O Come Emmanuel

O Come Emmanuel

This month I offer a version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel that I recorded last year.  The subject matter is very much the same as Come Thou Long Expected Jesus which I posted for October.  Most of my thoughts from last month really apply to this song as well.  If you are interested in those, you can see my October post.  Whereas Come Thou Long Expected Jesus is a festive, upbeat, almost celebratory song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel is probably the most solemn of all Advent hymns.  The origin of this text is hard to track down.  Most sources I found traced the song back to a mixture of separate antiphons from the 8th to 12th centuries.  At any rate, John Mason Neale translated the Latin text Veni, Veni Emanuel into English about 1850.  There are at least eight known stanzas to the hymn, but below are the lyrics as you will hear them in my arrangement.  I hope you enjoy.

O Come, O come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the son of God appear

Rejoice, rejoice

Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel

O come thou Dayspring from on high

And cheer us by thy drawing nigh

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice, rejoice

Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel

O come thou Rod of Jesse free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny

From depths of hell thy people save

And give them victory o’er the grave

Rejoice, rejoice

Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel

MP3

Each month I’ll post a new song.  This month’s song is from my album Hymns and Carols, and you can have it FREE.  Just right-click on the link below, choose “Save Target As,” and it’s all yours.  If you want to make a donation, I am funneling all funds from this project to International Justice Mission.  Visit the Donate page for more details.  And please share this blog with your friends.

O Come Emmanuel

(if you can’t download the file, send me a message at ecparker@comcast.net and I’ll email you the MP3)

Credits

Original text translated from Latin by John Mason Neale, 1851.

Music based on original melody.  Alt. by Eric Parker Copyright 2009 Eric Parker/BMI

Eric Parker – vocals, acoustic guitar

Brett Nolan – keys, drums

Fred Gault – bass

Susan Whitacre – viola

Rachel Beckmann – cello

Autumn Cone – backing vocals

Posted in Hymns, Music | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

The Longing

The Advent season doesn’t technically start until the fourth Sunday before Christmas, but I start looking toward it as early as the first of October.  Halloween is meaningless to me.  Thanksgiving is a great excuse to eat leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast 6 days in a row.  But for me it’s all about Advent.  People usually relate autumn and the onset of winter with death, and spring with rebirth.  That is certainly an appropriate way to look at the cycle God has put into place.  But for me, autumn has another meaning; relief.  I work in a metal fabrication shop.  It’s really hot.  You have to wear long pants, and long sleeves are preferred.  Acetylene torches burn steel in two.  Welding machines put it back together, and molten metal sprays through the air and spills on the shop floor.  The temperature in some corners of the shop reaches 115 degrees.  From the middle of May until late September, the heat is oppressive.  There’s no other word to describe it.  My co-workers and I have a longing.  It’s a longing for cooler weather.  We need a break from the heat.  We need cooler, thinner air.  And we know that only October can bring it.  But for me (and I suspect for you) there is another longing.  And the onset of autumn and the approaching Advent season make that longing all the more real.  This longing begins to pulse, and gradually it begins to rise to the surface.  Maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it.

But what is this longing?  Is it really just regret?  Is it the pain of failed relationships, unmet goals, or dead-end jobs?  Is it the memory of lost loved ones?  Is it longing for simpler times?  Well, it may be mixed with some or all of this, but it is really so much more.  It’s a deep down, impossible to describe, longing that we all feel.  That sense that this is not all there is, and that we were meant for some other life.  C.S. Lewis put it this way in his essay “The Weight of Glory:”

In speaking of this desire for our own faroff country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

If you’re thinking to yourself “what in the world is Lewis talking about” then read it again.  He’s saying (much more eloquently than I can) that the longing you feel is not a desire to go back to the best times of your life.  He’s saying you long for something you have never actually had.  The Jews knew this longing.  God had promised something that they could not fathom.  He had promised to one day dwell with them as he had in the garden, before the fall.  But how?  He had promised a savior, but who?  The Old Testament is replete with messianic prohpecies, promising that one day, a deliverer would come to save God’s people.  Perhaps the most clear and most appropriate of these prophecies for this subject is Isaiah 9:6:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in a land of darkness, on them has light shined.  You have muliplied the nation; you have increased its joy, they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.  For the yoke of his burden and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of midian.  For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tummult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.  For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.

