Christ the Lord is Risen Today by Charles Wesley

Lyrics: Charles Wesley, 1739. Written in celebration of the first service of London’s first Wesleyan Chapel. This chapel was known as the Foundry Meeting House because Charles Wesley purchased an old foundry building to house his growing number of converts.

Music: EASTER HYMN, unknown author, first published in 1708.

Theme: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures . . . I Corinthians 15:3-4.
Black Resurrection

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say! Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high: Alleluia!
Sing ye heavens, thou earth reply. Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done; Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won: Alleluia!
Lo, our Sun’s eclipse is o’er; Alleluia!
Lo, He sets in blood no more. Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal; Alleluia!
Christ has burst the gates of hell. Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise; Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise. Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King! Alleluia!
Where, O Death is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save; Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies. Alleluia!

What though once we perished all, Alleluia!
Partners in our parents’ fall? Alleluia!
Second life we all receive, Alleluia!
In our heavenly Adam live. Alleluia!

Risen with Him, we upward move, Alleluia!
Still we seek the things above, Alleluia!
Still pursue and kiss the Son, Alleluia!
Seated on his Father’s throne. Alleluia!
The Resurrected Jesus Reveals Himself to Mary Near the Tomb

Scarce on earth a thought bestow, Alleluia!
Dead to all we leave below; Alleluia!
Heaven our aim and loved abode, Alleluia!
Hid our life with Christ in God; Alleluia!

Hid till Christ, our Life, appear, Alleluia!
Glorious in His members here; Alleluia!
Joined to Him, we then shall shine, Alleluia!
All immortal, all divine. Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven! Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given! Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now: Alleluia!
Hail, the Resurrection Thou! Alleluia!

King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

The “Alleluia” at the end of each line of the poem was not originally part of the Wesley’s hymn. An unknown editor added that responsive repetition to better fit words to music. Wesley’s original poem also had eleven verses, and I finally found all eleven in this post at Dr. Mark Roberts’ blog.

Christmas in Leipzig, Germany, c. 1735

The Twenty Children of Johann Sebastian Bach by David Arkin.

As a part of a large donation to my library of ex-library books, I found this wonderful book about Bach and his family. The author says that of the twenty children (by two successive wives), seven did not live. So, that leaves thirteen little Bachs to learn to sing and play music and compose music. It must have been a delightful household.

The book mentions Christmas:

“Most wonderful of all were the times when the family gathered together at holidays with their friends. Then the immortal music of all the Bachs would ring out for the earth and heavens to hear. Perhaps they would sing the Christmas Oratorio, or a cantata, or maybe they would just make up music as they went along.”

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was composed in 1734, so that’s why I dated this Christmas post 1735. I think this celebration of music and Bach and his family would be a great read at any time of the year. The illustrations by author David Arkin are lovely and detailed pencil drawings of all the Bachs and their musical activities. David Arkin, by the way, was the father of actor Alan Arkin, and he wrote the lyrics to Black and White, a hit pop song recorded most successfully by Three Dog Night in 1972.

(So after writing this post, I went over to youtube and listened to some Three Dog Night: Black and White, The Road to Shambhala, Old Fashioned Love Song, Never Been to Spain, Joy to the World. Funny how a book about Bach can lead to a 70’s pop binge listen.)

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson.

“There is no way to write a biography of Shostakovich without relying on hearsay and relaying the memories of people who have many private reasons to fabricate, mislead and revise.” (p.141)

So, this biography of Shostakovich, the Russian composer who immortalized the siege of Leningrad during World War II in his Seventh Symphony, is sprinkled throughout with “perhaps” and “supposedly” and “it is not clear whether” and many, many questions. I was at first a little frustrated by all the “weasel words” with which author M.T. Anderson hedges his sentences and declarations and with all of the open-ended questions with which he ends many of his paragraphs and chapters, but I began to see these uncertainties and essays at truth as (perhaps) metaphorical. After all, Anderson is writing about the events of a composer’s life, many of which are shrouded in Communist propaganda and lies or in the half-truths of people who were trying to live under Communist oppression. But he’s also writing about Shostakovich’s music, which is also vague and uncertain and shrouded, as various experts disagree about the music’s message and meaning. So there are questions, and Anderson asks the right ones while also laying out the facts when those are available in a readable narrative form.

