There is a Fountain Filled with Blood — Lenten Hymns

Scripture Focus: Luke 22:39-44
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Zechariah 13:1
On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

Reflection: There is a Fountain Filled with Blood — Lenten Hymns
By Jon Polk

The hymn, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” can be difficult to sing. Not because of a challenging rhythm or melody, but because of vivid and gratuitous language. This hymn would likely receive a PG-13 rating for violent content.

William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”), born in England in 1731, wrote “There is a Fountain” after a significant period of depression, something he battled all his life.

Cowper’s mother died in childbirth when he was six. He and his brother were the only two out of seven siblings to survive past infancy. His mother’s death affected him significantly and began his life-long battle with mental illness.

Cowper attended Westminster, where he took an interest in writing poetry. However, after graduation, he became apprenticed to an attorney, but never practiced law.

This led to an offer of a clerkship in the House of Lords, but Cowper suffered a mental breakdown due to the stress of the interview. After attempting to take his own life, he was admitted to St. Alban’s Hospital. He was treated by a Christian therapist who encouraged him to read the Bible. In so doing, Cowper began to find peace of mind and recovered after eighteen months.

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though as vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

Upon release from St. Alban’s, Cowper moved in with a retired clergyman who introduced him to minister and hymn writer, John Newton. Newton invited Cowper to assist with pastoral duties and encouraged him to contribute to a hymnbook. Cowper wrote sixty-eight hymns for the collection, including “There is a Fountain” and he flourished under Newton’s care.

The season of Lent reminds us that when we are at our lowest of lows, Jesus extends his hand to rescue us. He has been there. He has sweat blood in a moment of distress and agony. He has shed blood in the ultimate sacrifice for our rescue and redemption.

William Cowper became a successful hymn writer and renowned secular poet. However, he was a troubled soul most of his life. The death of his brother and several close friends agitated his depression. Cowper claimed God protected him from taking his own life on several occasions.

While the hymn’s imagery may be violent and difficult, so too are the pressures and tragedies we face in life. Our faith in the Fountain redeems even our most tragic wounds.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die.

Music: There is a Fountain by Russ Taff
Lyrics: “Praise for the Fountain Opened” (original title) – from Hymnary.org 

From John: Mental illness should be taken to God in prayer just like cancer, heart disease, Covid-19, or any other illness. Also, just like those other illnesses, one should seek professional help for mental illness. If you struggle with mental illness, especially if you have thoughts of harming yourself, seek help immediately. Contact one of the organizations listed below or local organizations in your community.

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Resources: 
Mental Health Grace Alliance
Not A Day Promised Resource Page
Life Recovered (Resources for Ministers)
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“Because the needy are oppressed, and the poor cry out in misery, I will rise up,” says the Lord, “And give them the help they long for.” — Psalm 12.5

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

Today’s Readings
Exodus 19 (Listen – 4:04)
Luke 22 (Listen – 7:58)

Read more about Treatment of Mercy
May we seek to treat the mentally ill medically, spiritually, and relationally, as we support them within our communities as treasured ones, loved by Christ.

Read more about Discipline for the Anxious

The psalmist writes of being “too troubled to speak,” yet he cries to God. He writes of insomnia, yet he rests in God.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen — Carols of Advent Peace

Scripture Focus: John 12.14-15
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
    see, your king is coming,
    seated on a donkey’s colt.”

Zechariah 9.9
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Luke 2.10-12
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Reflection: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen — Carols of Advent Peace
By Jon Polk

“The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of

‘God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!’

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”

“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is among the oldest existing Christmas carols, dating back to the 16th century. It is so iconic that Charles Dickens used it in his classic tale from 1843, A Christmas Carol, as the carol sung by a young caroler attempting to bring joy to the hardened Ebenezer Scrooge.

Changes in language and word usage over time have led to an unfortunate misinterpretation of the opening line and confusion over punctuation. Even Dickens, in his quotation of the lyric, got it wrong.

Contrary to common perception, the song is not an instruction to relax, directed to a group of cheerful men.

In old English, the word rest means “to keep, remain.” The adjective merry had a broader meaning which included “prosperity” and “peace” in addition to “joy.” The comma should properly be placed between merry and gentlemen.

“God rest ye merry” could more accurately be phrased as, “May God grant you peace and joy.”

A great contrast is depicted in Dickens’ scene: the young caroler braving the blistering winter cold to spread tidings of comfort and joy and the elder Scrooge, safe and warm inside, yet with a cold, hard heart, devoid of peace and joy.

The antidote to Scrooge’s downcast spirit would have been found in a later verse, had he let the poor young singer continue.

“Fear not, then,” said the angel,
“Let nothing you affright;
This day is born a Savior
Of a pure virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in him
From Satan’s power and might.”