And there are others.  This one prophecy alone promises the coming of a man from the line of King David who would establish David’s throne forever.  He would be a man who would rule so completely and honorably that he would be called names like “Prince of Peace” and “Wonderful Counselor.”  But he would also be called Everlasting Father.  Huh?  And Mighty God.  What?  The Jews were the most devoutly monotheistic group of people on earth (maybe the only).  How could a man, be God?  How could a man rule forever?  These were questions that did not have easy answers.  Still year after year, century after century, the Jews looked for the coming of this deliverer.  They were longing for a King.  They were longing for a country.  They had a land, but they did not have peace, so they longed for the Prince of Peace.  They had had many kings, but they were longing for the one who would rule with the heart of David, the wisdom of Solomon, and justice, honor and might to a measure beyond anything they had seen.  They didn’t know it, but they were longing for advent.  More importantly, they were longing for Jesus.

But what the Jews could not understand from their point of view, was that the prophecies they longed to see fulfilled were pointing to two events, not one.  They were pointing to a first coming, but also a second coming.  You see Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  He was born into the family of David.  All of these prophecies were fulfilled in his first advent.  But what about this “the government will be on his shoulder” talk?  What about “his reign shall have no end?”  Do we see Jesus ruling the nations from his throne in Jerusalem?  No, we don’t.  Jesus was very clear, when he said, “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).  Jesus IS building his kingdom.  But he is doing it in the hearts of men and women.  One day his kingdom will come in its fullness, and he will put every enemy under his feet.  But that has not happened yet.  These things will happen at his second advent.  That’s why the longing remains.  Our longing is both pacified and fed at Christmas.  It is pacified because we rejoice in Christ’s first advent.  We celebrate that the “light that gives light to every man [has come] into the world” (John 1:4).  But we also remember the cross, and the tomb, and the empty tomb.  And we remember his ascension back to the Father…and this promise:

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. – John 14:2-3

His first advent guarantees the second.  And when he comes again, this feeling that Lewis describes as an “Inconsolable secret” will be satisfied.  But for now, long-on fellow wanderer.  We are not home yet.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. – 1 Corinthians 2:9

MP3

Each month I’ll post a new song.  This month’s song is from my album Hymns and Carols, and you can have it FREE.  Just right-click on the link below, choose “Save Target As,” and it’s all yours.  If you want to make a donation, I am funneling all funds from this project to International Justice Mission.  Visit the Donate page for more details.  And please share this blog with your friends.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

(if you can’t download the file, send me a message at ecparker@comcast.net and I’ll email you the MP3)

Credits

Original Words by  Charles Wesley.  Additional lyrics by Mark E. Hunt copyright 1978 Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.  Used by permission.

Music based on original melody.  Copyright 2009 Eric Parker/BMI

Eric Parker – vocals, acoustic guitar

Brett Nolan – keys, drums

Fred Gault – bass

Matt Twitty – electric guitar

Susan Whitacre – viola

Rachel Beckmann – cello

Autumn Cone – vocals

Posted in Advent, Hymns, Music | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Light of Light

In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.” – John 1:1

Secularism reigns in America today.  In almost every area of public life, we have held up our hand to God at the door and said “No Admittance.”  Our main concern in America seems to be that no one’s personal rights are violated.  But no one is asking this question: Who defines what rights should be upheld?  For instance, we do not have the right to pray in the name of Jesus at a highschool football game, but we do have the right to murder our unborn children.  Now I am not one of those people who believes that America is a “Christian nation.”  I happen to agree that many of the founding fathers were deists (at best).  And the constitution does prevent the government (and it’s schools) from declaring a specific religion.  So maybe the Muslim attendee of the football game does have the (legal) right not to have my prayers to Jesus blasted at 100 decibels over the loudspeaker.  But the question remains, who decides which rights are worth upholding?  Better yet, who defines right and wrong?  Who defines meaning?

