Sunday, February 26, 2012

No Penance Do We Owe

It has only taken four years to get to this point - posting the first complete hymn text I wrote (out of only two) more than twenty years ago.

The hymn was based on some sermons I had heard about a somewhat non-traditional interpretation of Lent, where the season is not about "giving up" things (a concept invented much later by theologians). Repentance, in this context, was about turning away from behaviors and other things that separate us from grace, rather than about a particular rite or litany that we must perform. This turning away then turns us toward the path of Jesus, rededicating us to following his example and learning from his life.

Your forty days of trial,
We mark, O Christ, with care;
As once you braved the wildrness,
New challenges we dare.
This season of repentance will
Inspire us as we pray;
We turn from all that mars our lives
Toward all that points your way.

No burdened obligation,
No penance do we owe,
Your gracious liberality
Is what we strive to show;
That everyone who enters here
May know the hope we feel,
Of all the world together joined,
Communion yet more real.

Our passion for God's justice
Leads on through storm and strife,
As once your passion guided you
To sacrifice your life.
No longer must we suffer thus,
You freed us from that weight;
To build your loving commonwealth
Our lives we dedicate.

Help us to know your freedom,
To understand your grace,
To feel your gentle, guiding hand
That leads us from this place;
That as we live our daily lives
As witnesses for you,
We weave the gifts we've gathered here
Through everything we do.

Text: C.W.S., 1990
Frederick C. Maker, 1881
Text Copyright © 1990

This may not be your theology, but it is proclaimed in many churches and there are not many hymns for this particular kind of Lenten season.

P.S. The drawing above is Jesus is Tempted by Satan in the Wilderness, a nineteenth-century engraving by Francis Holl..

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

All those who seek a comfort sure
In trouble and distress,
Whatever sorrows stir the mind,
Or guilt the soul oppress,

Jesus, who gave himself for you
Upon the cross to die,
Opens to you his sacred heart;
O, to that heart draw nigh.

We hear how kindly he invites;

We hear his words so blest;
“All those that labor come to me,
And I will give you rest.”

O Jesus, Joy of saints on high,
And Hope of pilgrims here,
Attracted by those loving words
To you we lift our prayer.

That mercy may enrich our souls,
That grace may ever flow;
A new and loving heart on all
Who cry to you bestow.

Text: Latin, 18th cent; tr. Edward Caswall, 1849; alt.
Tune: BANGOR (C.M.)
William Tans'ur, 1734

At church tonight we had a choir of 57. I'm not sure there were that many people out in the pews. But another Lent is upon us.

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: Christ, who throughout these forty days

Three (Calendar) Years Ago: Sarah Flower Adams

Three (Liturgical) Years Ago: Awhile in spirit, Christ, to thee

Two (Liturgical) Years Ago: O Christ, whose tender mercy hears