The comforting message from the angel to the shepherds was, “Don’t be afraid! I’ve got good news of peace and joy!” (Luke 2:10).

Scrooge was visited, not by angels, but by spirits, and his heart began to soften. When later questioned by the Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge remembered his error, “There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.”

Let us, like Scrooge, allow our hearts to soften as we set aside our fears this Christmas. Let us actively embrace God’s peace promised to us by the angel on that first Christmas morn.

God rest ye merry, gentle reader, and fear not, for the Prince of Peace has been born.

Listen: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen by Jars of Clay
Read: Lyrics from Hymnary.org
Bonus Read: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


From John: Just interjecting here to say that as a writer, I was thrilled and nerding out a bit that part of Jon’s analysis of this carol involved understanding the change in meaning that can be made by the placement of a comma. I’ve been so thankful for Jon’s careful and excellent work on these pieces. Readers, God rest ye merry!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations. — Psalm 67.1-2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 9 (Listen – 3:01)
John 12 (Listen – 6:26)

Read more about End of Year Giving and Supporting our work
Many of you have already responded this past week with end-of-year donations and we are so thankful! No donation is too large or too small.

Read more about Transcendent Peace and Rest
We can experience God’s peace in every day and any moment. Hebrews tells us that “we who have believed enter that rest.”

Making Him Known :: A Guided Prayer

John 17.26
I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.

Reflection: Making Him Known :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Making Christ known is the essence of Epiphany. When Christ’s identity is made known to the nations, our identity is made known as strangers and aliens in the world.

Today we read and pray through Christ’s prayer from John 17. May all the words of his prayer for us be fulfilled in his name.

Prayer for Unity and Love

We thank you, Lord, for your Advent.
We thank you for coming to us.
We thank you for your gift of life and joy.

You granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life…Now this is eternal life: that they know you…and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. — John 17.2-3

To know you, Lord, is eternal life.
May we be one, as you prayed, so that the world may know you.

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. — John 17.13

We need your joy in all circumstances.
For we are hated by the world because of your word.

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. — John 17.13-14

May your prayer for us be fulfilled, Jesus.

I pray for those who will believe…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…I will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. — John 17.20-26

Through your Word we know you.
Through knowing you…
You put your glory in us.
You send your love through us.
You work your power in us.
And we can be one with you, one with the Father, and one with each other.

Father for the sake of your Name and the salvation of the nations…
Glorify your Son, Jesus Christ, through us no matter what we may suffer…
Show the world your love through us, no matter what it may cost us…
And help us make you known, no matter how much the world will hate us.

May your prayer for us, be fulfilled, Lord Jesus.
We pray in your Name…

On the second day of Christmas, Christians across the world celebrate the life of Saint John, referred to in scripture as, “the beloved disciple.”

Prayer: A Reading
This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and had written them down, and we know that his testimony is true. There was much else that Jesus did; if it were written down in detail, I do not suppose the world itself would hold all the books that would be written. — John 21:24-25

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 14 (Listen – 3:52)
John 17 (Listen – 3:48)

Additional Reading
Read More about Good and Pleasant Unity? A Prayer for Election Week
Even among God’s people, unity is described as “good” and “pleasant,” implying that it is not automatic or constant.

Read More about The Spirit of the Lord :: Epiphany
The Holy Spirit, paraklētos, who made Christ’s earthly body, now makes in our individual bodies Christ’s mind and spirit. But more powerfully, we are knit together as a community, The Church. into the physical body of Christ in the world.

Support our Work
At The Park Forum, we produce over 100,000 words of free devotional content every year.
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who fund our ministry.
End of Year giving and monthly giving each play a large part in keeping The Park Forum ad-free and helping us to be able to continue producing fresh content.
Support the spiritual development of thousands of readers by making a donation today or joining our monthly donors.

In a World of Trouble, Peace :: A Guided Prayer

John 16.33
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Reflection: In a World of Trouble, Peace :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

John’s gospel, throughout Advent has been revealing to us many gifts from Jesus. Gifts of hope, love, joy, and peace.

As Advent moves into the twelve days of Christmas, we participate in the revealing, the epiphany, the manifestation of Christ. Through the end of this year, we will read and pray through some of Christ’s most revealing teaching to his followers.

The synoptic gospels spend much time on what Jesus taught the crowds. John draws us close—making a seat for us at the last Seder. He places us in Christ’s inner circle for the longest passages in the gospels of Christ teaching and ministering to his closest followers.

We belong here. We, the disciples of the future were in Christ’s thoughts at this time. Christ was preparing his disciples for the immediate trouble of his betrayal, arrest, and death, but the peace he offered and the victory he declared is for us today, in our equally troubled times.