In many ways the founding of our nation was made possible by the ideas of the Enlightenment.  But the great lie of the Enlightenment, that man can be his own source of meaning, permeates our culture.  This morning as I was watching Saturday cartoons with my 6-year-old, one of the “lessons” put forth was that we must all be “true to ourselves.”  Well, no.  No we must not.  Being true to ourselves (following our own desires at all costs) is what got us into this mess in the first place.  The lesson from Eden is clear:  man living his life on his own terms leads to death and separation from God.  We don’t need to be true to ourselves. We are hopelessly lost when we operate on our own motivations.  What we need is a clear word from God, the source of all truth.  Yesterday I talked to a friend whose life is in shambles.  In his own words, he is “paying the price for [his] bad decisions.”  And so are we all.  But we do not have to live enslaved to our own desires as does the narcissist, nor do we have to put to death all desire as does the Buddhist.  The apostle John begins his gospel by telling us there is a better way.  A way that leads to abundant life.  There is one who can shine the light of his counsel and grace on the darkest corners of our souls.  Here is hope for the hopeless.  Here is light in the darkness:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the Beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.  There came a man whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man, was coming into the world. – John 1:1-9

The hope for my friend whose life is in shambles, and the hope for all of us is found in this verse.  There is a better way.  We don’t have to walk through life trying to be true to ourselves.  We don’t have to fall for the empty promises of the world.  If we walk through this world letting the culture and our own hearts define truth and meaning, we will fall.  Hard.  But the true light that gives light to every man has come into the world!  At the end of John’s gospel he tells us why he wrote his book.

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. – John 20:30-31

May Jesus, the true light, give you light, meaning, peace, joy and purpose as you follow him.

MP3

Each month I’ll post a new song.  This month’s song is from my album From the Shoulders of Giants, and you can have it FREE.  Just right-click on the link below, choose “Save Target As,” and it’s all yours.  If you want to make a donation, I am funneling all funds from this project to International Justice Mission.  Visit the Donate page for more details.  And please share this blog with your friends.

09-Light Of Light

(if you can’t download the file, send me a message at ecparker@comcast.net and I’ll email you the MP3)

Credits

Words by Benjamin Schmolck 1714 – alt. by Eric Parker

Music Copyright 2008 Eric Parker/BMI

Eric Parker – vocals

Fred Schendel – keys,

Robert Streets – production, drums, backing vocals

Steve Babb – bass guitar

Susan Whitacre – viola

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O Sons and Daughters Let Us Sing

“If Jesus Christ is not risen from the dead, there is not one glimmer of hope for the human race.” – Konrad Adenauer

John Mason Neale was a churchman and historian living in the mid 19th century.  Neale was a member of the Church of England, but had a healthy appreciation for the hymns of the anciet and medieval churches.  He was involved in many projects and publications in efforts to refine and reform the practices of the church, but his main work was  the translation of ancient hymns into English.  Neale translated such well known hymns as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” and “All Glory Laud and Honor.”  In all Neale translated over 100 hymns from Latin, Greek, Syrian, and other languages. One of these hymns is “O Sons and Daughters Let Us Sing.”  The original hymn was composed by a Franciscan monk named Jean-Tisserand sometime around 1490.  Little is known about the life of Tisserand, but he (with Neale’s help) has left us a powerful testimony to the ressurection of Jesus Christ.  The hymn highlights the experience of the women at the empty tomb and the appearance of the risen Christ to the the apostles, and the intimate call of Christ to Thomas to see, touch, and believe.  I hope my interpretation of this hymn can be a blessing to you as you celebrate the resurrection year round.

MP3

Each month I’ll post a new song.  This month’s song is from my album From the Shoulders of Giants, and you can have it FREE.  Just right-click on the link below, choose “Save Target As,” and it’s all yours.  If you want to make a donation, I am funneling all funds from this project to International Justice Mission.  Visit the Donate page for more details.  And please share this blog with your friends.

