“Monday 5 Things”™ ….. Of a Cross, a Tomb, and Hymns …..

Dsc 1398 1Photo: D. Paul Graham, ‘Ressuscitado’, Lisbon Portugal, circa 2017

“Monday 5 Things”™  ….. Of a Cross, a Tomb, and Hymns …..

Amongst rejoicing and celebrations this past week, Easter is once again here. I have been struck anew with the simplicity of the faith of a child, the profound nature of free choice, and the sheer magnitude and consequence of Christ’s death, resurrection, redemption, and grace.  I have found myself subtly humming, and not so subtly (translated – at the top of my lungs in my car) singing some of my favorite hymns that have been a part of my life for these 60 years. This morning’s M5T shares some of those hymns and the stories behind them.

1. ‘It is Well with my Soul.’

This hymn was penned in 1873 by Horatio Spafford, a prominent US attorney. Spafford wrote this hymn after suffering the loss of his four daughters who died in a shipping accident while crossing the Atlantic with his wife. Spafford was still in the US when he received a telegraph from his wife that simply said, “Saved. Alone”. He was inspired to write the hymn as he sailed passed near the spot of his daughters death enroute to Britain to meet his grieving wife. The hymn is a testament to the peace Spafford found in his faith in Christ even during those moments of deep adversity and profound grief. I used to love to sing this as a kid in the church choir, and to this day can often be seen mouth wide and eyes leaking when I sing along to it in my car at the top of my lungs.

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way, / When sorrows like sea billows roll /
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say / It is well, it is well, with my soul / It is well (it is well) / With my soul (with my soul)”

2. ‘How Great Thou Art.’

Written in 1885 by Carl Gustav Boberg, a 26-year-old pastor from Sweden. Caught in a thunderstorm after church one Sunday afternoon, Boberg watched from the mountains, as the full force and power of the storm rolled in. Once the storm passed, a rainbow arched across the valley. Boberg wrote “O Store Gud,” which was then translated into German, Russian, and English. A stanza in the song was adopted in 1949 by English missionary Stuart Hine who created the hymn that is sung around the world to this day.

“O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made; I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee…”

3. ‘I Can Only Imagine.’

Not all hymns were written centuries ago. In 2001, the band MercyMe released “I Can Only Imagine”, which reflects on what it will be like to meet Christ face to face in heaven. I contest that this will be sung as beautiful hymn generation’s from now. Ditto on singing in my car and eyes leaking like in M5T 1 above.

“Surrounded by Your glory / What will my heart feel? / Will I dance for You Jesus / Or in awe of You be still? / Will I stand in Your presence / Or to my knees, will I fall? / Will I sing hallelujah? / Will I be able to speak at all? / I can only imagine ….”

4. ‘Rock of Ages.’

Traveling to a nearby village to preach in 1763, Augustus Toplady was caught in a storm and took shelter in a nearby gorge. While waiting out the storm in a narrow gap between the rocks, he was inspired to write the hymn as he considered biblical metaphors of God as our strength and our rock that was broken so we could experience salvation.

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee; / Let the water and the blood, from Thy wounded side which flowed / Be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure….”

5. ‘Amazing Grace.’

Englishman John Newton was an outspoken atheist, libertine, and slave trader. His father first took him to sea as an 11-year-old. He took to the seas and had the reputation as one of the most profane of any sailor at the time. In 1748 when he was 23, he survived a violent storm in the North Atlantic enroute to America and he found his faith. Ordained an Anglican priest in 1764 Newton became an important voice in the English abolitionist movement. Amazing Grace, which he composed in 1772, is one of 280 hymns that he wrote and published in a hymn book called ‘Olney Hymns’.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! / I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. / ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved; / how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!”

Here’s to a week of being thankful for those we love, for all we have, for knowing and living our faith, and for hymns that survive the test of time. And on this Easter Monday, rejoicing that He is risen indeed.

© 2023 D. Paul Graham, all rights reserved.

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For over 11 years, D. Paul Graham has published “Monday 5 Things” ™, also known to readers as M5T. You can reach Paul by email at dpg@imagegraham.com