In a World of Trouble, Peace

Lord, our hearts and our times are troubled. Immediately after celebrating “Peace on Earth” we are still troubled by all that is happening around us.

The aftertaste of our culture’s saccharin, Christ-less Christmas, is unsatisfying and cannot soothe the schisms, the divisions, the brokenness of our relationships on every level.

Lord, we are scattered and broken.

“Strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered — Zechariah 13.7

A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered. — John 16.32

Confess ways we have allowed this world and it’s systems to scatter us, moving us away from community and Christ.

Lord, you sacrificed being with us physically in order to send the Holy Spirit to us. Help us to value him accordingly.

Ask the Holy Spirit to be with you. Listen. Sit with him. Walk with him.

You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices…but your grief will turn to joy…I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. — John 16.20 22

There is much in our world for us to mourn, Lord. May we not neglect weeping in prayer. But thank you, Lord, that we have joy that no one can take away in your presence.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. — John 16.28, 33

Rest in Christ’s promise. Walk with Christ’s presence. Carry Christ’s peace with you into a world that is rightly his.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. — Psalm 31:1

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 13.2-9 (Listen – 1:40)
John 16 (Listen – 4:14)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Peace of Christ :: Peace of Advent
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Prince of Peace, and we are his heirs. Yet, how many Christ-Followers have come to fully understand the divine reality that peace is our inheritance?

Read More about Silent Night :: Advent’s Peace
Silence and stillness were not present that night for the reasons the affluent find them, but because God’s presence filled our barren world with radiant sufficiency.

Support our Work
At The Park Forum, we produce over 100,000 words of free devotional content every year.
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who fund our ministry.
End of Year giving and monthly giving each play a large part in keeping The Park Forum ad-free and helping us to be able to continue producing fresh content.
Support the spiritual development of thousands of readers by making a donation today or joining our monthly donors.

The Peace of Christ :: Peace of Advent

John 14.27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Reflection: The Peace of Christ :: Peace of Advent
By Jada Swanson

On the night Jesus was born, peace entered this world. And in triumphant chorus, the angels proclaimed, “Peace on earth!” This tiny babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, brought peace in ways the world cannot. Yet, if truth be told, many still wonder if peace will ever be fully known, especially in light of all that is going on across the world and in individuals’ lives.

Christmastime isn’t merry or bright for everyone. Amidst the merriment and festive celebrations, life continues. The realities of life remain. For some, this could mean job loss. For others, it may mean living with a chronic illness, acknowledging the empty chair at the dinner table, or accepting the casualties associated with broken relationships.

Even still, this is a time of worship and reflection of the greatest gift given to humankind. Finding the beauty in the broken. Grieving what never was and what never will be. Making peace with the chaos of the past, and anticipating the future and all that it holds. Purposing to intentionally be present in the here and now with loved ones. Focusing on the true meaning and reason for this season: Jesus’ birth. And clinging to His promised gifts: hope, love, joy, and peace.

As believers, our hope is rooted in a promise that God made many years ago when Isaiah, the prophet, wrote:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Prince of Peace, and we are his heirs. Yet, how many Christ-Followers have come to fully understand the divine reality that peace is our inheritance? This peace that he generously and graciously grants to us is not dependent upon our circumstances or our ability to know how or when future events will work out. In fact, Jesus assures us that in him alone can we find peace at all times and in every way.

Do you have peace in this season? Or are you finding it difficult to rest in the Lord and allowing God’s peace to comfort and sustain you? You are not alone. May we all find hope and assurance in Jesus’ words from John 14: 27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Peace of Christ to you in this season and in the days ahead.

Prayer: Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord — Psalm 31:24

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 11 (Listen – 2:40)
John 14 (Listen – 4:13)

Tomorrow’s Readings
Zechariah 12:1-13:1 (Listen – 2:30)
John 15 (Listen – 3:20)

Additional Reading
Read More about Under His Covering
The wise men gave three presents to the baby Jesus, but God also gave three presents to Mary. He gave her the Messiah, but he also granted her joy and peace. I’m so thankful she opened all three gifts.

Read More about Hurting through the Holidays :: Advent’s Hope
Physical and emotional pain can make the holiday season feel like a torrent of expectations to appear happy. The unspoken demand of “Christmas joy” weighs on those mourning the loss of a loved one, suffering a long-term illness, or carrying the pressures of daily anxiety or depression.

Support our Work
At The Park Forum, we produce over 100,000 words of free devotional content every year.
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who fund our ministry.
End of Year giving and monthly giving each play a large part in keeping The Park Forum ad-free and helping us to be able to continue producing fresh content.
Support the spiritual development of thousands of readers by making a donation today or joining our monthly donors.

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.