03 O Sons And Daughters 1

(if you can’t download the file, send me a message at ecparker@comcast.net and I’ll email you the MP3)

Credits

Words by Jean Tisserand

Translated by John Mason Neale

Music Copyright 2008 Eric Parker/BMI

Eric Parker – vocals, acoustic guitar

Fred Schendel – keys, electric guitar, synths

Robert Streets – production, drums, backing vocals

Steve Babb – bass guitar

Posted in Hymns, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Thy Life Was Given for Me

“Either this is not the gospel, or we are not Christians.” – Thomas Linacre

Thomas Linacre was born around 1460 and died in 1524, just after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  He was an Oxford professor and physician to Kings Henry the 7th and 8th.  In his day the Roman Catholic Church forbade the reading of the Bible in any other form than the Latin translation known as the Vulgate.  After a two year stint studying Greek in Italy, Linacre returned to Oxford and for the first time read the four gospels in the Greek manuscripts.  Upon reading the gospels in the Greek, Linacre recorded in his diary, “Either this is not the gospel, or we are not Christians.”  Evidently the Vulgate had become so corrupted over time that it no longer taught the true message of the gospel that Linacre found in the older Greek manuscripts.  Linacre saw the gap between the true teachings of scripture and practices of his own life and the lives of his countrymen.

“Either this is not the gospel, or we are not Christians.”  That is a sobering thought.  In Linacre’s case the gap between confession and practice was at least in part due to a lacking translation of God’s word.  What’s our excuse?  Hundreds of years of textual criticism and over 5000 available fragments and manuscripts have given the modern church the most accurate translations of the original New Testament writings the church has seen in at least 1600 years.  To be sure there are some wacky paraphrases of the Bible on the market today.  Nevertheless, when we read the more faithful translations (i.e. the NIV, ESV and others) we can be sure that we are getting the original message that the New Testament writers wanted to communicate.  But if we read the gospels honestly and compare them to our lives, many of us will see a stark contrast between our confession and practice, or as one of my mentors puts it, our creed and our code.

In Matthew 28:19-20, after Jesus had risen from the dead, appeared to over 500 people, and spent forty days teaching his disciples everything that pertained to him in the scriptures of the Old Testament, he gave them this charge:

“All authority in heaven and on the earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Notice Jesus does not say, “Go therefore and make converts…” he says make disciples.  What is a disciple?  Dallas Willard has an interesting definition of the word.  According to Willard, a disciple is “a real life apprentice of Jesus.”  When I think of an apprentice, for some reason I always think of a young boy in Revolutionary America learning the blacksmith trade.  The boy would usually live with the master smith.  He spent his days with the master craftsman learning to do everything the master did.  How hot should the fire be?  At what point is the metal ready to pour?  Which hammer should be used first to do the rough work, and which one is for forming the metal into a fine finish?  And it’s not just about facts.  You can watch someone beat molten steel for hours, but until you actually pick up the hammer and swing, you have no idea what it feels like.

Being a disciple of Jesus is no different.  At first, we need to learn the facts.  We need to know that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.  We need to know that Jesus died to pay the price for our sins so that through his death, we might go free.  And most importantly, we have to take that step to put all our faith and hope in him.  But that is the beginning of our life with him.  At that point we are converts.  But that is not God’s goal for us.  His goal is so much greater.  He actually intends to make us like Jesus.  In his classic work Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis put it this way:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

When Jesus moves into a life, he has no intention of tolerating our own personal status quo.  Being a disciple is more than confessing a truth.  It is about learning from the master.  Jesus told his disciples that as they made disciples of all nations they should teach them to observe all that he had commanded.  Well, that’s a tall order.  And in any human terms, we can’t do it.  But with the indwelling Holy Spirit as our guide, we can begin to walk down the road of discipleship.  We can begin to order our lives in such a way that we are actively learning from Jesus.  As we come to portions of scripture which magnify the gap between our creed and our conduct, we can pause there and meditate on God’s word.  Being a disciple means rather than skipping ahead to something less convicting, we remain there and ask God to close the gap.

