Singing the Cross


Back on again over on the Methodist Church in Ireland's Lenten Blog on the Atonement... this time reflecting on Stuart Townend's understanding of what was happening on the cross. That, and the fast approaching shadow of Good Friday has prompted me to list my 6 favourite and 6 least favourite songs about Christ on the cross (excluding the 2 Townend songs, which I quite like despite their theological frailties)... It was going to be 5 of each but I couldn't restrict myself to that Let's start with the stinkers first in no particular order:

Lift High the Cross - has too much of the "crusader" overtones for me...

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle - for much the same reason as above- indeed probably more so as it as militaristic tosh like this that set the theological context for crusading Christendom, the unholy alliance of Kingdom and Empire. Also don't like "The Royal banners forward go" by the same author, Venantius Fortunatus , for the same reason... but thankfully we rarely sing either of them these days (at least not when I have a say...)

Rejoice and be glad - too repetitive and jam-packed full of theological jargon...

There is a fountain filled with blood - straight from the Hammer-Horror School of Theology...

The old rugged cross - actually there's not a lot wrong with the theology of this one, apart from a slight tendency tosentimentalism and religious jargon... but it just doesn't do it for me, and probably is guilty by association with some memories of "wee meetings" in days gone by...

I stand amazed in the presence - not only do I feel uneasy at the juxtaposition of the exultant chorus with some of the verses reflecting on the agony of Christ... the fact that he suffered and died alone is not marvellous or wonderful... and that line suggests a fracturing in the trinity at the time of Christ's death, while it is almost docetic in its attitude to the agony of Christ in the Garden...

But let's finish on a more positive note:

When I survey the wondrous cross - however, always concerned that it doesn't explore why a piece of execution equipment could be described as "wondrous..."

My song is love unknown - a comprehensive poetic exploration of Christ's death within the context of his life and love...

Jesus Christ, I think upon your sacrifice - it may be simple (and some may say, using my own words against me, simplistic) but I think it works... (if not this one then another by Redman "I will offer up my life")

Here is love vast as the ocean - Whilst many other hymns focusing on the blood of Christ come across as gore-fests, this explicitly uses Christ's blood as a metaphor for God's love and mercy. I find it strange that this song, reputedly the theme song of the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference which in many ways spawned both modern evangelicalism and ecumenism, was then largely forgotten for the most of a century.

Come and see - Another modern one, which (horror of horrors) mentions the word "wrath", but I think it does a good job of putting people into the context of the cross...

O Sacred Head sore/once wounded - always wary of using this as the language is less than transparent... but it usually wins out because of the beautiful pairing of words and music...


One thing I am looking for, however, is a hymn/song which truly expresses the context of Jesus' death... not just the eternal implications, but the contemporary political and theological reasons for his crucifixion... But more of that anon... If anyone can point me in the direction of one I would be deeply grateful... And feel free not only to critique my lists, but to offer some of your own...

Shalom

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