Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Revision 3

I know I promised not to torture anybody with this anymore, but I haven’t been able to put it down.

O faithful Christians far and wide
Let Joy burst forth and sing
For there is at the Father’s side
A Prophet, Priest and King!

Sing of the Prophet of the Lord
Whose word is just and pure,
Who calls to men of all the world,
“Believe, obey, endure!”

Now in the Holy Place He stands,
The Lamb of God, The Christ!
From us, His perfect blood demands
A perfect sacrifice.

Then to our Ruler, Monarch, King
The Victor of us all
Let ev’ry heart high honor bring,
And low before Him fall.

This may not be Shakespeare, but it is better. Joy is personified in verse one and we end up with stronger verbs (burst and sing). Also, in verse 1 Christ "is" at the Father's side instead of the past tense "sent". That is probably better theologically since He is currently seated “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” as Hebrews says.

Verse two starts with "sing" instead of the more pedestrian "He is".

The third verse uses the repetition of “perfect” to emphasize the magnitude of the sacrifice required. It is not perfect in the same sense that Christ's sacrifice was perfect, but perfect as in complete, or total. As Jesus said “deny self, take up your cross and follow Me.” You don't hang onto any past sins. It is also a reference to Old Testament sacrifice where the meaning includes the thought “without blemish”.

The phrase "Victor of us all" needs to stay. We are conquered! It should make you think of passages like Eph 4:8, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Now, that is about as far as I believe I can go. Some have asked about writing hymns and I hope this illustrates the process just a bit. Although some like Wesley could pop out reams of verse without breaking a sweat, for most it takes hard work, study, meditation and prayer. It makes you appreciate the beauty of the Psalms in a whole new way!

Monday, April 9, 2007

A Christian Culture?

Saw this from John Derbyshire…

I am at the point with this business about the British hostages where I really can't trust myself to post any more, I'm so mad. Toby Harnden indeed says much of what needs saying, but I think he is too kind to the enlisted men. They are saps and worms, insults to the Queen's uniform. I'd better change track right here—see what I mean?

I've told this story before, so I hope I'll be forgiven for telling it again. My Mum, Esther Alice Knowles (1912-98), eleventh child of a pick'n'shovel coal miner, in one of the last conversations I had with her, said: "I know I'm dying, but I don't mind. At least I knew England when she was England."

It's all gone now, "dead as mutton," as English people used to say. Now there is nothing there but a flock of whimpering Eloi, giggling over their gadgets, whining for their handouts, crying for their Mummies, playing at soldiering for reasons they can no longer understand, from lingering habit. Lower the corpse down slowly, shovel in the earth. England is dead.

I must admit being a little embarrassed for those sailors when I saw some of their quotes. Whatever happened to the British “stiff upper lip”?

If I am every imprisoned or tortured for my faith, I pray I will have to courage to look death in the face and sing,

O, for a faith that will not shrink,
Though pressed by every foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe!

That will not murmur nor complain

Beneath the chastening rod,
But, in the hour of grief or pain,
Will lean upon its God.

A faith that shines more bright and clear

When tempests rage without;
That when in danger knows no fear,
In darkness feels no doubt.

Lord, give me such a faith as this,

And then, whate’er may come,
I’ll taste, e’en here, the hallowed bliss
Of an eternal home.

Or this…

The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train.

That martyr first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave;
Who saw his Master in the sky,
And called on Him to save.
Like Him, with pardon on His tongue,
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong:
Who follows in His train?

A glorious band, the chosen few
On whom the Spirit came;
Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
And mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel,
The lion’s gory mane;
They bowed their heads the death to feel:
Who follows in their train?

A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Savior’s throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of Heav’n,
Through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given,
To follow in their train.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Interesting editorial

Interesting editorial from Vox Day with a paragraph appropriate to past discussions of hymns.

Nothing New...

Well, I was wrong. Finding an original thought in scripture for subject matter in hymn writing is difficult if not impossible. After 2000 years of hymns perhaps everything has been touched on in some way. The best one can hope is to find a way of expressing a thought in a new way.

The thought that Christ’s sacrifice demands a sacrifice of us is not new in hymnody. Watts has already written about the sacrifice of Christ and points out in When I Survey The Wondrous Cross…

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of that earlier. There are plenty of other examples too.

O well… back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Revision 2

This is the last revision I will torture you with. It likely needs a complete re-write or perhaps discarded as a mere exercise and nothing more. My purpose in posting the piece was not to convince anybody that I was a good poet (trust me), but to illustrate the point that you don’t just throw a few religious sounding phrases together in 15 minutes and call it a hymn. It takes hard work. But it is always an enjoyable process, even when it doesn’t turn out to be the next “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”.
First of all, the last line needed something more solid to build up to the point that the worshiper would fall on his face before the throne of God. Many excellent hymns have used the imagery in the book of Revelation to good effect.
“Casting down their golden crowns
Around the glassy sea,”

It is imagery that never grows old or stale. Only a badly written hymn can make the biblical imagery of heaven look silly. A 30 second review of Rodeheaver’s Gospel Solos and Duets turns up jewels such as these.
I am coming near the city
My Savior’s hands have piled,
And I know my Father is waiting
To welcome home His child
For unworthy tho’ I be,
He will find a place for me,
For He is the King of Glory
The Man of Galilee!

Or this one…
There’s a place for my soul that He doth prepare,
And its beauty by faith I can view;
First of all, when I enter that mansion fair,
I want to see Jesus, don’t you? (don’t you?)

Ouch! That is not a song for singing, it is a song for laying down and avoiding.

So, to fix our last verse I tried something like this…
Now to our Maker, Monarch, King!
The Savior of us all,
Let ev’ry heart high honor bring,
And low before Him fall.

However, as one friend kindly pointed out, “you can’t do that”. It destroys the whole point of the “King” verse. There has to be the thought of victory or conquering somewhere in the verse. We still want to emphasize the idea of a sovereign King, so this came up next.

Then to our Ruler, Monarch, King
The Victor of us all
Let ev’ry heart high honor bring,
And low before Him fall.

You loose a bit of alliteration, but you keep a strong noun parallel that elevates the victorious King to a position high above His subjects who are bowing low before Him.

Now I’ll have to put that on the shelf for a few weeks or months and then come back to it. At that point, perhaps I will find it worth working on again, or perhaps not.