This month’s song is based on the hymn “Thy Life Was Given for Me.”  The hymn speaks to the fact that we have been bought at an enormous price.  That price was the very blood of the Son of God.   Jesus gave his life for us.  What have we given for him?  It is not a song of guilt.  It is a song of reflection.  We do in a very real sense owe God our lives.  But discipleship is not some form of repayment to God.  We can never repay God for what he has done for us.  Nevertheless, how can our response be any less than lives lived to the Glory of God?  The apostle Paul says: “And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  Let us be real-life apprentices of Jesus, no longer living for ourselves, but for him who died for us.

MP3

Each month I’ll post a new song.  This month’s song is from my album From the Shoulders of Giants, and you can have it FREE.  Just right-click on the link below, choose “Save Target As,” and it’s all yours.  If you want to make a donation, I am funneling all funds from this project to International Justice Mission.  Visit the Donate page for more details.  And please share this blog with your friends.

04 Thy Life

(if you can’t download the file, send me a message at ecparker@comcast.net and I’ll email you the MP3)

Credits

Words by Frances R. Havergal – alt. by Eric Parker

Music Copyright 2008 Eric Parker/BMI

Eric Parker – vocals

Fred Schendel – keys, electric guitar, synths

Robert Streets – production, drums, backing vocals

Steve Babb – bass guitar

Rachel Beckmann – cello

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Approach My Soul the Mercy Seat

A Hymn of Hope

This month’s hymn is John Newton’s “Approach My Soul the Mercy Seat.”  You may not be familiar with this particular hymn, but you will know at least one of Newton’s other works.  His most famous hymn was originally titled “Faith’s Review and Expectation.”  It is now affectionately titled “Amazing Grace.”  Newton knew a thing or two about grace.  He was raised by a faithful mother who prayed for him and taught him the scriptures.  But her death when Newton was only seven was a devastating blow to the young boy and to his budding faith.  He became angry at God.  A few years later, John joined his father at sea and became exposed to every lust and iniquity known to man in thought, word, and deed.  For whatever reason, his speech was exceedingly profane.  By his own admission, Newton was not satisfied with the existing curses and blasphemies, and, being an inventive man, he began to create his own insults and blasphemies against God.  Nor was Newton content with his own iniquity, but soon began to lead others into his anti-Christian way of thinking.  He was a vile man, who led other men into the path of his own perdition.

A Great Storm

Through an array of circumstances, John Newton found himself traveling back to England from the West Indies in May of 1748.  While on board the Greyhound, Newton came across a copy of Thomas à Kempis’ book The Imitation of Christ.  For some unearthly reason, the blasphemer picked up the book and began to read it.  He came across this passage:

Since Life is of short and uncertain Continuance, it highly concerns you to look about you, and take good heed how you employ it. O the Hardness of Men’s Hearts! O the wretched Stupidity! that fixes their whole Thoughts and Care upon the present . . . whereas in truth, every Work, and Word, and Thought, ought to be so ordered, as if it were to be our Last; and we instantly to Die, and render an Account of it.

Newton began to meditate on this passage.  He asked himself, “What if these things should be true?”    The next night the Greyhound, encountered a violent storm.  Many of the crew and all of the livestock were washed overboard.  As the winds died down and the rain let up, the crew made a frantic attempt to repair the worst damage to the ship.  Few held out any hope of survival.  Newton surveyed the damage and wondered if the storm would return.  He reports as follows:

About nine o’clock, being almost spent with cold and labor, I went to speak to the captain, who was busied elsewhere. As I was returning from him, I said, almost without meaning, ‘If this will not do, the Lord have mercy on us.’ This (though spoken with little reflection) was the first desire I had breathed for mercy for many years.

Turning to God

Newton was surprised at his own words and wondered why he had said them.  After blaspheming God for so many years, it shocked him to hear his own voice speak the name “Lord” in sincerity.  But, as was true for so many of us who now claim the name of Christ, this initial thought toward God was only the beginning of a turn and not the culmination.  For the next few years Newton’s life waxed and waned in contemplation of God, but at age 23, having come down with a serious fever, John Newton turned his eyes fully on God and put all his trust in Christ.  Biographer John Dunn comments on this time in Newton’s life:

