Suggested Hymns

Ash Wednesday

February 25, 1998

Unifying Theme:
God will deliver His promises as we are able to receive them.
What He is doing is right for us. We should listen to His messenger.

Bread from Stones
The First Temptation:
Bread from Heaven;
Stones from earth
Scripture Theme Hymns
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17


Isaiah 58:1-12

Calamity is not God's will for you


Light and healing and glory come through righteous service to God

206: I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light
Psalm 51:1-17 God's judgment is justified; repentance is good for the soul
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 The treasure that counts is in heaven
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 Being the Lord's ambassadors on earth

Featured Hymn
Here, O My Lord, I See Thee

Words by Horatius Bonar
Music by Edward Dearle

This is the first day of Lent, a season of preparation and reflection leading to Easter. Two sets of stories from the life of Christ are often emphasized during this season; one is the story of Christ's temptations in the wilderness, and the other is a collection of stories about Holy Week, the final week before the resurrection. Since Lent has six Sundays, as well as a number of special days with suggested lectionary readings, the featured hymns will focus on each of the three temptations, and a number of the stories from Holy Week. Granted, it will be something of a departure from the Lectionary, but I hope you will indulge me.

While He was in the wilderness, Christ was first tempted to change stones to bread. Christ responded with scripture, declaring, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." The featured hymn this week captures in part this great truth. In the closing verse, Horatius Bonar writes:

Feast after feast thus comes and passes by;
yet, passing, points to the glad feast above,
giving sweet foretaste of the festal joy, 
the Lamb's great bridal feast of bliss and love.

People have long known the pleasures of fine meals and feasts. These are temporal, though. The best that we can hope to enjoy in this life pales when compared to the feast described by Bonar. May we always remember what is greater and better, and make our choices accordingly.

In His preparation for ministry, Christ fasted, giving up the pleasures that can distract us from a closer relationship with the Father. It was then, while Christ hungered for food, that Satan sought to take advantage of the weakness in Christ's frail, human body. For Christ, the temptation was a choice between physical and spiritual needs. He demonstrated His choice in His words and His actions. We, too, can know the feast which brings love and power and redemption, but only when we have learned to follow Christ's example and truly crave the Word of God as our source of life.

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), lived in England. Along with his brother Andrew, he was involved in the 19th century evangelical movement. Between the two of them, Horatius was recognized as the hymn writer, and was also known to provide musical instruction to children of noble families. Some of his works were incorporated into the 1876 revision of John Wesley's Collection of Hymns for Use by the People Called Methodists. In a paper entitled Some hymns and hymn-books, which was read before the Cambridge University Congregational Society in the Easter term, 1924, Bernard L. Manning, M.A., a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, discussed the relative merits of works by several writers, including Bonar. Bonar receives a short and rather pointed critique--"Less good than these [other hymn writers], as he is even more voluble, is Horatius Bonar, a useful, pedestrian sort of man who is never very good and not often very bad. He badly needs the pruning knife, but we may be grateful for `I heard the voice of Jesus say' and `O Love of God, how strong and true' and `Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God'."

Whether the "pruning knife" is needed for this featured hymn may be debatable. But focusing on the bread from heaven, not on the stones of this earth, is a solid message to begin the Lenten season.

God bless you--
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Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.