Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Power of the Cross

I’ve shared some of the work of Stuart Townend and Keith Getty with you before. These two young men have committed themselves to writing hymns that link us to our history as a church while still connecting strongly with the world that needs to know Christ. There is too much of the “we don’t want any of that __________ (you fill in the blank) in worship” attitude on all sides of the worship war that it is becoming more and more difficult to cultivate community among the body of Christ. I thought it was hard 10 years ago. It appears to be more difficult now, and it will not improve without intentional effort from within the body of Christ.

Part of the problem is that we all want it our way. “Contemporary” worshipers don’t want stuff that feels too old. “Traditional” worshipers don’t want stuff that feels too unfamiliar. “Emerging” worshipers don’t want anything that feels too much like the late-1990s or earlier. “Post-modern” worshipers don’t want anything that feels too uh … um … hmmm … easily defined, I guess. There are even more labels, but I think you get the idea. We are so wrapped up in ourselves, whatever the label we take, that we don’t even think about what it will take to welcome someone else and seek to assimilate them into our community of faith. Why not? Perhaps it’s because we know that adding new people to any group means that things will change.

Tonight I’m introducing a new hymn (see opposite side) recently written by Townend and Getty. I read recently that they took some 9 months to write it … laboring over what to say and how to say it in the hymn. The quality of their work, though contemporary, flies in the face of the erroneous assumption that contemporary worship music is all insipid, thoughtless ditties hastily written and poorly thought out. I have heard this assumption of late, and every time I hear someone say it I want desperately to cry out, “You’re wrong!” I want to say the same thing when others say that hymns are a thing of the past. Both assumptions are wrong, narrow-minded, and ill-informed.

As Keith Getty wrote about their goals for the hymn, the first thing he said he and Stuart Townend wanted to achieve was “an opportunity to remember His sufferings.” In Getty’s words:

So many of the ancient traditions of the church allowed us time to meditate on the cross – through silence, repentance and pardon in liturgy, laments. What about us today – do we forget to really remember? In remembering His sufferings we contemplate just what it took to accomplish our salvation.
Getty and Townend have committed themselves to providing the church with hymns that connect us to the past and help us express our faith in the present. I was told that they give permission to anyone to copy this hymn for worship. I want to meet these guys some day to thank them.

That’s enough to think about for now … (hymn follows)


Oh to see the dawn of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men, torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.
This the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us.
Took the blame, bore the wrath,
We stand forgiven at the cross.
Oh to see the pain written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev'ry bitter thought, ev'ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.
This the power of the cross ...
Now the daylight flees, now the ground beneath
Quakes as its maker bows his head.
Curtain torn in two, dead are raised to life.
"Finished!" the vict'ry cry.
This the power of the cross ...
Oh to see my name written in the wounds,
For through Your suff'ring I am free.
Death is crushed to death, life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love!
This the power of the cross:
Son of God slain for us.
What a name, what a cost,
We stand forgiven at the cross.


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