Again he went down with fever. But it was during this time, weak and almost delirious, that he resolved to cast himself upon the Lord as never before, to have Him to do with him as He should please. As he lay prostrate, slowly but clearly there came to him a sight of Calvary. He began to see and understand what happened on the Cross as he had never known it before. The dying agony of the Saviour and His vicarious suffering was there before him, and he suddenly knew that it was his sin—John Newton’s sin—that had necessitated Christ’s death. Ever since the storm, Newton had considered God to be a righteous judge who would remit punishment if he could but give satisfaction. But now, he saw that God was the great Giver! He has given His one and only Son. As this sight burst upon him he was suddenly free from all his old legalistic efforts to appease an angry God. He knew he was forgiven. He knew he was a justified man. He knew that he belonged to Christ. Over the course of several days his burden of conscience was entirely removed and both peace and health were restored.

John Newton eventually left his career on the sea, and moved back to England.  He taught himself Greek and Hebrew, and though he had no formal education, entered the ministry as a priest in the Established Church.  He became a companion of George Whitefield, and the closest friend to hymn writer William Cowper.  Together Newton and Cowper published The Olney Hymns, one of the most popular hymn collections of their day.

John Newton was a blasphemer and an enemy of God.  But in his mercy, God rescued Newton and made him a son.  As a result, Newton’s sermons and hymns were full of the reality of our sin and the undeserved grace of God through Jesus’ shed blood on our behalf.  At the end of his life, Newton told William Jay of Bath, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things — that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.”

Further Reading

Much of what I have reported regarding the life of John Newton would be considered common knowledge, but the more specific facts were gleaned from an excellent biography written by John Dunn.  If you are interested in a fuller account of Newton’s life, I commend it to you.  The essay can be viewed at the link below.

http://www.newcreation.org.au/books/pdf/285_JohnNewton.pdf

Approach My Soul the Mercy Seat

This great hymn by John Newton highlights the truth he held so dear – that we are great sinners and Christ is a Great Savior.  As I have worked on this post and the song itself, I have realized that I do not see my sin for the grave matter that it is.  Our view of our own sin and our view of God are closely related.  If we have a high view of who God is, we will likely have a sober view of our sin.  Conversely, if we are indifferent to our sin, we will not see our great need for a “Great Savior.”  Would you join me this month in contemplating the depth of our sin, and the amazing grace of God?  I hope my rendering of John Newton’s “Approach My Soul the Mercy Seat” will aid you in this endeavor, and lead you to the “one name under heaven whereby we must be saved,” the Lord Jesus Christ.

MP3

Each month I’ll post a new song.  These are low-budget recordings, and you can have them FREE.  Just right-click on the link below, choose “Save Target As,” and it’s all yours.  If you want to make a donation, I am funneling all funds from this project to International Justice Mission.  Visit the Donate page for more details.  And please share this blog with your friends.

Approach My Soul the Mercy Seat MP3

(if you can’t download the file, send me a message at ecparker@comcast.net and I’ll email you the MP3)

Chord/Lead Sheet

Approach My Soul the Mercy Seat

Credits

Words by John Newton 1779

Music Copyright 2010 Eric Parker/BMI

Eric Parker – guitars and vocals

Brett Nolan – keys, percussion, engineering

Posted in Hymns | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Come for the Feast is Spread

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” – Luke 22:19-20

We’re in month two of the Year of Hymns project.  Week after week, many of us sing hymns in our corporate worship services.  Some of the hymns are familiar and some of them are new.  It is my opinion that many of them contain words, imagery, and allusions that we don’t fully (and in some cases, at all) understand.  But if we take them seriously, well-written hymns can serve as teaching tools for us.  This month’s hymn is one of those.  There is so much to say about the content of this hymn that if I were to write all I want to say, no one would read it all.  In fact, I have written this post three times this week and deleted all three versions.  Once I get started, I can’t stop, and in the end I find myself outside the boundaries of my knowledge of the scriptures.  So I have decided to offer a bit of background and then point you to the letter to the Hebrews.

