Saturday, February 16, 2013

O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High

            I have given up on the forty verse song, “The Forty Days of Lent.”  Maybe someone else can use the idea to make their millions, but if you do, I hope you will tithe on the income.
            However, on this fourth day of Lent, we can consider the a theme on the “Songs of Lent.”   One of the “old hymns” comes to us from the pen of Thomas a Kempis.  Or, should I say it is attributed to Thomas.  The hymn “O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High,” is one that we often sing during Lent.  The hymn in the Latin text has twenty-three stanzas; so much for the Presbyterian idea that we should sing every verse of every hymn. 
            Thomas was born around 1380 in Kempen (thus the name Kempis), which is close to Dusseldorf.  His family was poor. John, his father was a blacksmith and his mother Gertude was a school-mistress. Maybe it was due to their mother working for a school that Thomas and his brother Jan were allowed the privilege to study Latin and both ended up in the monetary at St. Agnes where Jan served as prior. 
            Thomas lived the quiet and contemplative life of a copyist.  He copied the Bible no fewer than four times; one of these is preserved at Darmstadt, Germany.  Thomas’ greatest work was The Imitation of Christ, which is one of the best known books of devotions in history. 
            Take a little time to consider some of his quotes:
            “If thou wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and seek not at any time the fame of being learned.”
            “At the day of judgment, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done.”
            “Love flies, runs, and rejoices; it is free and nothing can hold it back.”
            “Never be entirely idle; but either be reading, or writing, or praying or meditating or endeavoring something for the public good.”
            “Remember that lost time does not return.”

            As we journey through Lent, remember the words he wrote in that old hymn:

            O love, how deep, how broad, how high,
            How passing thought and fantasy,
            That God, the Son of God should take
            Our mortal form for mortals’ sake.

            For us baptized, for us He bore
            His holy fast and hungered sore;
            For us temptations sharp he knew,
            For us the tempter overthrew.

            For us to evil power betrayed,
            Scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed,
            He bore the shameful cross and death,
            For us he gave his dying breath.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Doing Something for Lent

             Today is the third day of Lent, and like a resolution one makes when the New Year begins, there are Lenten resolutions. The problem with New Year resolutions is that by the third day of the year, the resolutions are forgotten. I wonder if anyone has the same problem with Lent. I think I know the answer.
            I guess these Lenten resolutions, at least in general, are more of a religious nature, and usually come in the form of giving up something. My personal favorite is the person who will give up chocolate or cokes for Lent. Giving up some of those items that comfort our palate is certainly beneficial to our health, but a fast that would honor Jesus Christ would be one that benefits others. Maybe, one could estimate what they would spend on the cokes and chocolate they have given up, and spend the money on caring for a person in need.
            Another way to consider Lent is not so much what you are willing to give up, but take on a new project for Lent. If you feel you should give up cokes or chocolate for Lent, maybe you ought to give these up (period). Maybe a holy Lent would be to volunteer to build a wheel chair ramp for someone coming home from hip surgery. How about planting a tree for Lent or some other environmentally green activity?
            “What does the Lord require, but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” -- Micah 6:8.
            As Thomas a Kempis wrote, "At the Day of Judgment we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done."
            How about doing something for Lent?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent and Valentine's Day

          If I were to write a song for the forty days of Lent, today would be a good day as we combine Valentine’s Day and Lent.  I guess it would go something like, “On the second day of Le-ent my true love gave to me a card filled with candy and mints.”  The problem with this song is that Lent is only syllable, where Christmas has two.  The meter is all wrong, thus the le-ent.
          Going to Wikipedia, I found out that Valentine’s Day has a long history that may reach back as far as A. D. 268-270.  One of the legends that surrounds Valentine’s Day, is that when Claudius II (268-270) was emperor of Rome he determined that single men were better and more committed soldiers.  I guess they would stay on the field rather than badger their superiors for leave to go home to be with their families.  Believing that single men with undivided interest were more committed to being soldiers, Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men.  I guess another reason, is that this left Rome with many young single women from whom he could choose and not compete with the young men. 
          St. Valentine recognized the injustice of this decree, and defying Claudius he continued to perform secret marriages for young lovers.  When Valentine was discovered, Claudius had Valentine put to death. 
          Such stories make me wonder about what lengths we will go to in order to stand against injustice.  Hummmm, maybe there is a correlation between Valentine’s Day and Lent. 
          Take away from me the noise of your songs;
                I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
               But let justice roll down like waters,
                and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.  Amos 5:23-24

          "He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory." – Matthew 12:20

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Forty Days of Lent

        I thought about writing a new song, The Forty Days of Lent, sung to the tune The Twelve Days of Christmas.  The obvious problem, besides my lack of talent in song writing, is the song would be too long.  It may not be as long as One Hundred Bottles of Beer, but it would be a better song to sing while driving down the highway, trying to keep awake.   

        The good news is that we can find a wealth of Lenten songs in our hymnbook.  Actually, there are twelve hymns in the Presbyterian Hymnbook listed under the heading of Lent.

        This afternoon, during our Ash Wednesday Service, we sang the hymn Kind Maker of the World.  If you are one who likes the “old hymns,” this one is for you.  The text is attributed to Gregory the Great who lived in the sixth century (c.540-604).  The tune, A LA VENUE DE NOEL, was first printed in 1535.  My guess is this is not what you had in mind when it comes to the “old hymns.”

        Gregory was member of the Roman senate and became perfect of Rome; however after his father’s death, he gave up his power to become a Benedictine monk and established six monasteries on family land.  In 590 he rose to the office of Pope.  His interest in spreading the gospel, moved the church all the way to England.   And this of course is the Gregory we remember when we think of the Gregorian chant.

        What I am impressed with are the words of his Lenten hymn, Kind Maker of the World. 

        Kind Maker of the world, O hear
        The fervent prayer, with many a tear
        Poured forth by all the penitent
        Who keep this holy fast of Lent!

        Grant, O Thou blessed Trinity,
        Grant, O unchanging Unity,
        That this our fast of forty days

        Lord, as we move toward your passion, may we learn the discipline of service – our profit, and may our lives declare your praise as we do the merciful work of Christ.  Amen.