I don’t exactly see why this book is being marketed as a young adult book, unless it’s maybe because the author has written many fiction books for children and young adults. While it’s not a scholarly, academic biography, it is certainly well researched and documented and perfectly suited for adult readers. In fact, unless a person, young or old, is particularly interested in the Soviet Union during World War II or in Shostakovich’s music or twentieth century classical music in general, I doubt this book is going to hold much appeal. Conversely, if any of those interests are there, young and old will find it fascinating. So why is it a Young Adult book? I have no idea.

The details about the siege of Leningrad, taken partly from NKVD archives and records, are harrowing and disturbing (starvation, cannibalism, frozen and unburied bodies, etc.), so it’s not a book for children. The main text of the book is 379 pages and written in a literary, almost lyrical style, so I doubt anyone younger than fifteen or sixteen is going to attempt it anyway. I thought I knew a lot about World War II, but it turns out that I knew very little, aside from the bare facts, about the siege of Leningrad, and I had never heard of Shostakovich’s Leningrad (Seventh) Symphony, not being a music aficionado or a student of classical Russian music.

I was inspired by the book to listen to the Leningrad Symphony, a undertaking in itself since the symphony in four movements is almost an hour and half long. I’ll embed the youtube version that I listened to, but I’m sure that I got more out of it after having read all the historical background in Mr. Anderson’s book. I suggest, for those of you who, like me, are not musically educated, that you read the book first and then listen to the symphony.

Good book, but disturbing. Good music, but also disturbing, especially the relentless march in the first movement.

Poetry Friday: Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree

Apple Tree by Z-babyThe tree of life my soul hath seen,

Laden with fruit and always green: (x2)

The trees of nature fruitless be

Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:

By faith I know, but ne’er can tell (x2)

The glory which I now can see

In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,

And pleasure dearly I have bought: (x2)

I missed of all; but now I see

’Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil,

Here I will sit and rest awhile: (x2)

Under the shadow I will be,

Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,

It keeps my dying faith alive; (x2)

Which makes my soul in haste to be

With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

I found several choral versions of this song, a poem/carol by an anonymous eighteenth century poet set to music by Elizabeth Poston. But I rather liked this solo rendition by Lee Farrar Bailey.

I’m thankful today for the rest I find in Christ the Apple Tree.

Captivated by His Beauty

The sermon at my church this morning was a Biblical exposition of this hymn, Hast Thou Heard Him, Seen Him, Known Him?

My pastor spoke of the worth of knowing Jesus, of the worthlessness of idols, and of our joy and responsibility to “crown Him (our) unrivaled King.” I was reminded of this poem, Barter by Sara Teasdale:

Image from page 844 of "A comprehensive dictionary of the Bible" (1871) from Flickr via Wylio
© 1871 Internet Archive Book Images, Flickr | PD | via Wylio
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Of course, it’s not for the creation that I am willing to give all that I “have been or could be.” Those intimations of joy found in the appreciation of the Creator’s handiwork are only shadows of the Creator Himself. It’s Jesus himself who is worth all that I am.

“But what, in conclusion, of Joy? To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian….It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the point naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods, the sight of a signpost is a great matter….But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. ‘We would be at Jerusalem.'” ~C.S. Lewis

I am also reminded of Jesus’ parables: ““Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:44-46 (NKJV)

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One gliimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.
~Esther Kerr Rusthoi

The Poetry of God’s Word

Did you know that about a third of the entire Old Testament can be considered poetry? There’s not as much poetry in the New Testament, but there are several poetic passages, including some of Jesus’s words such as the Beatitudes and the Lord’s (Model) Prayer.

Hebrew poetry wasn’t exactly like English poetry or modern poetry. Little or no rhyming. There is some wordplay and alliteration, but it’s often not easy to translate. However, the basic elements of Hebrew poetry are just as understandable in translation as they are in the original language IF you think of the passages as poetry. The following poems or songs are some of the most famous, lyrical and meaningful passages of the Bible, other than the Psalms, Proverbs, The Song of Solomon, Job, and the book of Lamentations which are also written in poetic form.

