Pagans, Politicians, and Postmoderns, and LUTHER
Lord Jesus, You're More Excellent (NRH 10)
"We need Poets!" cried Luther, Reformer and hymn writer. Sola Scriptura Luther believed that God spoke to his people in his Word and that in worship we replied back to him with our singing of hymns. Hence, the church needed able poets who could skillfully compose those vernacular hymns. The Reformation was first and last a recovery of the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and Luther was a vanguard of that great rediscovery. He also understood that when the church stops singing its theology it will very soon stop believing it. It wasn't just Luther. The power of music in transmitting knowledge, philosophy, and theology was understood even by the pagan ancients. "I would teach children music, physics and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning." Plato wrote this in the Golden Age of Greece; his student Aristotle would go on the write Poetics, and therein lay the foundation for the poetry of Western Civilization. Pagans though they both were, and deeply flawed in significant areas, they understood the power of music and of poetry. Combine both pagans with the Apostle Paul, celebrating the singing of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude, and in the name of Jesus Christ, and you have Christian hymnody at its best (I'm still striving, not there yet). Okay, this may seem like a stretch to all of us who are campaign-weary and fighting with cynicism about our politicians, but even dubious politicians seem to agree about the power of music, "Simply put, music can heal people." ( Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). We have to forgive Reid his exageration; he is a politician, after all, and also thinks the government can heal us and solve all our problems. Medical doctors, educators, dairy farmers, nurses, caregivers, and moms and dads know that music has a huge effect on all of us (even on cows). And academia has jumped on board too. You can earn a graduate degree in musical therapy, wherein you learn of the amazing power of music to help people recover from surgery, and cope with the effects of cancer, PTSD, and Alzheimer.
This is Reformation Day so I want to return to Luther and then introduce the next New Reformation Hymn (NRH 10). "Music is the art of the prophets," wrote Luther. "It is the only other art which, like theology, can calm the agitations of the soul and put the devil to flight."
Lord Jesus, You're More Excellent (NRH 10) (Long Meter, LM, 22.214.171.124.)
I began notes for this hymn during a sermon I was listening to at church. The preacher's text was in Hebrews. And my mind began ransacking the book, these texts being prominent in the phraseology of the hymn. --Hebrews 1:3-4 “After making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” --Hebrews 8:6 “Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” Lord Jesus, you’re more excellent Than Moses’ ancient covenant: God's Law you perfectly obeyed And on the cross its curse you paid. My Royal Priest is excellent Above the dying priests who went In yearly terror through the veil— But Jesus once for all prevailed. Lord Jesus, you’re more excellent Than all the guardian angels sent To guide our steps both day and night, Since Jesus guards with sovereign might. Great Savior, you’re more excellent Than all the Devil’s arrows spent In furious rage against the ones For whom Christ died to make his sons. Kind Jesus, you’re more excellent Than doubts and troubles I invent; Your life laid down, my victory won— My Advocate, God’s holy Son. O Christ, you are most excellent, By th’new and better covenant: Redeeming Love who took my part, Inscribed your Law upon my heart. O Righteous One, most excellent, Your cross fulfilled the covenant; O Worthy One, who took my place, I long to see you face to face. Douglas Bond, Copyright, March 28, 2011 NEW REFORMATION HYMNS album Rise & Worship with my hymn lyrics, Greg Wilbur's musical compositions, Nathan Clark George, and others. Now available!