In Christ There Is No East or West

In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts ev’rywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden chord
Close binding all mankind.

Join hands then, children of the faith,
Whate’er your race may be;
Who serves my Father as a child
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet South and North:
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.

WORDS: John Oxenham
MUSIC: Alexander R. Reinagle


Published in: on February 15, 2017 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

O Food of Men Wayfaring

Sing this to the tune of Genevan Psalm 6

O Food of men wayfaring,
The bread of angels sharing,
O Manna from on high!
We hunger; Lord, supply us,
Nor Thy delights deny us,
Whose hearts to Thee draw nigh.

O stream of love past telling,
O purest fountain, welling
From out the Saviour’s side!
We faint with thirst; revive us,
Of Thine abundance give us,
And all we need provide.

O Jesus, by Thee bidden,
We here proclaim Thee, hidden
Through forms of bread and wine.
Grant when the veil is riven,
We may behold, in heaven,
Thy countenance divine.

Cantus Christi

Published in: on August 17, 2014 at 1:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Worship as Glory-Cloud

The church in song should sound like the glory-cloud that it is—the sound of many waters, a great voice that breaks the cedars of Lebanon, a sound that strikes fear in our enemies.

Peter J. Leithart, From Silence to Song (Canon Press, 2003), 121.

Published in: on July 28, 2014 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Odes of Solomon and Mosul, Iraq

The Odes of Solomon are likely the first collection of Christian hymns that the early church produced. At the very least, they offer a glimpse of the hymns that were composed and sung by the earliest Christian congregations. There is documented historical evidence for this proposition. In Pliny’s letter to Emperor Trajan mention is made of the singing of hymns that was so typical of Christian worship.

I am delighted by the opportunity that I’ve had this week to learn more about the Odes of Solomon. They were 42 hymns written for the worship of the Syriac-speaking churches. What is so striking to me, in light of recent events in Iraq, particularly Mosul, is that this is where the Odes of Solomon were first sung.

The first line of Ode 1 goes like this:

The Lord is on my head like a crown,
and I shall not be without him.

My prayer is that my suffering brothers and sisters from Mosul and Iraq, men and women, boys and girls, will have the comfort of this knowledge engraved upon their souls.

I pray that their prayer may be like that of their brothers and sisters of the early church, who sang in the words of Ode 42:

I was not rejected although I was considered to be so,
  and I did not perish although they thought it of me.
Sheol saw me and was shattered,
  and Death ejected me and many with me.
I have been vinegar and bitterness to it,
  and I went down with it as far as its depth.
Then the feet and the head it released,
  because it was not able to endure my face.
And I made a congregation of living among his dead;
  and I spoke with them by living lips;
  in order that my word may not be unprofitable.
And those who had died ran towards me;
  and they cried out and said, Son of God, have pity on us.
And deal with us according to Your kindness,
  and bring us out from the bonds of darkness.
And open for us the door by which we may come out to You;
  for we perceive that our death does not touch You.
May we also be saved with You,
  because You are our Saviour.

Lord Jesus, have mercy!


Published in: on July 26, 2014 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Come all you thirsty and take a drink

Fill for yourselves water from the living fountain of the Lord,
  because it has been opened for you.
And come all you thirsty and take a drink,
  and rest beside the fountain of the Lord.
Because it is pleasing and sparkling,
  and perpetually refreshes the self.
For much sweeter is its water than honey,
  and the honeycomb of bees is not to be compared with it.
Because it flowed from the lips of the Lord,
  and it named from the heart of the Lord.
And it came boundless and invisible,
  and until it was set in the middle they knew it not.
Blessed are they who have drunk from it,
  and have refreshed themselves by it.

Ode 30 of the Odes of Solomon

Published in: on July 24, 2014 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Break Thou the Bread of Life

Break thou the bread of life,
Dear Lord, to me,
As thou didst break the loaves
Beside the sea;
Throughout the sacred page
I seek thee, Lord,
My spirit faints for thee,
O living Word.

Bless thou the truth, dear Lord,
To me, to me,
As thou didst bless the bread
By Galilee;

Then shall all bondage cease,
All fetters fall;
And I shall find my peace,
My All in all.

Thou art the Bread of Life,
O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth
That saveth me;
Give me to eat and live
With thee above;
Teach me to love thy truth,
For thou art love.

O send the Spirit, Lord,
Now unto me,
That he may touch mine eyes,
And make me see:
Show me the truth concealed
Within thy Word,
And in the Book revealed
I see the Lord.