The Song of Moses and Miriam: Exodus 15:1-21
The Song of Deborah: Judges 5
The Song of the Bow: II Samuel 1
The Burden of Nineveh: Nahum 1:10-3:19
The Song of Mary, Magnificat: Luke 1:46-55
THe Song of Zacharias, Benedictus: Luke 1:68-79
The Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-10
Who Shall Separate Us? Romans 8:35-38
He Humbled Himself: Philippians 2:5-11

Trustworthy Saying, I Timothy 2:11-13

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

The value of studying poetry as poetry in the Bible:

“The Bible is filled with images as well as theological ideas. Life is a journey down a path, God is a shepherd, depression is a valley, salvation is a feast. These images, and not only doctrinal ideas, should be prominent in biblical teaching and preaching. Tracing them through the Bible is as valid an approach to doctrinal content as is systematic theology. God trusted such images to communicate the truth people need to know.” ~Leland Ryken

“From Homer, who never omits to tell us that the ships were black and the sea salty, or even wet, down to Eliot with his ‘hollow valley’ and ‘multifoliate rose,’ poets are always telling us that grass is green, or thunder loud, or lips red. This is the most remarkable of the powers of poetic language: to convey to us the quality of experiences.” ~C. S. Lewis, The Language of Religion

Poetry Friday: Hymn by Joseph Addison

Spiral Galaxy NGC 3982 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Hubble Heritage, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio
The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame
Their great Original proclaim.
Th’unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his creator’s powers display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
While all the stars that round her burn
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid the radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
The hand that made us is divine.

The tune that is traditionally used for this hymn poem by the 17th century essayist is adapted from Haydn’s Creation, The Heavens Are Telling, another poem set to music that extolls the beauty of God’s creation in the heavens.

Mr. Addison (b.May 1, 1672, d.June 17,1719), in addition to writing poetry, was well-known as an essayist. Here are some selected quotes from his writings:

“Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn.” Isn’t it nice to think that Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and Mark Twain were all writing to leave a legacy to me and my children?

“A true critic ought to dwell upon excellencies rather than imperfections, to discover the concealed beauties of a writer, and communicate to the world such things as are worth their observation.” A good motto for book bloggers, at least when possible, when the “excellencies” outweigh the “imperfections”?

“There is no defense against criticism except obscurity.” On the other hand, the author would do well to remember this particular aphorism. Critics will criticize.

At any rate, I enjoyed Mr. Addison’s hymn, and I hope it encourages you and stirs you to worship the Creator as you live your Friday.

Poetry Friday: I Am His, and He Is Mine

Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know;
Gracious Spirit from above, Thou hast taught me it is so!
O this full and perfect peace! O this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine.
In a love which cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine.

Heav’n above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.
Since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.

Things that once were wild alarms cannot now disturb my rest;
Closed in everlasting arms, pillowed on the loving breast.
O to lie forever here, doubt and care and self resign,
While He whispers in my ear, I am His, and He is mine.
While He whispers in my ear, I am His, and He is mine.

His forever, only His; Who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss Christ can fill the loving heart!
Heav’n and earth may fade and flee, firstborn light in gloom decline;
But while God and I shall be, I am His, and He is mine.
But while God and I shall be, I am His, and He is mine.
~George W. Robinson

Does being “in Christ” really lend a savor and an intensity to life that “Christless eyes” are lacking? Are the greens greener and the songs gladder? I don’t know, but I think so. I know that I have depth of purpose and security and “abundant life” that I don’t see in those I know who are not walking with the God of the Universe through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Am I happier than non-Christians? No, sometimes I think I am sadder and more intensely hurting, especially when I see the news and feel a small part of the pain of non-Muslims being persecuted in Iraq or a comedian with Parkinson’s and without hope in the U.S or people in my own community who have only themselves, their families, and financial success to live for. I hurt for those who are outside the circle of God’s everlasting love and for those who are walking in darkness. I want to pull them into the light and rest of Jesus’s love. But I can’t force them to follow Him.

And so I pray. For Iraqi Christians and Yazidis. For members of the Islamic State and of Al-Qaeda. For immigrant children and adults, legal and illegal. For comedians and rock stars and plumbers and schoolteachers. For my friend’s son. For my own children. For the world that Christ died to save. And sometimes I cry.

But while God and I shall be, I am His, and He is mine.

Irene Latham at Live Your Poem has the Poetry Friday Roundup.

L is for Lyrics

“Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you.” ~Winnie the Pooh

Lyrics: a set of words that make up a song, usually consisting of verses and choruses. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist.

'Moonrise beside Mt. Diablo' photo (c) 2013, David McSpadden - license:

America by Paul Simon

Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag.
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies
And walked off to look for America.

“Kathy,” I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
“Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitch-hike from Saginaw.
I’ve come to look for America.”

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, “Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera.”

“Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat.”
“We smoked the last one an hour ago.”
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field.

“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, though I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.”
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

© 1968 Words and Music by Paul Simon

The Top One Hundred Song Lyrics that Work as Poetry