudes. Do we present the simple message, “When I was sinking down, Christ laid aside His crown,” clearly and accessibly to those who have ears to hear?

Does the world hear a Church that repeats a message of its own selfish needs and demands, or do they hear us proclaim, “To God and to the Lamb, I will sing”?

Ultimately, what is the deep song in our hearts that we will repeat, not only in this life but through all eternity?

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

Listen: What Wondrous Love is This? by Fernando Ortega
Lyrics: What Wondrous Love is This?, anonymous  — Lyrics from Hymnary.org

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the Lord, all you, his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion… — Psalm 103.20-22

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Exodus 33 (Listen – 3:49) 
John 12 (Listen – 6:26)

Read more about Bearing Reproach
By these things, we are the Lord’s messengers, preparing the way, carrying the gospel to all around us.

Read more about Justice to Wormwood
It will not do for us to sing about justice without bringing it to pass.

Stealing Death’s Sting

John 12.27-33
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Reflection: Stealing Death’s Sting
By John Tillman

Lent is often a time in which believers look, with the help of the Holy Spirit at sin in our individual lives and in our communities. This week we have looked at sin and its effects on us, on our world, on our relationship with God.

We learned sin is not something we can brush off or take lightly. There are no small sins, only sins the costs and consequences of which we have denied or grossly misunderstood.

We learned actions can be sins, but that sin is an overwhelming environmental poison and influence that we are all terminally irradiated with. We are steeped in sin and the brew grows stronger and stronger the longer we deny it.

We learned scripture is not a weapon we can disassemble, using some verses to accuse others, and ignoring ones that point to our own sin. The sword of scripture cuts to the heart. But we must start with our own.

We also saw that the resurrection of Lazarus demonstrates the glory of God. Like Moses, God hid Lazarus in a cleft in a rock, covered his face, and allowed him a glimpse of God’s glory as Jesus passed by on the way to Jerusalem and to the cross.

In today’s reading we see that glory coming into sharper focus.  God is glorified through Christ’s sacrifice. Sin is defeated by his death, and death is defeated in his resurrection. Christ conquers sin, stealing death’s sting and the grave’s victory. Christ is lifted up and we are drawn to him, leaving sin and death behind.

Pray this prayer over your sin and the sin of your community over this weekend:

Lord, we see ourselves in scriptures from this week.
Like the religious leaders, we protest our innocence with bloody hands.
Like the woman, we are naked, stripped, and discovered in sin.
Like the blind man, Lord, we are steeped in sin.
Like the dead man, Lord, we are dead in sin.

Lord, we want to see.
Heal our eyes so we can see our sin.
Lord, we want to confess.
Show us our sin so we can weep over it.
Lord, we want to sin no more.
Cover our nakedness and give us your purpose and power to live as we are called.
Lord, we want to wake up.
Call us from our whitewashed tombs of empty righteousness.
Untie our grave clothes and strip us of the trappings of this world.
Let us walk into the light and follow your loving voice.

* Ain’t No Grave, Cageless Birds

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

Today’s Readings
Exodus 33 (Listen – 3:49)
John 12 (Listen – 6:26)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 34 (Listen – 5:48) John 13 (Listen – 5:06)
Exodus 35 (Listen – 4:31) John 14 (Listen – 4:13)

Thank You!
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Read more about The Fragrance of Faith :: Readers’ Choice
Jesus makes clear that Mary has fulfilled the prophetic purpose of the gift as, “It was intended…for the day of my burial.“ Mary alone among the disciples has understood Christ’s prophecies.

Read more about Rend Your Hearts
Joel’s admonition is to go beyond public signals of mourning or confession. It is our heart that we must rend in mourning and confession, because God looks at the heart, not our outward appearance.

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