For those who like to sing the “Old Hymns,” during worship, this coming Sunday is the day to be at Westminster. We will be singing one of the oldest hymns in the book, written by Thomas à Kempis in the 15th century. Wow that is some 600 years ago. He predates the Reformation, so we are talking old.Thomas was born around 1380 in Kempen (thus the name Kempis), which is close to Dusseldorf, Germany. Though he was poor, his mother was a school-mistress and provided Thomas and his older brother Jan with an education and a knowledge of Latin. Thomas and his brother spent much of their lives at the monastery. Thomas lived a quiet and contemplative life as a monk. His primary work was as a copyist. He copied the entire Bible at least four times, and one of these copies is still preserved. He is best known writing The Imitation of Christ has become a spiritual classic in the church.
I have found many of his quotes to be worth personal and corporate reflection. Here is a smattering of some of my favorites:
“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.”
The hymn we will be singing this Sunday (March 1, 2015) is “O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High.” The original text is twenty-three stanzas and in Latin. We have five of these in our hymnbook and of course they are translated. As we journey through Lent, consider the truth behind 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.