This hymn was written by Mary A. Lathbury, an American who devoted her life to preparing Bible study materials.


Published in: on July 24, 2014 at 10:54 am  Leave a Comment  

A Biblical Theology of Prayer

According to one of my teachers Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, in his monumental Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church (Tolle Lege Press, 2013):

From the standpoint of a biblical theology of prayer two things should be said: (1) Recount the story of God’s saving acts, as we find them in Psalms 78, 105, and 136, and (2) dedicate our lives to his service in recognition of his grace.

He’s commenting here on the Thanksgiving Prayer or Prayer of Dedication, as he calls it, in Calvin’s communion liturgy. For those of us who’ve grown up on the liturgical forms inherited from the Reformation, this rings true. Old provides a translation of this Lord’s Supper thanksgiving prayer formulated by Calvin:

Heavenly Father, we return to you our prayers and eternal thanks, that you have prospered us with such manifold blessings. You have lifted us up from our poverty and futility and brought us into the communion of your Son Jesus Christ, our Saviour. For our sake you offered him up to death and even now you have given him to us for our food and nourishment.

Now grant us also this further blessing, that we not ever be allowed to forget these things, but have them engraven upon our hearts. Grant that we grow and diligently increase in the faith; that we abound in all kinds of good works. Grant that we live out our whole lives in the exaltation of your glory and the edification of our neighbour, through the same Jesus Christ your Son, who in the unity of the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns eternally with you, O Father. Amen.




Where desert and garden meet

Again and again the Psalms celebrate, in almost embarrassingly vivid language, the belief that the creator of the universe has, for reasons best known to him, decided to take up residence on a small hill in the Judean uplands. The living God, the Psalms declare, has decided to make his own special home at the point where the fertile western escarpment meets the eastern wilderness. It is poised between garden and desert–almost as though God couldn’t quite make up his mind whether to settle firmly in a New Eden or to remain camped with his people in their wilderness wanderings.

N.T. Wright, The Case for the Psalms

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

N.T. Wright, The Case for the Psalms

Those who love the biblical psalms will want to reach for N.T. Wright’s The Case for the PsalmsHere are some highlights I couldn’t wait to share:

By all means write new songs. Each generation must do that. But to neglect the church’s original hymnbook is, to put it bluntly, crazy.

There is a temptation to act

as though the Psalms are the problem, and we should try to fit them into our world. Actually, again and again it is we, muddled and puzzled and half-believing, who are the problem; and the question is more how we can find our way into their world, into the faith and hope that shine out in one psalm after another.

And here’s a great one on Christian liturgy:

Good liturgy, whether formal or informal, ought never to be simply a corporate emoting session, however “Christian,” but a fresh and awed attempt to inhabit the great unceasing liturgy that is going on all the time in the heavenly realms. (That’s what those great chapters, Revelation 4 and 5, are all about.) The Psalms offer us a way of joining in a chorus of praise and prayer that has been going on for millennia and across all cultures. Not to try to inhabit them, while continuing to invent nonpsalmic “worship” based on our own feelings of the moment, risks being like a spoiled child who, taken to the summit of Table Mountain with the city and the ocean spread out before him, refuses to gaze at the view because he is playing with his Game Boy.

It only gets better:

The Psalms, I want to suggest here, are songs and poems that help us not just to understand this most ancient and relevant worldview but actually to inhabit and celebrate it–this worldview in which, contrary to most modern assumptions, God’s time and ours overlap and intersect, God’s space and ours overlap and interlock, and even (this is the really startling one, of course) the sheer material world of God’s creation is infused, suffused, and flooded with God’s own life and love and glory.

Speaking about the symbolism of Gothic cathedrals, those “great vaulted spaces, soaring high above ordinary human capacities,” Wright says:

When we sing, the sound made even by small-scale earthbound creatures such as us rings around the rafters that we cannot otherwise reach.

And later this:

Sing these songs, and they will renew you from head to toe, from heart to mind. Pray these poems, and they will sustain you on the long, hard but exhilarating road of Christian discipleship.

I think you’ve probably figured out why I’m so thrilled about this book. If you don’t have it, get it and share it, or borrow it. Wright has a way of putting into words what you may have known or experienced for a long time but were never quite able to put into words. And of helping you go beyond.

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Psalm 1

Here is a compelling rendition of Psalm 1, which makes use of the Hebrew scale. Thanks, Dr. David Erb!

Published in: on January 26, 2013 at 6:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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