Background

This month’s hymn is titled “Come for the Feast is Spread” by Henry Burton.  Burton was a Methodist minister in the late 19th century.  The melody traditionally paired with this hymn was written by Robert Lowry, the author of last month’s hymn, “Nothing but the Blood.”  I wrote the new melody for this hymn about three years ago.  When I revisited this song last month for this project, I was surprised to find that the song was not in the Lord’s Supper section of my hymnal.  The title alone lends to the assumption that it would be, and the text begins with bread and wine imagery and continues in that vein throughout.  The editors of the Trinity Hymnal, however, set this song in the section titled The Free Offer of the Gospel.  As I meditated on the words to this hymn, I found myself agreeing with its placement.  The text with my alterations is below.

Come for the Feast is Spread

Come for the feast is spread, hark to the call

Come to the Living Bread, offered to all

Come to his house of wine, at his table recline

All that he has is thine, come sinner come

———————————————————-

Come where the fountain flows, river of life

Healing for all thy woes, doubting and strife

Millions have been supplied, no one was ever denied

Come to the crimson tide, come sinner come

—————————————————————-

Come to the throne of grace, where Jesus intercedes

Before the Father’s face, his blood has set you free

He opened heaven’s door, your every sin he bore

And now his righteousness is yours

So come sinner come, come sinner come

Come Christian come

Questions That Need Answering

The hymn obviously points us to the Lord’s Supper which in turn points us to the cross.  The first two stanzas speak of the provision, nourishment, and even healing that come to us through Christ.  The last stanza turns markedly toward the letter to the Hebrews.  And for me, these somewhat rhetorical questions need to be revisited:

 What is this throne of grace?

Why do we need Jesus to intercede for us?

What does his blood have to do with us?

How has he borne our sin?

The answers to these questions begin for us in the Old Testament sacrificial system.  I’m not knowledgeable enough to get too deep here so I’ll stay on the surface.  According to God’s instruction for Israel in the Old Testament, the priest would enter the Holy of Holies (the innermost court of the temple which represented God’s dwelling in the heavenly realm) to make a sacrifice which would atone for the sins of the people.  As I understand it, a spotless animal was offered.  But the sacrifice was offered in the same way year after year.  There was no end to the blood being shed for the peoples’ sins.  The shed blood of this animal was supposed to cover the sins of the people. But did it?  Could it?  The entire book of Hebrews is a commentary on this.  In chapter 10 the author writes

The Law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming- not the realities themselves.  For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.  If it could, would they not have stopped being offered?  For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.  But those sacrifices are an endless reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. – Hebrews 10:1-4

Then why did God demand it?  If these sacrifices have no power to take away sins, then why do it?  Because there was a greater sacrifice and a greater priest coming.  When Jesus approaches the Jordan River in John Chapter 1, John the Baptist cries out “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  That’s a strange thing to say.  And it is apparent from the Gospels that nobody really got it.  Not until the resurrection.  The Old Testament system was pointing us to the work of Christ.  Except when Christ the great high priest comes, the priest is also the sacrifice.  He offers HIMSELF as the spotless sacrifice.  And when he has done this, he sits down.  That’s right, there is no need to repeat the sacrifice.  Here is how the author of Hebrews explains it:

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices which can never take away sins.  But when [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. – Hebrews 10:11-12

And in verse 19 we see a passage that explains why we can approach the Throne of Grace:

Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. – Hebrews 10:19-22

And so for all those who are weary, hear the invitation of Christ himself in this hymn.  No, better yet, hear it in his own words:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

MP3

Each month I’ll post a new song.  These are low-budget recordings and you can have them FREE.  Just right-click on the link below, choose “Save Target As,” and it’s all yours.  If you want to make a donation, I am funneling all funds from this project to International Justice Mission.  Visit the Donate page for more details.  And please share this blog with your friends.

Eric Parker- Come For the Feast is Spread

(if you can’t download the file, send me a message at ecparker@comcast.net and I’ll email you the MP3)

Chord/Lead Sheet

Come for the Feast is Spread pdf

Credits

Words by Henry Burton 1878

Music and additional lyrics Copyright 2010 Eric Parker/BMI

Eric Parker – guitars and vocals

Robert Streets – piano, percussion, production

Brett Nolan – engineering

Posted in Hymns | Tagged , , | 5 Comments