Suggested Hymns

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

August 30, 1998
Proper 17(22)

Unifying Theme:
Negatives and positives--maybe they do go together!

Scripture Theme Hymns
Jeremiah 2:4-13
Sirach 10:12-18 or Proverbs 25:6-7
Don't forget to ask, "Where is the Lord?"
Don't let your pride humiliate you
298: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
299: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
395: Take Time to Be Holy
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Psalm 112
Don't have a stubborn heart against God
Don't let your faith be shaken
501: O Thou Who Camest from Above
616: Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast
Luke 14:1, 7-14 Don't give to receive; give because you are giving 221: In the Bleak Midwinter
396: O Jesus, I Have Promised
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 Don't forget to do good 410: I Want a Principle Within
438: Forth in Thy Name, O Lord

Featured Hymn
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Hymn #298, 299
Words by Isaac Watts
Music by Lowell Mason (298), Anonymous (299)
Tune Name: HAMBURG (298), ROCKINGHAM (299)

The lectionary scriptures this week are full of warnings. They are full of statements about what God's people should not do. There are a few positive notes, of course, but lots and lots of negatives. Have you ever seen someone who "lives the Christian faith" by the "do's and don'ts" method? Sure you have. Do pray. Don't kill. Do worship. Don't lie. Do this. Don't that. Do. Don't. Do. Don't. And on it goes. What a lot of instructions!

Is there anything wrong with following the instructions in God's Word? Of course not! Even people who deny the inspired nature of the scriptures acknowledge that the laws dealing with interaction between people are good. So if we are in agreement on the "good stuff," why do we need the rest of the Bible? If we find common ground on a positive note, what is the need to deal with the negative? Is there really anything more that we need to deal with? Maybe so. If we look for them, perhaps we can see some of the ways that the negatives and the positives complement each other.

This week's featured hymn was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). The words have captured the attention of Christians ever since. Charles Wesley, who is recognized as one of the most prolific hymn writers of all time, is reported to have said that he would be willing to give up all he had ever written if he could have simply written this one hymn.

What does this hymn say that is so special? Does it tell us what to do? Not really. Does it tell us what to not do? Not really. Then what does it tell us? Read the words and think about these questions:

1. When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that harm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
3. See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
4. Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a tribute far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

So. There it is. What should we do? To me, these words embody the incredible message of the Bible. We have done nothing to be proud of next to Christ. There is no list of rules, no "do's and don'ts," that could ever measure up to what Christ has done. Our pride is contemptible. We have nothing to boast about. We are hopelessly in debt to a Lord who gave all for us. And the question remains, what should we do?

Maybe this is where we come full circle--a circle that brings us back to the scriptures for this week. (At least, that's where I'm trying to take this feature!) When we survey that wondrous cross, when we recognize that we owe so much to our Lord who gave us so much, maybe, just maybe, it should lead us to at least remember some of the do's and don'ts. Do call upon the Lord. Don't forget to ask, "Where is the Lord?" Do humble yourself. Don't let your pride humiliate you. Do God's will. Don't have a stubborn heart against God. Do believe. Don't let your faith be shaken. Do minister to the needy. Don't give so that you can receive. Do the Lord's work. Don't forget to do good.

Love so amazing, so divine, demands our souls, our lives, our all.

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.