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Songs, Spiritual and Secular, to Contemplate this Easter

This week’s Christian Today article. 

Songs, spiritual and secular, to contemplate this Easter

hymns
(Photo: Unsplash/Michael Maasen)

This will be the strangest Easter that many of us have had – no gathering in cathedrals or small churches, just virtual online church, which wonderful as it is, is not the same as the real thing.

Most of all, I miss being with the Lord’s people and singing together as one body – yes, even if there is an out of tune person behind me, and an opera singer in front, led by a worship leader who thinks he is Bono, I still miss the corporate singing.

As I was thinking about singing, a chain of songs came to mind – one leading to another that made me rejoice at Easter, I hope and pray you will find them as meaningful as I do.

I start with the great Easter hymns – whether it’s Thine be the Glory or the more contemporary See What a Morning! There is nothing quite like singing of the resurrected King on Easter day.

 

And our world really needs song. Did you see the wonderful picture of the thousands of poor Brazilians confined to their multi-storeys, leaning out of their windows and belting out in Portuguese “Because He lives I can face tomorrow!”. What a wonderful Covid-19 song of hope!

On a different level, I was thinking of the Beatles when the Queen gave her address to the nation last weekend. From their Abbey Road album they have a little ditty: “Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl, but she doesn’t have a lot to say….”.

What the Queen said was good for the nation and what many wanted to hear. But I was a little disappointed that her scriptwriters made sure she stayed away from where her father went the last time there was a major crisis that shut down the nation. King George called for a national day of prayer and a turning to God. I guess his daughter was not permitted that liberty – whatever her own desires.

From that same album, the Beatles also sang “and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make”. This Easter I am so glad that this Karmic philosophy is so wrong! We get to take a love that is way beyond anything we could dream of – never mind make!

It is the love of the Father that sent the Son. It is the love of the Son that caused him to die and give himself for us. It is because of that love – and the resurrection that we have a hope beyond the grave. We have been thinking recently about Job and how, even without knowing Christ, he had a hope in a resurrected Saviour, being certain that he would see him with his own eyes.

“I know that my redeemer lives and in the end he will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)

It reminded my of another old song and Garth Hewitt singing “may you live to dance on your own grave…may you live to boogie all night long”.

Or if you are of a more classical bent, just listen to “I know my Redeemer liveth” from Handel’s Messiah. Spine tingly joyful!

But that then sent me on in my journey to a wonderful conversation between Joni Eareckson Tada and Nancy Guthrie talking about suffering, healing and the hope of eternity. What stunned me was Joni talking about how the glory of heaven would not be for her a renewed body (Joni is a paraplegic) but getting to see Christ and sharing fully in Christ without the restraints of sin.

Which led me on to another song based upon the letters of the Samuel Rutherford hymn, The Sands of Time Are Sinking. The whole hymn is wonderful poetry but here are a couple of verses – the first and the last.

VERSE 1
The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair, sweet morn awakes;
Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

VERSE 6
The bride eyes not her garments,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace;
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.

This Easter, we need to look away from our poor, sick world and look to the Lamb, who brings healing for the nations. We need to see the glory.

This week another couple of songs also came to mind because of the death of the 81-year-old Bill Withers.  Ain’t No Sunshine is not about Christ but it expresses the sentiment well. There is no light in this world of darkness without Christ. Likewise his song Lean on Me is not about Christ, but it could be, with its memorable lyrics: “Lean on me, when you’re not strong, I’ll be your help, I’ll help you carry on.”

We used that when we were on camp with some young people from a deprived background; they got it totally. We all need somebody to lean on.

When I think of Christ, it makes me want to sing. Again, although not a Christian (as far as we know) Leonard Cohen expressed this idea beautifully in his You Got Me Singing:

You got me singing even though the news is bad….
You got me singing even though it all looks grim..
You got me singing the Hallelujah hymn.

One final stop in this musical journey. We sang William Cowper’s There is a Fountain Filled with Blood at Good Friday virtual church and it moved me to tears, not least the last stanza:

When this poor, lisping, stamm’ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save:
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save;
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save.

Happy Easter! Let’s sing His power to save!

 

Quantum 89 – Lord of the Rings; Clapping; John Lennox; The EU and Covid; Mike Ryan (WHO); Chinese Churches; Cardinal Pell; Daphne Shah; Bob Dylan; Holy Smoke; Panic Room and Bill Withers

No laughing matter: there’s something greater at stake than the arrest of Rodney Howard-Browne

7 comments

  1. Thank you David for the music.. especially in this time.

    I think of Dallas Holm and “Rise Again.” That song was so special to Joyce and I as new Christians and I remember the Easter Sunday morning just a few years ago when we we found ourselves on the road to Chicago to fly to the Old Country. We were on I70 in northern Kansas, it was very early. It was very dark! But… then we drove into an absolutely brilliant sunrise east of Junction City….and ‘Rise Again’ came on the radio. It was just for us, our very own Easter Sermon! Enjoy some Easter music.

    https://youtu.be/mBqoQJRNepo

  2. Actually, I think there are some songs that really are about God and Jesus, but are nicely cloaked so that they become popular, but those with “ears to hear” can pick out the double meaning. “Lean On Me” is one of them. One rock song I think about come Easter is “Hang Onto Your Life” by the Canadian band The Guess Who. It’s all about Jesus’ betrayal, although the casual listener might just dig the rock riffs … but they nail the point home as the music fades, and Burton Cummings recites Psalm 22:13-15 (“They gape upon Me with their mouths …”).

  3. I share your disappointment about the Queen’s speech. I was expecting a far more profound speech from her during these unprecedented times. The evening could have been one of the rarest opportunities for her to tell the nation about the hope she has as a Christian. I would assume her popularity is one of the highest ever been and she could have leveraged it by telling us about her real source of optimism. I would say she missed a lifetime opportunity to guide the nation.

    A side note, love your book reviews, enjoy reading your blog posts, and listening to the podcast shows. God bless. He is Risen.

  4. Thank you for the songs and music, included in this another helpful and encouraging blog. Horatius Bonar (Rev.) was also a hymn writer; perhaps best known for his hymn ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto Me and rest…’. But a poem of his, I have often found helpful in times of illness, etc and now so apt during the present turmoils: 2 of its 7 verses, I include below, but the poem begins like a prayer:
    ‘Calm me my God, and keep me calm…’, then, in vs 6 & 7:

    Calm in the sufferance of wrong,
    Like Him who bore my shame,
    Calm ‘mid the threatening, taunting throng,
    Who hate Thy holy Name;

    Calm as the ray of sun or star
    Which storms assail in vain;
    Moving unruffled through earth’s war,
    The eternal calm to gain.

    More at: https://hymnary.org/text/calm_me_my_god_and_keep_me_calm

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